Help flush toxins from your liver, cleanse your bloodstream and clear up your complexion with these healthy, detoxifying foods and cleansing herbs. Photography by Robin Jolin.
Regular cellular detoxification causes the most amazing chemical reactions that can boost your energy level sky high. Detox food plans and modern-day juice cleanses are grounded on the premise that eliminating “toxins” and particular foods (usually meat or processed products)—even for a while—will rid your system of substances that slow your metabolism and cause acne breakouts, inflammation and bloating.
“The way we eat influences how we sleep, how we think and process, as well as how we manage our stress,” says neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, President of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, FL, and author of Grain Brain (Little Brown and Company, 2013). In fact, according to Dr. Perlmutter, what we eat—or sometimes, more importantly, what we don’t eat—impacts every aspect of our health and digestion.
Here are our top 10 suggestions for cleaning up your act:
1. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables
If it doesn’t grow on a tree or if it’s not available at a local farmers market, don’t include it in any detox plans. Your body and mind require calories to sustain optimal functioning and focus, says expert Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen (Morris Publishing, 2012). “Humans are at the top of the food chain and more likely to be exposed to an accumulation of toxic substances in the food supply,” says Carr. Pesticides and herbicides, for example, are sprayed on grains that are then fed to farm animals. Toxins are stored in fatty tissue of animals, and then we devour those proteins. The detox message? Eat fewer (if any) animal products but nibble, nonetheless, on organic fruits and unlimited vegetables as you cleanse.
2. Quash alcohol calories
Beat bloating by avoiding alcohol calories if you can. Since the body cannot store or remove alcohol efficiently, it is synthesized, then stored, in your liver. During a thorough detox, teetotalers provide their detox organs a big break, especially the hard-working liver and kidneys. “Humans are exposed to heavy metals, herbicides and insecticides and 80,000 other nefarious industrial chemicals and preservatives every day,” says Carr. The last thing to do is clog your system with excessive alcohol.
3. Drink quarts of water
Nothing helps flush your skin, blood and organs better than pure water, say our experts. Aim for a minimum of eight to 10 glasses per day, to stay hydrated and aid digestion. “The detoxification process is intricate and when circulating antioxidants latch onto toxins in your bloodstream, they neutralize their oxidizing capacity and escort them to the liver,” explains Dr. Perlmutter. Liver cells then perform a
detoxification process, whereby chemical reactions in the liver neutralize and eliminate toxins via urine, feces and perspiration.
4. Consume kombucha
Drink six to 12 ounces of tangy, tasty kombucha tea daily to depollute the liver and blood, and settle your belly with helpful gut bacteria that delivers medicinal spirits, says Jessica Childs, author of Kombucha (Penguin Group, 2013). Childs, who holds a degree in molecular biology, says, “Cells are constantly forming toxins as normal byproducts of your metabolism, which boosts the immune system and help restore healthy bacteria into your gastrointestinal tract.” Keeping that tract clean daily with a tangy detox tea does the job.
5. Try powerful turmeric and curcumin
The medicinal potency of the antioxidant turmeric lies in the active ingredient curcumin, the anti-inflammatory compound that may minimize cellular inflammation and promote wound healing. In “Anticancer Potentials of Curcumin: Preclinical and Clinical Studies,” a study published in Anticancer Research, turmeric was found to help soothe symptoms of cystic fibrosis, hemorrhoids, gastric ulcer, colon cancer, breast cancer, liver diseases and arthritis.
6. Detox with dandelion root
Native Americans boiled dandelion leaves in water and drank it to treat kidney disease, skin problems and heartburn. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, roasted dandelion is tapped to treat stomach problems, appendicitis and inflammation. The root helps to break down dietary fats during digestion, and carry away waste to promote optimal liver function. Preliminary studies at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggest that dandelion may also normalize blood sugar levels, lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise the “good” HDL cholesterol in diabetic mice.
7. Make mine a multi
Take a daily multi-vitamin with fiber to compensate for the lack of potential calories on any detox plan, and to make sure your digestive system is breaking down calories efficiently while you limit the alcohol, caffeine and excessive calories. “Multi packs [vitamins] should contain vital B vitamins or you may supplement with niacin, riboflavin and thiamine,” says Childs. Vitamin B is essential to a healthy metabolism, cell maintenance and the efficient breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, says Childs.
8. Consume common herbs and spices
Herbs are the leafy, green part of plants (think mint and parsley), and spices come from the dried seeds, fruit, root and bark. While you may add either to foods or brew them into healthful teas, cumin and cinnamon are increasingly revered not only for their culinary properties, but also for their detox benefits and a biological ability to induce cellular changes and immune function, according to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Potentially purifying herbs and spices include burdock root, chicory and stinging nettle.
9. Chew on chia
Chia is a highly nutritious seed from the desert plant, Salvia Hispanica. A vital dietary supplement to ancient Aztecs and Mayans, the chia seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and easy to incorporate into a detox. Chock-full of soluble fiber to streamline digestion, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, chia seeds are overflowing with antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Dr. Weil touts the benefits: “Sprinkle the detoxing seeds whole or ground on cereal, in yogurt or on salads. Seek out organic versions and experiment,” he says.
10. Gobble up Brassica groups
Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts all contain glucosinolates, common sulphur-containing compounds that protect the liver from damage and improve its detoxing abilities. How? The humble, stinky Brassicaceae family—including cabbage and kohlrabi—contains isothiocyanates and indoles, nutrients that help your digestive organs equalize carcinogenic substances, according to the NIH.
All in all, feed your body the foods and nutrients it craves during a detox, and help self-cleanse your organs and blood circulation. It will do your body good.