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My favorite way of getting around in Paris is cycling – especially on bright and sunny days, and lately there’s been no shortage of those.
And yet, at times while swerving through traffic, dodging buses and racing electric scooters, I think to myself, “Wow… maybe breathing in all this pollution isn’t the best thing.”
You see, toxins – i.e these substances that can harm living organisms – are ubiquitous in today’s world. The sad truth is that for most of us city dwellers, we’re swimming in a sea of toxins everyday. Toxins are found in the air, the water, and most importantly in our food, which is the main source of exposure to toxins.
Over the last decades over 80,000 chemical agents have been released in nature, many of which have been demonstrated to be harmful — from increasing odds of obesity and autism, to promoting the growth of cancers, and disrupting the delicate balance of our hormones.
Recently, I was invited by my good friend Maricha to give a presentation at the first edition of the Kind Festival in Paris. I could think of no better topic to address than how to safely and effectively detoxify the body.
Today I’d like to share some of these strategies with you.
A toxin is any substance that can be poisonous or negatively impact our health. “Toxin” can refer to heavy metals, chemicals, pollutants, artificial food ingredients, pesticides, and poisons that cause the body harm.
In short, a detox is short for detoxification: a process in which a person makes lifestyle changes to eliminate or neutralize toxins in the body. These lifestyle changes usually involve abstaining from certain harmful habits or substances and optimizing our body’s own elimination processes.
Most people seek for ways to detox mainly to reboot body and mind and increase their energy, lose weight, prevent illness, manage cravings, or simply because they realize that they (and most people, really,) are literally living in a toxic cesspool.
Now, there is no shortage of programs, cleanses, articles, and retreats all about detox – it has become somewhat of a buzzword of our time – so much so that it can get confusing.
Never fear! Here are my top tips to keep in mind when it comes to ridding the body of toxins.
Above all, an effective detoxification is about helping the body do its job effectively by supporting our elimination organs (e.g., liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, skin…)
Here are some ways you can support your “star performing” detox organs:
Sulforaphane is considered to be the most potent natural inducer of our liver’s detoxifying enzyme system. It can be obtained from all cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, with broccoli—and broccoli sprouts especially—being the best sources by far.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables appear to also significantly improve our ability to detox carcinogens from the polluted air we breathe, while decreasing inflammation in our airways and improving our natural respiratory defenses against infections. So bring on the broccoli!
Toxins mainly stored in fat cells, increase in their concentration as they move along the food chain in a process called biomagnification.
In 2010 the European Food Safety Authority conducted a study where they tested 12,563 food and feed samples taken in the period 1995-2008 in 18 EU Member States to find out which were the most contaminated with environmental toxins. Here is their conclusion:
“In food, the highest mean contamination level was observed in fish and fish derived products followed by eggs, milk and their products, and meat and meat products from terrestrial animals. The lowest contamination was observed in foods of plant origin. A similar pattern was observed in feed where high contamination was reported in feed containing fish derived products and comparatively very low levels in feed of plant or mineral origin.”
In short, eating lower on the food chain – i.e. foods of plant origin, can reduce our exposure to some of these persistent environmental pollutants. Choosing organic foods can also be beneficial in reducing exposure to pesticides, fungicides, herbicides.
Swapping animal-based protein for plant protein and hydrating properly can also help optimize our kidney function by avoiding hyper filtration. Kidneys are part of our elimination organs, and they filter a whopping 200 L of blood every day and eliminate waste through urine. (Find about more about the role of protein in the development of Chronic Kidney Disease.)
Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains. Meat and dairy products on the other hand contain no fiber. Fiber = plant foods.
Why is fiber so important? Fiber helps with digestion, weight loss, heart health, and cancer prevention, it can even help increase our lifespan.
Just a quick crash course on fiber… There are two kinds of fiber, and they’re both important: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble: The kind of fiber found in lentils, legumes, certain fruits, etc. that lowers cholesterol and feeds the good bacteria in our gut. This kind of fiber dissolves in water.
Insoluble fiber: This kind of fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, some fruits, and brushes out our digestive tract, which helps to eliminate waste from the body. (Hello, detox!) This kind of fiber doesn’t dissolve in water.
The skin is the largest organ of the body, covering over 2 square meters, it is a master detoxer! The skin eliminates toxins through sweating. Curiously, many people are not big fans of perspiration, and go to much effort to prevent this natural process from occurring! However, it is a necessary discomfort. Exercising and breaking a sweat regularly, is an effective strategy to clear the body of certain toxins. You can also go to a sauna to aid in the process and give dry brushing a try to open up the pores and flush the lymph.
The low hanging fruits for most of us is eliminating or avoiding highly processed frankenfoods laden with additives, refined carbs, salt, oils, such as soda, pizza, chips, and doughnuts. In order to do this you will need to learn how to gradually add in more of the good stuff: vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds to your daily diet so there’s less room for the junk.
A detox can also include abstaining from harmful habits such as smoking, drinking in excess, spending too much time with toxic people, or on social media (or… Netflix).
I also like to detox from the city life and spend time in nature. Very few things help me restore my energy levels as much as a good walk in nature does.
An effective short term “detox protocol” can last anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks and includes a gentle phasing in and phasing out. But I always encourage everyone to see detox as an ongoing project. See, though it’s beneficial to do a more rigorous detox program from time to time, we need to incorporate more detox habits into our daily lives. So, if you remember one thing from this post, let it be this: A detox is not an event it’s a lifestyle sustained by daily habits.
Everyday we can choose to take small actions to offset the long-term health risks associated with exposure to the plethora of toxins we are exposed to. It just starts with the decision to clean up one’s diet, and making positive lifestyle changes.
That’s where health coaching comes in! If you are looking for an effective way to upgrade your diet, sustain better health, and thrive, then sign-up for a free consultation today.
Yours in health,