Detoxification - Do You Need It?
By Anne Grier, RN, BSN, FNLP
Do you need a Detox?
Yes, we all do! Our environment is full of toxins. These toxins come from many environmental sources including pollution, toxic ingredients in household cleaning products, beauty products, and processed foods and they become stored in our bodies. Toxins especially like hang out in our fat, ugh!
The Liver is Overworked.
The truth is that we can all benefit from a targeted detoxification, more than what our bodies already do daily. Our liver is the primary detox organ working to help us deal with all of the toxins we are exposed to. The liver takes the toxins and makes them less dangerous through a series of biochemical processes. (1) The real issue is that we are exposed to many more toxins than our bodies can handle. The liver is overtaxed.
Chemical Exposures are frighteningly high.
There are 6 billion toxins produced annually and over 10,000 chemicals allowed in our food system. Only ⅓ of these toxins are tested for safety (2). The Toxin Substance Control Act protects the company, not the public. Most chemicals are assumed safe until proven otherwise. And chemicals that are too expensive to remove are allowed to remain, even if they have been found as unsafe. (3) The FDA doesn’t consider the latest science on health harms caused by food additives in processed foods. (4)
Toxins accumulate in our body and affect our health negatively. The liver and kidney are overburdened with high toxin levels and poor nutrition. The combination means that the process of detoxification in the body is not running as well as it should and definitely can’t keep up the pace with all the input of toxins.
One example of chemicals that are extremely disruptive and damaging to the brain and body are known as “endocrine disrupting” chemicals. These are found in cosmetics, food products, furniture, plastics, and more. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with, mimic, and even alter our natural hormones, disrupting how our hormones are released and used in the body. The Endocrine Society has linked endocrine disruptors to obesity, diabetes, insomnia, reproductive issues and hormone related cancers including thyroid, breast and prostate (5).
Check Your Products for Chemicals!
The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization and a helpful source for checking your foods and products for safety. The app on your phone can be used to scan most products which makes knowing if a product is safe super easy! EWG’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.
How Does Your Body Detoxify? Let’s get these guys out!
Two phases of detoxification are required for complete detoxification. Think about when you throw away trash throughout the week in your house. At the end of the week you need to take the trash out of your house. If it stayed in your kitchen it would start to smell and become unbearable to live with. If only the first phase of detoxification is supported and not the 2nd phase, it’s the same thing. Both the trash going in the trash can and the removal of the trash from the house (your body) must happen.
Phase 1 is the activation of the liver, the cells use oxygen and enzymes to transform toxins in our fat cells, making them water soluble. This is basically getting the toxins out of your cells but they are still in your body. To get them out, we need phase 2. Phase one requires Vitamins A, B and C and E, glutathione, branched chain amino acids, flavonoids, copper, selenium, zinc, manganese, CoQ10, thiols, milk thistle and limonene.
Phase 2 is the excretion of the toxins. Sulfur and specific amino acids are combined with the toxins to escort them out of the body. This occurs via the liver through bile excreted in the stool, via the kidney through the urine, via the skin through sweat or out of the lungs through breath.
The detox pathways are vitally important to be clear, allowing for movement so that the toxins can exit freely. Defecation, urination, sweat and breath. Meaning that you need to be pooping at least daily, urinating frequently throughout the day (drinking lots of water), sweating (daily exercise or sauna therapy), breathing (exercise, deep conscious breathwork or at the very least remembering to breath- so many of us hold our breath!) If any of these functions are slowed or stagnate, your trash cannot be taken out and the effects are increased negative symptoms from the toxin buildup.
Signs and symptoms you need a detox:
Dry, itchy skin
Cravings, especially sugar
Getting sick easily
Gas and bloating
Increased depression or anxiety
Any of those sound familiar? It’s time to make lifestyle changes that support your overtaxed liver in its function of breaking down toxic substances.
A simple and gentle way to start a detoxification is a real, whole foods 5 day detox which includes each day:
Eat real food (ideally no food labels)
No sugar/ refined or artificial sweeteners
No gluten (wheat)
No or limited caffeine (green tea is okay)
No fried foods or trans fats
No conventional protein (aim for organic, grass fed)
No OTC drugs (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
Continue all prescription medications
Drink ½ body weight in water (filtered and not from a plastic water bottle)
ACV shot in morning (1-2 Tablespoons with 2-3oz filtered water)
Epsom salt bath
Each day make sure to have:
Lean clean protein (60 g minimum)
Sulphur contains amino acids- these are essential for promoting and the excretion of toxins through phase 2 support of your detox pathways. Examples are: alliums and cruciferous vegetables
Antioxidants/flavonoids- organic fresh fruits and vegetables will ensure an abundance of antioxidants and plant based flavonoids that protect your cells from the damage of toxins.
Worse before better
It’s normal to feel worse in the beginning of a detox before you feel better at the end. The body is working hard to support the increased exit of toxins so fatigue, headaches, nausea, brain fog and just feeling “off” are common and actually a good sign that things are moving. Make sure to prioritize rest and sleep as your body calls for.
How Often Should You Detox?
The frequency and intensity of your detox varies depending on your current health status and your health goals. Working with a practitioner will help you determine more details for detoxing but starting with a gentle, real food 5 day detox is very safe for everyone and I’d recommend doing one at least every season.
Please join me for my 5-Day Fall Detox Oct 5 - 9. It’s a gentle, whole foods detox. The detox includes a handbook with all the details, recipes for ideas or to follow exactly, and email support for the 5 days. Email me with any questions.
Dr. Sara Gottfried, MD Love Your Liver: 7 Ways to Detox and Remove Toxins
Ali Miller, RD Reset, Restore, Renew 10 Day Detox
Lara Adler, Certificate Course in Environmental Toxins
Environmental Working Group
Ali Miller, RD