by Liz Riesen, RD, CD, CLT
Toxins in our Environment
Our liver and detox system work hard 24/7 and never takes a break. It's also continued to get a higher and higher workload over the years as we introduce hundreds of new chemicals every year into our environment.
From our personal care products to candles and cleaning products in our home - there are more and more chemicals coming into contact with our body. Chemicals are also increasingly found in our food, water, and environment.
Chemicals need to be bound to, metabolized, and excreted through our detox pathways - but it's not always that easy. Some chemicals break down slow and others get stored in our body fat and tissues. Chemicals in our body will stimulate an inflammation, create free radicals that damage tissue and cellular health, and burden the liver/kidneys/and gallbladder.
Okay, enough of the bad. What can you do to help the liver detox naturally and reduce our chemical exposure?
Top Detox Foods
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage. They contain a powerful compound that is credited for its role in detox is called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane boosts antioxidant enzymes in the upper airway to help fight off oxidative stress. (1) Broccoli sprouts in particular, have a form of sulforaphane that can reduce the allergic response and boost detoxification. (2) Broccoli can also help increase excretion of airborne pollutants from the body, particularly those that are carcinogenic. (3)
NAC is the supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. NAC is required to make glutathione in the body, which is our master antioxidant. Glutathione plays a major role in detox; helping the body eliminate free radicals that will damage cells, tissue, and organs. Glutathione also helps eliminate toxins that are commonly found in our diet and environment including pesticides, chemicals, and pollutants including those produced by smoke. It is considered mucolytic and antioxidant drug that influences several key inflammatory pathways. (4) For these reasons, NAC may help decrease the severity of respiratory symptoms and inflammation in the body.
Vitamins C and E
While they are categorized as vitamins; vitamin C and E are actually powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our body from oxidative stress which is created when toxins, including air pollutants, enter the body. Vitamin C helps protect enzymes in the liver required for phase I and phase II detoxification pathways. Vitamin C also the liver’s tissues from oxidative damage, clears toxins from our bloodstream, and helps produce bile acids which transport toxins out of our liver. (5) Vitamin E protects our mitochondria and replenishes our body’s antioxidant stores that deplete with increased toxin exposure.
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are key to our body's anti-inflammatory system and help fight free radicals that are created through metabolic breakdown. You will find the highest food source of omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel. Omega 3 fatty acids are absolutely necessary in helping fight inflammation in the body.
My Favorite Detox Bath Recipe
Relax in a warm, calming bath with mood balancing oils, such as lavender. Incorporating in the evening as part of your night routine can help ease stress, promote relaxation, and enhance your sleep quality.
• 2 cups Epsom salts
• 1/3 cup baking soda
• 15-20 drops essential oils (lavender is my favorite)
1. Find the right temperature water for your bath and begin filling your tub.
2. Add Epsom salt, baking soda, and essential oils to the bath water and swirl around to blend.
3. Bathe for at least 20-30 minutes to allow for full benefits. After your bath you can rinse off in shower and use an oil like sesame oil or clean lotion.
Boost Natural Detox
1. Limit chemicals in the products you purchase. We can't control all of the toxin and chemical exposure we have these days, but when it comes to the products we purchase - we can! Choosing clean and safe personal care products, cleaning products, candles, and food will decrease the chemicals your body encounters on a daily basis.
I recommend using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website and free app to search for safe products and brands. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
2. Incorporate these foods into your regular diet + plenty of water + adequate sleep!
Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage. If you can find or grow your own broccoli sprouts (high nutrient content)
Vitamin C rich foods include: citrus fruits, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, red bell pepper, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, mango
Vitamin E rich foods include: almonds, avocado, olive oil, spinach, sunflower seeds, butternut squash, broccoli, kiwi, pumpkin
Omega 3 fatty acids are going to be the highest and most bioavailable form in cold-water fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines
3. Dry Brushing and Castor Oil Packs
These are activities that you can incorporate into your week to help stimulate lymph flow which helps overall drainage and detoxification in the body. These are also great self-care activities as they help you to slow down and care for your body.
Dry brushing is super easy and requires only one tool - a dry brush! Dry brushing helps stimulate lymph flow and skin elasticity. I recommend dry brushing before a shower, sauna session, or workout a few times per week. There are wonderful tutorials out there showing you exactly how to perform effective dry brushing technique.
Castor oil packs are placed over your abdomen and right side to cover the area where your liver and gallbladder rest. Reusable castor oil pack wraps on the market make this process super easy! Choose a wrap that uses 100% cotton and has adjustable straps to fit any size. Here is the castor oil pack I like to use. Then all you need is an organic castor oil that comes in a glass jar (to avoid hormone disrupting chemicals in plastic containers). Here is the castor oil I use and recommend.
4. Purchase an air purifier for inside your home and workplace where you are spending the majority of your time. Choose a purifier that has a HEPA purifier. HEPA stands for “high efficiency particulate air” and should remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).
I personally use and love the Coway Air Mega 300 true HEPA air purifier with smart technology. It measures particles in the air and will increase or decrease it's rate depending on air quality so you don't have to. It's also super easy to clean and maintain.
5. If you have a high toxin load you may benefit from a supportive detox protocol.
It is important to follow a gentle guided detox protocol that you can incorporate into a healthy diet and lifestyle. You should always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement or detox protocol. I utilize Quicksilver Scientific Push-Catch Detox or Advanced Push-Catch Detox Protocols in my practice. The detox protocols boost antioxidants in the body, stimulate healthy bile flow, and safely bind to and remove toxins through the GI tract.
You should always be working with a practitioner when doing a detox and if you have never done a detox protocol before, you may benefit from a gentle pre-tox protocol before moving into one of the detox protocols above. Contact Me
Please note: some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you in advance if you wish to purchase through the links!
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
I work specifically with women to balance hormones, inflammation, and gut health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including fatigue, bloating, weight gain, anxiety, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle. Follow me @moms.hormone.dietitian