Given the ubiquitous presence of toxins within our environment, detoxification must accompany any long-term effort towards obtaining optimum health. Once acknowledging this, it then becomes a question of what manner of detoxification to use and with what frequency. It is helpful to divide different strategies of detoxification into two categories: daily and targeted.
Daily detoxification is more a mindset than a method. Its greatest ally is being mindful of the buildup of toxins in your body, assessing your health and energy level, and then adopting daily routines that gently and gradually help your body to detoxify. The first step in this process is to eliminate exposure to toxins. Switching to brands of non-toxic body care and cleaning products can often make a noticeable difference in vitality within weeks. Eating organic and avoiding processed foods similarly enhances overall vitality.
Once you have removed the regular contributions to your toxic load, the body is better positioned for daily and regular detoxification. From here, many strategies can be employed. I will share a few of my favorites.
I start my day with a few ounces of hot water, a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon essential oil. Lemon juice or essential oil is an excellent mild tonic and aid to the liver as it prepares for its day of encountering toxins. Water itself is cleansing, though adding the lemon juice or essential oil magnifies the effect.
In terms of the integrity of your gastrointestinal tract, many fermented foods have organic acids that help your body’s defenses against insult from microbes and toxins. For this, I drink a glass of homemade kombucha (a fermented tea) every day with my midday meal. Diluted apple cider vinegar has a similar function. Medicinal clay can be used to remove waste products of metabolism Because we encounter many toxins through our gastrointestinal tract, having one or more of these remedies in place to regularly cleanse the gut is a good idea.
We also encounter a host of toxins through our respiratory system. For cleansing the lungs, the ancient healing system of Ayurveda provides some effective techniques. The system contains many breathing exercises but the one that I have taught to patients helps cleanse the body from an acute exposure to airborne toxins. This entails closing off one nostril and breathing out of the open nostril for two to three minutes and then switching sides for another two to three minutes. This technique works like absolute magic for those who are sensitive to things like perfumes and car exhaust. If you get a headache from such an exposure, stepping away and performing this breathing exercise almost always ameliorates the headache.
Ayurveda also employs a technique called oil pulling used to cleanse the oral cavity. To perform oil pulling, swish one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth first thing in the morning and prior to eating. Twenty minutes later, spit out the oil into the garbage and rinse your mouth. Here, the oil draws toxins from your saliva and adjacent glands with the ultimate goal of reducing toxins from the lymphatic system.
Speaking of the lymph, exercise and the naturopathic practice of skin brushing are two excellent means to get the lymph flowing. Most forms of exercise will move lymph through the action of skeletal muscle but my personal favorite is rebounding on a trampoline which has a strong effect to circulate lymph and blood via the anti-gravity effect of the bouncing. Ten to fifteen minutes once or twice or day, or whenever you are feeling stagnant, really gets the lymph moving.
For those not drawn to using a mini-trampoline, a stiff brush designed for skin brushing is a close second in terms of its ability to move lymph. Briskly brushing the limbs, back, and chest towards the heart creates a dramatic increase in the movement of blood and lymph and is an excellent treatment for edema. Because we are exposed to many toxins on our skin, the act of brushing or exfoliating our skin builds up our body’s defenses. This is a very important concept in Chinese medicine as the skin is the tissue associated with the Lung energetic and therefore helps the Lung process toxic influences.
Another method, sweating, reinforces the previous point of detoxification through the skin. Sweating as a means of detoxifying is ancient. From Scandinavian saunas to Native American sweat lodges, pushing toxins out of the body through open pores is as effective as it is old. The research into sweating as a form of detoxification has led to the incorporation of infrared heat into or in replacement of the traditional steam sauna. They all work well so it comes down to an issue of access and affordability. Although some claim health benefits from daily sweats, using a sauna once a week is a far more conservative approach. There are protocols that utilize daily use of a sauna though this type of therapy should be monitored by a knowledgable health care practitioner. Sweating too much can drain the body of minerals and, in Chinese medicine, damage the Heart energetic.
Whichever method you champion, incorporating several of these strategies will help ensure that whatever toxins you do come in contact with will leave your body as quickly as they came in.