We live in a toxic world. "The question is not, am I toxic, but how toxic am I?" This is the wisdom of Dr. Loretta Friedman who works with patients to rid their bodies of pollutants that can be causing bloating, chronic fatigue, weight gain, digestive disorders, joint pain, and more, and they don't realize the root cause is inflammation related to toxins. "Whether it's the air your breathe or the water your drink or the food you eat, they all contain toxins" she explains.

Rather than seek out over-the-counter relief for pain or digestive issues, which can further suppress the body's filtering abilities and cause additional chemical load on the body, Dr. Loretta counsels patients who show up with pain, or generalized symptoms at Synergy Health Associates, her New York City chiropractic practice, to change their diet and find ways to lower their toxicity. "Oftentimes we fail to recognize what toxins are doing to our bodies because it’s an everyday occurrence and we are not getting any relief." To remedy ailments that are made worse by this chemical load, Dr. Loretta suggests eating seven foods on repeat that will help your body's natural cleansing process, especially the kidneys, liver, intestines, and immune system, all of which works to filter and eliminate toxins that cause your body to not be operating at its optimal health. The symptoms can be conditions we learn to live with:

  • Bloating
  • Weight Gain
  • Immune Suppression
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Joint Pain
  • Unexplained Bruise and injuries
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Skin Conditions
  • Sinus Infections
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Chronic Inflammation

"Who do you know who doesn’t have at least three of those things at some point," she asks. "These things occur all the time with such frequency that people ignore them or don't go to seek help, or they do go to the doctor, and they are sent in the wrong direction since they are put on medications that actually add to their problems, creating further toxic load, especially proton inhibitors (for heartburn), which she says can cause more symptoms than they solve.

The key is healthy living and healthy eating and you have to eat fruits and vegetables that don't contain all types of pesticides and chemicals on or in them, she explains. "Animal proteins, unfortunately, are the worst offenders of these toxins because they are full of hormones and steroids and antibiotics that harm us if eaten in our everyday diet," she adds.

The connection between toxins we eat and how we respond to infections

As a former operating room nurse who specialized in open-heart surgery and kidney transplants as well as cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Loretta recalls the way different patients would respond to antibiotics and be struck by how those patients who did the best were also the ones with the cleanest diets. "I worked inpatient care for 15 to 20 years, back when the medical profession gave out antibiotics like they were candy, for everything from an ingrown toenail to a toothache. Now it's swung so far the other direction that when someone actually needs antibiotics they can’t get it or the antibiotics are ineffective because we are fighting so many toxins in our bodies every day that these drugs have less effect when we do take them. Our bodies are not flushing these toxins out, so we are not able to rid ourselves of infections as readily. We need to eat to support the important work of our liver and kidneys and lymphatic system, which means more of the foods that help our bodies eliminate toxins."

How to eat to beat the toxins in our bodies that cause inflammation, weight gain, fatigue, and immune suppression?  "You can't avoid toxins," Freidman explains. "If you want to avoid toxins go live in a bubble somewhere. But if you want to avoid toxicity, you can eat to help your body flush the toxins out. Plant-foods such as beans, apples, and semi-wild foods like herbs and nuts have been shown over the decades to help liver function and boost natural filtering, according to studies. Here's what to add to your plate to detox and stay healthy:

Here are 7 foods to add more of to your plate to help your natural ability to detox, fast.

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1. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel sprouts

Broccoli and Brussel sprouts and cauliflower are some of the best foods to help the body rid itself of toxins. These foods help boost the liver's health, through anti-cancer activity and anti-inflammatory and anti-viral compounds in these vegetables. They help boost liver function on a cellular basis with their powerful antioxidants. The liver works all day and night to detoxify the body, but eating animal products or anything chemical (junk food) can interrupt that work, so these vegetables help the liver detox and get back to doing its job.

How it works: These cruciferous all provide high levels of strong antioxidant effects on the body and help boost your immune cells, which scavenge and kill foreign agents– including viruses and even cancer cells, anything that we don't want in our system–all the bad guys running around. Oxidization causes premature aging on a cellular basis and the anti-oxidants in these vegetables help fight that. "Chronic stress causes something called "weathering" on the body," Dr. Loretta explains. So chronic stress deteriorates cells and ages our bodies. One thing that helps: purple cruciferous vegetables like purple cauliflower, which studies show delivers more antioxidants than even the white variety. Cruciferous vegetables are specifically helpful to liver function, as studies have shown. Load up on the broccoli and Brussel sprouts.

For more on how cruciferous vegetable consumption help liver health read this. 

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2. Lemons, limes, and all citrus (combined with walking)

Lemons are very powerful to prevent oxidative stress on the body and especially the liver because they are full of vitamin C they have the ability to boost the production of healthy immune cells, and aid in detoxification. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that the citric acid in lemons helps protect liver function and prevents oxidative stress-related damage in the body.

Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found women who combined daily walking with drinking lemon water lowered their blood pressure dramatically. It appears that the two together, lemon combined with daily walking, "are effective for high blood pressure because both showed a significant negative correlation to systolic blood pressure."  Walking is great for circulation and lung health, and Dr. Loretta points out that your lungs are vital organs to help in detoxing, especially breathing in clear open-air environments (so don't walk by a busy roadway, but instead in a park or along a river path).

Citric Acid has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, especially on the brain and the liver, according to this study in mice. The mice were treated with a toxin and then citric acid and it appeared to improve liver function and brain function and while the toxins created cellular damage, the citric acid helped reverse that. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and all citrus fruit have citric acid, so make sure to get your daily dose of citrus.

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3. Garlic, the more the better, for overall health

Garlic may be a miracle food: It appears to help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help fight diabetes and also support liver function, thereby giving your body a detox boost. It has seven essential enzymes that assist in detoxification, including sulfur compounds that are essential for supporting the liver and activating enzymes that are responsible for flushing out toxins and waste from the body. Garlic also supports the thyroid gland and promotes Lymph flow, according to Dr. Loretta.

Because of these sulfur compounds, and specifically allicin, garlic is also known to have antibacterial and anti-viral, anti-fungal effect in the body, and has been used medicinally for centuries (it's also what makes your breath smell). So when someone tells you you have garlic breath, answer that you know but it is also actively supporting your liver and helping it flush out any toxins from the body.

A review study about garlic published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found that this spicy additive delivers a whole host of health benefits, including this: A 1990 study "concluded that garlic may be the most potent food having cancer-preventive properties. Garlic has a variety of anti-tumor effects, including tumor cell growth inhibition and chemopreventive effects. In rodents, garlic and its constituents have been reported to inhibit the development of chemically induced tumors in the liver."

To read more about the health benefits of garlic, read this study.

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4. Avocados, spinach, asparagus, and okra for glutathione

You might think that avocados are healthiest for their fat quotient, which is known to be the "good" fat for heart health. But they are also an incredible source oft contains glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant. Your body can make glutathione, from three amino acids (glutamine, glycine, and cysteine) but when you are short of any of the building blocks, you leave yourself open to the environmental toxins and free radical damage that can cause havoc in the system. Enter the avocado. Rather than take gutathione supplements, eat half an avocado a day to access this antioxidant and all its benefits to fight toxins and cell damage.

Glutathione is especially helpful to the liver, since it helps eliminate toxins from the body, and helps in lymphatic flow, says Dr. Loretta. A review study found that glutathione is a scavenger that finds and eliminates bad agents. The study, explained: Glutathione is involved in the detoxification of both xenobiotic and endogenous compounds [foreign and your own cells]. It facilitates excretion from cells, facilitates excretion from the body...  and directly neutralizes many oxidative chemicals. Glutathione facilitates the plasma membrane transport of toxins by at least 4 different mechanisms, the most important of which is the formation of glutathione S-conjugates." Sounds like science and we trust research. Along with avocados, glutathione-rich foods are spinach, asparagus, and okra. Eat those on repeat for detoxing purposes.

For more on how glutathione helps detox your body read this study.

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5. Seeds and Nuts for Omega 3 fatty acids

When you think about detoxing, don't forget about seeds and nuts, especially Walnuts, Flax Seeds, and Chia Seeds which are all rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, says Dr. Loretta.  One study found that the Omega3 fatty acids in seeds and nuts are essential in helping your gut microbiota cleanse and eliminate unhealthy bacteria or toxins, which in turns means lower inflammation and an increase in immune function, since "several studies have shown that the intestinal microbiota is important for the development of the systemic and gut immune response" especially the mobilizing of T-cells to fight invaders. So the more regularly you add nuts and seeds to your diet (even a small amount daily), the better you feel: More energetic, less sluggish or like you have a low-grade infection.

Nuts are also well known to support brain health, liver health, and Lymphatic flow. Eat a variety of nuts to healthiest effects, since each delivers different benefits. Walnut contains L-Arginine and glutathione as well as Omega 3 fatty acids which help detox the liver and support toxin elimination. Add chia seeds and flax seeds to smoothies, since they are also high in Omega 3s. All of these tiny little helpers are powerful when it comes to detoxing and supporting the liver in removing waste and lowering inflammation

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6. Herbs and spices such as rosemary and turmeric

"Don't forget about herbs," Dr. Loretta adds since studies show that a multitude of plants and herbs are good for digestion, liver health, and lymphatic flow, which has been studied in the lab as well as patients with liver disease.

"Diets rich in plant ingredients are getting popular now for human health and people are taking supplements from plant origin both in over-the-counter and in the prescription form to detoxify and cleanse the liver. Prevention and treatment of liver disease by the dietary or herbal method is one of the important components of complementary and alternative medicine," the study observes. People don't think specifically about liver health, but they should Dr. Loretta explains since it works hard to eliminate toxins and it needs all the support it can get.

Rosemary is great for lung health and promotes brain synapses, while turmeric is an incredible herb containing antioxidants that help to repair liver cells, protect against cellular damage, and reduces the inflammatory response in the body, Dr. Friedman points out.

It helps with liver repair, detoxification of heavy metals that sneak into your food and helps boost liver function. "Turmeric is particularly good at helping the liver detox from pollutants such as heavy metals and assists the liver do its job," Dr. Loretta adds. The best way to get enough into your diet is to make a tea out of them, she adds. "These herbs should be steeped in hot water and made into a tea," she suggests, "so they improve immune response: Pokeroot, Echinacea, Astragalus, Parsley, Goldenseal, Wild Indigo Root, and Cilantro."

For more information on exactly what to eat for liver health read this.

More foods that support liver health, according to studies

Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

7. Whole grains such as brown rice and barley, oats and wheat

There is a body of research that shows people who ate a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains and avoid meat, dairy and animal products had lower incidence of fatty liver disease, better lipid metabolism and stronger antioxidant activity. There is no better way to support your body's own detoxification efforts than to load up on a diet of whole plant-based foods and minimize processed food, animal products, and refined carbs like sugar.

For a full table of foods that support liver health and how, including vegetables, fruits such as bananas, and grains such as brown rice, see this study. 

In a four-week diet study, 45 patients were assigned to different diet groups, and the ones who were put on a whole food diet of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains found that they lost weight and succeeded in "elemental detox," according to the authors who tested their hair and urine samples through the course of the diet.

The diet was found to "reduce certain toxic elements (heavy metals) in hair compared to the control group, the authors found. The volunteers also lost body fat and weight in four weeks, and though the study was small and short, the conclusion was: A "detox program might have several beneficial effects and safety such as body fat reduction and improving some the element detoxification through caloric restriction. This study lays the scientific foundation for a subsequent large-scale corroborative clinical study."

When you do a detox diet, don't expect results to take less than 30 days, Dr. Loretta adds, since you may not see changes overnight. "It is a lifestyle change. It takes time but within 30 days you should see changes. Medications work in a week. Natural foods and supplements take a little more time to get to their therapeutic level and to maintain it."
But within 30 days you will feel better, she promises. You will be sleeping better. You won't feel as heavy and full and tight all the time, she adds. "All that fluid and water accumulation will start to leave your body. You will lose a few pounds–approximately 3 to 5 pounds of water weight– leaves the body automatically. Toxins keep us walking around with water weight. There isn’t a patient I haven’t put on a detox or changed their eating habits when they don't feel significantly better. They are always so grateful someone taught them to feel better and not like they are dragging their butts all over town." Sounds like a benefit we could all use.