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I’m a big believer in spring cleaning. But I don’t limit my passion to cleaning my house. I think it’s also important to cleanse the body from time to time. And spring is a great time to lighten your toxic load.
Detox can do just that – eliminate toxins, increase energy and help with weight loss. But the Internet is filled with fast and radical detox plans that require fasting or harsh laxatives. Not only are they difficult to hold back, but they can also take a toll on your body. Fortunately, you don’t have to do an intensive detox. Gentle daily strategies can minimize the effects of toxins and support the liver, the body’s primary cleansing organ.
In a perfect world, your body would be able to flush out any toxins it encounters. But as industrial compounds, pollutants and other chemicals accumulate in our environment, it becomes harder for the body to keep up. The resulting pollution, or “body burden,” has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, among other health problems.
Toxins, substances that disrupt the structure or function of body cells and tissues, are found in the foods we eat, the liquids we drink, and the air we breathe. Some come from external sources such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pesticides, heavy metals, processed foods, preservatives, additives, and airborne allergens. Others are internally generated, such as free radicals and metabolic waste products.
Even the most health-conscious among us can be overwhelmed by these everyday toxins. Consider this: before we are even born, our bodies begin to accumulate synthetic chemicals and all kinds of heavy metals. Once we arrive, everything we use and everything we go to contributes to our toxic load. But the following steps can help your body rid itself of these toxins — and prevent a build-up of pollutants in the future. As a result, within a few weeks to a month, you will feel lighter, think more clearly, and have more energy.
Clean your plate
The foods you eat can increase your overall body load or support your body’s ability to detoxify itself. A high sugar, high fat diet is the standard American diet – toxins stay in the bloodstream longer, and the more energy your liver uses to process fatty foods, the less energy it needs to do its job of detoxification.
One easy way to replace toxins with life-sustaining foods is to go organic. When possible, eating organic foods will reduce your exposure to pesticides. Which traditional foods contain the most toxins? According to the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty top ten,” the 12 fruits and vegetables most loaded with pesticides are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes. If you choose organic over conventional when buying these 12 foods, you’ll be taking big steps toward stopping the accumulation of agricultural pollutants in your diet.
It’s also important that you eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Dark leafy greens are packed with cleansing antioxidants and toxin-busting chlorophyll, while cruciferous vegetables are especially powerful because they stimulate the production of the detox enzyme glutathione-s-transferase (GST). GST binds to heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides and then removes them from the body through the feces.
What about protein? Conventional beef and poultry can be supplemented with growth hormones and antibiotics. But organic versions can be expensive. If you can’t buy organic products at the meat counter, choose “natural” meat and poultry raised without questionable additives – and reduce the amount of food. You can fill the void with heart-healthy fish. A word of caution: Avoid contaminated fish such as Atlantic salmon, flounder or striped bass, which are high in polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and orange roughy, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass, which contain mercury. . Wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, trout and tuna, on the other hand, have low levels of mercury and high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. For a complete list of the best and worst fish, go to oceansalive.org.
Love your liver
When healthy, your body works like a well-organized sanitation system to flush out accumulated toxins. The liver acts as a filter in the body, removing impurities from the blood and producing bile, which removes pollutants from the body through the lungs, intestines, skin, or urine. This hard-working organ also produces important enzymes that help break down toxins and render them harmless.
But because the liver doesn’t always show outward signs of sluggish operation until things get serious (think cirrhosis and hepatitis), this hard-working organ needs the most love. Support the liver by taking cleansing herbs such as artichoke leaves that stimulate bile production; milk thistle, which strengthens liver cell membranes and stimulates glutathione production; and tumeric, which boosts detoxifying enzymes in the liver.
The liver also thrives with abundant reserves of certain vitamins and minerals. To make sure you get enough—at least the recommended daily amount—fill your diet with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and selenium. A quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement will give you most of these essentials.
One last thing
What you drink also helps detoxify your body. Drinking plenty of water—at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day, and more if you’re active—will help flush toxins from your body. But don’t trust the tap, even the bottled water. City water can be a source of many contaminants, and bottled water often contains bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical that accumulates in the body’s fatty tissues. Instead of worrying about what might be in your water, I’ve found that distilling your water using a custom made-to-order distiller is an easy and cost-effective solution to providing a clean, fresh water source. Look for a distiller that evaporates water to remove contaminants and comes with a removable carafe that fits in your fridge.
It’s also important to drink at least three cups of green tea a day (about the equivalent of one green tea supplement capsule). A recent study found that green tea’s catechins boost the production of glutathione enzymes that help the liver rid itself of cancer-causing toxins. As an added bonus, the polyphenols in green tea improve heart health, protect against certain types of cancer, boost overall immunity, and even help prevent tooth decay.
Brief information about the study
OK, it’s not something you hear very often, but earwax build-up can prevent you from hearing. Earwax—technically known as cerumen—is a mixture of glands, dead skin cells, and secretions in the ear canal that help clean, lubricate, and protect the ear. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. In fact, nearly 12 million Americans suffer from impacted earwax.
When exposed to wax, you may experience hearing loss, ear congestion, pain and itching, and even smelly discharge. But before you reach for the Q-Tip, know that trying to clean your ear often goes deeper into the ear canal. Instead, warm olive oil to body temperature to soften and dilute the hardened ear. Tilt your head to the side and put a few drops in your ear. Gently rub your ear, then tilt your head to let the oil drain. Drops should carry excess wax with them. You can also use a baby syringe to suck up oil and wax. (If the wax doesn’t come off easily, see your doctor for professional removal.)
These monthly routines can keep earwax buildup under control. Sounds like an easy and cost-effective way to improve your hearing!
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