rē•spin Your Perception of a Detox
Finding new ways to approach a bodily cleanse.
When we hear the word “detox,” the word that often comes to mind first is “restriction.” Juice cleanses, lemon water, and diets that eliminate specific ingredients to flush our bodies of specific toxins are no longer niche. We see them messaged everywhere. But they aren’t the only option. Rather than going the cleanse route or depriving our bodies of necessary nourishment, what if we focused on other aspects of our lifestyle? Exploring functional practices that allow us to hit rē-set on our bodies, rē-store balance, and rē-move toxins are entirely possible without restriction.
How does our body detox naturally?
The detoxification process happens in the liver, which removes toxic substances from the human body. It is our body’s primary filtration system. The liver can cleanse our blood, metabolize nutrients and medications, and convert toxins into waste products. Miriam Thom, the founder of Club Psora, explains, “Our body has five major detoxification pathways to remove inevitable toxins from the body, but when we drink, use chemical cleaners and cosmetics, or are exposed to mold, the body has already been working a full shift, and over time this can cause systems to shut down.”
The five detoxification pathways include the liver, which does most of the heavy lifting. Besides that, there is the colon (large intestine), kidneys, lungs, and skin. When our liver filters the blood from our gastrointestinal tract, it eliminates pathogens, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals, and alcohol. Thom adds, “A functioning liver also produces the bile necessary for fat digestion, controls blood sugar, and plays an important role in the immune system.”
The term “leaky gut” largely refers to an issue in the colon and digestive system. When the gut lining allows toxins and pathogens to penetrate its barrier, these substances can cause abnormalities in our immune response. The liver also helps excrete water-soluble toxins through our kidneys. This highlights the important role hydration plays in flushing out our systems. Finally, our lungs help eliminate airborne toxins. Whatever is not metabolized from the other four systems is excreted through the skin.
The connection between our diet and our bodies
“Functional nutrition encompasses the whole person by looking into medical and personal history and lifestyle to develop the course of action that can best help us achieve our wellness goals,” Thom explains. Everybody has potential triggers that can prevent or hinder natural detoxification processes. Our bodies give us physical, mental, and emotional signs to communicate that they’ve been triggered by an activity or something we consume.
Abnormal skin conditions, headaches, fatigue, slowed digestion, mood swings, weight gain, body odor, or trouble sleeping can all be signs your body may be overwhelmed—perhaps an excellent time to rē-set and rē-balance from the inside out.
For three weeks, eliminating inflammatory and sensitive foods—including alcohol, gluten, dairy, nuts and seeds, nightshades, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and processed foods—grants us the ability to rē-introduce these items slowly into our diets. By noticing how our body reacts when we rē-introduce a specific food, we can determine what triggers our body and how it reacts. When we identify and eliminate trigger foods for good, we rely on vegetables, pseudo-grains, protein, and healthy fats to remain satiated.
rē•framing how we approach a detox
Over the years, detox has become synonymous with fasting, juice cleanses, dietary supplements, colon cleanses, and saunas—the goal always being to flush the toxins from our bodies. But rather than focusing solely on removal, Thom embraces a functional nutrition approach called the Four “R” Protocol: rē-move, rē-place, rē-inoculate, and rē-store. She explains this approach as “removing all potential irritants, sensitivities, and toxins, replacing bad habits with healthy ones, reinoculating the body with supportive herbs, tonics, and elixirs, and restoring balance via sustained practice and lifestyle changes.”
Beyond what we do or don’t consume, there’s another piece to consider as we strive to rē-set our bodies and reach a balanced state. Physical movement can help stimulate the lymphatic system. This helps our blood transport lymph throughout the body. Incorporating movement into our lifestyle helps to prevent blood stagnation. It also creates optimal lymph flow and drainage, which can improve immune system function.
Looking beyond traditional movement
“Yoga literally means ‘to unite’ and find harmony between body and mind. Most notably, uniting breath with movement stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting the body’s natural state of rest and digestion,” Thom says. “There are pranayama—yoga for the breath—techniques that are all about detoxing your mind and body. One of my favorites is kapalabhati, which translates to ‘skull cleansing breath.'”
Thom’s movement classes blend traditional ashtanga and vinyasa flow with qigong and embodiment practices. She incorporates twists to help wring out the internal organs and flush the kidneys. Her sessions begin with tapping, which is a qigong practice that can help stimulate the T-cells that fight infection and trace the lymph and meridian pathways to encourage flow and break up stagnation.
“I love an active Balasana Child’s Pose with wide knees and a belly full of breath, or even Pavanamuktasana, which translates to ‘Wind Relieving Pose,'” Thom says. “In this posture, you lay supine and tuck your knees into your chest, cross your arms over your knees and hold yourself tight. It’s a wonderfully restorative way to get in contact with a lot of your skin, and instinctively it signals to your body that you are protected and can release whatever needs to be let go.”
The holistic benefits of a detox
Combining these nutritional and fitness lifestyle changes prompts a series of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. For example, we may experience clearer skin, whiter eyes, improved sleep habits, increased libido, stronger nails, and lustrous hair. Moreover, we can see these improvements from the inside out as we experience our body coming out of overdrive and using its energy to heal itself.
“It’s worth noting that in many traditional and holistic modalities, it’s taught that past emotions are stored in our organs,” Thom adds. “Sometimes detoxing all at once can bring up intense anxiety (gastrointestinal), grief (lungs), or anger (liver). It’s very important to have support for these layers as they come to light. Detox can be an emotional rollercoaster, lending itself to the old saying, ‘It often gets worse before it gets better.’ But, it definitely will get better.”
By discovering and adopting sustainable detoxification practices, we can find new ways of keeping ourselves grounded and balanced. For a simple rē-set, allow these things to become daily practices—then observe and enjoy the improvements as they manifest in your physical, mental, and emotional health.
“A body in homeostasis is one with energy, optimal mental clarity, and stable mood patterns, so this is a pretty righteous mission to be on!” Thom says. “In addition, sustainability and social justice are intrinsically intertwined. The more we can work to clean ourselves from the inside out, the more we’re in alignment with our earth and can bring higher awareness to the collective consciousness.”