Detox Deconstructed

Posted on May 10th, 2013 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

Nutrition and lifestyle choices to support the body’s natural release of toxins

“Detoxification” can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs teach people how to support the body’s natural detoxification process. Detox is conducted primarily by the liver, which removes toxins from the body by converting them from a fat-soluble state into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted. It’s an immensely complicated process, but our bodies are well equipped for it—and detoxification works even better when we support the process with our nutrition and lifestyle choices.

The toxins in our body are generally considered to be exogenous (coming from outside) or endogenous (originating from within). Exogenous toxins are the environmental toxins that we hear about in the media, such as PCBs and dioxins. Endogenous toxins are typically foods we may consume on a daily basis—salt, sugar, and animal protein—but which are toxic in terms of their effects on the body when eaten in large quantities. By and large, these metabolic endogenous toxins form the bulk of our total toxin load.

What can we do to assist the body with detoxification? There are particular nutrients that play a pivotal role in the detox process. The brassica family—including kale, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and broccoli rabe—is one of the pillars of a detoxification-friendly diet. These dark leafy green vegetables are outstanding sources of the nutrient sulforaphane, which supports the liver. They’re also rich in magnesium—a nutrient many of us are missing on a consistent basis—and potassium; together, these two nutrients have an alkalinizing effect on the body, creating a healthy pH balance.

Clinical research has shown that the spices ginger and turmeric both have effective anti-inflammatory properties, along with a nutrient profile that supports the liver’s detox efforts. Most fruits are helpful with detoxification as well, particularly citrus fruits—try adding fresh-squeezed lemons or lemon juice to your water, or eating a grapefruit a day to keep the toxins away.

Staying well hydrated is also essential for the detox process. This gives your body the substrate through which it can eliminate toxins via urine and perspiration. Hydrating beverages include water, water with a small amount of juice added, and any herbal tea that doesn’t contain significant amounts of caffeine. The last but equally important component of the detox equation is perspiration! I recommend at least half an hour of vigorous exercise or sauna time daily to help the body reduce its total toxin load.

Detox Dressing

This dressing made with extra-virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, rosemary, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice is a tonic that has been used in Greek medicine for thousands of years to treat various liver ailments and assist with overall detoxification. The allicin in the garlic, the gallic acid in the olive oil, the limonene in the lemon juice, and the variety of terpenes in the rosemary all support the detoxification process.

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Garlic (as much as you’d like)
Fresh chopped rosemary (dill is also nice)

Combine all ingredients and enjoy on top of everything and anything!



About John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH

John teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. He holds a doctorate in food and nutrition sciences from the University of Maine and a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina. John served as nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires and is currently on the faculty of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. A frequent lecturer on topics including weight loss, detoxification, and chronic disease treatment and prevention, John is also a passionate mountain climber who reached the top of Mt. Everest as part of a two-man team.

One Response to “Detox Deconstructed”

  1. Edward Lee June 17, 2013 6:07 am #

    Detoxification—the process of transforming toxic chemicals to compounds more easily flushed out of the body—happens in every body all the time. But, in our unhealthy culture filled with processed foods, chemicals, and stress, our detox system can easily get overwhelmed or out of balance. When that happens, taking time to focus on supporting our natural detoxification process can help us feel and function better.
    Urine Clear

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