Forget colonics and ultra-low-calorie juice fasts. If you want to clear out toxins and boost your overall health, there are smarter and safer ways to do it. Here are five expert-approved tactics that are guaranteed to make you feel like a better, fresher version of yourself.
5 Smarter Ways to Detox Your Body
1. Eat Clean
“View each meal as a chance to heal.”
Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and bok choy contain phytonutrients that also help your body produce more glutathione, says Mark Hyman, MD, founder of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA and author of the 10-Day Detox Diet. Other detox-friendly foods include dandelion greens, which improve the flow of bile in the liver; celery, which increases urine output; and cilantro, which Hyman says can help remove heavy metals such as mercury and lead from the body. Wash down whatever you’re munching on with a cup of decaf green tea to give your metabolism a kick and further aid in the eradication of unwanted toxins.
“View each meal as a chance to heal,” says Hyman. “If you eat the right foods, the body knows what to do so you can regain your health by eliminating problems such as fatigue, bloating and brain fog.”
2. Take a Breather
Deep breathing — especially a technique called ujjayi breathing — may help get rid of toxins. This technique builds can help eliminate excess carbon dioxide each time you exhale, says Sinda Anzovino, a Westchester, New York-based yoga instructor at Yoga by Sinda, New York Sports Clubs, and Life Time Athletic. To begin the process, sit in a comfortable position and breathe in and out deeply through your nose. “While inhaling, imagine that your throat is opening as if you were yawning,” says Anzovino. “While exhaling, try to constrict the back of the throat and make a soft ‘ha’ sound as if you’re mimicking the sound of the ocean.” Silently count to five on each inhale and exhale; continue for five to 15 minutes. Afterward you should feel relaxed and energized.
3. Snooze to Lose
While you’re asleep your brain’s waste-removal team, called the glymphatic system, is working overtime, according to research from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease build up while you’re awake, and getting adequate shut-eye is key to making sure they’re cleared out as quickly and efficiently as possible. In fact, scientists discovered that the glymphatic system is nearly 10 times more active during sleep than while you’re up and about. Most adults need seven to nine hours a night, so set your DVR instead of staying up late to catch your favorite talk show or TV series.
4. Soak in Good Health
Whether you’re really sick or just run-down, chances are you’re low on glutathione, says Hyman. Your body naturally makes this protective antioxidant, which zaps free radicals and helps your liver filter out toxins. However, things like stress, illness, and environmental pollution all deplete your levels. One easy way to build them back up is to take a bath with Epsom salts, which contain sulfur. Sulfur boosts glutathione because glutathione is, in part, made up of sulfur molecules, explains Hyman. “Epsom salt also has magnesium, so it will help you relax and sleep.” Simply add two cups the next time you draw a hot bath.
5. Drink More Water, Less Alcohol
We know, it sounds difficult but it’s totally doable. The body’s natural detoxification process occurs in the liver and for your liver to function properly, you need to stay hydrated (as well as get good sleep and exercise), says Kate Geagan, RD and author of Go Green Get Lean. What’s more: Some toxins in the body are water soluble. “Usually if they’re water soluble, you will naturally urinate them out within 24 to 48 hours,” says Dr. Bobby Pourziaee, foot and ankle surgeon and owner of the Spa on Rodeo. To make that happen more frequently, you have to fill up on water. (Need some ideas for how to drink more? Try these fruit-infused H2O recipes.)
On the flip side, alcohol consumption creates metabolic by-products that can mess with liver function, as well as cause inflammation. So if you’re looking to flush out your system, booze could do quite the opposite.
Originally published February 2014. Updated August 2017.