In holistic medicine, disease (and dis-ease) is generally caused by one (or a combination) of two things: too much of the bad stuff, or not enough of the good. This series deals with the first part of that equation. You can read the first article here.
You read here that the word “detox” actually refers to just one part of a three-phase process related to lowering one’s toxic body burden. Still, detox is understood in our vernacular as anything you do to purify your body—so that’s the wording we’ll use, too.
Detox is essential for every life stage:
Even before birth, the body is making waste products that need to be dealt with and removed; children tend to be exposed to more exogenous toxins per body weight; adult detoxification systems slow with advancing age.
More than that, detox is essential for every day of every life stage. Every single day your body creates and encounters substances that need to be excreted from the body. Far more safe, efficient and effective than a single five, seven or even thirty-day “detox” once per year is creating ongoing habits and partaking in healthy activities that support optimal functioning of the liver and the emunctories every single day.
7 Family-Friendly Steps for Daily Detox
As you read, keep in mind that the primary emunctories are colon, kidney/bladder, skin, lungs, and emotions, and that the liver is the major organ for chemical detoxification.
Get to bed on time. While in recent years we’ve established that circadian rhythm disruption is linked to liver dysfunction, it’s not news that “early to bed, early to rise” is a secret to a health and longevity. In natural medicine circles, we say that every hour of sleep before midnight is worth TWO hours after midnight. Aim to hit the pillow by about 10 pm.
Drink adequate water. It seems like no one can go anywhere anymore without carrying a water bottle—and yet, many people do not drink enough water to meet their hydration needs. Many people benefit when they drink half their body weight (lbs) in ounces of water each day. For example, a 150 lb individual would drink at least 75 ounces of water. Drinking a healthy amount of clean water helps prevent constipation and provides plenty of fluid to wash away water soluble toxins via the lymphatic system and kidneys. Caveat: if there is a reason to believe your mineral status is poor, nourishing bone broths and herbal teas can replace some of your daily water quota.
Every time you eat, eat fiber. Fiber keeps the bowels moving and helps to move toxin-laden bile out of the gut. Vegetables are a great source of fiber, with the bonus of containing vitamins and minerals the liver needs for detoxification processes! Munching on broccoli as a snack (bonus: the sulphur is great for the liver), sprinkling flax and chia seeds anywhere you can, and consuming raspberries and blueberries when you want a treat are all great ways to increase your fiber intake.
Laugh. REALLY laugh. Take a deep breath in, and then Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! it out. Repeat! In addition to feeling good and giving your mood a boost, prolonged belly laughter exercises the lungs, expelling breath deeply and fully. The body doesn’t differentiate between genuine laughter and exercised laughter, so “forcing” oneself to laugh is a great clearing for the emotional emunctory, too: exercised laughter has all the benefits of spontaneous laughter, including rebalancing the nervous system and boosting the immune system. Make it fun: make up different kinds of laughs. How would a cow laugh? A monkey? What does the laugh of the color pink sound like? Double the giggles by laughing with a friend or family member.
Sweat. To keep the skin—your largest emunctory—in good working order, it must sweat regularly. Whether through exercise or sauna, when your heart gets pumping and the sweat starts pouring, your body is going to be detoxing (well, depurating!). Increased blood flow means more nutrients and oxygen bathing cells—and more waste products being carried away. Some of these toxins will end up in the bile and out via the colon; others will exit through the kidney/bladder and still more will actually leave the body through the sweat: sweat has even been shown to contain chemical toxins not found in the blood! Many people are not used to sweating and have difficulty getting a good sweat from physical activity, or are limited in their ability to exercise for other reasons. Infrared sauna, which is generally accepted as safe for ages 6+ and younger than six years with proper supervision, is an excellent tool for re-training the body how to sweat and giving the skin—and heart—a good workout.
Apply castor oil to the abdomen at bedtime. Castor oil, when taken internally, is a strong irritant laxative that most NDs would avoid. Applied topically, however, it seems to be one of nature’s little secrets. A 2011 study in Turkey confirmed what we’ve long known: castor oil applied to the abdomen can control symptoms of constipation. Anecdotally, castor oil applied over the liver area increases detoxification at the level of the liver, helps to balance the “fight and flight” with the “rest and digest” nervous systems, and improves digestion. Many people find it generally calming, soothing to the digestive system, and when used at bedtime, something that improves sleep. (The office stocks our favorite form, which comes in a handy roller bottle for easy application.)
Brush your skin. Dry skin brushing is exactly what it sounds like: using a soft bristled brush or sea sponge to brush the skin. Brush lightly, from extremities toward the heart, to encourage movement of lymph and to exfoliate dead skin cells that might inhibit the skin’s depuration functions. Before a shower and before bed are both great times for dry skin brushing. Many kids LOVE this, and it can be a nice part of your morning or evening routine!
Which of these detoxification supports are already part of your day? Which will you add for yourself? For your kids?