Juice cleanses run rampant on our favorite celebrities’ Instagrams, popular headlines promise recipes for three-day detoxes, and the amount of retreats dedicated to detoxification has spiked in the past few years, as more and more people are looking for a quick fix after an indulgent weekend or before a big event.
“Detox” is such a trendy word, but what does it even mean? “Toxins are toxic molecules that can be ingested by the body through external sources,” explained Dr. Alejandro Junger, MD, an LA-based cardiologist, founder, and medical director of the Clean Program and best-selling author (also commonly known as “the father of detox”). “Fortunately, a majority of these toxins can be converted and expelled, thanks to the ‘detoxification system’ in the body,” Dr. Junger said. That’s right: the body is meant to detoxify, all on its own (no pricey juice cleanse required).
However, if there’s an overexposure, the body cannot work fast enough to get rid of them all. Plus, the liver, digestive system, and kidneys need some TLC in order to do their job. For more information on what “detoxifying” really means, click here, but the bottom line is that you know your body works best when you treat it well, and that goes for the detoxification system too. In other words, a 3-day diet or wellness retreat isn’t how you detoxify. Instead, it’s treating your body a certain way that helps the body’s detoxification system in the long run. So stop the juice cleanse, cancel your short-term meal prep subscription, and get on with your life already! (In a detoxifying way, of course.) Here’s how.
Get in your greens daily
No surprise: What you eat matters. But you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) focus on cutting out food groups or limiting what you can and cannot eat (that can lead to bingeing or an unhealthy relationship with food). Instead, focus on adding in more of the fruits and veggies that support the body’s natural detoxification process. Leafy greens are especially beneficial, so aim to add them into at least two meals a day. For example, add spinach to an omelet, throw kale in a pasta sauce, and order a side salad when you’re eating out, or check out some of these delicious ways to eat your greens.
Increase your water intake
“Drink more water and stay hydrated, as water helps the kidneys flush out toxins more easily,” suggested Dr. Chris Airey, MD, the medical director at Optimale and a practicing physician with the NHS. One of the major ways we get rid of those toxins is through—you guessed it—our urine. So not only does hydration assist the kidney’s flush of toxins, but it also makes you urine more frequently, meaning you’re eliminating more toxins (so I guess it’s not a badge of honor that you can hold it through a six-hour flight?). Forget detox teas, powders, or juices. All you need is good ol’ fashioned water to help the body get rid of what it needs to.
Opt for organic when available
Do you need to ask every restaurant you go to for their list of organic versus conventional farms and grocers and only eat at a salad bar if every item is certified organic? No, you can enjoy your life and get in those fruits and veggies wherever you can. However, if you’re deciding what type of produce to get when shopping for your home, consider going organic when possible. “By purchasing organic foods, you can avoid many herbicides, pesticides, and other hormones that contribute to toxic waste,” explained Dr. M. Kara, MD, a longtime doctor at The Cleveland Clinic and founder of KaraMD.
Move the body every day
Exercise is good for your strength, mood, and well-being—all things that help keep your body working as it should. As if you needed more reasons to exercise, sweating is another form of detox that your body naturally does itself. “Exercise promotes lymphatic circulation and sweat, both of which are crucial to the body’s detoxification process,” explained Dr. Airey. The lymphatic system is another important part of the body’s detoxification, and one of the ways to move “waste” to the lymph nodes is through moving and working the muscles. Plus, sweat not only expends electrolytes and water, it also rids the body of toxins. Win, win!
Make changes to your home
Besides just helping your body be healthy overall so it can work optimally, you can also make some changes to avoid exposure to toxins to reduce the amount of detoxification the body has to do on a regular basis. Many toxins are unavoidable (especially in our modern world), but be aware of where you can make simple swaps or changes that are not only better because they reduce your body’s exposure to toxins but are also better for the planet. There are lots of different ways to reduce your toxin exposure, so it’s all about identifying which ways are best for your lifestyle. For a few examples, you can filter your air at home or use non-toxic/clean cosmetics, toiletries, and laundry products.