What Is a Full-Body Detox?
A full-body detox is probably something you've seen advertised a lot. Maybe you have a friend who swears that a certain full-body detox program changed their health. There are many companies that claim their full-body detox diet or detox plan is a way you can lose weight, have more energy and get clearer skin, among other benefits.
The basic premise is that the detox -- be it a juice cleanse, colon cleanse or other approach -- will quickly rid your body of toxins, such as alcohol, tobacco and refined sugar. This type of detox is different than the detox done to treat alcohol or drug addiction.
Detoxing has been around since the beginning of time, says Dominique Vonador, an acupuncture physician and owner of Acupuncture and Herbal Solutions in Bradenton, Florida. That's because our bodies have been doing just that since day one. Our kidneys and liver are our body's natural detoxifiers, and they work full time to help get rid of toxins. Your body also rids itself of toxins and waste through urine, bowel movements and sweat.
Should You Detox With Special Juices or Elixirs?
Do you truly need a special full-body detox diet to get healthier? As it turns out, you don't -- at least not in the form of pricey juices, pills or elixirs.
Most quick-fix diets or products don't have the medical evidence to show that they work. "Our bodies are made to detox themselves," says Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietitian at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York.
Some of the detox plans you see advertised can even negatively affect your health. For instance, low-calorie detoxes can leave you weak and lower your immune system's ability to fight off illness, says Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
A colon cleanse can increase a risk for dehydration and cause an imbalance of electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, says Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian based in Miami and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That's especially dangerous if you have heart or kidney disease. Salt water flushes can hurt the kidneys and liver because of the increased salt intake, Vonador says.
When Do You Need to Detox?
There may be times when you want to get healthier, perhaps after eating a lot of processed foods, feeling fatigued, having too many drinks or putting on weight. That's where some tried-and-true health practices can help your body naturally detox and get healthier.
Here are seven ways you can safely and naturally detox without investing in trendy -- and often pricey -- cleanses or products.
1. Drink More Water.
The easiest way to help detox your body naturally is by drinking more water, Vonador says. Water can:
-- Reduce your intake of calories if you use it to replace sugary drinks.
-- Help your body maintain its fluid balance.
-- Prevent dehydration.
-- Assist your body in ridding itself of waste through urine, bowel movements and sweat.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends 91 ounces of water daily for women and 125 ounces daily for men. That can include other beverages and foods that have high water content, such as watermelon. However, drinking water is still the cheapest and easiest way to fuel the body. If you want some flavor, you can try hot herbal teas, Vonador recommends.
2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables.
Five to nine servings of fruits and vegetable daily provide the body with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Although some detox plans focus on juicing, it's actually better to eat whole fruits and vegetables, Schiff says. The whole versions will provide fiber that fills you up and helps some toxins move through your body more quickly.
While all choices of whole fruits and vegetables are beneficial, Derocha says that some can help support the body's natural detoxification process in particular. These include:
-- Brussels sprouts.
Try to consume a colorful mix of fruits and vegetables so you're getting a range of different antioxidants, Schiff advises. Include some dark leafy greens like spinach or kale in what you regularly eat.
Round out your fruit and vegetable intake with whole-grain foods like barley and quinoa, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Eat as many whole foods as you can instead of highly processed foods or foods filled with refined sugar. Discuss with your doctor or a dietitian whether it may make sense to supplement your diet with a multivitamin.
3. Get More Sleep.
Do you feel tired most of the day? Maybe you're not getting enough shut eye. Inadequate sleep is a common problem across the U.S., with more than a third of people not getting enough of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sleep is when our brain gets rid of excess protein and waste. Less sleep also tends to make people cranky, and that can lead to poorer food choices, says Colleen M. Chiariello, chief clinical dietitian at Syosset Hospital in Syosset, New York.
Adults age 18 to 60 should get seven or more hours of sleep nightly. Here are a few tips to get better sleep:
-- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even the weekends.
-- Avoid screen time one to three hours before you plan to sleep.
-- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.
-- Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least three hours before bed. Alcohol may initially help you sleep faster but can disrupt your sleep later on, Kimberlain says.
4. Move More.
Regular physical activity can give you more energy, help you tone your body and improve your mood. It also can improve your circulation, helping you to rid your body of toxins.
Every week, adults should get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity that gets the heart pumping, such as walking, biking or swimming, according to federal guidelines. You can break that down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Or, you can do your exercise in smaller time chunks if needed -- say, a brisk walk for 10 minutes after each meal. Combine that with two sessions of strength training a week.
5. Be Kind to Your Digestive System.
Your digestive system does a lot of work processing your body's waste. Be kind to it by eating more fiber-rich foods, which will fill you up more quickly and help your digestive tract process waste more efficiently.
Another way to help your digestive system is to eat naturally fermented foods that provide good bacteria -- aka probiotics -- to the gut, Derocha recommends. These fermented foods help improve the health of your gut microbiome, and that can help avoid gut inflammation and intestinal problems such as inflammatory bowel disease. Good probiotics include:
-- Kefir, which is a fermented milk.
-- Kimchi, a spicy, pickled cabbage originally from Korea.
6. Limit Your Alcohol.
It may be fun to have an alcoholic drink from time to time, but excess consumption can wreak havoc on your health. Too much alcohol can:
-- Cause damage to the heart.
-- Lower your immune system's ability to fight off disease and illness.
-- Increase your chances of certain types of cancer.
-- Lead to certain types of liver disease.
If you choose to imbibe, limit yourself to one drink a day for women or up to two drinks for men, the CDC advises. One drink means 1.5 ounces of liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
7. Improve Your Air Quality.
The air you breathe in may have dangerous chemicals, tobacco smoke and other toxins, Kimberlain cautions. Here are some ways to improve your air quality:
-- Have house plants. These can help clean the air naturally. Boston fern, English ivy and spider plants are three examples of plants that work particularly well to help purify indoor air.
-- Use nontoxic, natural house cleaners.
-- Invest in an air purifier that has a HEPA filter. They're pricey, but they are most effective at filtering out dust, mold and pet dander.
-- Don't let people smoke in your home.
-- Change the air filter in your air conditioner and other HVAC units regularly.
How to Get Started on a Healthier You
The steps outlined here to help you detox naturally may seem like a lot to do at once. If needed, you can start off slowly. "I remind people to focus on whatever they feel like they can do today and build from there," Derocha says.
One good place to start is simply by drinking more water. If you're not in the habit of drinking adequate water, then add a glass or two a day, and increase your intake from there, Chiariello advises.
It's also crucial to have the right mindset for a detox or reset -- in fact, it's the foundation from which all healthier habits start, Schiff says. That means wanting to get healthier and being committed to do so.
When to Proceed With Caution
Although the full-body detox tips recommended here have been proven over time, there are still times when you should proceed with caution when embarking on any new health habits:
-- You're pregnant or nursing.
-- You're sick.
-- You're getting treated for cancer.
-- You're on many medications.
See a doctor or an integrative medicine dietitian if you begin to follow healthier habits but you still feel fatigued or can't lose weight, Kimberlain advises.
7 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Body:
-- Drink more water.
-- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
-- Get more sleep.
-- Get regular physical activity.
-- Be kind to your digestive system.
-- Limit alcohol.
-- Improve your air quality.
Vanessa Caceres began writing for U.S. News in 2017, originally specializing in diabetes. She's a nationally published health, travel and food writer with an undergraduate degree in journalism and psychology from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and a graduate degree in linguistics/bilingual education from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In addition to U.S. News, Vanessa's health writing has been published with Everyday Health, Self, Newsday HealthLink, EyeWorld, The Rheumatologist and various other publications. She is a member of Business Networking International (BNI). Vanessa has lived in Florida since 2009, when she became fascinated by the Sunshine State. That fascination led to Florida-themed articles published in regional and national publications, and on websites. Connect with her on Twitter at @FloridaCulture.