The New Year is a popular time to renew a commitment to healthy living, and many people seek out quick fixes to drop weight and speed the body’s detox efforts.
While proper nutrition and regular exercise involve a lifestyle shift for the long haul, if you’re feeling sluggish, struggling with skin problems, or experiencing bloating and digestive problems, a body cleanse may be beneficial.
Ayurvedic medicine recommends detoxification from time to time to help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health. But a visit to your local drugstore or health food store, or even an Internet search, can be overwhelming as you scan products marketed as “cleanse” and “detox.” It’s hard to know what to buy, or if the product is even worth your money.
The good news is it’s fairly easy to embark on healthy body cleanse. The body has an amazing ability to remove toxins, regulate and restore itself, and there are many ways to do this at home. Detoxification is about resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from the inside out.
The main organ that needs a break is the liver, where toxins are filtered for elimination. The body also removes toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymphatic system and skin. When these organs are overloaded or inundated with impurities, the entire body is compromised and every cell is adversely affected.
Detoxification is encouraged by Ayurveda because toxins are everywhere and common household products can be harmful to the body. You ingest them, inhale them, breathe them, and coat your skin in them through environmental pollutants, chemicals in food, makeup, beauty and cleaning products. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and stress can hinder the body’s ability to process harmful substances.
Try these safe, natural alternatives to reset your body and help its natural cleansing capabilities:
- Diet: The digestive system begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. What you eat can either hinder or help your digestive system. Clean your digestive tract with fruits and vegetables and foods high in fiber. Bad eating and environmental factors can cause mucus, plaque, and “bio-gunk” to build up and slow down digestive processes. The body normally excretes waste every 18 to 24 hours. If you have less than one bowel movement a day, you are constipated and harmful toxins can accumulate in the gut. Overloading on carbohydrates, alcohol, white sugar and flour and processed foods carry a heavy load. They act as toxins and hinder your healing and weight loss efforts. Commit to eating healthy, organic fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and cutting out harmful substances like alcohol, caffeine and processed foods for a few days and up to a week. You can also try a fruit and veggie detox, smoothie or juice cleanse, or fast on liquids for two days to kick start a cleanse. Grapefruit consumed at night has been known to help cleanse; prunes and grapes are still among nature’s best laxatives. Make an environment for “friendly” gut flora to pass through your digestive system. Probiotic supplements like acidophilus have an antibacterial effect on the body.
- Hydration: Water is vital for every organ and body function and hydrates the lymphatic system. Aim to drink at least two quarts of water a day. Starting the day with a glass of water (warm or room temperature) and some fresh lemon juice is one of the best ways to naturally cleanse the body and get your digestive system going for the day. Besides boosting your immune system and balancing Ph, drinking a class of water with fresh lemon juice or slices can get your digestive system moving faster than a morning cup of coffee. It facilitates digestion because warm water stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and lemons are rich in vitamins and minerals that help combat toxins. It also serves as a natural diuretic, increasing urine production to clear unwanted substances from the body. A glass of lemon water also cleans the skin, as its rich in Vitamin C and helps fight acne and wrinkles. Water infused with lemon, cucumber and mint is another drink to sip throughout the day to help reduce bloat and aid digestion.
- Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the best ways to promote detoxification, as it also increases circulation, boosts metabolism, turns fat to muscle and eliminates toxins and water weight. Exercise increases heart rate and blood flow and promotes better organ function to move waste through the digestive system. Sweat removes impurities through the pores. Your lungs also expand, helping the respiratory system filter out impurities. A regular yoga practice stimulates digestion by massaging internal organs and the intestines. Yoga exercises activate the skin, lungs (breathing), kidneys and lymph system – all of the organs used to expel toxins.
- Herbs: Triphala, the most popular Ayurvedic herbal formula to promote bowel movement, is an effective blood purifier that stimulates bile secretion as it detoxifies the liver, helps digestion and gently promotes internal cleansing of the colon and other organs. Other herbs recommended for detoxification include Ajwain, ginger, mint, milk thistle, dandelion root, cardamom, cascara sagrada, turmeric, fennel, goldenseal, licorice root, sandalwood and lemongrass. You can take herbs in supplement form or drink herbal teas twice a day. Essential oils can be rubbed on the stomach, bottoms of the feet, ankles and behind the ear during a cleanse. Fennel, peppermint, patchouli, juniper, grapefruit, lemongrass and tarragon are known to be antifungal, antibacterial and help encourage lymphatic drainage.
- Hydrotherapy: Many people believe in the benefits of sitting in a sauna or steam bath to eliminate impurities and heal the body. Enjoying hot springs and using mineral salts to detox dates back centuries. The heat of a sauna encourages you to sweat, which draws out toxins and cleanses the pores. Steam also opens up your air passageways, which allows the lungs to expand and take in more oxygen. Colon hydrotherapy is another way to detoxify as it eliminates harmful bacteria in the digestive tract while at the same time rehydrating your body through the colon. Another at-home remedy is to run a bath and add Epsom salt, baking soda and several drops of a relaxing essential oil and soak for at least 20 minutes. Epsom salt includes minerals magnesium and sulfate and works as a natural exfoliate and anti-inflammation remedy to relieve sore muscles and reduce bloating. The sulfates in Epsom salt flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells helping the body eliminate these substances.
- Dry Brushing: It may sound weird to brush your skin, but it’s the largest organ and a key component of the lymphatic system. Skin is constantly saturated with lotions, deodorant, soap and makeup and other toxic buildup. Pores can get clogged with dead skin cells, forcing the liver and kidneys to take over the body’s natural detoxification efforts. Dry brushing helps circulation, alleviates cellulite, and opens pores so impurities have a way to escape. Use a soft brush with natural bristles to gently brush the skin. Start at the feet and move up towards the heart.
- Professional or self-massage. Massage has many known benefits, including reducing stress, improving circulation and lymph flow, which removes extracellular fluid, waste and other impurities, and releasing blockages in the body. It can help the blood vessels expand to assist in sending oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body.
By Marla R. Miller