We can accumulate toxins by ingesting or inhaling chemicals from household cleaners, beauty products, air pollution, pesticides, heavy metals and even additives in our food.
The result of exposure can be the gradual accumulation of toxins in your body that, in turn, can put a major burden on your body's organs of elimination.
The liver, kidneys, skin and intestines, which normally filter out wastes and toxins, can become overloaded and have difficulty doing their jobs.
When this happens, your digestion, circulation and metabolism can be thrown out of whack. You may experience symptoms such as constipation, bloating, weight gain, poor skin tone and fatigue—and vulnerability to chronic health problems if toxic exposure goes unchecked.
In addition to helping you avoid harmful health effects and improve your wellbeing, certain foods help your body to detoxify from health-injuring substances by boosting the action of detoxification enzymes, which help filter the blood and eliminate toxins.
Science already tells us, for example, that people who eat a lot of brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, tend to have a lower lifetime risk of getting cancer.1 One of the reasons is that these veggies contain an anticancer chemical called indole-3-carbinol.2
This compound maximizes the work of detoxification enzymes in the liver, which in turn helps prevent the buildup of carcinogens in the body.
Produced naturally in the body, detoxification enzymes are found in every organ system, including the breast, lung, stomach and liver. These enzymes are your first line of defense against all the toxins that come into your body. This is why the food you eat is so important: it ramps up their power.
Resetting the system
My 48-Hour Toxin Takedown is a two-day plan in which you'll infuse your body with a high concentration of foods that boost the action of these enzymes and help your body maximize its ability to purge itself of environmental toxins.
Later on, and hopefully for a lifetime, you'll incorporate these foods and nutrients into your diet so that your detoxification enzymes can do their work, day in and day out, and rid your system of unwanted toxins.
Research backs this up. An excellent example has to do with bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical found in the lining of cans used for food and soft drinks. As an endocrine disruptor, it messes with your hormones, which can lead to cancer, obesity and reproductive issues.
A 2012 study conducted by researchers at the US Environmental Protection Agency found that a 48-hour water-only fast eliminated significant amounts of BPA from people who had this chemical in their systems.3 I'm definitely not advocating a two-day water fast, but this study shows that a nasty toxin like BPA can leave the body rather quickly, given the right resources.
By giving your body certain foods and nutrients for 48 hours, you're fortifying your detoxification system and allowing your body to detox on its own. You can try it for 48 hours to see how you feel and continue on from there by following a consistently healthy, organic diet with foods that support detoxification.
Or, you can use the Takedown as a form of "intermittent fasting"—by using it once a week. Research shows that intermittent fasting is one of the most effective interventions for normalizing your weight, activating your body's fat-burning mode, regulating blood sugar, reducing your risk of chronic disease and preventing dementia.4
Another way to incorporate the Takedown is for "damage control," such as after a weekend when you've overindulged on alcohol, sweets, too much sodium, processed foods and so forth. You can even extend the Takedown to five or seven days, if you're brave and like your results.
A 2000 study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine investigated whether a seven-day
detox was beneficial. The diet included fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, rice, legumes and optional foods such as turkey, fish and various grains (buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa and brown rice). Not allowed were sweets, caffeine products, alcohol, eggs or gluten-containing foods.
In many ways, the food plan was similar to the 48-Hour Toxin Takedown. After the seven-day experimental period ended, all laboratory measures showed improved detoxification capacity,
and the participants reported that they felt better.5
What to eat on the detox
For two days, you will reward your body with wholesome foods and rid your system of waste and toxins.
The Takedown focuses on some key detoxification foods:
Artichokes. Few detoxifying diets would be complete without artichokes, which taste delicious on salads. Artichoke leaves have properties that stimulate the production of bile, which helps shuttle toxins out of the liver and, ultimately, out of the body.6
Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants including silymarin (known to protect the liver from toxins).
Beans. You can substitute ¾ cup of black beans for animal protein on the Takedown, as well as put them on salads. Beans are a top source of fiber, which scrubs your digestive tract so it's free of toxins. They also provide the protein from which phase 1 and phase 2 liver enzymes are manufactured.
Beets. Beets contain an antioxidant called betanin, which increases the activity of phase 2 detoxification enzymes, according to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, in which researchers found that betanin protects the liver—the body's main organ for detoxification—and helps prevent cancer. 7
Brassica vegetables. These include kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. They are excellent sources of phytochemicals known to turn on our detoxification enzymes and protect against cancer.
Cilantro (coriander). This popular salsa ingredient has a direct "chelating" (removal) effect on a number of heavy metals including mercury and lead, both of which are highly toxic to the body and particularly the brain.
Garlic and onions. Enjoying these veggies on a regular basis powerfully boosts the activity of phase 2 detoxification enzymes, according to a 2003 report published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.8
Green leafy vegetables. Spinach, kale, collards, lettuces and other green leafy vegetables are thought to have several beneficial properties such as antioxidant, anticancer and detoxification activity, according to a 2016 study published in the biomedical journal PeerJ.9
The report mentions that one of the key detoxifying components in these veggies is chlorophyll, which gives these foods their green color. This pigment helps plants absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis and growth, and it is essential to all life on earth.
Probiotic/fermented vegetables. Two fermented foods are included in the plan: kimchi and sauerkraut. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. It is teeming with probiotics.
The main ingredients in kimchi are brassica vegetables, along with other detox foods and spices, including garlic, ginger and red pepper powder. A 2014 review of kimchi published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that kimchi fights obesity, constipation and other digestive problems, abnormally high cholesterol levels, immune disorders, poor skin and brain degeneration.10
As for sauerkraut, not only does it supply probiotics, but it is made solely from cabbage. Cabbage contains compounds known as glucosinolates, which turn on our detoxification enzymes and help the liver, according to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2005, along with many other studies in the scientific literature.2
Fruit. You'll enjoy two fresh fruits daily (and more fruit as part of a freshly made juice). The fruits I recommend for detoxification are any of the citrus fruits—such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit—and berries.
Citrus fruits contain limonoids, which influence the activity of phase 2 detoxifying enzymes, according to a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010.11
Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and cranberries, are loaded with flavonoids, natural plant nutrients that increase the activity of liver detoxification enzymes.
Fruits (and veggies) are also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps usher toxins out of the intestinal tract. Fruits in general are also high in water content, which aids in detoxification.
Grains. These foods are "absorbent" carbohydrates, meaning that they're brilliant for clutching on to and clearing out toxic waste buildup in the intestines.
The two grains I emphasize on this plan are quinoa and steel cut oats. Although technically not a grain (it is referred to as a grain because it resembles grains in appearance), quinoa is actually a seed.
The kernels can be red, black, white or golden in color. It does not contain gluten, making it a terrific carb if you're sensitive to gluten in any way, and it does not belong to the same plant family as wheat. It's an excellent source of B vitamins, potassium and phytonutrients.
Steel cut oats retain more nutrients than rolled oats and other varieties. And they're packed with detoxifying fiber.
Lean proteins. You have the choice of organic free-range chicken or wild-caught salmon for dinner. Vegetarians and vegans can opt for black beans or lentils. All are high-quality, well-absorbed proteins that supply key amino acids to help build detoxification enzymes in the body.
Fats and oils. I recommend coconut oil for detoxification, mainly because it provides quick, carb-like fuel for energy. Coconut oil is made up primarily of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that is metabolized differently from other fats.
It is less likely to be stored as fat and has a thermogenic effect, meaning that it increases fat burning. It also has antimicrobial properties and helps restore gut health.
Avocado. Besides supplying essential fats for whole-body health, the avocado is a significant source of glutathione, an important detoxifying substance in the liver.
Dairy. The Takedown includes grass- or pasture-raised dairy yogurt, which provides probiotics for gut health and intestinal detoxification. Because it contains protein, yogurt also provides amino acids necessary for creating phase 2 detoxifying enzymes.
Seeds. Pumpkin seeds pack a punch in terms of protein, healthy fats, carotenoids and vitamin E. In research, they've been found to help control blood sugar, fight cancer, normalize blood pressure and protect the heart.12
A source of good fats, flaxseeds are excellent for "spring cleaning" the intestinal tract to eliminate toxins.
The Toxin Takedown plan
First thing in the morning: warm lemon juice
Breakfast: one to two pieces of organic fruit and 2 Tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed with pasture-raised dairy yogurt or steel cut oats
Midmorning: Takedown Juice
Lunch: large salad of raw greens (baby spinach, baby kale, arugula) topped with other veggies such as artichokes, broccoli florets, shredded carrots, red onion, sliced hard-boiled egg (optional) and raw pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with Coconut Oil Dressing
Midafternoon: Takedown Juice
Dinner: Quinoa Stir-fry. Option to add lentils, black beans, chicken or fish.
First thing in the morning: warm lemon juice.
Breakfast: one to two pieces of organic fruit and 2 Tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed with pastured-raised dairy yogurt or steel cut oats
Midmorning: Takedown Juice
Lunch: simple avocado salad with artichoke hearts, drizzled with Coconut Oil Dressing, served on sliced organic tomato, or green raw salad from Day 1, or leftover Quinoa Stir-fry (as a time saver)
Midafternoon: Takedown Juice
Dinner: grilled wild salmon or grilled chicken breast or ¾ cup black beans or lentils; Garlic Mashed Cauliflower (page 57); small mixed green salad with balsamic vinegar and a side of kimchi or sauerkraut.
Guidelines for both days
Eat whole, organic foods. This will limit the amount of food additives and toxins you ingest from processed foods, making it easier for your liver to do its job.
Drink water, at least 64 ounces (1.9 liters) of spring or filtered water each day, to help flush out toxins. This also helps your body absorb nutrients.
Include herbal teas in addition to water. Good choices include decaffeinated green tea, dandelion, hibiscus, chamomile (best in the evening because this herb promotes restful sleep), mint and dandelion.
Drink a cup of warm lemon water with cayenne pepper as soon as you get up in the morning. Squeeze one-half of the lemon into a cup of warm water, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper (for extra detoxifying and metabolism boosting). If you don't like lemon or cayenne, lime water or apple cider vinegar is a great substitute.
For midmorning and midafternoon snacks, enjoy a glass of my 48-Hour Toxin Takedown Juice, made with vegetables known to rid the body of toxins. The juice recipe also calls for the addition of super green powder, a supplement that contains spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass and other concentrated plant sources of detoxifying nutrients.
Give up for 48 hours: coffee, caffeinated foods, regular tea, salt, dairy products (with the exception of yogurt), alcohol, sweets, sweeteners (including artificial sweeteners), soft drinks, diet drinks, nondairy coffee creamers and any processed foods.
Prep time: 10 minutes
2 cups dandelion greens, kale or spinach
1 handful parsley
1-inch (2.5-cm) piece of ginger root
1 green apple, core removed
½ lemon, peel removed
Wash all vegetables thoroughly before juicing. Juice each vegetable in this order: greens, cucumber, parsley, ginger, apple and lemon. Stir before serving.
Coconut Oil Dressing
Prep time: 5 minutes
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp raw honey
½ tsp grated turmeric root (or ¼ tsp ground turmeric)
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Serve with your favorite salad.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 carrot, sliced on the bias
½ red bell pepper, sliced
½ cup chopped bok choy
1 scallion, chopped
2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari
1 cup (185 g) cooked quinoa
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
2 Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute.
3 Add the carrot, pepper, bok choy and scallion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
4 Add the tamari and 2 Tbsp of filtered water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
5 Add the quinoa to the sauté pan and mix to combine.
6 Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp grass-fed butter
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp chopped chives
1 Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower and garlic clove and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly and place back in the pot.
2 Add the butter and mash with a potato masher until a creamy purée has formed.
3 Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chives and serve warm.
Adapted from Feeding You Lies by Vani Hari (Hay House, 2019)