How to support the body’s seven channels of elimination

From dandelion root to garlic, see the all-natural ingredients that can help revitalize your body for spring.

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A healthy woman drinks tea (or coffee) on the beach
Photo, Istock.

Don’t despair if your New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and you’ve already forgotten about it. Spring is the perfect time to renew your goals, or start new ones altogether. Your energy is likely already up as the days are getting longer, brighter and (slowly) warmer. I’ve always recommended cleansing to my patients to kick-start weight loss, by eating detoxifying foods in conjunction with an herbal cleanse (especially after a season of hibernating and eating comfort food). Here are my tips for aiding the body’s seven channels of elimination:

1. Colon
Herbs that support the colon during a cleanse are rhubarb root, triphala and flaxseed though you should avoid cleansing kits that contain senna or cascara sagrada. These laxative herbs, while natural, can be harsh and habit forming.

Adding extra fibre is also important for colon health in general. We need soluble and insoluble fibre to soak and move out toxins from the body. Try increasing fibre to 25-30 grams per day during a cleanse and take advantage of spring’s produce by experimenting with new vegetables and fruits.

Challenge yourself to eat a very large salad consisting of at least six vegetables per day. You can incorporate antioxidant-rich foods like kale, avocado, lima beans, peas, spinach, raspberries and apples that are also high in fibre. Add some nuts or hemp seeds for added fibre and crunch!

2. Liver
Herbs that support liver detoxification are milk thistle, artichoke leaf, dandelion root, and garlic! Many of these herbs are available as teas that you can sip on for added cleansing benefits. Juicing green vegetables with lemon and ginger is a great detoxifying tonic for the liver, although I caution against strict juice cleanses that promote sugary fruit juices. A vegetable juice is great as a snack during a sensible cleanse, which should promote healthy eating habits.

3. Kidneys
Dandelion root and nettle leaf are also great for supporting the kidneys. Nettle tea in particular has an anti-inflammatory effect due to its high levels of antioxidants, which protect the body from the over-production of free radicals. These herbs can be found in herbal cleansing programs as well as in teas.

4. Lungs
Mullein leaf is often used to treat respiratory problems. It’s also great to look for in a cleansing kit to support the lungs. We are exposed to an ever-increasing number of toxins every day, and the majority are absorbed by the air we breathe or ingested from the food we eat. Our lungs protect us and need some support in return.

5. Blood
Hawthorn berry is a great antioxidant which is used to promote the health of the circulatory system, to treat high blood pressure, and early stages of heart disease. Also look for red clover, a great herb for cleansing the blood.

6. Lymphatic system
Green tea is an excellent antioxidant that helps the lymphatic system further release toxins. The lymphatic system comprises of the lymph vessels, lymph nodes and lymph. Tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of this network that is responsible for ridding the body of toxins.

7. Skin
By far the largest channel of elimination. You can help it eliminate toxins by exercising for at least 20 minutes per day, drinking dandelion root tea and eating lots of colourful fruits and veggies. Stick to high-fibre fruits like berries that are packed with antioxidants during a cleanse for an added boost.

When you’re looking to feel more energized and healthy, always look to add more dark orange, red and purple veggies to your diet, which have been shown to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema. Water further helps to draw out impurities so be sure you’re drinking plenty every day.

Avoid fasts and fruit juices by eating a sensible diet. I recommend whole foods like gluten-free grains, lean organic meats, organic vegetables and fruits and nuts and seeds. Consider adding a good herbal cleansing kit with all of the ingredients listed above, to help support the seven channels of elimination.

Remember, cleansing should not disrupt your lifestyle or zap your energy. Consider cleansing at least once a year. During the change of seasons is a great time.

Naturopath and certified nutritional consultant, Brenda Watson, has dedicated her career to helping people achieve vibrant, lasting health through improved digestion. She is also a PBS health educator and New York Times best-selling author. She is among the foremost authorities in North America on optimum nutrition and digestion, natural detoxification methods, and herbal internal cleansing.