Forget colonics and ultra-low-cal 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.
1. Sweat it out.
“Saunas have been used as part of detox protocols in integrative medicine for decades,” says Susan S. Blum, M.D., assistant clinical professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and author of The Immune System Recovery Plan. Far infrared saunas (which mimic the sun’s rays, minus the UV radiation) may be especially helpful because they heat up bodily tissue more effectively than traditional saunas, she explains. As your body gets hotter and blood flow increases, toxins that are stored in body fat get released. Those might include BPA (which is found in many plastics), pesticide residue, and both legal and not-so-legal drugs.
If you’re currently trying to detox, aim to spend 10 to 15 minutes in a sauna two to three times a week. “Make sure you drink enough water and stay hydrated,” says Blum, who recommends that sauna newbies start with just five minutes at a time. If you have a medical condition involving your lungs or heart, play it safe and check with your doctor beforehand. Same goes for anyone who has low blood pressure or tends to get light-headed easily.
“View each meal as a chance to heal,” Hyman says.
2. Take a breather.
Deep breathing — especially a technique called ujjayi breathing — may help get rid of toxins in two ways. This technique builds heat in the body so you sweat toxins out and it 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 Mark Hyman, M.D., founder of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA and author of the new 10-Day Detox Diet. 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. Eat clean.
Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and bok choy contain phytonutrients that also help your body produce more glutathione, says Hyman. 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.”