Detoxing your way through the Land of Smiles

by Katherine Kiviat
Green Park

Living as an expat in Thailand one can feel like they are living in the lap of luxury with the large variety of cuisine, inexpensive massages and facials, and easy access to some of the finest beaches in the world. But it can also feel claustrophobic at times, particularly when the pollution levels are at their highest. Bangkok being the concrete jungle that it is, we are exposed to both manmade and natural toxins on a daily basis – regularly sprayed pesticides, exhaust fumes, old copper pipes, plastic water bottles, to name a few. On top of this, our senses are constantly being over stimulated by video screens in the BTS and on bulletin boards, loud noises from endless construction, wifi, and the smells/fumes from street food stalls. Many of the chemicals we are exposed to both inside our homes and outdoors contain endocrine disruptors – meaning that they can interfere with our hormones leaving us feeling less than our optimal selves.

Love your liver!
Constant exposure to nasty chemicals such as endocrine disruptors, make it harder for our livers to do their jobs and can wreak havoc on our bodies. Everything we eat, drink, breath or apply to our hair and bodies goes through our liver. Any substances the body deems as toxic will be managed by our livers and not without consequence. In order for our bodies to filter out the toxins we are exposed to daily, our liver needs to be in tip top shape. The liveris an amazing organ! Think of it like the captain of a ship. The liver rules all metabolic processes in the body and helps us convert the food we eat into energy. It aids digestion and hormone health, removes toxins from the body, is our storage tank for vitamins and minerals, helps us fight off infections in the body, helps regulate our blood sugar and plays a key role in the regulation of blood clotting. It helps us process all the alcohol we drank the night before and it helps us break down all the toxins from the pollution in the air. Taking care of your liver helps to prevent disease in the future.

What is your toxic load?
Exposure to endocrine disruptors (mentioned above) are found both inside and outside of our homes and can cause a wide array of symptoms one might not expect such as weight gain, insulin resistance, and headaches. Exposure to such toxins both internally internal and externally, our genetics, and nutritional status all affect our toxic load.

Toxins can affect us in many forms:
• Medications
• Heavy metals
• Pesticides
• Cosmetics & toiletries
• Carpets & furniture
• Stress
• Parasites
• Unhealthy mental states
• Not spending enough time outdoors in nature (think about taking walks in the park or hiking in the woods).
• Isolation
• Overstimulation from screens

Signs and symptoms that your liver needs some attention:
• Fatigue with sleep disruption
• Mood disturbance (depression, anxiety, anger)
• Muscle aches and joint pains
• Weight gain & water retention
• Infertility
• Lack of libido
• Headaches with neck and shoulder pain
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Bloating and/or gas after eating
• Body odour or bad breath
• Canker sores and/or acne

But what can we do to protect ourselves?
The fact of the matter is that most of us spend the majority of our time inside, primarily in our homes where we actually have the most control over our environment. The air we breathe, what we clean our homes with and what we choose to put in and on our bodies is our choice. “Metabolic detoxification” is a term used to describe the physiological process of making chemical compounds, hormones, and toxicants less harmful. There are certain foods and nutrient sources you can incorporate into your diet to make sure that you’re helping your liver to function at its best. A little help now will go a long way. Give your liver a break by eating organic foods when possible, drinking filtered water, using glass instead of plastic to store food, and choosing safer personal products and house cleaning items. Your pets will benefit too!

The liver detoxifies your body through two phases and it is important to support both phases equally. Otherwise it is possible to do more harm than good. During phase one, free radicals are generated which can damage the liver cells if there are insufficient levels of antioxidants present. Consuming sulphur-rich foods such as garlic, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and eggs can help your body produce the master antioxidant, glutathione. And that will help protect your liver from free radical production. Lemon zest can support detoxification enzymes here as well. During phase two of liver detoxification, toxins bind to amino acids and other compounds converting them into a form that allows them to be gathered and discarded safely through urine and the small intestine.

Foods that can help with this part of the process include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage and Brussel spouts. Eating fibre rich foods will assist in detoxing your liver by binding to toxins and escorting them out of your system. Flax seeds are a wonderful source of soluble fibre that are beneficial for removing unwanted oestrogen as well. Chia seeds, beans, quinoa, oats, and sweet potatoes are all great choices for adding more fibre to your diet. It is important to detox slowly and carefully as to not do more damage than good. A nutritionist can help you do this successfully.

Eat organic!
Although the choices are limited in Bangkok and eating organic is definitely more expensive, research shows that eating organic when you can definitely helps. There have been several studies on the effects of eating organic foods verses non-organic. One study shows that after eating a diet of mostly organic foods for only one week, the levels of pesticides found in urine samples went down by 90%! Finding authentic organic food in Bangkok can be a challenge, so I find it best to try and follow the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list which is updated annually by EWG. Information can be found on this website:

Eat a good quality protein but not too much
We all need adequate protein, but eating too much of it or poor quality meat and fish can put more strain on the liver. Choose wild-caught fish or grass-fed meats and stick to about a palm size amount with each meal instead of making it the larger portion on your plate. Eating organic liver (beef, chicken, goose and duck are all great choices) can actually help your own liver in the detoxification process as well. Paleo Robbie is the best online source I have found for grass fed meats and wild fish. El Mercado also sells their meats and seafood outside of the restaurant.

Glorious greens
Eating a diet rich in bitter greens such as arugala, kale, watercress, dandelion root, collard greens, Swiss chard, and mustard greens is extremely beneficial to helping detox your liver. Adding in herbs and spices such as cilantro, dill, parsley, ginger, turmeric, and rosemary are also a great addition to your detox plan! Beets and globe artichokes can be used for both liver protection and regeneration, so don’t forget these colourful additions to your diet. Eat the rainbow! The more colours you can include in your diet, the happier your body will be.

Useful supplements:
• Vitamin C
• B Complex
• Zinc
• Magnesium
• Selenium
• Glutamine
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin E

• Milk thistle
• Curcumin
• Dandelion root

It is important to work with a professional when supplementing with vitamins and minerals to make sure that you are taking the right dosage. Treating yourself by guessing or looking at the internet can be harmful to your health.

Foods to limit:
We all know that we should be avoiding these foods, but starting slow with small steps can bring the biggest changes to our health.

Coffee – can be replaced or mixed with Teechino or Dandy Blend. I love Teechino’s dark roast tea – it tastes like coffee and can actually be combined with coffee while weaning yourself off of caffeine or just to help reduce the amount of caffeine daily. You can buy it from

Alcohol – try reducing your intake to one glass less each night or having a drink only 3 times a week if you drink every day now and see how you feel. If you normally only drink at the weekends, have 2 glasses of alcohol instead of 3. Your liver will thank you!

Fried foods – limit to once a week
• High fructose corn syrup
• Processed and refined carbohydrates – hello Dunkin Donuts!
• Foods with preservatives (usually found on the shelves in the middle of the supermarket)
• Artificial sweeteners such as Equal

Choose to buy organic cleaning products for your home – Sustaina has quite a few to choose from that are affordable. You can find dish soap, laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoos and conditioners, and even natural feminine products are sold here. They are also a great source of organic vegetables. When it comes to what you put on your skin – be fussy! This is just as important as what you are putting in your mouths. Bangkok Soap Opera and Siam Botanicals are my favourite local vendors for face wash, face oils, scrubs, serums, essential oils, perfumes and body lotion. They smell good and feel amazing on your skin.


• Eat organic foods when possible – follow Dirty Dozen list by EWG
• Foods to always purchase organic: tree fruits, leafy greens, berries & dairy
• Limit/avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish as they contain high levels of Mercury.
• Avoid charred foods – less bbq marks on those grass fed burgers!
• Do not heat foods in plastic containers in the microwave.

• Home water source – ask the water company for testing results or if you have a well, test your water. Additional filtration may be needed.
• Carry water in a stainless steel or glass bottle.
• Do not reuse disposable plastic water bottles.

Every day toxins
• Cosmetics
• Toiletries
• Cleaning supplies
• Gardening chemicals
• Furniture, clothing, carpeting
• Gasoline
• Car exhausts

• Medications
• Heavy metals
• Stress
• Chemicals
• Parasites
• Yeast
• Unhealthy mental states
• Isolation
• Nature deprivation
• Negative emotions

Other lifestyle recommendations:
Adding plants to your home and office: spider plants, philodendron, and golden pothos are great for removing formaldehyde (commonly found in facial tissues, grocery bags and paper towels ), while gerber daisies, peace lilies, bamboo palm and chrysanthemums are useful in removing benzene (emitted from burning of coal, oil and car exhaust) and Trichloroethylene (TCE) used in laquers, varnishes, adhesives and dry cleaning products.

Natural Skin products

Use natural skin products:
Oxybenzone and methoxycinnamate are some of the common endocrine disruptors found in sunscreens. A safer choice would be a sunscreeen made with either Titanium dioxide or Zinc oxide. Other nasty ingredients to watch out for are lead – found in hair dyes and lipsticks, DEA (diethanolamine)- found in shampoos and cleansers as foaming agent, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – another foaming agent used in shower gels and cleansers, and parabens which have been found to contain endocrine disrupting properties – commonly used preservatives for cosmetics and personal care products. This is a great source for choosing safe personal care products:
The Dirty Dozen – Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid

Other things that can help rid our body of unwanted toxins:
Saunas, exercise – breaking a sweat will help to rid your body of unwanted toxins
Mind body connection – yoga, being out in fresh air (if possible) can lower levels of stress and in turn help your liver to focus on its main job.
Epsom salt baths – these are great to use both for relaxing before bed at night and to help draw out toxins.
Air filters – placing one in each bedroom is usually necessary because of the small area covered by one unit.

Green Pesto

Recipe for detox pesto
• 3⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried, ends clipped
• 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and dried
• 2 tablespoons watercress
• 1⁄4-1/3 pine nuts, cashews or walnuts (optional)
• 1 fresh lime, juiced
• 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
• Sea salt to taste
Blend all the ingredients together. I find it easier to start with the olive oil at the bottom and then add all the other ingredients. This pesto can be used as a spread on toast, a veggie dip or as a sauce for cooked chicken or fish. *This pesto is a perfect addition to your meals. It is both immune boosting and cleansing! The cilantro will help escort heavy metals out of your body and the garlic, a natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial will help to boost your immune system.

American Liver Foundation, brochure “Liver Wellness”
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