Detox is a trendy term that gets thrown around – a lot. And while a juice cleanse can be safe and enjoyable for some (me? I caved the second day), it’s not always practical or realistic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do things that support your body’s natural detoxification processes – easily and quickly.
The reason we should even pay detox any mind is simple: our lifestyles can put our highly evolved systems to the test. “Although the body is normally quite capable of detoxing on its own, rising stress levels, lack of exercise, constipation, and poor diet and lifestyle choices – not to mention the ever-increasing levels of toxins in our environment – can push it to capacity,” says Cathy Wong, ND, a naturopathic doctor, certified nutrition specialist, and author of The Inside Out Diet. “While it’s impossible to avoid toxins completely, it’s important to support your body so it can get rid of them.”
Detoxing can be something you do a little of every day. To that end, here are four simple detox solutions that I recently demonstrated on The Dr. Oz Show that are so simple, even the busiest woman can manage it.
Detox Tip #1: Cut the Sugar
You don’t need me to tell you that sugar is not the best thing to put in your mouth. Not only is sugar linked with a range of health problems, including obesity and diabetes, but the inflammation it causes can damage cell membranes, allowing toxins to sneak in, interfering with normal cell functioning, says Wong.
The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to rely on sugary foods, snacks, and drinks to give you the boost you need – and that’s a short-term fix with long-term negative effects. Cutting out as much sugar as you can, says Wong, will prevent weight gain, inflammation, premature aging, and even balance your energy.
Try It: Brew some licorice tea. Licorice (the root, not the candy) is an herb that grows in the Mediterranean and throughout Asia, and is actually sweeter than sugar, with zero calories. It’s also an anti-inflammatory food that has bacterial-killing properties and a range of other health benefits. Other teas to try that can satisfy your sweet tooth are cinnamon and peppermint.
Health note: Wong warns that licorice root is a potent herb with some contraindications and recommends limiting licorice tea intake to one cup a day, citing safety concerns from the Natural Institutes of Health on licorice. “While it's good for someone with adrenal fatigue, it's not great for someone who's super stressed and pumping out a lot of cortisol,” she adds.
A note on artificial sweeteners: Diet soda drinkers, take heed: Artificial sweeteners do you no favors and are certainly not “detox approved." A University of Texas Health Science study reported that artificial sweetener consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans. Some experts suggest that they don’t curb but fuel sugar cravings – making them a lousy strategy for cutting back on sugar (and weight).
Detox Tip #2: Eat More Bitter Foods
Eating your greens is always detox-friendly. But even better are bitter greens, which must taste bitter in order to get the benefits. And that’s because when you taste bitter foods, like arugula, watercress and dandelion greens, they stimulate the liver to more effectively cleanse and detox the body.
Here’s why: Your taste buds signal what’s coming, and when you eat bitter greens, your gastrointestinal system gets the message to release hormones and digestive enzymes that increase bile flow, metabolize fats, and keep elimination moving smoothly. This helps your body carry the toxins out faster.
Bonus: Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine also say that eating more bitter greens can help ease sugar cravings. That’s a detox win-win.
Try It: Get a little bitter.
Add some arugula and watercress to your regular lettuce mix at lunch, blend some into your smoothie, or sauté dandelion greens in a little olive oil and salt at dinner.
Detox Tip #3: Dry Brush Your Skin
Even the busiest women take showers, right? One of the simplest and most enjoyable detox solutions is dry-skin brushing, which is exactly what it sounds like. It takes all of a few seconds in the morning and supports your largest organ – your skin.
Here’s why it works: Brushing removes dead cells that collect environmental toxins, while also keeping pores unclogged, so that the body can eliminate toxins through the skin. It also renews your skin cells, and can improve the way your skin looks and feels.
Try It: Brush it off
You can find a dry body brush at health food stores and online. They come in all shapes and sizes. Start with your extremities (bottoms of feet, palms of hands) and work your way in from there, always brushing with gentle, even strokes toward your heart. This helps aid the detox process, and doing so can help draw stagnant toxins back into the bloodstream where they can be cleared out.
This invigorating ritual stimulates the nervous system, too, making it a great way to wake up. Added bonus: Some people claim it helps create more tone and reduces cellulite.
Detox Tip #4: Take a Bladder Wrack Bath
Detoxing your body and mind means not only clearing out physical toxins but the emotional ones too –and this bath does double-detox duty.
The key ingredient is bladder wrack, a kind of seaweed used medicinally for centuries, that expands in water and is said to draw toxins from the body. It’s filled with minerals and iodine, which help to stimulate the thyroid gland and boost metabolic function. (Talk to your doctor first if you have thyroid problems.)
Try It: Draw a detox bath.
Put a handful of the bladder wrack, in loose herb form (which you can find online or in specialty health food stores) in a cheesecloth pouch and toss into your bathwater. It’s like a human-sized teabag! Let it soak for a few minutes and then go ahead and steep yourself in it for as long as you’d normally bathe. And relax!
Note: Don’t worry if the water turns brown. That’s just the natural color and minerals of the seaweed infusing the water.
Detox for Life!
People who swear by detoxes claim that they make them feel energized and renewed. Try these simple practices and you could feel great the first day or week – but the real rewards come when you make them part of your daily life.