Your respiratory tract (lungs and bronchi) removes
toxins mainly in the form of carbonic gas, as well as phlegm.
Your lungs are busy. They breathe in and out approximately 11,000 liters of air
every day. And unlike the filters on vacuum cleaners and HVAC systems, you
don’t need to replace them on a regular basis!
Skin is, technically, an organ. It plays an
important role in the elimination of toxins.
Research has found sweating assists in the elimination of
BPA, phthalates, and heavy metals.
And while it can be porous (absorbing skin cream, for
example), skin keeps out all sorts of bad things. It has the ability to block
dangerous bacteria and even poisonous chemicals. In other words, skin
is your body’s first line of defense against a broad array of
The Lymphatic System
Your lymphatic system includes fluid-filled nodes, vessels,
glands, and organs.
Its main purpose is to cleanse toxins and protect
against invaders. Also, it carries waste awayfrom your
tissues and into your bloodstream where it can be processed and
Why We’re Overloaded with Toxins
Your body’s detoxification system is powerful. But in our
modern age, it’s also likely under considerable pressure.
Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals,
chemicals, and stress can
all strain your natural detoxification systems. It’s like one person
is mopping the floor while another is stomping around the kitchen in muddy
And toxin exposure starts early. Before we’re even
born, in fact. Testing of the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies
has revealed an average of over 200 synthetic chemicals.
And some of them have carcinogenic potential.
The effects many of these chemicals have on our bodies still
aren’t fully understood. Yet evidenceties many of them to health problems.
And drinking water can be a source of toxins, too.
Studies have found an array of chemicals in public water supplies
and drug residues from antibiotics, antidepressants, hormones from birth
control pills, and painkillers, among others.
Stress can also play a part. It diverts energy
and other resources from the detox process.
The physiology of stress is rooted in the “fight or flight”
response. The body interprets this as signaling a clear and present danger to
our continued existence.
Detoxing when the body needs all its energy to escape from a
predator would be like insisting on mopping the floor while a tornado bears
down on your house.
But because most of our stressors are mental and
emotional (traffic jams, financial worries, annoying emails), the body can
under-prioritize detoxification even when it’s the most useful thing it could
Given the prevalence of toxins in our environment — and
often also in our bodies — many people want to know what they can do to protect
Can you remove these harmful substances? Or will they stay
with you for life?
Does “Detoxing” Help?
The term “detox” has many different uses.
The most common type of “detox” is a program that
weans people off of alcohol and drugs. That makes sense. Because when
someone is under the influence of these substances, they’re “intoxicated.” That
is, they suffer from the effects of toxins in their bodies.
In natural health circles, detoxes are typically used
to deal with environmental exposure to toxins, gastrointestinal
disorders, and autoimmune
diseases. They are also used for general cleansing and preventive
Practitioners who offer detoxes often claim that they can
aid in weight loss, support digestion, and fight inflammation, allergies,
bloating, and chronic fatigue.
Because “detox” has become such a massive health
buzzword, the term is, unfortunately, used to sell a lot of products and
services with no basis in science.
Some detox programs recommend using
laxatives or diuretics, going into “starvation mode,” going overboard with
unsustainable exercise routines, popping unproven (and expensive) supplements,
drinking diet sodas sweetened with dangerous chemicals, or even going on a
grapefruit diet. None of these approaches prove to help in the long
Do your research before you consider a new detox regimen or
program. And remember — the best and safest way to detox is to eat
real, healthy foods.
How Detoxifying Foods Can Boost Your Detox Ability
Research shows there are specific foods that can help your
body boost its detox power.
Unlike many of the popular “detox” programs and supplements
out there, these foods help your body eliminate toxins. And they also
provide many other positive health benefits, as well.
Here are 12 of the top detoxifying foods:
1) Cruciferous Vegetables and Leafy Greens
Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are on almost every
list of the world’s healthiest foods — and detoxifying foods are no exception.
This class of leafy veggies includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels
sprouts, and bok choy, among others.
A 2015 study published in
the journal Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine reported
veggies boost liver health through anticancer, anti-inflammatory,
and antiviral effects. They’re also high in fiber, which
encourages the excretion of toxins through bile and stool.
Spinach and dandelion greens —
among other veggies on the list — are excellent sources of chlorophyll,
which is considered the top detoxifying plant pigment.
And broccoli, in particular, has been linked to protection against air
pollution. Broccoli sprouts also contain enzymes
that protect against cancer-causing chemicals.
A 2014 study published in
the Journal of Medicinal Food found that the citric acid
in lemons can protect liver function and prevent
oxidative (stress-related) damage.
Another 2014 study published in
the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that daily
lemon ingestion — combined with daily walking — helps regulate blood
Many people choose to consume lemon water to
get their fill. All you need to do is squeeze fresh, organic lemon into a glass
of water for an amped up version of H20. If you drink this a lot, you may want
to drink it with a straw and rinse out your mouth with water right away.
(Be sure NOT to brush your teeth soon after drinking lemon
water, or other acidic beverages. This could harm the enamel on your teeth.)
Dubbed “America’s new favorite fruit” because of its
rise in popularity, avocados have a wealth of antioxidants and other nutrients.
A 2001 study published in
the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that
the fatty acids in avocados help protect against damage caused by
d-galactosamine, a powerful liver toxin.
4) Green Tea
Green tea is
universally considered a good-for-you beverage. And it’s been used as a
medicinal aid for thousands of years.
High in antioxidants,
it helps keep your body in balance, protecting against free
radicals that can cause aging and degenerative disease.
Green tea has also frequently been shown to
have a protective effect against certain types of cancer.
A 2007 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology,
Biomarkers & Prevention found that a green tea concentrate
boosted production of detoxification enzymes, which play a key role in
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These popular snacks are rich in the soluble fiber pectin.
Pectin helps purge toxins from the bloodstream and lower LDL
A 2006 study published in
the journal Phytotherapy Research found that pectin can aid
in the excretion of toxins, such as mercury and lead.
A 2014 research review on the studies about garlic published in
the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found that this spicy
veggie has a whole host of health benefits.
Researchers found that garlic can inhibit the
activation of carcinogens, enhance detoxification, and even protect DNA.
With many positive effects for everything from mood to heart
function, some consider this bright green alga to be a wonder
Chlorella has been shown to help with depression and
anxiety, reduce excess weight, and lower LDL cholesterol. It also helps
reduce liver inflammation.
Four grams or more (about two teaspoons) per day for at
least eight weeks is the recommended amount to kickstart the benefits. If you
like, you can stir it into your morning juice or add it to a smoothie!
Also known as “Indian saffron,” this gorgeous yellow spice
has been used medicinally for nearly 4,000 years.
In 2011, the editors of Herbal Medicine:
Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects reviewed the
evidence on this ancient spice. They found it to have “antibacterial,
antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antiseptic,
cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, radioprotective, and
The primary active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which
gives it its bright yellow color. However, if you just eat turmeric
straight, you may not absorb much. I love mixing fresh and dried turmeric
into all sorts of foods. And I always try to include black pepper because
studies show that piperine (found in black pepper) helps to increase curcumin
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These bright-red veggies contain high levels of
antioxidants and other health-promoting properties.
But beets are also a detox tool. A 2015 study published in
the journal Nutrients found that beet juice can
amplify specific enzymes that support the liver and aid in detoxification.
Besides being delicious, blueberries are nutrient-dense and
are an abundant source of antioxidants.
They’ve been shown to
lower blood pressure, boost vascular health, fight cancer, protect lungs, and
prevent Alzheimer’s, among other effects.
As far as fighting toxins, a 2011 study published in
the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found
that the berries enhanced the activity of the body’s natural killer
cells, which fight against cancer cells.
Some plants can bind to heavy metals and help your
body excrete them. Those plants are known as “chelators” and this flavorful
herb is one of them!
A 2013 study published in Scientific
World Journal found that cilantro can enhance mercury excretion
and decrease lead absorption.
Rich in phytochemicals — the healthy compounds found in
plants — many people use ginger as a gastrointestinal aid.
Since the intestines perform so much detoxification work,
ginger can help boost your body’s ability to process food and eliminate
A 2013 research review published in
the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that
ginger protects against oxidative stress, has anti-inflammatory and
anti-cancer effects, and offers a wealth of antioxidants.
A Word About Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics (or good gut bacteria) can help your
intestines as they naturally release toxins and waste products.
Foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and pickled
vegetables, are great examples of probiotics.
Then there are prebiotic foods, which serve as fuel for the
probiotics. Those include jicama, onions, leeks, and asparagus, among others.
For more on how to include the right foods for supporting
your digestive system, check out our article
on probiotics and prebiotics.
Foods to Avoid
In stark contrast to detoxifying foods, other foods tend to
have higher concentrations of toxins. If you’re looking to cleanse your body,
you should avoid them.
Most fish flesh contains high levels of chemical
residues. These chemicals include mercury and synthetic chemicals
called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
According to the CDC: “Seafood poisoning from marine
toxins is an underrecognized hazard for travelers, particularly in the tropics
And because of the plastic
problem in the ocean, almost all fish are consuming
microplastics. As a result, the microplastics will end up in your
stomach if you eat fish.
If you choose to eat fish, the least dangerous options
for humans (all fish consumption is lethal for the fish) are low-mercury fish,
such as wild salmon, sardines, and herring. For more on fish, click here.
In 2015, the World
Health Organization classified processed meats (bacon,
lunchmeat, hot dogs, etc.) as carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Therefore,
it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Even unprocessed meats are often contaminated with
bacteria due to the processes, equipment, and condition of many farms
Cow’s milk contains a whole host of substances — including
powerful growth hormones — that can cause health issues in humans.
Dairy consumption has been linked to
acne, asthma, heart disease, and many types of cancer.
A 2011 study published in
the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found up
to 20 different chemicals present in cow’s milk. These included the anti-inflammatory
drugs niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, and ketoprofen (all painkillers for
animals and people).
If you want to ditch the dairy, you can opt for plant-based
milk, such as cashew, almond, soy, or oat
instead! (See a doctor’s thoughts on the healthiest plant-based milk here.)
Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)
The agrochemical companies behind GMOs claim that their crops reduce pesticide use, increaseyields, reduce water
consumption, and offer foods that are tastier and
But in the 25 years since GM crops first came on the
market, studies have found that they have led to higher pesticide use, and no meaningful
improvement in flavor, nutrition, yield or waterconsumption.
Instead, what they’ve created are plants that are engineered
to withstand massive dosing of toxicherbicides — and plants that function as living
pesticide factories. Bayer’s Bt. corn, for example, is actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide.
Many credible scientists have significant concerns about the safety of these crops for human and
In multiple studies, lab animals fed genetically
modified foods showed damage to almost every organ system
studied. Thousands of sick, sterile, and dead animals have also been traced
to GM feed.
And GM crops are typically contaminated with glyphosate,
which is a probable carcinogen and a known endocrine
The primary GMO foods available in the U.S. are corn,
soybeans, canola, sugar beets, papaya, and cottonseed oil. Many processed
foods also contain genetically modified corn and soy.
You can avoid GMOs by steering clear of these ingredients
unless they are organic or certified non-GMO. (For more on the difference
between organic and non-GMO certification, click here.)
Your Body Knows Best
Cleansing your body of toxins is about much more than an
occasional detox program or diet.
The best way to cleanse your body is by eating and
drinking detoxifying foods and beverages that keep it clean and healthy.
When you protect your liver and other detox organs, you
protect yourself from many diseases and viruses.
Remember: Your body knows how to take care of you — as long
as you take care of it!