Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead and aluminum, accumulate in the body over time and are suspected of triggering dangerous conditions like heart disease, thyroid problems, dementia, neurological conditions, autism, infertility and birth defects. The good news is that a heavy metal detox can remove these contaminants from your body and minimize their impact on your health.
Chelation, a controversial metal detox procedure in which metals are purged from the body, usually by way of an intravenous administration of certain drugs, has been touted as a miracle cure for many ailments. Its effectiveness as a treatment, however, has come under much scrutiny. It may be harmful, so it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor if you are considering it.
In the meantime, there are some less extreme steps you can take to reduce the amount of these heavy metals in your body.
Step 1: Be finicky about fish
Fish, especially ones that live for a long time, absorb mercury from the water they live in. Larger fish, such as tuna and swordfish, tend to have higher levels of mercury. Since an important step in mercury detoxification is reducing the amount you take in, it’s a good idea to limit your consumption of certain fish.
Step 2: Consider your dental work
Silver-colored fillings are usually made with a mercury amalgam, which may break down over time. If you have a lot of these fillings, you may want to talk with your dentist about a mercury detox — replacing them with tooth-colored resin fillings.
Step 3: Ask for mercury-free vaccines
While the mercury-based preservative thimerosal has been removed from most vaccines, there are still some that contain the controversial chemical, such as flu shots. But there are usually thimerosal-free alternatives available; you just have to ask for them.
Step 4: Look out for pollution
Pollution in our water and air can be a major source of harmful heavy metals. Steer clear of industrial areas when possible, and drink filtered water.
Step 5: Beware of old paint
As recently as the 1970s, paint was made with lead. So, if you live or work in an older structure, there’s a good chance there is lead-based paint somewhere beneath the most recent layer. Be mindful of places where paint might be chipping, and definitely keep small children from putting paint chips in their mouths.
If you are worried about lead exposure, see your doctor for a lead test. He or she can guide you to more specific metal detox treatments, if warranted.
Step 6: Order a side of cilantro
The herb cilantro, also known as coriander, has been found to be a natural chelating agent — and one that doesn’t have to be administered intravenously. “Cilantro chelation” typically calls for a small amount of fresh cilantro, which can be made into a pesto sauce and eaten over pasta or toast, consumed each day for a few weeks. But you may want to discuss it with your doctor first, especially if you take medications or have a health condition.
There are more dietary steps you can take to rid yourself not only of heavy metals but other toxins as well. Detox diets and detox recipes are more popular than ever, thanks to celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce. Sure, most detox recipes lead to drastic weight loss, but healthy detox focuses on the long-lasting benefits, both mental and physical, of cleansing your body.
But with so many detox diets out there, how do you know which is best for you? Here are some basic ways to naturally detox your diet.
Step 1: Eliminate toxins
Whether your reason for beginning a detox diet has to do with bad eating habits or a condition such as arthritis, you should always consult your doctor if you plan to make drastic changes to your diet. That said, the best way to begin a natural detox is to simply stop consuming toxins such as alcohol and tobacco. According to the National Institutes of Health, both are extremely harmful to your health and cause cancers and other diseases. Also consume less caffeine and less nonorganic produce.
Step 2: Cleanse your body
Many natural body cleanses include one to three days of fasting to remove any undigested food from your system. Before making the decision to fast, consult your physician or a medical professional. Fasting can be dangerous, especially for certain groups of people. The Mayo Clinic warns that if your body receives too few calories, you may develop life-threatening conditions, such as an irregular heartbeat.
Even with a medical professional’s go-ahead, fasting should not be considered a permanent weight-loss solution. Think of it as a natural way to cleanse the body before beginning a healthier lifestyle.
Step 3: Drink water
Water is a natural body cleanser. Ask your doctor how much water you should drink and how you can maintain a healthy electrolyte balance while fasting. You don’t want to become dehydrated, but you also don’t want to drink too much water, as that can be life threatening as well.
If you get tired of drinking plain water, add a few drops of fresh-squeezed lemon or a couple of slices of cucumber. Another great source of water is tea, especially antioxidant-rich green tea.
Step 4: Change your diet
For natural detox, you don’t have to be limited to raw fruits and veggies. It may be easier to simply cut out specific foods that are not healthy for you. A good way to start is to cut out dairy foods, grains with gluten, meat and shellfish. Also avoid artificial sweeteners, sugars and processed foods that are high in saturated fats. Eat as much organic food as possible because it is more likely to be pesticide-free.
Step 5: Get the right amount of vitamins and minerals
Natural detox is not just about eliminating toxins and harmful foods; you also want to focus on getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best. According to the USDA, these fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins and minerals: carrots, broccoli, avocado, orange-colored fruits, citrus, bananas and leafy greens. If you’re worried that you may not be getting the vitamins you need in your detox recipes, consider taking a multivitamin supplement.
Step 6: Don’t forget about herbs and spices
Herbs and spices can help your body remove toxins and digest food properly. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has shown that certain herbs and spices, such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum), cloves (Eugenia aromatica), garlic (Allium sativum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa), have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic may help reduce blood pressure and alleviate ulcers, for example, while turmeric may protect against some cancers.
Step 7: Make it permanent
Your liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal system are designed to remove toxins, but pollution, pesticides and other harmful chemicals can eventually overwhelm the body. A natural detox — nothing drastic! — will go a long way toward giving you more energy and making you feel better about yourself.
Make your detox diet your permanent diet, and your body will thank you.