How to Detox Every Day: Top Ten Foods and Herbs


Why Detox?

While occasional detox diets are helpful for a reboot, detox is something we need to support our bodies with every single day, not just a couple of times each year. You see, we are exposed to an unprecedented number – and crazy combinations – of environmental toxins every single day. The Environmental Working Group has found that newborns already have nearly 300 environmental toxins in their blood at birth. That’s seriously scary!

So you can imagine by the time you hit your 20s and beyond, our bodies have been steeped in environmental chemicals! 

These chemicals come from herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and artificial ingredients in our foods. They exist as pollutants in our air, water, cosmetics, medications, vaccinations, household cleaners, furnishings, cars – there are literally tens of thousands of them.

Not only that, we create toxic chemicals in our bodies from the process of breaking down the hormones and stress chemicals that our own bodies produce.

The good news is that your body is amazingly equipped with detoxification systems that have been evolving and improving over millions of years. Most of these are in your liver, but also require that you keep your bowels moving well each day to “take out the garbage” that the liver has processed. Your body has the mechanisms in place to keep you healthy – vibrant, in fact.

The bad news is that never before in the history of humanity have we been exposed to so many different individual and combinations of chemicals at once. You know how you can feel overwhelmed by life sometimes? Well, our bodies are overwhelmed by toxic loads and need some extra daily detox help.

How do I know this? As a Yale-trained MD and an environmental health scientist, one of my key areas of research is women’s and children’s health and environmental toxicity.

Also as a practicing Functional Medicine Physician, I see women and children day in and day out in my clinic who are suffering from health conditions that are associated with environmental chemical and hormonal detoxification problems including:

  • Weight problems
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of mental concentration and clarity (“brain fog”)
  • Endometriosis
  • Thyroid problems
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Joint pain
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Cyclic breast pain
  • Infertility
  • Early puberty
  • Allergies
  • Acne
  • and Eczema, to name a few

In my medical practice, where I am able to do blood tests to see how effectively my patients are detoxifying, I find two common threads: many people are low in the natural chemicals they need to effectively detoxify environmental chemicals and hormones, and are overloaded with harmful toxins such as heavy metals, pesticide residues, BPA and more.

Simple 2-Step Detox Goals

But true health, clear thinking, weight loss, and abundant energy are absolutely possible! They can be achieved with the same simple two-step process I share with my patients.

Here it is:

  1. Take Out the Bad = Minimize Toxin Exposure
  2. Add in the Good =  Support Natural Detoxification

Not too complicated, right? I like EASY!

And the cool thing is that this is not a “diet.” It is a way of life that makes living easier because you feel better. And hey, we should all try to reduce our use of environmental toxins – it’s good for us and it’s good for the planet.

Take Out The Bad

I’ve never said this in print before, but honestly, I am almost 50 years old and there’s not a day in my life that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me if I’m 30. I’m not kidding. I have to tell patients I’m older than they think so they take me seriously in my practice!

It’s all because of the healthy lifestyle I’ve had for over 3 decades.

Here are my “rules”:

  1. Eat a wide variety of vital natural foods. Not junk. That simple. This way I avoid most of the agricultural and added chemicals that act as toxins in my body.
  2. Eat only organic meats and dairy, and follow the Environmental Working Group Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen which you can link to here.
  3. Use natural household cleaners, cosmetics, and body products. As women we apply more than 15 different products, many with a dozen or more chemicals, before we even leave the house in the morning. There are many fantastic natural cosmetics available to us now. Click here to learn more.
  4. Avoid unnecessary medications – use diet and natural remedies whenever possible before taking tylenol, ibuprofen, antibiotics, or hormonal treatments. Click here to detox your medicine cabinet and here or here to find a functional or integrative medicine physician who can help you with your health care more naturally.
  5. Don’t smoke (I never have), keep alcohol to a minimum (less than 4 drinks/week, preferably red wine — I rarely ever drink)), and stress less (yes, I stress plenty, too — working on it!).

Add in the Good

To add in the good, all you need to know is which foods and herbs support and enhance your body’s detoxification pathways. And I’m going to make that easy for you with the information below and a PDF you can print and take with you to the local health food store. While there are many options, here’s my Top Ten Detox Hits List.

Simply add in some of these natural detoxifying foods and herbs every day, and if you’re taking out the bad, too, you’ll find that within days to weeks your energy, health, and mood are picking up! Taking a probiotic and adding fermented foods to your diet is a detox plus because they help provide the necessary microflora to help you make use of the nutrients in many of the foods and supplements below, especially the flax seeds and leafy greens. Healthy flora is an important ingredient in optimal detoxification.

Flax seeds

Flax seeds contain lignans, which when broken down by healthy gut flora help you to bind and eliminate toxic by-products with your daily evacuation (magnesium citrate can help you get going daily if you’re not!). I recommend 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground seeds added to your whole grain cereal, morning shake, or on top of your salad daily. Just don’t heat the flaxseeds.

Leafy Green Vegetables

Kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and Nappa cabbage – all in the Brassicacae family – are the Queens of Greens. I eat them abundantly every day in stir fries, steamed, and in the case of broccoli and Brussels sprouts, even baked. Juicing is ok, but I think eating the veggies is optimal. At least 2 cups cooked of one or a combination DAILY. Greens contain a host of naturally occurring chemicals called glucosinolates, which break down into isothiocyanates (you don’t have to know this, but it’s fun to throw around big science words!) or ITCs, which bump up the volume on liver detox while giving your gut flora the best nutrition possible (yes, gut flora need good nutrition to flourish, too!). The fiber in them also helps you to have a good daily BM – which not only keeps you feeling peppy, but clears out the environmental crap. EAT GREENS!

Berries

Talk about awesome medicine for the body and deliciousness in life! All the berries are fantastic for you. Blueberries, red raspberries, strawberries (organic for these please!) and blackberries are my top go to’s. Looking for a healthy detox snack or dessert? Try ½ cup of mixed berries tossed with ½ teaspoon of chopped mint and 2 chopped squares of a dark chocolate bar! Click here for the full recipe.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate has 3 times the antioxidant effects of green tea and red wine. It improves detoxification in the liver and helps keep cholesterol and blood sugar balanced. Take 2 ounces of unsweetened pomegranate juice concentrate in 8 ounces of still or sparkling water daily for a lovely natural “spritzer” that is safe even for diabetics because it reduces insulin resistance!

Olive Oil

Olive oil, taken in amounts of 2-4 tablespoons daily, will not increase your weight and will improve your cholesterol, and will decrease isoprostanes, nasty little inflammatory chemicals that your body makes. Rich in naturally healthy phenols, olive oil gives a power boost to your body’s production of naturally occurring detox chemicals like glutathione. Olive oil, like the other foods and herbs listed here, can also help mitigate damage to your DNA because they create chemicals that scavenge free radicals, harmful little inflammatory forms of oxygen that get loose in our bodies as a result of toxins and detox problems.

Dark Chocolate

Ok, I wouldn’t be The Women’s Doctor if I didn’t include dark chocolate. But I’m not including it just to make you like me! Dark chocolate really is good for you. In addition to improving mood and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check, dark chocolate is a detox plus in your daily diet. Yes, you can eat a couple of ounces of dark chocolate every day – as long as it’s 72% dark or higher.

Turmeric

A spice that has been used in Indian cooking for thousands of years, this bright yellow herb has become famous for its ability to support our natural detoxification processes. And rightly so! Curcumin, the most medicinally active part of the plant, helps the body slow its roll on breaking down toxic chemicals long enough for the body to be able to do it effectively and efficiently without causing you to build up what are called toxic intermediates when the two phases of liver detoxification are out of sync. It also boosts up your body’s natural anti-inflammatory production. It’s one of the herbs I use most in my practice, at a dose of 1000-2000 mg of curcumin extract daily. You can also use it in cooking or in your favorite shake, 2-10 grams of the powdered spice per day.

Green tea

Green tea boosts liver detoxification, helping you to break down and get rid of toxins while acting as an antioxidant, putting out the fires of inflammation around your body. It can be taken as a tea, but in extract form it is a potent supplement for weight loss, hormonal balance, and detox. A typical daily dose is about 200 mg of green tea catechins, or 4-8 cups of green tea. If you are very sensitive to caffeine, this amount might cause you some side effects including insomnia and heart palpitations – if you experience those, try something different instead.

Resveratrol

Comes from grapes, berries, and is found in red wine; has antioxidant effects that help with detoxification, improves detox in the liver and is also anti-inflammatory, which helps with everything from joint pain to menstrual cramps. You can get it from your diet by eating plenty of fresh berries, and you can take a supplement containing 10-25 mg of resveratrol daily.

Artichoke leaf extract

Supports liver detoxification and acts as an antioxidant, while increasing the amount and availability of natural detoxification chemicals produced in your body, especially in your liver. A typical dose is 320-640 mg artichoke leaf extract three times daily.

And to make you life easy, the following table is also downloadable as a PDF here

 

 

Wishing you optimal health! 

AJR-Sig

 

 

 

 

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Traci

Great post. I enjoy all of these things, especially the queens of greens, but can always use a reminder of what is best to consume and what type of balance is best to strive for.

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Holly Roark

Love your blog. Check this TED talk about stress. Research is showing that stress and bad health may just be all in our head.....https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend Maybe most things in life really do come down to a positive mental attitude!! Thanks for all you do!

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Shauna Lay

Love this, easy to use and read!

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Franziska

Great post. Thanks for simplifying the steps towards a healthy and not overwhelming diet :-)

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Chara

I love your attention to the toxicity issue, Aviva. It's SO important. Everyone needs to become aware so we can clean up our planet and our bodies.

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Marcina

Thank you for your timely post! I have been following your blog for over a year and you have an uncanny knack for posting exactly what I need, right when I need it! Question: The healthy detox foods are obviously fine, but are any of these supplements or herbs NOT okay to take while pregnant?

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    aviva

    yes, i do not recommend detox in pregnancy at all.... so glad the article came at the right time for you! :)

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Max

Good article as usual! But what about Rosemary? It helps in both phase 1 and phase 2 detox in the liver.

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    aviva

    rosemary is another great herb for sure!!! there are so many!!!!

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Rhonda

You mentioned hormone treatments. I have recently begun supplementing with bio-identical progesterone troches to help with my cyclical migraines/anxiety/trouble sleeping....(lifestyle, nutrition, exercise changes have not helped) I would love to see an article/or be pointed to another resource on how you feel about bio-identical hormone replacement therapy!

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    aviva

    Will do down the road! BIG TOPIC! :)

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Emily

Dr. Aviva, thanks for this post and for your heart for people. I have a four month old and was recently diagnosed with Insufficient Glandular Tissue ( hypoplasia). In my limited time for research I've found that researchers believe exposure in utero, or early childhood to Endocrine Distruptors , polychlorinated biphenyls to be a possible cause. I was wondering if you see a lot of IGT and what your thoughts are on the subject. My four month old is a girl and I want to protect her . She is getting half my breast milk, and I've increased supply as much as possible. Thank you for the helpful PDF!

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Amy Holaday

Hi Aviva! Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. I am a RN Health and Wellness Coach and love sharing your posts with my readers and clients. I would love to hear more from to on heavy metal detoxification. Thanks, Aviva!

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    aviva

    More to come! :) and Thank you!!!!

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Melissa

Thanks for the simple detox guide! I'd love to add sweating to your "out with the bad" section. Saunas or hot baths are great. If you do it during exercise, it counts as "in with the good" also!

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Chaana

Thank you for the great blog! With newborns having toxins in their blood at birth are your recommendations safe during pregnancy?

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    aviva

    I don't recommend detox during pregnancy....

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Janessa

When you say "fresh berries" does that mean not frozen? I just want to clarify :) with 5 kids in the house, literally fresh isn't currently affordable. If you do mean not frozen, do frozen ones have any nutritional value? We usually freeze some in the summer or get them from Costco. And thanks for your medicine cabinet post. I finally got elderberry syrup and echinacea and then we had someone with the flu staying with us. So far, no one in our family contracted it and it's been a week! I had to make our own, we went through that tiny bottle fast.

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    aviva

    FROZEN ARE GREAT TOO! Thanks for clarifying!!! :)

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Rose

aviva, i tried to post this comment already but i don't see it! i'm looking for more information about cyclic breast pain linked to environmental/hormonal toxins. i've experienced PMS as breast pain since i first began menstruating. the only thing that has temporarily relieved it is supplementing with high dosages of evening primrose oil and cod liver oil. that worked for about a year but the pain has returned and no longer responds to those supplements as that dosage. as a doula i'm very interested in women's health and would love it if you could recommend any resources or pass on any info about this. thanks!

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    aviva

    hi rose, it absolutely is related and one of my key approaches is to support liver detox and reduce environmental exposures to estrogens. makes a huge difference. products with DIM, broccoli extract, and herbs like dandelion root and milk thistle are high on my list. best, aviva

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Amber Hamilton

Thanks for posting this! Is it safe for a breastfeeding woman to follow this plan? Or would the toxins end up leaving the body in a more concentrated form through the breast milk? Thanks for all of your blogs!

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Mary

Love the PDF for a reminder. Thank you!!

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Stephanie

Have debilitating menstrual cramps every month since I was 13 (now 40). No longer on birth control and despite a clean diet, only large amounts of ibuprofen help with the severe cramping. Tried heat and cramp bark extract to no avail. Also told I do not have fibroids or other physical defects. Would LOVE to stop taking NSAIDS. Any suggestions?

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    aviva

    See the PMS blog and I PROMISE to do a blog on menstrual cramps without meds -- coming soon!

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Sarah

thanks for this great post! We don't each much grain but I do make our bread. I put flax in it. Is it bad to cook with flax seed?

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    aviva

    You can definitely cook with flax seeds, and even in baked goods, they've been shown to improve cholesterol and blood sugar!

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Brooke

Aviva, I want to thank you with all of my heart for your work! You have helped me immensely over the last 5 years from the birth of my first child with your book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children, your podcast and your well written articles like these. You teach complex ideas and make them easy to understand and apply. Thank you

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