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How to Detoxify Your Body

Everyone is doing it. Should you be detoxing too?

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
4-minute read
Episode #62

Are Herbal Detoxification Products Helpful?

Detox formulas often include milk thistle and other herbs and nutrients that are said to support the liver--although the hard science on the benefits of these ingredients is fairly thin. Many of the other herbs you find in these products are simply diuretics. Diuretics don’t make the kidneys any more efficient at eliminating toxins, they just make them more efficient at eliminating water, which, last I checked, was not considered a toxin.

These herbal formulas can also include ingredients that act as laxatives. Laxatives and diuretics may create the impression that you’re getting rid of a lot of toxins, but in the long run, all you’re really getting rid of is extra water--again, not a toxin--and minerals, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Also, keep in mind that just because herbs are “natural” doesn’t mean that all herbal products are safe. Ironically, some herbs can actually put stress on your liver and kidneys. I strongly recommend that you research the ingredients in any herbal products you are considering taking. I’ll post some links on the show notes to reliable online databases where you can check the safety and efficacy of herbs and other dietary supplement ingredients, and in a future episode I'll explore whether or not herbs are good for you further.

How to Detoxify Your Body

The liver and kidneys are pretty good at dealing with harmful substances. That’s not to say they can’t be overwhelmed or even damaged by too many toxins. But seeing as we can’t really speed up the rate at which our organs detoxify these chemicals, I think it makes more sense to do what you can to take in fewer toxins in the first place:

Here are some ways to reduce the burden on your detoxification systems:

  1. If you drink alcohol, do so moderately--no more than one or two drinks per day. If you can’t drink moderately, don’t drink at all (if you want more on alcohol consumption and health, I cover that in another episode).

  2. Avoid breathing engine exhaust, wood smoke, or tobacco smoke, all of which contain carcinogenic compounds.

  3. Avoid inhaling fumes from gasoline and other volatile liquids. Wear a respirator mask when working with paint, varnish, and paint thinners and make sure to ventilate your workspace.

  4. Air out dry cleaning before bringing it into the house or, better yet, switch to an environmentally-friendly dry cleaner.

  5. Take prescription and over-the-counter medications only as directed and only when necessary.

  6. Avoid exposure to pesticides on fruits and vegetables by buying organic whenever possible and peeling non-organic produce. Also, see my episode #11  for tips on which fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide residues. Avoiding the so-called “Dirty Dozen” can reduce your pesticide exposure by as much as 90%.

  7. In your home and garden, use non-toxic pest control but remember that you can’t control what other people apply to their lawns and grounds. To reduce your exposure to lawn and garden chemicals, avoid going barefoot out of doors and get in the habit of leaving your shoes at the door when you come inside. 

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid exposure to toxins. But these steps can greatly reduce your toxic burden, and that--along with eating healthy, nutritious foods--is really the best way to detoxify your body.

Lastly, a reader recently asked me about the effectiveness of detox patches.  You can read my verdict over here.

Administrative

These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.

I always love to hear from you! Post your comments and questions on my Nutrition Diva Facebook page or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!

Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements (National Institutes of Health)

Medline Plus Directory of Drugs, Supplements and Herbs

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Reducing your exposure to organic gases (US EPA)

Non-toxic or Least Toxic Pest Control

Health image courtesy of Shutterstock

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