What’s Your Detox Style?

Strategies for internal cleansing

Pollution and toxins lurk in the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink, and objects we touch. The right diet, exercise, and mindset might not cut it anymore. You may want to detox. 

Whether it’s a one-day fast or a temporary flushing out with chelation (pronounced “kee-lay-shun”) therapy or colonics, a good cleaning could do you good.

Why Detox?
Maybe you feel fatigued or your body hurts for no apparent reason. Or you can’t think clearly and have trouble sleeping. What about muscle spasms, thyroid problems, or high blood pressure? Your body’s detoxification system may not be working well. But you needn’t have symptoms to consider an internal scrub-down.

According to Sandy Szabat, MPH, ND, an adjunct faculty member at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR, “Your liver naturally processes many toxins to eliminate them, but may be overwhelmed by their numbers.”

Clean Choices
Your body's natural detoxification system can be strengthened by your dietary choices. As Walter Crinnion, ND, puts it, “Eat foods that escort fat-soluble toxins into the toilet.” Dr. Crinnion is chair of the Environmental Medicine Center of Excellence at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, AZ, and author of Clean, Green & Lean. He recommends rice bran and green tea, as well as chlorophyll from algae, spinach, and kale.

Add these to a balanced, organic diet of whole grains and legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of clean water. Forget processed foods and sugar. Dr. Szabat also suggests milk thistle seeds, dandelion root, black radish root, and beet root (for the liver); and dandelion leaf (for the kidneys). Antioxidants, including selenium, zinc, and vitamins C, A, and E, also support cleansing.

Some people choose to stop eating entirely for a short time, or to limit themselves to just juice. Fasting “is a time-honored method of ‘resting’ the digestive system,” says Dr. Szabat. A few weeks before you fast, get a physical exam to evaluate how well your body can rely on its own stores of nutrients and to receive instructions on preparing.

Professional Care
Chelation, best done under a doctor’s supervision, removes heavy metals, such as those found in dental fillings, large ocean fish, and cigarette smoke. These include lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. In chelation therapy, you receive a synthetic amino acid called EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid) orally or through an injection. The substance binds with metals on the cell surface, creating a compound excreted in the urine, and causing heavy metals stored within the cell to move to the surface. Each round of chelation clears away more poisons.

The heavy metals your body is harboring may be revealed through a hair analysis or blood or urine test. Consider getting screened even if you have no symptoms. Dr. Crinnion says, “The best time to receive chelation therapy is before you need it, especially if you believe you’ve been exposed to heavy metals, and/or are thinking about getting pregnant.” Limiting the process to several sessions is best; otherwise, you risk losing beneficial metals, like calcium, zinc, and potassium.

A colonic (or colonic irrigation) is a potential complement to chelation treatments. In this procedure—undertaken with a healthcare professional—water streams into your colon, rinsing out loitering fecal matter and releasing bile, thereby reducing liver-processed fat-soluble chemicals.

If you struggle with headaches from fragrances or fumes, “your body is probably overburdened with toxic environmental compounds,” says Dr. Crinnion, who recommends the hour-long (painless) procedure on a regular basis. Make sure you replenish lost minerals and good bacteria with supplements, and drink lots of water.

Other Detox Opportunities    
Joining the list of effective detox methods is proper skin care. “The skin is the body’s largest organ of elimination,” says Dr. Szabat. She suggests dry skin brushing with a loofah to slough off dead skin and open your pores and taking saunas, “to promote sweating and mobilization of the breakdown of fatty tissue.” Don’t forget physical exercise, which “increases circulation and promotes elimination through the lungs.”

Whatever detox direction you’re thinking of going in, see your healthcare provider first. You want to make sure it’s one you both agree on. Then, you’ll be more likely to reach your destination—a body that’s as clean inside as it is healthy all over.


Personal communication: Walter J. Crinnion, ND; Sandy Szabat, MPH, ND; 1/11


Good Hydration

It's essential to drink up during detox.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of The Fast-Track Detox Diet, recommends purifying tap water to remove potential contaminants—bacteria, rust, and parasites, among others. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to maximize the cleansing benefits. 

Brush Up!

Sandy Szabat, MPH, ND, points out the important of detoxifying form the outside in.

Dry brushing removes layers of dead skin, stimulates circulation, and supports the lymphatic system. Here's how to dry brush as part of a dialy detox routine. 

1. Brush with a dry loofah just before bathing or showering, preferably in the morning.

2. Start with your feet and legs: Using circular and sweeping motions, move from the soles of the feet upwards. Adjust pressure according to your comfort level. 

3. Move on to your hands and arms, stroking toward the shoulders.

4. Brush your back, shoulders, neck, abdomen. Move the loofah in the direction of your heart.

5. After bathing, massage your skin with pure plant oils such as almond, apricot, cocoa butter, coconut, or sesame.