by Dr. Bianca Drennan, ND
The beginning of a new season is an ideal time for detoxification, especially after a long, cold winter full of heavier, more hearty, and sometimes more indulgent food.
Somehow, psychologically, the start of a new season makes it easier for us to adopt new behaviors. From an eastern medicine perspective, detoxification is generally recommended in warmer times, usually at the beginning of the spring and fall. Detoxes are often assumed to be restrictive, drastic, and sometimes dangerous – but they don’t have to be. A detox can be a gentle, nourishing, and effective method to enhance your body’s natural ability to eliminate toxins. Detoxification is not foreign to your body – in fact, your body detoxes itself every day. In the most simple view, the liver is responsible for ridding our bodies of toxins daily. Although there are other organs involved in detoxification, the liver is the key player. Detoxification is usually focused on enhancing liver function, in addition to digestive processes.
The word detox is very dividing – some agree that detoxes are healthful, whereas others harbor negative connotations with them. The detox market is aimed at purchasing expensive cleanses and supplements with the promise of changing your life, with no medical supervision or scientific backing. However, detoxification is at its core, a fundamental process to our everyday health. Unfortunately, what has been lost in the marketing is the science and the true meaning of what a detox is. Detoxes need not be all-or-nothing. Rather, they can involve incorporating easy to follow additions to your day that are safe and effective.
The benefits of detox include, but are not limited to: weight loss, enhanced bowel function, increased energy, decreased cravings, improved concentration, and clearing skin. Below I have listed some simpler, at-home ways to detox. However, it is recommended that you seek out a Naturopathic Doctor to help guide you through the process. That way, the detox can be tailored to your specific needs – such as incorporation of more or less intensive treatments, as well as monitoring you to ensure health and safety. Here is a list of my top 10 ways to help your body detox!
WARM LEMON WATER
Water by itself is a great way to help detox. By remaining hydrated, your body will continuously flush out toxins. Adding a squeeze of lemon and warming the water further enhances this process and targets your liver. It also helps stimulate bowel function, which allows for more toxins to be released. The best time to drink warm lemon water is upon waking, before breakfast.
Cilantro, whether you love it or hate it, is a fantastic herb to help your body detox. It can also be effective in eliminating heavy metal toxins from the body.
Dandelion is a diuretic. In other words, it increases the urinary frequency. Herbal dandelion tea stimulates the liver, which increases the rate at which toxins are eliminated.
Milk thistle is hepatoprotective – liver protecting. Since the liver is responsible for detoxing your body on a daily basis, it is under a certain amount of stress, especially with poorer lifestyle habits (alcohol, drugs, poor diet). Milk thistle aids in protecting the liver from this stress, therefore allowing it to function more effectively. Milk thistle can be in tea or capsule form. For the appropriate capsule dose, consult your Naturopathic Doctor.
You may have heard of castor oil – many took this internally as children to relieve constipation. This is due to the fact that internally, castor oil is toxic and acts as a laxative. However, topically, castor oil is an effective tool for detoxification. Castor oil rubbed over the liver and abdomen decreases inflammation and enhances lymphatic flow. It may be hard to believe that something topically can have a significant effect internally, but castor oil penetrates the skin. Massage the oil over the liver and abdominal area several times per week if possible. To enhance castor oil’s benefits, apply an old t-shirt over the oiled area and place a heating pad on top.
Flaxseeds, specifically ground flaxseeds, are a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. The fibre in the ground seeds enhances bowel function, allowing for the excretion of toxins. The omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which decreases the stress on the liver. Aim for 2 tablespoons per day.
Though not everyone’s favourite, dark, leafy, bitter greens are great for liver function. Generally, the more bitter, the greater the effect on the liver. Bitter greens stimulate liver function, enhancing detoxification. Examples include mustard greens, kale, broccoli rabe (rapini), dandelion, radicchio, endive, and arugula.
ELIMINATE WHEAT, SUGAR, DAIRY
Common culprits of weight gain, poor concentration, skin conditions, allergies, blood sugar dysregulation, and low energy – they also strain the liver. By eliminating (or reducing consumption of) these foods, the burden on the liver is decreased, leading to decreased inflammation and enhanced liver function. Plus, these foods are often found in processed and baked goods, which should be limited in a healthy lifestyle anyway.
Although the liver plays the most significant role in detoxification, if the digestive function is impaired, there is a decreased ability to eliminate these toxins. If we were to enhance liver detoxification without enhancing bowel function, those toxins would circulate in the body and build up. Therefore, it is imperative to optimize digestion and bowels to properly detox. Probiotics are a fantastic source of beneficial bacteria that improve bowel regularity and decrease gas and bloating. Probiotics are best taken in capsule form. Unfortunately, most people get their probiotics from yogurt which is not most effective. By the time the yogurt reaches the store, it is uncertain how many of the bacteria survived. Since these bacteria are live organisms, it is important for them to be properly stored and transported. Look for a multi-strain probiotic with at least 10-11 billion CFU per capsule. For the best dose for you, consult your Naturopathic Doctor
Sleep is your body’s reset button. Sleep helps to regulate digestive, neurologic, and metabolic processes. It also helps to regulate blood sugar, cravings, and appetite – all of which contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Without sleep, the above suggestions will not be able to exert their fullest effect.
Dr. Bianca Drennan ND, has been providing nutritional consulting and naturopathic medicine services at Pacific Wellness and is available for appointments five days a week. If you would like to detoxify and trim your body for Summer, improve your lifestyle, have food sensitivity testing or address certain health concerns please call us at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request to arrange your initial appointment. The naturopathic appointments are covered by most employee benefits.