Since there are so many toxins to be exposed to in the world today, supporting your body's detoxifications systems is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Toxin build ups can lead to a number of issues, including fatigue, headaches, rashes, hives, increased inflammation (and therefore greater risk of disease), and more. So one of the best ways to feel your absolute best is to keep your detoxification systems running smoothly.
What are some ways to detox and how effective are they?
Juice cleanses are probably what comes to mind when you think of detoxification. The point of the cleanse is to give your body a break with something that is is easy to process and still gives you tons of nutrients. Afterward, you’re supposed to feel shiny and new because your liver and digestive system have had the chance to get rid of any toxins building up due to the fact you’ve only ingested fruit and vegetable juice for at least a few days.
However, juice cleanses tend to have a lot of side effects of their own. One of the biggest is the significant reduction of calories for several days. While vitamins and minerals are critical to functioning, calories are equally critical to ensure you have enough energy to get through the day. Without enough calories, you risk slowing down your metabolism tremendously and feeling lethargic or lightheaded throughout the cleanse.
And there are other parts of food your body uses as well, like protein (for essential amino acids and muscle building), fat (for energy, hormone creation, and absorbing certain vitamins and minerals), and fiber (to help food move through your digestive tract and slow the breakdown of carbohydrates so you don’t spike your blood sugar levels). So going on a long-term cleanse means you’re depriving your body of its building blocks, which can harm a number of your organs while trying to give them a rest.
Sadly, you might not even be giving them the rest you think you’re giving them. The last big issue with juice cleanses is the amount of sugar you’re intaking. Even if you’re fresh pressing the juice yourself, it's still processed by your body like sugar. And without pulp and fiber to slow down the absorption of the juice, your blood sugar spikes and your liver has to process all that extra glucose in a short amount of time as insulin brings your blood sugar to normal levels. One glass of juice isn’t terrible, especially when consumed with other food. But when you’re drinking it multiple times a day without food for multiple days, that puts a huge amount of strain on your liver.
If you're going to attempt a cleanse, a 1-2 day bone broth cleanse is a better bet than a long-term juice cleanse (since fresh-made bone broth contains so many nutrients and tissue-healing collagen). But cleanses aren't meant to be done often, and you're probably better off doing long-term maintenance work that isn't as harsh on your boy than short-term cleanses.
Unlike juice cleanses, intermittent fasting is a practice that happens continually over the course of months or years and doesn’t deprive the body of what it needs when done correctly.
Most people might think of fasting as a way to consume fewer calories and therefore lose weight over time. However, weight loss isn’t actually the main benefit of fasting. In fact, many people find they don’t lose significant amounts of weight (and if they fast incorrectly they might find themselves gaining weight).
The main benefit really is to give your body a rest. And with that can come many benefits. Some people have seen a faster metabolism, decreased blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, and decreased blood glucose after doing intermittent fasting for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, these benefits depend on a number of factors (like gender, health history, amount of time fasted, types of food consumed during the “feast” period). But one of the most interesting finds is that decreased inflammation seems to happen across the board.
There still isn’t a clear reason as to why this happens, but one hypothesis is that you’re consuming fewer toxins over the course of a week (because you’re consuming less food containing toxins), making it easier for your body to filter them out. Kind of like the idea behind juice cleanses, only with limited deprivation periods and much more support for your body’s needs.
So how does it work? There are many flavors of intermittent fasting, like:
- Alternate day fasting - eat for 24 hours then fast for 24 hours and repeat. In the most popular version, you eat breakfast and lunch one day, then fast until dinner the following day
- One meal a day - the first time you break your fast is at dinner time, with perhaps a few light snacks here and there during the day. This pattern happens every day
- 14-16 hour fast - this is a “skip breakfast” model where you stop eating after dinner and don’t eat again until lunch time (some people still have 3 meals, they just start breakfast around noon and have shorter breaks between lunch and dinner)
- 12 hour fast - the easiest fast of all, and one you’re probably already doing. This simply means you stop eating after dinner and wait 12 hours to eat breakfast the next morning
The more extreme versions of intermittent fasting tend to get the best results, but also tend to have the most risk of slowing down your metabolism and throwing off your hormones if things don’t go as planned. Extreme forms seem to work best for men, while women are recommended to stick to a 12-14 hour fast as they’re more susceptible to ending up with hormone imbalances. And skipping meals isn’t recommended for people with health conditions unless your doctor gives you the all clear.
But no matter who you are, if you’re looking to try intermittent fasting you should start slow and keep records of metrics like blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and weight to make sure they’re not getting thrown off. The good news is that studies have shown that if these metrics are thrown off, they tend to recalibrate after going back to a normal eating schedule.
Your lungs are important detoxification organs that are often forgotten. When you breathe, they absorb oxygen from the air and expel carbon dioxide from your body to keep your red blood cells functioning. The better your lungs can take in oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, the more energetic you’ll feel and the better your body will function.
Deep breathing works in two ways to support your lungs. First, you’re allowing your lungs to fully expand and contract so they can work to their full capacity. And second, when you train your body to breathe deeply, you strengthen your lungs and make it easier for your body to breathe deeply in the future, even when you’re not thinking about it.
To start training yourself to breath more deeply:
- Sit up straight or lie on the floor
- Put a hand on your diaphragm (the stomach area just below where your rib cage meets) and the other on your lower abdomen
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, focusing on filling your lower abdomen with air first, then your lungs (you’ll feel your lower abdomen rise first and then your diaphragm)
- Hold the breath for a few counts (2-4 works well to start)
- Exhale fully through your mouth
- Repeat for 5 minutes
You want to make sure you exhale for just as long, if not longer than you inhale to make sure you’re fully expelling carbon dioxide from your body. Breathing patterns that tend to work well for people are:
- Inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4
- Inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8
While you’re strengthening your lungs, you’ll also be reducing stress (and cortisol levels) and activating the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps you digest food better) so you’ll be detoxing your body in other ways as well.
Deep breathing is beneficial for everyone and something that can be done once a day or many times a day.
For centuries bitter foods, especially bitter greens, have been used to promote good digestion. While ancient civilizations might not have known the science behind it, we now know that this is in large part due to how bitter foods support the liver.
Bitter foods help the liver produce bile, which is crucial for breaking down and processing fats found in food. Bile is also used to dispose of waste products produced by your blood cells.
When you add in that bitter greens have large amounts of fiber to help move food through the digestive tract, you can see why they’re so good for your digestive system.
How do you get more of these into your diet? First you’ll want to start small and get used to eating them if you aren’t already. It might take a bit of time, but the more bitter foods you eat, the more you’ll tolerate them and even want to eat them. Then you can work your way up to eating them a few times a week or even daily.
Bitter foods include:
- Dandelion greens and dandelion tea
- Broccoli rabe
- Collard greens
- Coffee (without cream or sugar)
- Nettles and nettle tea
- Mustard greens
And remember, you don’t need to eat large amounts of these to reap the benefits. Even adding a few pieces of endive or radicchio to a salad to start off supports your liver and can help you work your way up to eventually eating an arugula-based salad.
Perhaps the easiest way to flush toxins out of your system is with good, old-fashioned water. Keeping hydrated ensures your kidneys work properly to process water-soluble toxins out of your body.
Water also supports other detoxification systems in your body. It’s used by your endocrine system to carry toxins out through your skin (aka sweat) and it’s used by your intestines to keep things, well, moving.
Making sure you’re drinking at least 64 ounces of water (or more) is one of the most powerful ways to prevent toxins from building up in your body and the most beneficial thing you can do for your body in general besides getting adequate sleep.
Speaking of the endocrine system, exercise allows you to work up a sweat so you can release toxins through the skin and prevent them from building up in your glands.
On top of that, exercise helps lymph fluid to circulate through your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to keep lymph moving through the different nodes, vessels, and organs in your body on its own, so it needs you to activate it to keep everything moving.
While more vigorous exercise (like running, weight-lifting, or boxing) works best to activate the endocrine system, less vigorous exercise (like yoga or gentle walking) works best to circulate the lymphatic system. So be sure to mix it up!
(What else circulates the lymphatic system? Staying hydrated and deep breathing. Pretty cool how it all fits together, right?)
Last but not least, keeping your body nourished with whole foods supports all the detoxification systems in your body by giving your body's many processes and organs exactly what they need to function. Or if you’d rather look at the flip side, avoiding foods that create more toxicity in your body (like sugar and processed foods) helps keep your organs from working too hard and toxins from building up. So whichever way you want to look at it, you’re helping yourself detox.
This can be one of the harder items to implement because it takes a lot of time to either find a restaurant that serves high quality food or to make it yourself. That’s why we created Methodology. We want it to be easy to eat whole foods (that are also delicious).
Every meal we serve comes with high quality protein and a full serving of vegetables (which sometimes includes bitter greens) to make sure you’re eating food that supports and nourishes your body as much as possible. And we’ve banned refined sugars, flours, and oils, preservatives, and artificial coloring from our kitchen so you never have to worry about the quality of the food you’re eating.
Want to give our meals a try? Sign up for our waitlist or learn more about what we do.