In recent years, detoxification — or detox — or full body cleanse —is a popular buzzword.
The practice of body detoxification has long been practised in medical and spiritual traditions.
The ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda included the practice of cleansing known as Panchkarma, which used sweating, herbs, oils, and massage for body purification. Ancient civilizations in India and China used a method called Bloodletting in which leeches are kept on the body surface to remove the toxic “humours” in the body. In spiritual traditions, fasting, sweat lodges (somewhat similar to the sauna), and giving up certain foods or eating at certain times have been implemented as part of the belief systems.
What Is a Full Body Cleanse Or Detox?
Simply put, a full body detox, or cleanse, is a plan that people follow in to eliminate toxins from their body.
Toxins, such as poisons or pollutants, are substances that negatively affect health. The body can already eliminate these substances on its own through the liver, kidneys, digestive system, and skin.
Fortunately, our bodies are well-equipped to eliminate toxins and doesn’t require special diets or supplements to do so.
That said, you can enhance your body’s natural detoxification system.
This article explains some common misconceptions about the best full body cleanse along with some ways to rejuvenate your body’s detoxification system.
The Toxic Environment Around Us
There are hundreds of harmful chemicals present in the environment around us. Some of them have not yet been extensively tested for their effects on human health.
Ageing only compounds the body’s toxic load—scientists estimate that we all carry within our bodies over 700 contaminants. These contaminants include popularized toxins such as heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, lead), exogenous hormones (e.g., recombinant bovine growth hormone and synthetic estrogens), and industrial plasticizers (e.g., bisphenol A). Some of these contaminants are thought to play a role in metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, which is why these extremely disrupting substances are even referred to as “obesogens.”
Holistic Approach to Full Body Cleanse
When it comes to a well-rounded body cleansing program, we must consider not just the physical removal of toxins, but also the emotional aspects that we may need to release and cleanse. Toxicity can build in many areas of life—from social networks, to stress, to the quantity and quality of sleep. Research continues to support the idea that “…humans are simultaneously biological and cultural beings, which means we are physically and psychologically interdependent.” This means we need to adapt to this holistic approach of detox which includes cleansing of the spirit, mind and our bodies altogether.
Of course, as knowledge about toxins grows, it’s not the point to become overwhelmed by fear of toxic exposure, but to take control of our health by finding safe ways to keep our body vital and capable of optimally processing, cleansing and excreting environmental toxins.
Common Misconceptions About Detoxing
Our body has a sophisticated way of eliminating toxins that involves the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs.
These organs can effectively eliminate unwanted substances only when they are healthy.
Detox diets don’t do anything that our body can’t naturally do on its own. But we can optimize our body’s natural detoxification system with the help of these detoxification methods.
9 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Body
1. Get Lots of Sleep
Ensuring adequate and quality sleep each night is a must to support your body’s health and natural detoxification system.
Several years ago, scientists discovered a brain detoxification process called the glymphatic system that occurs when you sleep. Insufficient sleep impairs your glymphatic system, causing toxin build-up.
Sleeping allows your brain to reorganize and recharge itself, as well as remove toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day.
Without quality sleep in the right amounts on a consistent basis, your body cannot effectively detoxify.
2. Drink plenty of clean water
Staying hydrated is crucial to empowering your body to remove toxins and maintain blood sugar balance.
Water does so much more than quench your thirst. Along with regulating your body temperature, it also helps in lubricating joints, aiding in digestion and nutrient absorption, and detoxifying your body by removing waste products.
3. Avoid Alcohol or Limit Your Alcohol.
To our bodies, alcohol is a toxin, which means when we ingest it, our bodies will work to metabolize the alcohol before other sources of energy.
- Cause damage to the heart.
- Increase your chances of certain types of cancer.
- Lead to certain types of liver disease.
- Lower your immune system’s ability to fight off disease and illness.
As such, limiting or abstaining entirely from alcohol is one of the best ways to keep your body’s detoxification system running strong.
4. Get Moving!
Regular physical activity can give you more energy, help you tone your body and improve your mood. It also can improve your circulation, helping you to rid your body of toxins.
It’s recommended that you do at least 150–250 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise — such as jogging or brisk walking — or 75–150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity physical activity — such as running or sprint.
5. Supplement Your Natural Detoxification
Make sure you are supplying your body with essential nutrients that it wasn’t receiving before.
We should be trying to get most of our essential vitamins and minerals through our diet. We should not take a supplement for “nutrients (like vitamin D and zinc) which we can get through our nutrient-rich diet. We should only get supplements that are hard to get from food alone.
6. Eat The Right Foods
Several studies show that whole foods including cruciferous vegetables, berries, garlic, and spices like turmeric can help your body detoxify through various pathways. Paired with protein and quality fat, these whole foods create an optimal food plan to detoxify and lose weight. Go for organic plant foods and the highest-quality animal foods whenever possible.
Reduce Your Intake of Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar and processed foods are thought to be at the root of today’s public health crisis.
The main factor behind obesity and other chronic diseases is high consumption of sugar and processed foods.
Be Kind to Your Digestive System.
Your digestive system does a lot of work processing your body’s waste. Be kind to it by eating more fiber-rich foods, which will fill you up more quickly and help your digestive tract process waste more efficiently.
Another way to help your digestive system is to eat naturally fermented foods that provide good bacteria – aka probiotics – to the gut. These fermented foods help improve the health of your gut microbiome, and that can help avoid gut inflammation and intestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease. Good probiotics include:
Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help your body fight oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals and other toxins that increase your risk of disease.
Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Other naturally occurring antioxidants include flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans. Plant-based foods are the best sources. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, and even cocoa.
As a bonus, fruits, vegetables and whole grains high in antioxidants are also typically high in fibre, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and good sources of vitamins and minerals. So enjoy the variety.
Limit Your Salt Intake
Consuming too much salt can cause your body to retain excess fluid, especially if you have a condition that affects your kidneys or liver — or if you don’t drink enough water.
Some people consider detoxing as a mean of eliminating excess water.
This excess fluid buildup can cause bloating and make clothing uncomfortable. If you find yourself consuming too much salt, you can detox yourself of the extra water weight.
While it may sound counterintuitive, increasing your water intake is one of the best ways to eliminate excess water weight from consuming too much salt.
That’s because when you consume too much salt and not enough water, your body releases an antidiuretic hormone that prevents you from urinating — and therefore detoxifying.
By increasing your water intake, your body reduces the secretion of the antidiuretic hormone and increases urination, eliminating more water and waste products.
Increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods — which counterbalances some of sodium’s effects — also helps. Foods rich in potassium include potatoes, squash, kidney beans, bananas, and spinach.
7. Improve Your Air Quality.
The air you breathe in may have dangerous chemicals, tobacco smoke and other toxins.
Here are some ways to improve your air quality:
- Have house plants. These can help clean the air naturally. Boston fern, English ivy and spider plants are three examples of plants that work particularly well to help purify indoor air.
- Use non-toxic, natural house cleaners.
- Invest in an air purifier that has a HEPA filter. They’re pricey, but they are most effective at filtering out dust, mold and pet dander.
- Don’t let people smoke in your home.
- Change the air filter in your air conditioner and other HVAC units regularly.
How To Do A Full Body Cleanse?
There are many ways to do natural full body cleanse — ranging from total starvation fasts to simpler food modifications.
Most detox diets involve at least one of the following:
- Fasting for 1–3 days.
- Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water, and tea.
- Drinking only full body cleansing drinks, such as salted water or lemon juice.
- Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants, and allergens.
- Taking supplements or herbs.
- Avoiding all allergenic foods, then slowly reintroducing them.
- Using laxatives, colon cleanses, or enemas.
- Exercising regularly.
- Completely eliminating alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, and refined sugar.
Full body cleanse diets vary in intensity and duration.
The Pros and Cons of Detox
There are many valid reasons why people undergo detoxes or cleanse diets, even when they involve some very difficult changes like only drinking cold-pressed juices abstaining from sugar or caffeine. Some of the benefits of detoxing include:
- Improving kidney and liver function
- Increasing energy and sense of vitality
- Revitalising mind and spirit
- Jump-starting weight-loss program or new diet
- Improving the immune system
- Cutting out bad eating habits
But…like any drastic change, detoxing comes along with some potential risks. Beware of these potential cons from your cleansing diet:
- A sudden change in your diet, like the consumption of fibre-heavy fruit, can lead to bloating, gas and diarrhoea as your body adjusts.
- Detox diets are not always recommended for teenagers, pregnant women or those with health conditions as there is the risk of consuming insufficient calories and proteins as you adapt to your new diet.
- Detoxes and cleanses are not intended for long-term weight loss, but rather a short, jump-start to healthy eating and exercising habits.
- Detoxes are not proven to rid the body of toxins better than your body’s own natural mechanisms.
The Bottom Line
Your body is frequently exposed to toxic substances. However, most of the time, it can remove them without additional help.
While detox diets may seem tempting, their benefits likely have nothing to do with vanquishing toxins, but rather with eliminating various unhealthy foods.
A much smarter approach is to eat healthier and improve your lifestyle rather than go on a potentially dangerous cleanse.