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Ok, so we all know that we live in a pretty polluted world. Inside and out. We breathe pollutants, but we eat them too, right?
We also know that our bodies are equipped to deal with all this. We’ve got a whole bunch of emunctory organs (the official way of calling our cleaning-up organs) to deal with it, right?
So why should we need to detox?
Getting rid of toxins is a function our bodies perform permanently and naturally. We’ve got quite a few organs to do just that, and a healthy body should be able to detoxify itself without issues.
The problem is, sometimes we overload our detox organs, or they stop functioning optimally. And we get somewhat clogged up. This is when we need to figure out how to detox your body at home and naturally.
What toxins do we need to get rid of?
There are 2 types of toxins: the ones that enter our body and the ones that the body generates. The first ones come from:
- processed foods (sugar, refined flour products, additives etc.),
- environmental toxins, like pesticides, household chemicals or heavy metals.
The toxins generated by your body are the end results of metabolism, hormones (stress) or bacterial by-products. These are due to the oxidation of fats, or cholesterol, to reduced liver or kidney function and free radicals.
The detoxification process takes place in 3 phases:
- Identification: Specific enzymes identify potentially harmful substances.
- Neutralization: These substances need to be neutralized to make them harmless and fat-soluble are turned into water-soluble substances, ready for excretion.
- Elimination: We get rid of the end products through our skin, lungs, kidneys and the digestive tract.
Stress hormones, medication, and tobacco are all dealt with by the enzymes in phase 1.
If the body is not properly supplemented with nutrients from a wide variety of foods, the cumulative load becomes too much, the liver is overwhelmed, leading to inflammation and disease.
This has been linked to hormonal imbalance, reduced immune function, and nutritional deficiencies.
All these can, in the long term, lead to more serious diseases. These are, for example, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, osteoarthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, eczema, psoriasis, allergies, Crohn’s, Alzheimer etc.
So how to avoid this?
By activating your “waste disposal” organs
Emunctories are our “waste disposal” organs, whose job is to get rid of superabundant or harmful waste and secretions.
Here are our primary emunctories:
- the liver destroys blood poisons, including toxic ammonia substances from metabolism, pollutants and drug residues. This is called “hepatic clearance”;
- the kidneys filter the blood: urea, minerals, various acids, and drug residues;
- the intestines evacuate waste from our diet and dead cells from our internal organs; masses of toxic substances can stagnate in the intestine, putrefy, or even form some kind of “varnish coating”;
- the skin releases mineral salts, hormones and fats via the seborrhoea glands;
- the lungs release carbon dioxide and volatile molecules in the bloodstream.
If the large emunctories, such as kidney and liver, stop functioning properly, it causes auto-intoxication of the body. All pathologies are linked with insufficient elimination, at the end of the day.
So a good detox should start with activating and supporting our “waste disposal” organs.
How to stimulate and clean the emunctories
According to naturopathy principles, it is recommended to stimulate and, when possible, to regularly clean our emunctories, to prevent diseases linked to the clogging of our body.
So how do you stimulate and purify emunctories?
- Liver: by increasing the production of bile through the use of the right medicinal plants: milk thistle, desmodium, artichoke, for example;
- Intestines: by purifying the intestines through regular hypotoxic diet (staying clear of dairy products, sugars, refined flours, fried food), fasting, single-food group diet, herbal tea enemas; see below for a short explanation of the hypotoxic diet;
- Kidneys: by preventing the formation of crystals clogging the kidney ducts (kidney stones) thanks to a potassium-rich diet (vegetables and fruits, especially potatoes with skin, avocado, beans, banana) and calcium. In case of predisposition to kidney stones, avoid oxalate-rich foods: spinach, rhubarb, chard, peanut, beets, chocolate, tea;
- Lungs: by promoting blood circulation and the lungs gaseous exchange through sport in a pure environment, of course avoiding fumes (tobacco, exhaust, candle, etc.), irritating products (products of routine housekeeping), etc.;
- Skin: by focussing on activities that make you sweat (sports, steam baths, sauna), to eliminate the skin’s crystalloid (sweat) and colloidal (sebum) wastes.
In addition to fighting against clogging diseases, having healthy emunctories should give you:
• more energy, less fatigue, and anxiety;
• soft skin, abundant hair, nails without cracks;
• better natural defenses;
• better food assimilation;
• fewer problems related to sweating, bloating, bad breath;
• better sleep;
• an active sexuality.
Which food is best to detox?
This is where we need the full complement of nutrients to support the enzymes and metabolic processes involved in phase 1 to 3 to function optimally. These will include vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, as well as plenty of fluids and fibre to help with the excretion part.
An anti-clogging diet should include:
The Allium family – onions, garlic, chives, leeks
The Brassica family: Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, radishes, horseradish, turnips, watercress, wasabi
Other vegetables: Beets, celery, cucumber, spinach
Avocado, berries, esp. blueberries and cranberries, apples, pears, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, citrus in general, especially the peel
Lentils, beans, dry peas, chickpeas
Olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios
Herbs and spices
Turmeric, rosemary, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, caraway, oregano, coriander, dill
Wild caught salmon, sardines
Organic chicken, turkey, wild game, organic eggs
Do you need an anti-clogging diet plan to follow?
An hypotoxic diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) is the optimum diet against clogging diseases. Based on the diet of the people living around the Mediterranean sea in the 60s, the diet advocates whole food, organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables, limited meat, and healthy oils.
It focusses on eating liberally:
Vegetables – Lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, olives, etc.,
Fruits – Organic and seasonal, like apples, citrus, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, bananas, plums, figs, melons, peaches, avocados, etc.
Nuts and seeds – Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds etc.
Legumes and starchy vegetables – potatoes, beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, turnips, etc.
Whole grains – Whole oats, quinoa, millet, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat, whole-grain bread, and pasta.
Herbs & spices – Garlic, basil, oregano, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, cloves, etc.
Healthy fats – Extra virgin olive oil, and avocado oil.
Eat in moderation:
Protein sources – fish (especially fatty fishes such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, tuna), seafood (shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, etc.), poultry, eggs
Dairy – Cheese, plain natural yogurt
Refined sugar (a bit of honey is fine), sugary drinks, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils and other highly processed foods.
Very “clean eating” all this, we love it!
Or option 2
Follow a low glycemic index (GI) diet whenever possible.
Acne, which is a typical clogging disorder, decreases sharply with a low GI diet. A randomized study was conducted on this subject among 43 adolescents and adults suffering from acne. After 3 months, the “low GI” group experienced significantly reduced acne and lost an average of 3 kg.
The low GI diet is simply about eating low GI foods. These are plentiful. Basically, all the foods that do not transform too quickly into glucose after you eat them, thus avoiding a rapid rise in blood glucose at mealtimes.
You will find below a link to a table to help you figure out which food has a Low, Medium or High glycemic index. Click here to find the GI chart.
Or you can use this nifty and comprehensive search function to check out your favorite food.
The IG grading system is fun because it can be counterintuitive. You’ll be surprised to find out that beer (GI = 110) raises the blood glucose level much faster than a sugar waffle (GI = 75). Or that a brioche (IG = 70) is better than rice flour (95) and cooked celery (IG = 85).
Feel like you need a kick-start?
Consider giving yourself a bit of a shock treatment with an active water fast (fasting with water and herbal tea, and sports exercises), away from cities, industrialized areas and roads.
Disclaimer – This is not for everybody and needs to be supervised. Always take first to your doctor or your physician before embarking on a fast.
There are books out there on fasting, the principles and the methods, like this one. Read up, familiarise yourself with, but check with your doctor before embarking on any fasting program.
Throughout the year
Consider going through extra cleansing, twice a year for 10 days. This is especially beneficial if your diet hasn’t been optimal throughout the year.
- Make a purifying soup: using fennel, celery, garlic, onion.
- Give your liver, your main detoxing organ, a boost with the following supplements: milk thistle, dandelion, desmodium, artichoke. The supplement below is an example that combines most of these in one capsule, very handy.
I do a monthly milk thistle detox every 3 months throughout the year, as I know my liver is my weak point.
The take-home message
- Consume a large variety of fresh vegetables and fruit daily, preferably organic. If you’re not sure which ones should be organic, learn about the Dirty Dozen.
- Choose foods which are whole and unprocessed. For example, snack on fresh fruit and raw nuts instead of a protein bar; enjoy a freshly made vegetable soup instead of an instant Cup-a-Soup.
- Drink a minimum of six glasses of water per day, and stay clear of any drink containing sugar or caffeine.
- Ensure optimal gut functions by eating high-fiber foods, such as whole grains (barley, quinoa, corn, rolled oats and wild/brown rice) and leafy vegetables.
- Exercise or move regularly – enough to break up a sweat.
If you just took one thing of the above list and started applying it today, you’d make a difference towards better emunctories. But why not dare yourself to pick two of those and push through? Then let us know in the Comments below whether you’ve noticed any improvements!