With the sweets, stuffing and snacks this holiday season, it can take a toll on your gut health, energy and sleep. Cue the December detox.
That little space between leftover Halloween candy and Thanksgiving stuffing and gravy offers an opportunity to support your gut, balance your body, and get your system ready for the next onslaught. The good news is that detoxification and decreasing bloat are cost-effective and can relieve symptoms of discomfort.
1. Decrease caffeine
Caffeine is a powerful diuretic that can burden the liver and tax the adrenals. Try a morning brew that enhances immune function, clears toxins, and hydrates cells: Simmer sliced ginger root in hot water, then add turmeric and lemon juice for their anti-inflammatory and liver-supportive effects. Or swap coffee for tea (or at least one cup of coffee for a cup of tea). It’s lower in caffeine and rich in protective polyphenols.
2. Bolster your microbiome with probiotics
Get your gut ready for heavy holiday meals with a daily dose of probiotics. Bolstering your microbiome in advance can protect against indigestion, heartburn, and constipation, and studies show that beneficial bacteria impact mood and energy, support the body’s ability to detoxify itself, and may help control appetite. Focus on probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kimchi, tempeh, and yogurt. And take a high-quality supplement. Look for fermented forms that also include prebiotics and postbiotics—healing compounds that enhance immune function and reduce gut inflammation.
3. Increase your fiber
Ample fiber from vegetables, fruits, seeds, and legumes keeps your colon moving right along and helps sweep toxins from the body. Toss kidney beans and shredded Brussels sprouts into salads; snack on raspberries or blackberries; add broccoli and acorn squash to soups; or have a baked sweet potato with coconut oil for breakfast.
4. Hydrate all day
Water is crucial for transporting nutrients and removing wastes. You need more than you think: divide your weight by two to find the number of ounces of water you should be drinking every day. Keep (not plastic) bottle of filtered water in your car and on your desk for constant hydration. Lace it with cranberry juice to stimulate your liver and prevent an accumulation of bacteria in your bladder. Or make a weak green tea to sip all day long. It’s rich in antioxidants and can help you gently kick your coffee habit.
5. Stretch your body
Amp up circulation and boost your digestive organs and lymphatic system with deep stretching. Yin Yoga focuses on long, luxurious stretches that stimulate the meridians— energy pathways in the body—and reduce stress. The stretches and twists in any form of yoga massage internal organs and enhance lymph function. And studies show that yogic meditation practices lower stress and reduce inflammation.
6. Reduce bloating with foods
Focus on foods that reduce belly bloat and aid in detox:
- Grapefruit helps reduce appetite and stimulates metabolism. It contains nootkatone, a compound that’s been shown to reduce abdominal fat.
- Asparagus contains asparagine, an amino acid that helps reduce water retention.
- High-water foods, such as celery, cucumber, melon, and tomatoes, hydrate the body and promote cleansing. Toss them into salads or add them to your morning smoothie.
7. Try dry brushing
Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, helps move water through the body, and encourages the elimination of toxins from the skin. Right before you shower, use a soft-bristled brush to lightly brush your body; start with fingers and toes, and move toward your heart for 3–5 minutes. Follow with a shower, alternating very warm and cold water—30 seconds each—to further boost circulation and move lymph. Or take a warm Epsom salt bath to further encourage toxin removal.
8. Stock up on detox herbs
Keep a variety of herbs that support liver, kidney, and gut health on hand, and work them into your daily routine. Red clover and parsley are thought to help carry waste out of the bloodstream; nettles support kidney and liver function; burdock has antimicrobial activities and works as a gentle diuretic; and milk thistle protects the liver and helps remove toxins and metabolic waste. Look for single herbs in capsules, tinctures, or teas, or combination formulas that support overall detox.
9. Sweat out toxins
Sweating escorts toxins from the body through the skin. Try a sauna or steam room, or move your body: vigorous physical activity encourages perspiration and stimulates movement of lymphatic fluid (plus, it helps burn fat, the primary storehouse for toxins). Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even a long hike through the wintry woods can help detox the body and clear the mind.
10. Upgrade breakfast smoothies
Ease up on the sugary fruits in your morning blender, and try a smoothie based on detoxifying vegetables. Try spinach, kale, celery, beets, carrots, and cucumber. They’re all rich in fiber and antioxidants that support cells during the detox process and fight inflammation. Add a handful of ground chia or flax seeds for extra fiber.
11. Destress, in advance
Detox your nervous system before the festivities with adaptogenic herbs that support the body’s natural stress-management systems. Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety by as much as 57 percent. Rhodiola, schisandra, holy basil, and maca are other good choices. Take them as capsules or teas, or add a dropperful of tincture to your morning smoothie.
12. Supersize your salads
Make one meal per day a big bowl of raw vegetables; they’re high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants, enzymes, and compounds that enhance detoxification. Focus on bitter greens such as dandelion, watercress, chicory, and endive to support liver function. Add crucifers such as cabbage, kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, and radishes; they’re rich in cancer-preventive glucosinolates that help remove toxic substances from the body. Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds for fiber and healthy fats. And dress your salad with a detoxifying blend of apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, and garlic.
13. Get more sleep
Deep, restful sleep is crucial for liver function and gut health, and chronic lack of sleep is linked with weight gain and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. A recent study also suggests that sleep clears the brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. If you’re tossing and turning at night, natural sleep aids can help. Try melatonin, passionflower, valerian, L-theanine, tryptophan, or magnesium.
14. User natural household cleaners
Household cleaners, fabric softeners, scented candles, air fresheners, fragrances, and lotions may contain parabens, DEA, phthalates, and other toxic endocrine disruptors—compounds that interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system and increase the risk of certain cancers. Toss your conventional cleaners and personal care products, and look for plant-based natural versions scented with pure essential oils.
Written by Lisa Turner for Better Nutrition and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image provided by Better Nutrition