How can you support your body’s natural detoxification process? It’s simpler than you think!
I’m going to skip the part where we decrease your toxic load from decreasing alcohol consumption, avoiding medicine known to be hard on the liver and focusing on things like increasing use of non-toxic products, glass containers, and supporting your immune function with anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense food. I hope that’s obvious! But, another way we can reduce our toxic load is to support our body’s ability to detoxify naturally. Because, let’s face it, no one is perfect.
“The liver is the largest internal digestive organ of our body, which is indispensable in many essential physiologic processes and vulnerable to be impaired by a wide variety of factors, such as toxins, microorganisms, metabolic products, circulatory materials and neoformations.” [source]
What does Detox mean?
Before we jump in I want to clarify the word “detox”, which people use constantly around the internet. Detox is short for detoxification. Most “Toxins” are fat-soluble, including heavy metals, metabolic by-products, and excess hormones. Your body’s natural detoxification process happens in the liver, but most marketed “detoxes” don’t support the liver’s natural detoxification process:
- Phase 1: Liver transforms them into water-soluble forms.
- Nutrients that support this process include B Vitamins, Vitamin A, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium.
- Phase 2: Conjugation – the water-soluble molecule combines with something to neutralize it, and by-products secrete into small intestine and eliminated or sent to kidneys and eliminated
- Nutrients that support this process include Amino Acids, Glutamine, Methionine, Taurine, Cysteine, Vitamin B and C, Selenium.
I especially try to actively incorporate these nutrients because I had my gallbladder removed over a decade ago, before I realized what lifestyle factors could have been causing stones. This puts even more pressure on my liver. I also have MTHFR, plus I am overweight – which means I have a higher amount of body fat which can store toxins – it’s not a judgement on any body, but is important to understand as a scientific fact.
Lots of detoxes have no grounding in science… let’s review what’s NOT a detox:
- Fiber-rich nutrient-void supplement that simply makes you poop a lot.
- Coffee enema, which can actually be dangerous. Read Sarah’s post “Coffee Enemas: What the Science Says versus What You’ve Heard” for more.
- Juice cleanses, detox teas, and other weird stuff you can find online may have immediate beneficial effects simply because you’re eating more veggies and pulling out inflammatory foods (such as refined sugar and alcohol). However, long-term they’re not a good solution because they lack the full nutrient profile (fiber, amino acids) that starve your gut bacteria and lead to nutrient-deficiency.
I am providing a scientific source for every single recommendation I give, to ensure we are separating fact vs. fiction and myth. We’re about supporting health there, not pseudoscience scare tactic marketing.
What we know we can do already:
- Liver stores the nutrients needed for detoxification, so eating liver is a great “detox” strategy.
- Fiber from veggies (especially non-starchy), organ meats, bone broth, seafood, and fruit all support proper digestion.
- If your liver can’t keep up, support Phase 1 or Phase 2 with foods rich in those nutrients.
What can we do? My 8 Detoxication Tips:
Whether from exercise or sauna, sweating is one of your body’s natural defenses. That’s why when we eat inflammatory spicy foods, or get a fever, our body sweats. It’s also a way for your body to push environmental contamination as excreted toxins through sweat and sebum out of the system.
“No person is without some level of toxic metals in their bodies, circulating and accumulating with acute and chronic lifetime exposures. An individual may take numerous measures to minimize exposures and to optimize metabolism and excretion of toxic elements in the stool and urine with diet, supplements, and chelation therapy; however, an often overlooked route of excretion of toxicants is via the process of sweating.
We see sweating with heat and/or exercise throughout the ages, by groups worldwide, as “cleansing.” As part of a scoping review regarding arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, we reviewed the scientific literature pertaining to toxicant excretion in sweat…
Along with essential minerals, sweat is an acknowledged excretory route for toxic metals.” [source]
What the studies don’t say: drink a special tea and your liver will be cleansed. No, but water is essential to your body’s systems and organ function. Meaning, to properly detoxify (including sweat it out) you need proper hydration. This following article not only substantiates that, but dives in to find the illusive proper amount of water for you.
“Water is essential for metabolism, substrate transport across membranes, cellular homeostasis, temperature regulation, and circulatory function… To maintain normal physiological functions (e.g.., blood pressure, pH, internal body temperature) and optimal health, and to deliver essential substances (e.g., oxygen, water, glucose, sodium, potassium) to cells, the CNS and neuroendocrine hormones act constantly to preserve internal homeostasis via a complex network of many organ and neural systems… Affects liver metabolism (e.g., gluconeogenesis, glycogenolysis).” [source]
Spoiler alert: no consensus exists for the right water intake. But, I find that preparing ahead with the right tools helps my desire to properly hydrate. Keep in mind that eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will increase your water consumption, naturally. I love this water bottle to encourage yourself to drink throughout the day. But what works even better for me? Making my own sparkling water! I love to add trace minerals and crystalized lime to carbonated filtered water (we use this machine but just got this tankless one on Prime Day). I stay hydrated so much better when the drink is tasty!
Don’t. Ingest. Epsom Salts.
I will repeat.
But… what we do know is that it has long been known that magnesium sulphate used topically can reduce inflammation, thus supporting the body’s ability to function properly. [source] I personally find that when I’m feel like I’m really dragging, usually doing activities to support my liver will help. They include things that also support general health, too – like getting proper sleep (see below). An epsom salt bath not only helps improve my sleep, but when done with hot water (consult a doctor if you have a medical condition that may be contradictory, like heart disease or pregnancy) it induces sweat which supports natural detoxification, too. Win, win!
While Milk Thistle is generally thought of to be the supplement of choice for liver support, unfortunately the science currently doesn’t show clear results. There are little to no negative side effects, and, because it’s a natural element, studies funded by pharmaceutical companies simply don’t exist. Generally I found this article to be the most helpful to understanding the potential benefits.
“However, in the clinical setting, there is currently a lack of definitive data about its efficacy in patients with chronic liver disease. The only well-defined finding is the absence of adverse events at high doses. Generally, all clinical studies on herbal products suffer from similar limitations, in part related to the fact that well-designed trials require resources and natural products industries do not sponsor them with significant budgets.” [source]
Of note, it is acknowledged that it helps with Type 2 Diabetes, which mechanistically indicates it’s supporting the body’s organ function. [source] So, I take it. Why not?
However, what we do know support liver health, is consuming liver. Yes, the nutrients your liver needs to properly function are in in the liver when consumed. This means, taking a beef liver supplement or eating more Chicken Liver Mousse will support your liver function. Kind of like when your thyroid is sluggish, medicinally desecrated thyroid is prescribed. This is a great article that goes into more detail on Liver Pills as a supplement. I personally use this brand.
YAASS. There’s a reason we call it “beauty rest.” While you sleep your body repairs cells. I was originally going to include this as one aspect of Regenerative Detoxification below, but after seeing the endless research to support sleep specifically I wanted to ensure it was called out.
“A well-balanced diet is critically important for liver health. A healthy life-style includes additionally rejoicing with a merry mind, keeping smoke-free and alcohol-free, having good sleep, and drinking adequate water.” [source]
“When one sleeps, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day.” [source]
“Hence sleep at the behavioral level is a process of neuronal restitution and detoxification at the cellular level.” [source]
“A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours.” [source]
Internally and externally, there is science to support that activated charcoal binds to toxins, thus preventing you from absorbing them. In fact, this study recommended it as a medicinal solution for poisoning:
“An oral suspension of activated charcoal (AC) should merit consideration in poisonings when there is an indication for gastrointestinal decontamination of an ingested toxin… activated charcoal has been shown to significantly reduce the absorption of many ingested toxins when given within the first-hour post-ingestion.” [source]
Now, that doesn’t mean go to town and just take a pill! But, this is a great solution following exposure to something your body doesn’t respond well to (what your body perceives as a toxin). Also applying it topically draws out microparticles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the surface of the skin, making removing them easier. It also absorbs wetness and odors and harmful gases, making it ideal as an underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant.
I personally use this facial mask (to bind and pull grime from the pores), this toothpaste (to pull unwanted elements from the surface), the boys use this deodorant, and we keep these supplements on hand in the event of exposure. Like last summer, when I gave the kids sewage water accidentally thinking it was a fresh spring. You know, that time I gave my boys dysentery on the Oregon Trail that quickly became family legend.
Hear me out, lymphatic drainage is essential to your body’s natural functions and immune function. Our lymphatic system doesn’t have a specific organ to push and move the fluid accumulation, like the heart does for blood. It needs activation by movement. Exercise is a fantastic option (as you’ll also sweat to improve liver function further), but manual manipulation is effective, too!
“Before and after lymph drainage, saliva was collected to detect substances that would reveal immune function. Cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone levels were significantly reduced after therapy compared with those before therapy. Also apparent were positive opinions, such as “I feel better” and “My legs feel lighter.”
These results demonstrated the stress reduction effect of one-time simplified lymph drainage, which decreased cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone levels. This therapy was also shown to produce positive mental and physical effects.” [source]
Here’s another source that shows lymphatic drainage as a medicinal tool.
Side note about the lymphatic system
I LOVED this video on the lymphatic system, partially because it’s done in an English accent, but mostly for the educational benefit. Our lymphatic system includes: neck, under the arm, groin, but also throughout the body in chest, abdomen, and pelvis. The system carries a colorless liquid, called “lymph”. As the blood circulates, fluid passes from the blood into the body tissues, carrying food into the cells. This fluid then collects waste products, bacteria, damaged cells, and cancer cells (if there are any). The fluid drains back into the lymph vessels, then moves to the lymph glands. The glands then filter the lymph, taking out any harmful products. It eventually reaches a large vessel in the neck, the Thoracic duct, which then passes the filtered lymph back into circulation. If any of the lymphatic nodes are damaged or removed or blocked, it can cause build-up of fluid, called lymphedema.
What is dry brushing?
It’s using a tool to rub along the skin and “massage” lightly to activate lymphatic fluid flow and increase lymphatic drainage, naturally. There are numerous tutorials online, but the key is to create motion topically on the skin in a direction that allows movement to the fluid under. Gua Sha and Facial rollers do this effectively on the face and neck, but a dry brush can be used on the whole body. I personally use and love this dry brush set, which comes with a body scrub and body oil to further massage topically to improve efficacy.
8: Regenerative Detoxification
Looking to up your detoxification game? There are a lot of additional “bio-hacks” to increase regenerative nature of the liver (and thus detoxification). That is, the body’s ability to regenerate cells – the same way it does with sleep.
“The liver is bestowed with the capacity to regenerate, which is a unique attribute for an adult organ. This regenerative capacity is essential perhaps due to its strategic location and its indispensable functions for host survival, including synthesis, metabolism, and detoxification.
The liver’s will to live is effectively supported by a host of cellular and molecular means that provide a tiered restoration mechanism ensuring hepatic homeostasis.” [source]
Some examples to support ways you can improve cellular and molecular function include red light therapy. We go into great detail on the science of this incredible tool on this podcast. This is the brand I personally use.
Wanna learn more?
I go further into depth on these posts and podcasts, if you want to research more fully:
- I have MTHFR (and a whole lot of other stuff)
- The Whole View podcast Ep 360: How to Detox Chlorine
- 3 Tips to Kick that MTHFR and Thrive (video)
- The Whole View podcast Ep 269: What is a Real Detox (and what is bunk)
- Why Cleaner Cosmetics Matter
- The Whole View podcast Ep 258: Bad Pseudoscience about MTHFR
Note: I am not a medical professional. While I aim to use science to share knowledge that may be helpful; please consult a doctor regarding any health ailment.
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