Detox without Gimmicks, Pills, or Potions
By Erica Zelfand

“Detox” is one of those edgy yet deceptively vague terms used to market anything from supplements to fragrances to yoni steam baths. (Yes, that really is a thing.)

But do you really need to drop tons of money on designer products or fancy supplements to support the body’s natural detoxification process? Heck no!

Whether you’re coming off of a rowdy holiday season, recovering after a week in Vegas, or just looking to support your health, here are some quick, easy, and affordable ways to cleanse:


Drink Water.

Seems obvious, right? But so many of us skip over this simple, integral advice. Water helps flush toxins through the kidneys and out of the body. It also supports digestion: constipation is one of the hallmarks of being under hydrated. A good rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and divide it in half to determine the number of ounces to drink daily. For example, somebody weighing 200 pounds would aim to drink 100 ounces of plain water per day.


Hang out in a Sauna.

Saunas are a wonderful way to help push out toxicants through the skin. Many toxins are stored in the subcutaneous fat (meaning the fat just under the skin) and are therefore released when we sweat. As those toxins pass through sweat, the toxins lying at the deeper levels of our bodies can then mobilize to the subcutaneous layer, and from there they can pass out of the body the next time we sit in a sauna. The warmth of a sauna also increases circulation, thereby enhancing blood oxygenation, which further helps cleanse the blood.

To prevent dehydration, I like to sip on electrolyte water when I sit in a sauna. To optimize circulation and lymphatic drainage, I also hop out every 15 minutes or so to take a quick, cold shower. It’s invigorating! But also imperative. The short burst of cold after a long, hot therapy causes the blood vessels to quickly contract, enhancing the circulation of blood and lymph. The jolt of the cold also stimulates the metabolism and nudges the bone marrow to make more white blood cells (the kinds of cells that fight off infections).


B Vitamins and Magnesium

Unless you’re a nerd like me, opening up a biochemistry textbook is likely to be a boring and confusing experience. But if you do it anyway, and if you study all the drawings in it, you might notice that almost every detox pathway in the body requires one or more of the B vitamins. Taking a basic B complex supplement can therefore be helpful in supporting a cleanse or detox. (Check out my article on the difference between methylated B vitamins and regular ones here.) Nutritional yeast is also a great way to get in more B vitamins through the diet.

Magnesium is required for P450, the main detox pathway in the liver. In addition to supplements, magnesium can be found in seaweeds (especially kelp) and various nuts (especially almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts).


Avoid Other Toxins.

Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, refined carbohydrates, genetically-modified (GMO) foods, artificial sweeteners, refined sugar, chemical cleaners, and environmental toxicants will help give your body the break it needs to catch up on some of the “deeper cleaning” we strive for when we detox. Think of it this way: if the floor of your house is dirty because you keep tracking in mud from the yard, it doesn’t make sense to mop the floor while you’re still wearing muddy boots.

Oh, and by the way? People who cut you down, shame you, or stress you out? Those are toxins too. Avoid them while cleansing. Avoid them when you’re not cleansing too, for that matter.


Love Your Liver.

Milk thistle is one of the kindest herbs for the liver, and the liver is a detox workhorse. It’s also the organ that produces most of the cholesterol in our bodies, and therefore those of us with inflamed livers are more likely to have higher risk of heart disease.


Although milk thistle supplements can be purchased at virtually any health food store, it’s even better to get our medicine through real food whenever possible. I therefore like to purchase whole milk thistle seeds, grind them in a coffee grinder, and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons into applesauce or other food or drink daily while cleansing.


Recipe: Liver-Loving Seasoning

It’s quite simple to make a seasoning salt with detox-supporting ingredients. This recipe uses milk thistle seeds for their tonifying effect on the liver and seaweed for its high magnesium content.


½ cup of milk thistle seeds

½ cup of dried seaweed

1 cup of your favorite herbs (basil, oregano, dill, whatever you like!)

Electric coffee grinder


Grind the seeds first and put in a bowl. Then grind the seaweed (the drier the seaweed, the easier it will be). Next grind the herbs. Combine the ingredients. Leave by the stove or on the kitchen table and sprinkle onto salads, stir fries, soups, and other meals.

Other foods that the liver loves include dandelion leaves (yep, they’re bitter! The liver loves bitter!), lemon, and turmeric.



Take Out the Trash.

There’s absolutely no point in doing a detox or cleanse if you aren’t pooping and peeing daily. We literally pushing toxins out of our bodies when we use the toilet. Doing a detox program without ensuring good elimination is like trapping a robber in a house.

A person should ideally have at least one substantial bowel movement every day while cleansing, and that bowel movement should feel complete (meaning it doesn’t feel like there’s more in there that couldn’t get pushed out). Although it can be tempting to use laxatives during a cleanse, these actually dehydrate the body, making it harder for the next elimination to occur. It’s better to take a fiber supplement, eat 2-4 tablespoons of ground milk thistle or flaxseed (mix in applesauce or other food/drink), and drink plenty of water. Coffee enemas are also fantastic during cleanses and really help get things moving!

Remember that sweating is another way to “take out the trash” and get toxins out through the skin. In addition to saunas, exercise is a fantastic way to detox through the skin, circulatory system, and lymph.