How to Use Diet and Breathwork for a Multidimensional Detox
Sometimes two forms of detox is better than one.
There are many reasons that you might choose to consciously minimize your exposure to toxins through your diet and lifestyle. Anti-inflammatory diets, and those tailored to eliminate food sensitivities, play a major role in functional medicine’s treatment planning. More intensive, short-term cleanses and methods like intermittent fasting can also be practiced periodically to help alleviate the stress of inflammation and toxic load on the body — perhaps you suffer from the MTHFR mutation, or maybe you had a few many margaritas on vacation and want to give your liver a break. But as the cardiologist Alejandro Junger M.D., best-selling author and founder of Clean Program, explains, humanity is being exposed to many more toxic chemicals than the planetary state we evolved from, and furthermore, our bodies’ innate detoxification systems are weakened by our lifestyles. “Ideally we would not be doing ‘cleanses’ but living and eating in a way that supports the ever ongoing detox processes in the body. But because we don’t, cleanses help.”
To intensify the process, you can simultaneously pair this with detoxification practices — the intentional removal of toxins from the body. While food cleanses are conventionally thought of as strictly physical, and breathwork is typically thought of primarily as an emotionally clearing practice, the fact is that the interrelated nature of the body allows these two cleansing practices to go together seamlessly. Breathwork has become an increasingly popular tool for emotional wellness in recent years. It turns out that pairing dietary cleansing — the conscious minimization of exposure to toxins through diet — with breathwork — a form of detox — together can be extra potent.
The Dietary Cleanse
Dr. Junger views cleanses as a great way to “jump-start a long-term improvement in lifestyle and a great way to learn the principles that allow your body to work more optimally…” Ghoraishy incorporates cleanses in time with the season changes into her lifestyle, particularly the equinox. “When you are able to clear your vessel through eating clean, organic, non-processed foods, you are a clearer conduit to both release stuck emotions and also to receive downloads and messages.” She goes on to explain that in Ayurveda, which has been practiced in India for more than 5,000 years, cleanses are usually done with the change of season. “Seasonal detoxes are a supportive way of helping your body and mind transition from one season to another.” In her personal experience, she typically notices better sleep, clearer thinking, and gained energy.
Naturopathic Doctor Jasmine Talei adds that there are certain foods you can incorporate into your diets in order to help facilitate optimal detox. The three types she identifies are the bitters, the binders, and the stinky foods. “Bitter foods help to increase the secretion of the digestive hormone gastrin [which] allows for gastric acid to be released, [breaking] down our food for optimal digestion and elimination.” As an example, she points out that dandelions help support the liver. “Eating foods high in fiber, such as flax and chia seeds, is an effective way to bind toxins and remove them from our bodies,” she adds, noting that cilantro is a superfood for removing endocrine-disrupting heavy metals from the body. Lastly, the stinky foods — like garlic, onions, chives, scallions, and leeks — contain sulfur compounds that bind toxins and promote the elimination process.
Detoxification via Breathwork
Asked whether practicing breathwork in conjunction with a cleanse would be beneficial, Dr. Junger replied, “Absolutely. Breathwork can be an amazing complementary practice for health in general, and detox in particular. I’ve witnessed the benefits in dozens of people.” Breathwork itself is a practice that has been attributed to detoxification at multiple levels. At the emotional level, people experience tremendous release — even crying is not uncommon. “Breathwork can definitely help the mind and body ‘detox’ stagnant energy that has consciously and subconsciously been stored in the body,” says Rony Ghoraishy, yoga therapist, healer, and breathwork teacher, who practices Holotropic breathwork consisting of a three-part circular breath that engages the diaphragm. “We also store energy in our physical body from past trauma and memories. Breathwork is a way of bringing those things to the surface in order to heal, clear, and detoxify them from your mind and body.”
But physically speaking, there is a strong physical detoxification component to breathwork practices, as well. “Our lungs play an important role in the detoxification process,” Dr. Talei tells rē•spin. “As we inhale, we take in air and oxygenate our lungs and blood. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide moves from our blood to our lungs, and as we exhale, we detox the waste product from our system. She explains that deep breathing improves blood circulation, while the diaphragmatic stimulation it calls for help to get sluggish lymph — the fluid that carries toxins out of our bodies via the lymph nodes — moving, encouraging the innate detoxification process. “The up and down movement of the diaphragm supports the lymphatic system and allows for excess fluid from tissues and cells to be recirculated through our bloodstreams. [Then] our kidneys filter the waste and toxins from our blood and excrete them in our urine.”
The Combined Effect: Is This One Right For You?
“When we combine a dietary detox with breathwork, we support multiple organs of detoxification at once — breathwork supports our lungs and circulatory system, while diet supports our kidney and liver function,” Dr. Talei says. “Further, breathwork stimulates the vagus nerve and triggers a parasympathetic response, allowing us to rest and digest. When we’re able to get into a rest and digest mode, then we are able to digest and absorb what we eat — and in turn, eliminate toxins from our body through regular bowel movements.” But Dr. Talei is adamant that detoxification is not a “one-size-fits-all” practice, noting that it is important to understand your physiology to find the regimen that is right for you. She also adds that before beginning any detox protocol, you should consult with your own doctor.
That being said, if you are interested in incorporating a “multidimensional cleanse” into your wellness toolkit, consider the at-home cleansing protocol of Dr. Junger. After himself becoming ill, he volunteered his services as a doctor at a monastery in India, working on a multi-modal team that included Ayurvedic medicine doctors, Chinese medicine practitioners, as well as reiki masters, naturopaths, chiropractic doctors, and others. “These personal experiences led me down a path of applying science and alternative medicine to a protocol to feel better,” Dr. Junger explains. “I found a combination of high-quality supplements, nourishing smoothies, healthy grains and protein, and a specific elimination diet can alleviate many of our common health issues.”
Here are some of our favorite cleansing companions to shop.
This is Dr. Junger’s protocol for those looking for a quick reset, just to get your toes wet. Those in search of more of a transformative program for the long-haul can consider the brand’s 21-day program.
This ayurvedic blend contains teas and herbs to help support the body’s innate detoxification process.
Dry brushing is a great daily practice to stimulate the body’s lymph.
If you would like to incorporate the wonders of bone broth into your cleanse, let Dr. Kellyann guide your way.
Surprise! Exercising helps get the lymph moving, which as you learned above, keeps the body’s natural detox flowing.
If your body struggles with methylation due to the MTHFR mutation, then a methylated B is important for you to take. This will also help put some pep in your step.
This is a gradual cleanse that supports digestion, drainage, and metabolism from the cult brand from across the pond. It’s gluten-free and suitable for vegans.
Dr. Gabrielle Francis — naturopath to literal rockstars — developed her own line of supplements to be added to daily superfood smoothies each morning. It floods the body with nutrients, supports the body in detox, and enhances the absorption of nutrients.
Staying hydrated is always important, but you definitely don’t want to scrimp when you’re detoxing.
You can practice breathwork anywhere, but having a set aside space and cushion will help motivate you.