While many of us feel the need to rid our bodies of unhealthy fats, sugars, caffeine, alcohol, the effects of stress, and other negatives, it’s not always necessary or recommended to indulge in a full-fledged fast. Though some cultures advocate fasting once a month or even drinking only water one day a week, in North America fasts that feature fresh fruit and vegetable juices may be more common at pricey resorts for those seeking to energize their bodies and shed a few pounds in a hurry.
In plain language, detoxification means cleansing the blood. During the detox process, impurities are removed from the blood in the liver where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph glands, and skin–which is why breaking a sweat during exercise and sitting in a sauna or steam room are said to be beneficial. Some practitioners of Bikram yoga, executed in a hot room, attest to a release of endorphins (the “feel good” chemicals) at the end of an hour of moving, stretching, and a great deal of sweating. Qigong, a martial arts-based exercise regimen that focuses largely on cleansing/detoxifying, is an excellent choice to right the body after a daily deluge of damaging toxins.
If fasting is the direction in which you want to go, checking first with your doctor for a monitored fast and maybe consulting a nutritionist are good first steps. But ordinary foods, herbs, and products easily found in the grocery store, pharmacy and perhaps already in our pantries, along with specific forms of exercise like yoga and Qigong, designed to rid the body of toxins, can make cleansing and getting healthier delicious, inspiring, and fun–without the extreme deprivation and discomfort of an all-out fast.
The following are some suggestions of foods and herbs to help put you on the path to clean, healthy living:
Fiber- and water-rich brown rice and organic fresh fruits and vegetables such as beets, artichokes, broccoli, radishes, cabbage, chlorella, and seaweed are prime detoxifying foods, high in nutrients, as are herbs like burdock, milk thistle, and dandelion root (be sure to investigate how best to consume them).
Green foods such as kale, spirulina, chard, arugula, and other leafy greens will provide your digestive tract with chlorophyll, said to help the body eliminate environmental toxins from metals, herbicides, cleaning products, and pesticides.
Citrus fruits flush out the digestive tract, with lemon juice said to support the liver in its cleansing process. Proponents recommend drinking a glass of lemon juice in warm water first thing in the morning.
Garlic is known to stimulate the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that reportedly filter toxic residue from the digestive system.
Omega-3 oils like hemp, olive, avocado, and flaxseed will help lubricate intestinal walls, allowing toxins to be eliminated and not absorbed.
Antioxidant-imbued green tea contains catechins, known to stimulate liver function.