Your cautiously curated Instagram feed of French bulldogs, travel photography and tea has an intruder. The tempting message to abandon your sensible fitness goals has infiltrated your consciousness via your favorite health beverage. Some of the tea brands and bloggers you love are promoting the myth of detoxing your body with tea.
You’ve skeptical of the claims but still slightly curious. You know all the health benefits of tea. Could there be any truth to the detox claims?
The short answer is no. The myth of detoxing your body with a drink, a pill or a fast needs to stop here. What we really need to talk about is the system your body already has in place for detoxification and how to best support it.
Your body is set up with a purifying system that works extremely well when it isn’t overloaded and distracted. The pathway to get unwanted things out of your body is solidly in place. You just need to keep the main path clear.
Here are the three main organs that remove waste and toxins from the body.
- Liver: the main function is to filter blood coming from the digestive tract before it goes through the rest of the body. Part of this function includes metabolizing drugs and detoxifying chemicals from the body.
- Kidneys: they serve to extract waste and toxins from the blood and eliminate them from the body in urine.
- Colon: it processes any waste remaining from digestion and helps eliminate it.
The problem is when you overload any system it doesn’t function optimally. Think about your computer when you have 15 tabs open looking for the perfect cabinet handles while watching a video on laying tile and creating a blueprint for the kitchen remodel. Eventually, the wheel will start spinning, your screen will freeze and you’re forced to take a bathroom break out of frustration.
Your body starts spinning and freezes up when you ask too much of it. The good news is you don’t have to stop altogether and drink nothing but tea or juice for three days to help it work efficiently again. There are actions you can take to assist your natural detoxification system in working the way it was designed that don’t require dieting or fasting.
Say no to alcohol. The social pressure and normalization of a couple of glasses of wine after work are creating chaos with women’s livers. Any alcohol hits the liver first and nothing else gets processed until it is metabolized. If you are estrogen dominate or on HRT this is especially important to consider. The liver is responsible for clearing out excess estrogen, therefore supporting healthy hormone balance. Here is were drinking tea or sparkling water instead of a cocktail can help.
Make sure you’re getting enough water. If you want to keep things from hanging out too long in your colon make sure you are staying hydrated. Check your next stool with the Bristol Scale. If you’re a 1 or 2, it’s time to increase your water intake. If your urine is dark yellow that may also be a sign of dehydration. A good rule of thumb is 64 ounces of water a day, but that can vary based on body size, activity level, weather and certain health conditions. Keep drinking until your urine is clear or pale yellow for a better indication of how much water you should drink.
Check your fiber intake. The Standard American Diet woefully lacks in fiber. There’s even an argument that the recommended 30-45 grams of fiber a day are well under what our body needs to be its best. (Here’s the fascinating NPR story about what you need to keep your gut thriving.) Do a food log for a few days to specifically track fiber and see where you are. If you’re not getting your RDA of fiber start by adding extra vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Not only do they help keep things moving, but they can also help naturally reduce estrogen dominance.
Get at least seven hours of sleep a night. You can’t expect your body to do the behind the scenes dirty work of detoxification while it’s navigating budget resolutions and powering you through a kickboxing class. Sleep is where we do the best clean-up work, so give your body time to work in peace. If you have trouble winding down try setting an alarm for 30 to 60 minutes before you want to go to bed to signal bedtime. Then spend the time downshifting with meditation, reading or other quiet and low light activities. Check out this Fit Life segment I did for more ideas to create a healthy sleep ritual.
Strengthen your stress management routine. Stress increases the amount of cortisol in our body, a useful thing for when our stress was from isolated and temporary threats. Now many people live in a near constant state of fight or flight. High levels of cortisol blunt the function of both the immune system and the digestive system. (Because you don’t want to have to stop and go while running from the tiger.) Stress also becomes a double whammy when your default coping mechanism is a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir. The best detox you can do is a mental one, working to develop healthy strategies to deal with stress and cultivate a growth mindset. Try making a self-care kit or one of these other stress beating techniques that don’t include alcohol.
Don’t be tempted to waste money on tea or anything else for a quick detox. Ignore the myths about detoxing your body. You’re much better off being kinder to your body on a regular basis by lightening the load, doing the little things daily and unfollowing a few people on Instagram.