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Whether you’re eating intuitively, following an Ayurvedic or TCM approach, a natural detox can be incredibly restorative.

Imagine a bear hibernating all through winter. He assumes that when the sun returns to melt the snow, he’ll be able to frolic and hunt for salmon once more. But alas! The seasons change, the sun starts to shine and… nothing changes! He’s still lethargic and un-energised.

Unfortunately, the reality is that our bear’s forest has been treated with some funky pest control. He’s been breathing that in this entire season, which means his respiratory system is now full of toxins, accumulating and clogging his body’s processes. Ultimately for this bear, and I’m sure you can see the human parallel… it’s time for a natural detox.

A natural detox simply refers to the elimination of toxins from the body. Like the bear, we also absorb toxins from our environments. Whether that’s through our food, water or air – we ingest all sorts of preservatives, stimulants, heavy metals and pesticides. Our bodies also naturally produce their own toxins, from processes like digestion.

While our body systems are impressively built to eliminate said toxins, overdoing it on sugars, caffeine and processed foods (plus lack of exercise) can bring our natural detox functions to a halt. The result? A buildup of toxins, that tend to result in fatigue and potentially disease. Fortunately, we can boost our innate detox by functions using intentional practices. Let’s dive in.

Yoga

The body’s detoxification processes are primarily carried out by the lymph, blood, liver, kidneys, colon, and parasympathetic nervous system. Lymph and blood carry our natural waste products to the liver, kidneys, and digestive organs. From there, toxins are ‘filtered,’ so to be eliminated through excretion. The above is supported by an active parasympathetic nervous system, but when the body is overloaded with toxins, build up occurs.

Iyengar Yoga theory suggests that certain yoga asanas support the natural detoxification process by increasing circulation, twisting internal organs and evoking relaxation. For example, it’s believed that inverted poses promote a natural detox effect by using gravity to stimulate blood circulation, draining drain lymphatic and venous fluids from the legs and pelvis.

Restorative postures are equally important. These work to stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system, and activate the ‘relaxation response.’ This counteracts the release of stress hormones which stunt natural detoxification (like cortisol).

Hatha Yogi and nutrition counsellor Darshana Weill, has designed the ‘clean sweep’ – a thorough asana sequence which uses compresses, twists and relaxes – to achieve all of the above. Why not give it a try?

Foods

Your best bet for maintaining your body internally are whole foods packed with nutrients. Think fiber-rich and anti-inflammatory foods like fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, beans, nuts and seeds. All will aid in gut and liver function.

Your body can also derive prebiotics naturally when you eat certain foods, such as:

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks

So what to cut out? There’s a sea of research highlighting the correlation between fried, sugary, red meat and highly processed foods with chronic diseases. For example, overindulging in sugary soft drinks may contribute to fatty liver – a condition which negatively impacts liver function.

Keeping it short and sweet: you’ll best maintain your body’s natural detox system, by consuming less junk food. The best way to do this? Try decrease your intake incrementally, then (ideally) leave it on the store shelf all together. Not having junk food around may be the best way to remove the temptation all together. If you do feel the inclination, why not swap sugary choices out for healthier options, or fruit? Of course as ever, use your discernment here. Guilt-free (and occasional) indulgence can also be the more self-loving choice.

Hydrate

As well as quenching thirst, water regulates the body temperature, lubricates joints, aids digestion and nutrient absorption, plus detoxifies the body by removing waste products.

The cells in our bodies must continuously repair themselves, in order to function optimally and break down nutrients for our bodies to use as energy. The above processes naturally release waste (urea and carbon dioxide), which can cause harm if they build up in the blood. Water transports these waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing, or sweating. So ensuring that you’re hydrated is a no brainer for a natural detox,

Healthline suggests that the ideal water intake is 3.7 litres for men, 2.7 litres for women. *Nervously gulps.*
Note: this will of course shift according to your diet, activity level and other lifestyle factors.

Rest

And last but certainly not least, ensuring adequate quality sleep each night is an absolute must when it comes to supporting the body’s health and natural detoxification system. Poor sleep correlates to both short and long-term health consequences like stress, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even obesity.

On the other hand, deep sleep encourages the brain to replenish itself, and to remove toxic waste by-products that accumulate over the day. One such waste products is called beta-amyloid, a protein which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Without enough sleep, our bodies will not have time to perform those functions, leading to toxin build up.

Ideally we’re aiming for a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you’re finding it difficult to wind down, fall or stay asleep – lifestyle shifts can help here. Try a sleep schedule, or limiting the amount of blue light you take in before bed. An hour tech-free, with low light (try candles) before sleep can do wonders. Better yet, try journaling, yoga nidra or meditation. A personal favourite sleep practice of mine involves using an essential oil diffuser. There are plenty of sleepy essential oils, but Lavender and Camphor work a treat for me!