Whilst short-term detoxes can be a helpful little holiday for your body, claims that they can rid the body of 'stored toxins' and leave a squeaky clean 'new you' are misleading. Our bodies are excellent detoxification machines. They have to be! We are constantly cleansing and removing the toxic by-products of living, and are equipped with a number of organ systems that efficiently and very effectively remove these everyday poisons from our bodies. Our lungs, digestive system, skin and, of course, the liver are all organs of detoxification. The key is to make sure these organ systems can work optimally every single day.

What are Toxins?
Toxins are anything that we inhale, ingest, absorb or make that is harmful to our body's wellbeing. I say 'make' as many of the toxins we need to eliminate are actually the natural by-products of living - such as carbon dioxide from breathing, the waste products from digestion, and free radicals from cell function. Other toxins include the numerous chemicals from food, cosmetics, pollution, alcohol and environmental chemicals.

We can see that everyday life generates many toxins that our body has to deal with. An occasional 'detox', be it a three-day juice fast or 21-day regime of gluten, sugar and dairy-free clean eating, will be a nice nutritional holiday for the body, but it will not provide any long-term support for the ongoing detox challenge your body manages.

If your body is struggling to remove toxins, or you are taking too many in through diet and your environment, then there is a strong chance these toxins will start affecting your health. You might not be able to avoid these toxins either. For instance, an nail technician or mechanic will endure high levels of chemical air pollution through their work, a shift worker will have interrupted sleep patterns inhibiting the body's rest-and-repair cycle, etc. The effects of chemical build-up in the body, free radical damage, and poor elimination are profound, and it is wise to make sure our body is supported in its attempts to keep us as healthy as possible.

So here are five easy ways to regularly support detoxification

1. Eat plants
Our livers do an excellent job of neutralising toxins and safely removing them from the body. However, a specific number of key nutrients are required, such as B vitamins, sulphur and magnesium. By eating a healthy amount of organic plants, particularly green leafy vegetables, we will help ensure that our nutrient requirements are met. Vegetables are also an excellent source of fibre, which helps to clear toxic waste through the digestive tract.

2. Dry skin brush
Dry skin brushing daily will help circulate blood and lymph throughout your body, invigorating your body's tissues and helping to remove cellular waste. Using a dry skin brush, do four strokes on each part of the arms, legs, back and torso, directing the strokes towards the heart, and using a clockwise pattern over the abdomen to help digestion. Dry skin brushing is also excellent for toning the skin and reducing cellulite.

3. Oil pulling
An ancient Ayurvedic technique, oil pulling is thought to help remove toxins from the body via the gums. It is also wonderful for gum and dental health. It involves vigorously swishing a tablespoon coconut or sesame oil through the mouth, gums and teeth for twenty minutes daily. You then spit the oil out (which should now be white in colour), and rinse the mouth with water. Do this every day before brushing your teeth.

4. Drink lemon water
Drinking water with fresh lemon juice has so many health benefits, from helping digestion, keeping the skin clear, as well as being packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Lemon juice also helps to steady the energy release from food, stabilising insulin levels which helps with weight loss.

5. Saunas
Saunas have been used for hundreds of years for their many health benefits. We now know why - raising the body temperature enhances circulation and oxygenates the body's tissues. Viruses and toxin-laden cells do not tolerate heat well, so saunas help the body heal illness. Saunas also encourage the body to sweat, and as the skin is one of the body's main organs of elimination, this helps to safely remove toxins from the body. Make sure to replace lost fluids after a sauna by drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.
Fiona O’Farrell is a licensed acupuncturist and naturopath, and runs The Gate Clinic in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. For more information, call 01 201 7210 or visit www.thegateclinic.ie.
Natural Health Therapist