A new year can remind us to start fresh, which is why January often serves as a time for reflection and goal setting, especially in relation to health. That said, you can begin anew any time of the year because each day, each hour, each minute, and each second presents the same opportunity.
More specifically, when New Year’s Day approaches, many people talk about the idea of “detoxification,” which the Oxford Dictionary defines as the process of removing toxic substances or qualities. Detoxification is often shortened to the term “detox” or called a “cleanse” and is associated with trends including but not limited to fasting, juicing, supplements, or specific diets that last a few days to several weeks and are often encouraged as part of diet culture in an effort to change our outward appearance.
These types of detoxes or cleanses are typically not sustainable, and their overall benefits are limited at best. They are, instead, more likely to fuel an unhealthy relationship with our bodies and food.
As a pharmacist, though, I think about detoxification in different ways. I consider the metabolic processes of breaking something down (like a drug, herb, or food) into multiple compounds. These compounds then go through phases of detoxification before being safely eliminated by the body through the skin, lungs, feces, or urine. So, our bodies are constantly working to detoxify.
All we need to do is listen and provide support.
The top 5 ways in which our bodies process and eliminate toxins include:
- Liver (bile)
- Digestive tract (feces)
- Kidneys (urine)
- Lungs (breath)
- Skin (sweat)
(I would also argue that there should be a sixth route of elimination, related to processing and releasing emotions.)
To support the body's daily detoxification, here are my top five daily habits:
- Remove offenders!
- Whenever someone tells me they want to do a detox or a cleanse, my first question is, “What are you hoping to eliminate?” If your response is, “I don’t know,” then this might be an opportunity to take an inventory of desired goals and work backwards.
- If you’re trying to minimize environmental toxins, consider purchasing whole organic foods when possible along with household and self-care products with only a few ingredients, all recognizable. (EWG.org is a great resource).
- By removing offenders, your detoxification organs can work more efficiently, spending less time processing avoidable toxins (don’t forget to consider medications and supplements as well; talk with your healthcare team before making any medication changes).
- Support liver health
- Bitters are a fantastic way to support liver health. Regular secretion of bile into the digestive tract and its partial elimination is an important means of detoxification. Here’s more information about how to love your liver.
- Review a bristol stool chart
- Feces is a primary means of elimination. (With my clients and my kids, poop is a regular conversation!) Constipation can lead to the reabsorption of harmful metabolites and slow the elimination of bile. Support regular (type 4) bowel movements with hydration, at least 30+ grams of fiber from whole foods daily, relaxation practices, and plenty of magnesium. Here’s additional info on digestive health.
- Hydration is absolutely essential to healthy detoxification. Visit the EWG Tap Water Database to learn more about the best water filters for your municipal water supply.
- Water alone can be bland. Fortunately, adding fresh herbs, fruits, or even vegetables to your water adds flavor and flair. In short, enjoy herbal beverages.
- We breathe unconsciously most of the day, often shallowly; focused breathwork, however, is not only great for stress management and emotional release but also for supporting the lungs as a channel of elimination.
- Enjoyable movement or sauna
- Movement increases circulation and building heat in the body through movement. Sauna causes sweating, which is another great way to support detoxification.
“Superfoods” to Support Regular Detoxification
Luckily superfoods surround us! By definition, vegetables are superfoods and cannot be replicated by a supplement. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, thousands of phytonutrients, and multiple types of fiber.
When it comes to selecting the “best” vegetables for detoxification, I recommend eating the rainbow. The color, smell, and taste of vegetables come from phytonutrients, and we know that phytonutrients have many benefits. These include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as supporting healthy elimination of hormone metabolites; as example, eliminate sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables.
Top Ten vegetables for Healthy Detoxification
With no further ado, they are as follows:
- Mustard greens
- Beets with greens
- Broccoli sprouts
- Fall/winter radish
Seasonal Vegetables at Your Doorstep
One of our goals is for the farmer to become part of the health and wellness team. We hope that we can help support your wellness journey with nutrient-dense vegetables freshly harvested and delivered from our farm to your doorstep. Join our community by becoming a member of the Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden Facebook group.