When it comes to achieving a sense of vitality, study after study shows that it’s the small—sometimes barely detectable—shifts that lead to big success in the end. Rather than focus on the dramatic, Instagram-worthy actions (seven-vegetable green juice for breakfast, anyone?), commit to making one shift every day.
These quickly add up, especially when it comes to enhancing your health. Rather than throwing days or weeks away on a ‘detox programme’ of juices, teas and a few sorry-looking steamed vegetables, you can learn to optimise your body’s built-in detoxification systems. These are far more powerful than any programme and, when working effectively, can have a remarkable impact on your wellbeing.
With a few simple lifestyle tweaks, you can help your body to ‘take out the trash’ naturally—no deprivation required. Here’s how to put the science into practice:
1. Drink warm water and lemon
The science: You’ve most likely heard it’s a good idea to start your day with warm water and lemon, but you may not know why. In simple terms, a compound called limonene in lemon helps to fire up the detoxification enzymes in your liver, while the water rehydrates you after a long night of fasting .
The practice: Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a mug, and top up with half hot, half cold water. Make sure you pop the lemon rind into the mug too, as this is where the limonene (the active compound) is located.
2. Eat two tablespoons of flaxseed
The science: This humble seed is a nutritional powerhouse. As well as providing a valuable source of fibre (to help keep those bowels moving), studies show that the polyphenols in flax may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, in turn helping to eliminate a host of toxins .
The practice: Ground flaxseed can be added to many meals—stir into cooked oats, whizz into a smoothie or sprinkle on salads. For best effect, freshly grind the flaxseeds just before you use them (a coffee grinder is ideal for this!).
3. Make the most of cruciferous vegetables
The science: Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, which contain special compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds induce the vital detoxification pathways in your liver, helping you to break down everything from alcohol to old hormones .
The practice: Include a heaped handful of cooked cruciferous vegetables with your lunch, dinner—even your breakfast! Other members of the family include cauliflower, kale and collard greens.
4. Work up a sweat
The science: Our main routes of detoxification are through our urine and our stools but, when our toxin load is especially high, we also eliminate nasties through our breath and our skin. In fact, studies show we eliminate heavy metals through our sweat, including arsenic, lead and mercury .
The practice: Rejoice in working up a sweat! You can either have a quick at-home HIIT workout, go to a local Bikram yoga session, or even visit an infrared sauna. When you’ve been wiping your brow for 15 minutes, you’re detoxifying.
5. Eat high-quality protein
The science: We can eat antioxidants in the form of colourful fruit and vegetables, but the most important one—called glutathione—we make ourselves. Glutathione performs many critical functions in your body, including alleviating oxidative stress. To keep levels of this crucial detoxifier topped up, we need enough raw material: protein .
The practice: One of the most effective forms of protein for boosting glutathione levels is whey, which is readily available in powder form. Look for a brand that comes from grass-fed cows, without any sugar or additives. If you prefer not to eat animal products, you can also enhance glutathione levels through eating more cruciferous vegetables (see point 3)!
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