After months of cocooning indoors and indulging in heavy meals, early spring is a great time to get out of hibernation mode and shed your ‘winter coat’. And not just those dead skin cells from the dry winter air – your sluggish digestion and lymph flow can use a boost too.
Over the last few years, detoxing has become a major buzz word. The idea is that our modern world contains so many toxins – in our food and water, cleaning and beauty products, in the air we breathe – that your body doesn’t have enough capacity to fully flush them out. Especially not when your sedentary lifestyle with too much processed foods and too little sleep puts an extra burden on your body’s natural detoxification process.
So these toxins build up over time, clogging up your gut and internal environment, leading to common symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, irritated skin, bloating and digestive problems.
The solution? Doing a detox to cleanse your body.
Or at least, that’s what the thousands of detox programs and juice cleanses available tell you to do.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the general concept of detoxing. Yes, your body naturally detoxes every day, but it makes sense to want to optimize that process – especially if you lead a typically Western lifestyle and suffer from (minor) health problems.
But although some people have had specular results from juice cleanses, I don’t think going on a detox is right for everyone.
Most detox programs focus on a variety of juices, sometimes supplemented with raw fruit and vegetables. Even though (veggie) juices contain lots of vitamins and minerals, they don’t pack enough protein, fiber, fat and calories to sustain a person in the long run. That doesn’t have to be a problem when you’re on a health retreat. But if you try following a detox program while balancing work and family, you might feel hangry and tired instead of revitalized.
A ‘3-day detox’ or ‘master cleanse’ also feels like a quick fix for a bigger problem. First we overeat during the holidays and then ‘compensate’ by restricting ourselves. This cycle of binge-eating and fasting might lead to a disordered relationship with food. Of course, a short detox program can also be a great kickstart of a healthier lifestyle. But when you make drastic changes, it’s easy to fall back into your old habits – hello cookie cravings! – as soon as your juice cleanse ends.
So can you support the natural detoxification of your body without depriving yourself? Sure! Take a look at these 11 simple ways.
11 Natural Ways to Support Your Detoxification
1. Eat light, vibrant meals
You can still give your body a break from digesting foods without (juice) fasting. Instead of trying to get through the day on 5 veggie juices, start by skipping refined sugar, trans fats, alcohol, red meat and processed foods for one week. That’s challenging enough for most of us.
Instead, eat light, nutrient-rich meals that are easy to digest. Have a green smoothie (bowl) or overnight oats for breakfast, eat a satisfying salad for lunch and a simple buddha bowl for dinner. If you normally consume meat, supplement your meals with small portions of poultry, (fatty) fish or seafood.
To assist your body’s natural detoxification, choose foods that are packed with nutrients that support your liver, kidneys, intestines and skin. Beets, for example, are known for their blood-cleansing properties, while bone broth has been touted for improving your gut health. Spring vegetables like fennel, water cress and artichokes have also been used for centuries for their detoxifying properties.
To get you started, here are some cleansing recipes to inspire you:
- 3 Warming Soups for Liver Cleanse from The Awesome Green
- Master Cleanse Salad from DetoxDiy
- Quinoa Salad for Spring Detox from The Awesome Green
- 20 Wholesome Buddha Bowl Recipes from Brit+Co
2. Dry body brushing
The ancient practice of dry body brushing removes dead skin cells and stimulates the lymph vessels just below your skin. This boosts your lymph circulation, which helps to transport and eliminate waste products from your body.
And the good news is, you can easily add dry body brushing to your morning routine. Before your morning shower, simply brush your body with smooth, long strokes, using a natural bristle brush. Start at your feet and always brush towards the center of your body. Repeat the same process with your upper body, beginning with your hands. Gently brush your stomach area in a circular motion.
3. Hydrate yourself with detoxifying drinks
Every cell in your body needs water to work properly. Fluids transport nutrients to every corner of your body and flush out harmful compounds like bacteria and toxins.
To stay hydrated throughout the day, you should drink roughly 8 glasses of water (flavored) water, veggies juices or other health beverages. Eating foods rich in water helps too, like watermelon, oranges, cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes.
When you want to boost your body’s natural detoxification process, you could even add nutrient-rich ingredients to your drinks that will help your liver, kidney and digestive system function optimally. Take a look at these detoxifying drinks:
- Cleansing Cucumber Water with Lemon from DetoxDIY
- Love Your Liver Iced Tea from Nutrition Stripped
- Golden Dandelion Latte from Dolly and Oatmeal
- Citrus Mint Green Tea from Plum Deluxe
Read more: 8 Hot and Healing Drinks to Warm You Up
4. Sweat it out!
Sweating is your body’s way of eliminating toxins through your skin. So move your body daily, even if it’s simply going for a walk or doing some stretching. Just keep in mind that rigorous exercise isn’t recommended when doing a real detox. Pushing your limits can be more taxing for your body than supportive, especially when you consume less calories than normally.
You can also build up a serious sweat by taking a sauna or a steam bath. Sauna bathing helps to flush out harmful compounds by boosting your circulation and perspiration. If going to a sauna isn’t an option, you could also mimic its effects by dry brushing before taking a warm bath.
5. Get plenty of sleep
Yes, you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but getting enough sleep really is the foundation of good health. Your body needs 7-9 hours of sleep to function well – and that includes detoxifying. Studies suggest that lack of sleep impairs the glympathic system in your brain, causing cellular trash to build up. All the more reason to create a relaxing bedtime ritual and stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
6. Try hydrotherapy
It may not sound as relaxing as soaking in a steam bath, but did you know that taking a cold shower improves your circulation and speeds up your metabolism? You don’t even have to plunge in an ice bath to get the benefits from cold exposure, alternating between hot and cold water under the shower will do.
More into bathing? Add natural detox ingredients to your next bath, like Epsom salt, baking soda and apple cider vinegar. For inspiration to cleanse your body, take a look at these 5 healing detox bath recipes.
7. Practice deep belly breathing
You might not realize it, but your lungs are also part of the detoxification team. After all, they filter out harmful things like fumes, allergens and airborne toxins.
But a stressful lifestyle leads to shallow breathing, meaning you don’t exhale and inhale fully. Luckily, boosting your lung power is easy to do. Just take a little time each day to shift from ‘chest’ breathing to deep belly breathing.
If you’re new to breathing exercises, sit or lie down comfortably and place your hands near your navel. Inhale through your nose and feel how you belly rises as you breathe in. Next, slowly exhale through your mouth, while your abdomen draws back in. Breathe out fully and then pause for a moment, until you naturally breathe in again. Repeat this cycle a few times until your breathing is calm and deep.
Once you’re used to deep belly breathing, check in a few times during the day – especially when you’re busy and wired – to sense if you’re breathing correctly.
8. Give yourself a massage
A massage is the ultimate form of self-care for a reason. Not only does it relax you from head to toe, but a massage supports your health too. The long strokes, kneading and tapping stimulate your blood and lymph flow. It also removes dead cells and impurities from your skin, giving you a glowing look.
Although a professional massage therapist will give the best results, you can also reap the health benefits by giving yourself a soothing self-massage. Gently rub your feet, hammer out kinks in your shoulders or use a self-massage tool to release tension from your muscles.
Make sure you drink a glass of water after a massage to help your body rehydrate and flush out waste products.
For additional detoxifying powers, you could add a drop of essential oil to your neutral massage oil. Lemon, peppermint and juniper are all touted for their cleansing properties.
9. Roll out your yoga mat
In yoga tradition, twisting postures are known for their detoxifying abilities. Certain asanas specifically target the lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems, helping you to release toxins from your body. And of course any kind of yoga practice gets your blood flowing and promotes deep breathing.
So roll out your yoga mat and get started with these 7 yoga poses to help your body detox!
Read more: How to Start Doing Yoga from Bed
10. Minimize your exposure to toxins at home
Without scare-mongering, there may be more pollutants lurking around the house than you might realize. Common household items like cleaning products, air fresheners and even plastic baby bottles may contain toxic chemicals.
While you shouldn’t get overly worried, there are some simple things you can do to limit toxins in your home:
- Limit your use of plastic bottles and canned products containing bisphenol A.
- Try using chemical-free products to get rid of germs.
- Don’t wear shoes indoors to keep dirt and pollutants out of your home.
- Air your dry-cleaning before hanging your clothes back in the closet.
- Adorn your living room with air-purifying plants.
- Swap synthetic home fragrances for naturally scented candles or lavender sachets.
- Ventilate your home every day. A stagnant indoor environment allows harmful particles to build up over time.
11. Don’t overlook your mental diet
When it comes to natural ways to detox, most programs only focus on cleansing your body. But your thoughts and emotions shape your daily behavior, which then turns into habits that can help or harm your physical health. And what you think and feel is affected by what you put into your mind each day.
That’s why you shouldn’t overlook your mental diet when you want to get rid of waste and start fresh.
How do social media, on-demand entertainment and being plugged in influence your inner life? Do you get stressed from the constant notifications on your phone or from watching the news? Are there any negative thinking patterns that clog up your mind and stop you from living optimally? Or do you have any limiting beliefs weighing you down?
Detoxing offers the perfect opportunity to re-examine your daily mental input, spring-clean your virtual life and shake up routines that are no longer serving you.
Read more: Why You Should Mind Your Mental Diet
Which natural ways to detox your body without depriving your body have you tried?
For more information on how to rebuild your health after illness or injury, check out ‘How to Create Your Own Action Plan for Recovery’ – a step-by-step guide to replenish your body, rebuild your strength and regain your mental focus.
This blog post contains affiliate links to resources you might find useful, at not extra cost to you. All opinions are my own.