Toxins are everywhere. Substances like mercury, lead, arsenic and metabolic waste come from food, water and the environment. The only way to completely avoid toxins is to live in a bubble, and that’s not something most of us would consider. That leaves us with one option—detox. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell which detox methods work and which are just a harmless waste of time.
Patients sometimes come to me alarmed about a news report they’ve seen about contaminated water or harmful chemicals in the air. Except for extreme cases where people have been exposed to unusually high levels of toxins for prolonged periods, our bodies are generally able to deal with these environmental waste products.
Almost everyone has negligible levels of toxins in their blood streams. Perhaps you’ve heard warnings about mercury in tuna. Unless you are pregnant or your body is compromised by disease, it is safe to consume small amounts of tuna because the mercury levels are not high enough to cause harm. That is how it works with most environmental toxins.
So, why is detox so important?
Chronic stress, poor eating habits and lack of sleep can weaken our bodies, making it harder to deal with toxins and the processing of metabolic waste. Over time, it stands to reason that toxins can accumulate and cause us to have less energy and a reduced ability to fend of illness. That’s where detoxification comes in.
How to Detox Smart
Before trying new detox methods, many patients like to get my take on whether a product will really work. Recently, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about detoxifying foot pads. These pads are wrapped around your feet like bandages, and are supposed to draw toxins out of your body while you sleep at night. When you remove the pads in the morning, you should expect them to be dark and foul-smelling from all the toxins they have absorbed.
After researching the pads, it seems that any positive effect they have is most likely psychological rather than physiological. Many experts do not believe it is possible to suck toxins out of the body in this way. Veteran consumer reporter, John Stossel, wrote an analysis for ABC news, which concluded that the pads were ineffective. Some people who tested the pads claimed they felt more energetic, but there is no proof that the pads deserve credit for this temporary boost. The dark color is most likely due to moisture from your feet, not toxins.
Though these pads may not be the solution you are looking for, there are proven detox methods you can try at home. Here are a few of my favorites:
1) Natural Extracts – Oils and extracts derived from natural botanicals can help the body fight impurities. Look for topical creams and balms containing tea tree oil, willow bark extract, aloe and peppermint.
2) Antioxidants – These beneficial substances neutralize free radicals, the toxins that damage cells. Vitamins C and E are proven to fight free radicals.
3) Cleansing Teas – Drinking green tea or taking herbs like dandelion root, burdock or milk thistle can stimulate and cleanse the liver.
4) Exercise – When you sweat, the body is releasing toxins. Do any activity that gets your heart pumping (always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program), or do yoga, a practice that stimulates the body with various poses.
5) Drinking Water – Some people prefer fasting where they consume only juice and broth for several days, but simply increasing your intake of water can flush out your system. Aim for 2 quarts per day.
6) Healthy Diet – A healthy detoxifying diet is packed with fresh, preferably organic, produce and whole grains. The fiber in fruits, veggies and grains pushes waste out of your body more efficiently than a diet high in processed foods.
Now that you know some tried and true detox strategies, I encourage you to give them a try anytime you need an extra boost. The best detox methods are natural and easy to do at home. If you have persistent symptoms of exhaustion, low energy or chronic illness, you should check in with your doctor in case of serious underlying conditions. If all you need is a simple tune-up to your body’s engine, detox is a great solution.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.