Try as you may, you cannot avoid all toxins. They are everywhere: in the air, in the water supply, and in your food. Yes, even organic farmers use regular tap water to feed their crops. Tap water typically contains fluoride, a dangerous neurotoxin, and even bottled water is somewhat unsafe, because the plastic can leach into the water, especially since the bottles are likely to be subjected to heat at some point between the filling factory and the supermarket… think of all the time your bottled water must spend in trucks and shipping containers.

It is certainly wise to reduce your toxic intake as much as you reasonably can. But that’s not enough. You must also be pro-active in eliminating the toxins that snuck into your system. Don’t stress over the inevitable. A healthier attitude would be to mentally picture the toxins going into your body each day, and the ones that you are flushing out. If you take in more than you flush out, then the toxins will accumulate over time, and serious health problems can set in down the road.

Detoxification Methods

The body uses a variety of tools to expel toxins on a daily basis. Just because these methods are automatic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about assisting these systems to literally increase their output.

The body’s natural detoxification methods are: respiration, perspiration, urination and defecation.

1. Respiration

Each time you breathe, your body takes in oxygen from the air and expels carbon dioxide, a by-product of burning sugar. But for optimal performance, your breath should be deep and slow. If you forget to do this, your body will continue breathing anyway, but the inattentive breathing is typically shallow and fast, which will leave some cells without oxygen, and carbon dioxide will build up in your system.

2. Perspiration

The skin is the largest organ and luckily it is an eliminative organ. Profuse sweating will help the body rid excess toxins, certainly the ones at and near the skin, but internal toxins will be purged also, little by little. The easiest (and perhaps most enjoyable) way to achieve maximum detoxification through sweating is to use a sauna or in a steam bath. Remember that the skin not only expels toxins, but it also absorbs any toxin that comes into contact with it. Therefore, when laying in the sauna, wipe the sweat constantly with a towel to prevent re-absorption of the toxins. If you are in a steam bath, rinse yourself with chlorine-free water and send those toxins down the drain. For added benefits, use essential oils, either in the water that you pour over the sauna stones, or dropped directly onto the steam head. Also remember to breathe slowly and deeply, pulling the warm air deep into your lungs.

3. Urination/defecation

These methods of natural detoxification are helped by drinking plenty of water, and by eating a plant-based diet. Additionally, certain herbs have known diuretic properties, meaning that they increase the passing of urine. This should be used occasionally at most. A proper diet should eliminate the need for this. I have also found that exercise and certain types of healing massage can also assist both urination and defecation.

4. Movement

Movement helps your body to eliminate toxins, especially those that were hidden in stagnant tissues. When you re-mobilize these tissues, some toxins could be released into the blood providing the kidneys a second chance to eliminate them.

a) A good yoga class will increase the overall energy flow quite effectively. (Most classes will provide physical exercise, guided breathing and will often make you perspire.)

b) With passive yoga, a facilitator will assist you in obtaining the desired benefit, with a lowered risk of personal injury. The facilitator must find the stagnant energy and gently release it, such that energy flow is restored.

5. Fasting

An extended water fast is the king of all detoxification methods. I listed it last because it is used infrequently, but make no mistake, this is the most powerful way to allow your body to detoxify itself.

Fasting has been well-known for thousands of years. There is a very good reason that it is included in all religions: when you fast, your body gets rid of loads of useless “clutter”. And since your body, mind and spirit are one, the physical lightening has a direct positive effect on your mind, and brings both body and mind back in line with spirit.

A water fast can be for an arbitrary number of days (usually between 3 and 40 days), or you can decide at any moment that you’ve had enough. There are fasting centers (such as Tanglewood Wellness Center in Costa Rica) that receive guests from all over the world and provide a quiet, peaceful place to rest while fasting.

During the first 24-48 hours, the stomach still has acid in it due to the food consumed before the fast. This explains any feeling of “hunger”. Simply dilute the acid by drinking water, and the pain will go away. After two days, you will experience no further pain as an empty stomach is a relaxed one. If you had any ulcers before the fast, these will soon heal.

There are plenty of books and Web sites written about various cleanses and “juice fasts”. The use of the term “fast” right next to “juice” is misleading. To gain the benefits of a fast, one must abstain from ingesting nutrients other than pure water. There are definitely benefits from drinking cleansing (diuretic) herbal teas and plenty of juices from vegetables and fruits. But strictly speaking, this is not a fast and I would prefer to deal with this in my section on nutrition.

I will breifly mention that I have had good results from “the lemonade cleanse” and I know others that are fond of the “apple juice and olive oil” cleanse. But I would not necessarily recommend either of these extreme diets. In general, when you are eating, eat well. When you are fasting, you refrain from all nutrients except water, so that the body can play catch-up with all of the toxins that it didn’t yet have a chance to eliminate. Since we tend to eat and drink nutrients every day, our digestive system is always busy, and the body never switches into full detox mode until you are fasting.