Quantcast

9 Ways to Help Your Body Detoxify

Aliaksandra Ivanova / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Gavin Van De Walle

Detoxification — or detox — is a popular buzzword.


It typically implies following a specific diet or using special products that claim to rid your body of toxins, thereby improving health and promoting weight loss.

Fortunately, your body is well-equipped to eliminate toxins and doesn't require special diets or expensive supplements to do so.

That said, you can enhance your body's natural detoxification system.

This article explains some common misconceptions about detoxing along with nine evidenced-based ways to rejuvenate your body's detoxification system.

Common Misconceptions About Detoxing

Detox diets are said to eliminate toxins from your body, improve health, and promote weight loss.

They often involve the use of laxatives, diuretics, vitamins, minerals, teas, and other foods thought to have detoxing properties.

The term "toxin" in the context of detox diets is loosely defined. It typically includes pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and processed foods — which all negatively affect health.

However, popular detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove or the mechanism by which they supposedly eliminate them (1).

Moreover, no evidence supports the use of these diets for toxin elimination or sustainable weight loss (2, 3).

Your body has a sophisticated way of eliminating toxins that involves the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs.

Still, only when these organs are healthy, can they effectively eliminate unwanted substances.

So, while detox diets don't do anything that your body can't naturally do on its own, you can optimize your body's natural detoxification system.

Summary

While detox diets have a seductive appeal, your body is fully equipped to handle toxins and other unwanted substances.

1. Limit Alcohol

More than 90% of alcohol is metabolized in your liver (4).

Liver enzymes metabolize alcohol to acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical (5, 6).

Recognizing acetaldehyde as a toxin, your liver converts it to a harmless substance called acetate, which is later eliminated from your body.

While observational studies have shown low-to-moderate alcohol consumption beneficial for heart health, excessive drinking can cause a myriad of health problems (7, 8, 9).

Excessive drinking can severely damage your liver function by causing fat buildup, inflammation, and scarring (10).

When this happens, your liver cannot function adequately and perform its necessary tasks — including filtering waste and other toxins from your body.

As such, limiting or abstaining entirely from alcohol is one of the best ways to keep your body's detoxification system running strong.

Health authorities recommend limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two for men. If you currently don't drink, you shouldn't start for the potential heart benefits associated with light-to-moderate drinking (11).

Summary

Drinking too much alcohol reduces your liver's ability to carry out its normal functions, such as detoxifying.

2. Focus on Sleep

Ensuring adequate and quality sleep each night is a must to support your body's health and natural detoxification system.

Sleeping allows your brain to reorganize and recharge itself, as well as remove toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day (12, 13).

One of those waste products is a protein called beta-amyloid, which contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease (14, 15).

With sleep deprivation, your body does not have time to perform those functions, so toxins can build up and affect several aspects of health (16).

Poor sleep has been linked to short- and long-term health consequences, such as stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (17, 18, 19, 20).

You should sleep seven to nine hours per night on a regular basis to promote good health (21).

If you have difficulties staying or falling asleep at night, lifestyle changes like sticking to a sleep schedule and limiting blue light — emitted from mobile devices and computer screens — prior to bed are useful for improving sleep (22, 23, 24).

Summary

Adequate sleep allows your brain to reorganize, recharge, and eliminate toxins that accumulate throughout the day.

3. Drink More Water

Water does so much more than quench your thirst. It regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints, aids digestion and nutrient absorption, and detoxifies your body by removing waste products (25).

Your body's cells must continuously be repaired to function optimally and break down nutrients for your body to use as energy.

However, these processes release wastes — in the form of urea and carbon dioxide — which cause harm if allowed to build up in your blood (26).

Water transports these waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing, or sweating. So staying properly hydrated is important for detoxification (27).

The adequate daily intake for water is 125 ounces (3.7 liters) for men and 91 ounces (2.7 liters) for women. You may need more or less depending on your diet, where you live, and your activity level (28).

Summary

In addition to its many roles in your body, water allows your body's detoxification system to remove waste products from your blood.

4. Reduce Your Intake of Sugar and Processed Foods

Sugar and processed foods are thought to be at the root of today's public health crises (29).

High consumption of sugary and highly processed foods has been linked to obesity and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (30, 31, 32).

These diseases hinder your body's ability to naturally detoxify itself by harming organs that play an important role, such as your liver and kidneys.

For example, high consumption of sugary beverages can cause fatty liver, a condition that negatively impacts liver function (33, 34, 35).

By consuming less junk food, you can keep your body's detoxification system healthy.

You can limit junk food by leaving it on the store shelf. Not having it in your kitchen takes away the temptation altogether.

Replacing junk food with healthier choices like fruits and vegetables is also a healthy way to reduce consumption.

Summary

Excess junk food consumption is linked to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. These conditions can cause harm to organs important to detoxifying, such as your liver and kidneys.

5. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Antioxidants protect your cells against damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Oxidative stress is a condition caused by excessive production of free radicals.

Your body naturally produces these molecules for cellular processes, such as digestion. However, alcohol, tobacco smoke, a poor diet, and exposure to pollutants can produce excessive free radicals (36).

By causing damage to your body's cells, these molecules have been implicated in a number of conditions, such as dementia, heart disease, liver disease, asthma, and certain types of cancer (37, 38).

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help your body fight oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals and other toxins that increase your risk of disease.

Focus on getting antioxidants from food and not supplements, which may, in fact, increase your risk of certain diseases when taken in large amounts (39, 40, 41).

Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Berries, fruits, nuts, cocoa, vegetables, spices, and beverages like coffee and green tea have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants (42).

Summary

Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants helps your body reduce damage caused by free radicals and may lower your risk of diseases that can impact detoxification.

6. Eat Foods High in Prebiotics

Gut health is important for keeping your detoxification system healthy. Your intestinal cells have a detoxification and excretion system that protects your gut and body from harmful toxins, such as chemicals (43).

Good gut health starts with prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut called probiotics. With prebiotics, your good bacteria are able to produce nutrients called short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for health (44, 45).

The good bacteria in your gut can become unbalanced with bad bacteria from use of antibiotics, poor dental hygiene, and diet quality (46, 47, 48).

Consequently, this unhealthy shift in bacteria can weaken your immune and detoxification systems and increase your risk of disease and inflammation (49).

Eating foods rich in prebiotics can keep your immune and detoxification systems healthy. Good food sources of prebiotics include tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, and oats (43).

Summary

Eating a diet rich in prebiotics keeps your digestive system healthy, which is important for proper detoxification and immune health.

7. Decrease Your Salt Intake

For some people, detoxing is a means of eliminating excess water.

Consuming too much salt can cause your body to retain excess fluid, especially if you have a condition that affects your kidneys or liver — or if you don't drink enough water.

This excess fluid buildup can cause bloating and make clothing uncomfortable. If you find yourself consuming too much salt, you can detox yourself of the extra water weight.

While it may sound counterintuitive, increasing your water intake is one of the best ways to eliminate excess water weight from consuming too much salt.

That's because when you consume too much salt and not enough water, your body releases an antidiuretic hormone that prevents you from urinating — and therefore detoxifying (50).

By increasing your water intake, your body reduces the secretion of the antidiuretic hormone and increases urination, eliminating more water and waste products (51, 52, 53).

Increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods — which counterbalances some of sodium's effects — also helps. Foods rich in potassium include potatoes, squash, kidney beans, bananas, and spinach (54).

Summary

Consuming too much salt can increase water retention. You can eliminate excess water — and waste — by increasing your intake of water and potassium-rich foods.

8. Get Active

Regular exercise — regardless of body weight — is associated with a longer life and a reduced risk of many conditions and diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers (55, 56, 57).

While there are several mechanisms behind the health benefits of exercise, reduced inflammation is a key point (58, 59).

While some inflammation is necessary for recovering from infection or healing wounds, too much of it weakens your body's systems and promotes disease.

By reducing inflammation, exercise can help your body's systems — including its detoxification system — function properly and protect against disease.

It's recommended that you do at least 150–300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise — such as brisk walking — or 75–150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity — such as running (60).

Summary

Regular physical activity lowers inflammation and allows your body's detoxification system to work properly.

9. Other Helpful Detox Tips

Although no current evidence supports the use of detox diets for removing toxins from your body, certain dietary changes and lifestyle practices may help reduce toxin load and support your body's detoxification system.

  • Eat sulfur-containing foods. Foods high in sulfur, such as onions, broccoli, and garlic, enhance excretion of heavy metals like cadmium (61).
  • Try out chlorella. Chlorella is a type of algae that has many nutritional benefits and may enhance the elimination of toxins like heavy metals, according to animal studies (62).
  • Flavor dishes with cilantro. Cilantro enhances excretion of certain toxins, such as heavy metals like lead, and chemicals, including phthalates and insecticides (63, 64).
  • Support glutathione. Eating sulfur-rich foods like eggs, broccoli, and garlic helps enhance the function of glutathione, a major antioxidant produced by your body that is heavily involved in detoxification (65).
  • Switch to natural cleaning products. Choosing natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda over commercial cleaning agents can reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals (66).
  • Choose natural body care. Using natural deodorants, makeups, moisturizers, shampoos, and other personal care products can also reduce your exposure to chemicals.

While promising, many of these effects have only been shown in animal studies. Therefore, studies in humans are needed to confirm these findings.

Summary

Some lifestyle and dietary modifications may enhance your body's natural detoxification system.

The Bottom Line

Detox diets are said to eliminate toxins, in turn improving health and promoting weight loss.

But these diets — while seductive — aren't needed as your body has its own, highly efficient detoxification system.

That said, you can enhance your body's natural detoxification system and improve your overall health by staying hydrated, consuming less salt, getting active, and following an antioxidant-rich diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Mizina / iStock / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Oats are widely regarded as one of the healthiest grains you can eat, as they're packed with many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Read More Show Less
JPMorgan Chase building in New York City. Ben Sutherland / CC BY 2.0

By Sharon Kelly

A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability speaking on conflict of interest demand of the People's Demands at a defining action launching the Demands at COP24. Corporate Accountability

By Patti Lynn

2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."

Read More Show Less
The head of England's Environment Agency has urged people to stop watering their lawns as a climate-induced water shortage looms. Pexels

England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A flock of parrots in Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. ~dgies / Flickr

By Madison Dapcevich

Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

Read More Show Less
Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

Read More Show Less
Edwin Hardeman is the plaintiff in the first U.S. federal trial claiming that Roundup causes cancer. NOAH BERGER / AFP / Getty Images

A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.