How to Detox with Whole Foods (Detox - Part 2)


It can be tempting to jump right into a detox or a juice cleanse because these might seem quick and easy ways to get healthier.

But there’s no need to buy a fancy detox kit or commit to the master cleanse - although these detox diets are well marketed and are so expensive that they feel like they should work … they they often miss key components for supporting natural detox pathways.

This article outlines ways we can use whole, functional foods to support your body’s natural detox pathways along with practices that support your body’s ability to heal.

Before embarking on any detox, it is helpful to understand (1) why you need to detox and (2) how the body does it naturally. If you missed the first part of this article - The Truth About Detox (Part 1) - read it here.

Here’s a quick recap …

The most effective detox strategies focus on:

  • Reducing your toxin ‘load’ (see part 1 of this article)

  • Food and lifestyle strategies that:

    • Support the liver - which supports the processing of toxins

    • Increase circulation - which supports the transport and removal of these toxins

  • Support elimination of toxins via:

    • The lungs (expiring / breathing out air)

    • The skin (sweat)

    • Kidneys (pee)

    • Colon (poop)

Functional Foods that Support Detoxification:

Eat more fiber

Going to the bathroom at least once per day is essential for detoxification. Under normal and healthy circumstances toxins are processed by the liver and sent to the gut for elimination. Constipation can cause the recycling of toxins, which is an added burden on your body.

If you struggle with constipation, download the gut health cheat sheet here.

Some of the best sources of fiber are:

  • Vegetables - broccoli, brussels sprouts and avocado

  • Fruits - - blackberries, raspberries, apples

  • Legumes - black beans, lentils, etc

  • Nuts and seeds - hemp, flax, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc

As you increase your fiber intake, drink more water. Fiber absorbs loads of water and dehydration can lead to constipation (see below for my hydration rule of thumb).

Focus on cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, kale, radishes, broccoli, daikon and bok choy are supportive to the liver. Their sulfur compounds increase glutathione levels (one of the body’s most important antioxidants) and support phase II detoxification in the liver.

Need some ideas on how to include these in your daily meals? Try making a shredded cabbage and carrot slaw or sautee cauliflower rice with bok choy.

Snack on Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts contain high amounts of selenium, which is a powerful detoxifying agent. It helps to regenerate antioxidant levels (glutathione) and bind heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. Only two brazil nuts per day have been shown to increase selenium levels.

Clean protein

Protein is essential for detoxification - it is made up of amino acids, which are required by both phase I and phase II detoxification in the liver. The quality of meat matters - avoid conventionally raised animals that are typically exposed to antibiotics and who feast on corn. Instead buy grass fed (and grass finished) meats, pasture raised chickens and eggs and sustainably sourced seafood - these are lower in inflammation, contain more antioxidants and higher quality fats than their conventional counterparts.

Drink more water

Proper hydration is essential for optimizing circulation (helps with lymph and blood flow) and helps the kidney flush out foreign compounds.

A good general guide to estimating your water needs is to half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. Drink more water if you live in a hotter climate or if you drink alcohol, coffee or other caffeinated beverages - these count as a ‘negative hydration’ as they are diuretics and cause dehydration.

It is also important to have a ‘clean’ water source - the Berkey or a Reverse Osmosis machine are some of the best options.

Practices that Support Detoxification

Skin brushing

Skin brushing is the practice of dry brushing the body with a natural bristle brush. Brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps remove toxins from the body. It can also unclog pores and promote more breathable skin. Make circular motions, moving from feet to head and always brushing towards the heart.

Alternate hot and cold in the shower

Alternate hot and cold in the shower to help increase circulation. Start with hot water for a minute, then switch to cold water. Repeat several times and end on cold.

Breath work Practice

Breath work (deep breathing) helps eliminate carbon dioxide - a major ‘toxin’ that is produced inside the body from normal cellular metabolism. Meditation, deep belly breathing and yoga are some tools to help you breath deeper.

Move your body

Exercising and movement helps promote circulation and the release of toxins through sweat. It also helps to optimize digestive function and reduce stress levels. Think about ways you love to move and include more of that in your life!

Get a Massage

Massage is great to increasing circulation throughout the body, not to mention the fact that it feels amazing and is a great stress reliever.

Sweat it Out in an Infrared Sauna

The heat from infrared saunas penetrates deeply into the body, creating sweat therapy; as the sweat leaves your body, so do the toxins attached to it.

Why do I feel worse on my detox?

… Sometimes your symptoms can get worse before they get better

Some people experience unpleasant symptoms while detoxing, known as the healing crisis or Herxheimer reaction (I challenge you to say that three times fast!). Symptoms are similar to getting a cold - may include sweating, headaches, aches and pains, sweating, chills or nausea.

The healing crisis happens when toxins are released from their storage sites at a faster rate than they can leave the body. Stronger symptoms are usually associated with more toxins being released.

Toxins may be liberated from bacterial die-off, liver detoxification and fat loss. This is why facilitating the elimination of these toxins with the above suggestions is essential to ‘reset’ to a healthier level.

If you happen to experience these symptoms, it is even more important to follow the guidelines above to support healthy elimination and to start feeling like your best self!