Whenever I present on detoxification, there are a lot of preconceived notions and thoughts that come to the collective mind. I have found green juice, kale and the most recent wellness craze along with the very real definition, associated with addiction, to be the most common. In this article, I encourage you to clear the slate, as we enter into a new perspective. Here, we will explore the importance of detoxification within the healing process and how to make it happen through evidence based tools and subtle mindset, diet and lifestyle shifts.

In this article, detoxification, also known as biotransformation and detoxication, at the simplest level can be defined as the process of removing toxins to optimize function. It is important to note that we are always detoxing. It is an ongoing process. Many times, it’s only a lack of awareness or a resistance to change that limits our detox capacity. With a balanced, healthy lifestyle and a detox strategy that resonates, your body, mind and spirit will be able to process, clear and finally release in a more efficient and empowered way.

The Problem 

This discussion has never been more important because there is no denying the toxicity within our outer and inner worlds.

Since WWII, over 85,000 chemicals have been registered by the US EPA, and over 2,000 are added each year for use in everyday items, such as plastics, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, “health” and beauty related products. The Environmental Working Group even reported that the average person carries 91 toxic chemicals in his or her blood and urine, and in another study, they found over 200 different toxins on average in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, many of which were carcinogenic.

Not to mention, the toxins, like glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which are now commonly found in breast milk demonstrated by Mom’s Across America and Sustainable Pulse and throughout the environment as a whole.

Worst of all, the industry is generally unregulated and very few studies consider the cocktail effect, which refers to the synergistic effects of the combined toxins and their unpredictable, and often supercharged, impact on the individual. For example, when lead and mercury present together, they magnify each other’s toxic impact by more than ten times. This means that one chemical can make you more susceptible to another and that multiple chemicals can cause more chaos than one alone.

Now, just as there is a negative cocktail effect, there is a positive one as well. By combining a variety of empowered choices and healing tools, we can begin to detoxify.

With that said, I believe that we all are here, now for a reason, and although toxicity is a very real issue, we don’t have to be overwhelmed or distressed by it. Because despite the pollution, we still have the ability to create radiant health and thrive. This is the miracle of you, your brilliant body and empowered choices.

So while health across the world continues to decline and government agencies continue to avoid the truth as the chemical industry continues to hide it, you and I can equip ourselves with it and focus on what we can do about it- because our choices matter, big time, and we have the truth on our side, which is the chemical industry’s biggest fear.

Who needs to detox?

[click here to watch my IG reel, “what are the signs you might need a detox?”]

Many professionals in the field, with good reason, encourage intensive detoxification strategies for each and every patient. I, personally and professionally, see detox as a natural function that we can encourage to varying degrees based on the individual patient and his or her whole presenting picture.

With that said, compromised detoxification has been linked to a variety of pathological states including but not limited to the following: anxiety, depression and mood related disorders, fatigue, allergies, acne and skin issues, neurological conditions, headaches, thyroid disorders, infertility, hormonal and weight issues, cancer and many, many more.

Constipation, fatigue, bad breath, foul smelling stools, headaches and skin issues are usually the first of many signs.

How Detoxification Works

The organs of detoxification, when in a healthy state, work efficiently as a whole to reduce the body burden, or the total toxic load of chemicals. Although the liver is the major organ responsible for detoxification, almost every organ system in the body contributes as well. These organs include the lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, lymphatic system, and sweat glands.

The liver, which acts as a filter through which the bloodstream flows, is designed to metabolize and remove exogenous and endogenous toxins, such as dead cells, chemicals, drugs and a wide range of unfriendly microorganisms, through three phases: phase I, phase II and elimination. Once the liver has transformed these toxins into water-soluble metabolites, they are ready for excretion by the kidneys, intestines, and skin through the stool, sweat and urine.

If phase II, “conjugation”, is not supported, due to a nutrient deficiency or disease, the toxic byproducts from phase I, “functionalization”, can linger in the body causing a variety of issues. Sometimes, the toxins at the end of phase I are even more toxic than at the beginning due to the conversion process. These toxins are often escorted into fat tissue, like a landfill, where our body increases in capacity in an effort to envelope and dilute the toxic matter.

Toxic Overload

At this point you may be wondering why some people are more susceptible to toxins than others?

We can explain susceptibility through a concept called the “total toxic load”. The total toxic load can be found by taking an individual’s total toxic exposure and subtracting his or her ability to biotransform and excrete toxins. Here, an individual’s ability to detoxify is influenced by a number of different factors, such as nutrient status, diet, gut health, stress, methylation, epigenetics, genetics, chronic inflammation and more.

In functional medicine, we often use a cup, overflowing with water, as a representation of this concept. As we know, it takes a certain amount of water to fill the cup which will inevitably overflow if we continue to pour into it. Likewise, when our system is overwhelmed and overloaded with toxins, symptoms will arise. If they are left unaddressed and we continue to pour into it, these symptoms will inevitably turn into full blown pathological patterns. Note to self, read the signs!

Are there any specific Functional Medicine labs to check to know if your body is detoxifying the way it should be?

When focusing on assessing detoxification pathways comprehensively through functional medicine lab testing, I almost always run a comprehensive bioscreen, consisting of blood and urine, first to check into the systems of the body and rule out any major imbalances that could disrupt detoxification. Here, we can look at micronutrient levels, liver enzymes like ALT, AST and GGT, kidney function, heavy metals and inflammatory markers like hs-CRP. I’ll often add in genetic testing to this panel (which can be done through blood serum or buccal swab) as certain snps (like MTHFR C677T) can lead to issues with conversion and thus, detoxification.

If we wanted to dive deeper into testing detox pathways, we can look at hair and urine as well. Hair has the unique ability to give us insight into longterm exposure to heavy metals, while certain urine tests can assess environmental toxins (like glyphosate) and mycotoxins (metabolite of mold) as well. For more on functional medicine lab testing, check here.

On a clinical note, when it comes to detoxification, I am always interested in digestion and elimination, medication usage, hydration, sleep hygiene, skin health and sweat.

The Solution

In order to drain the cup, we must support the pathways, build up our resources and remove the toxins. Disease is a process and so is health creation, and detoxification, at a micro level, is a perfect example of this. It represents much more than a clear and vibrant body, it represents a way to step into and clear the toxins from our hearts, minds and lives as well.

As we move forward into treatment, it is important to remember that detoxifying is a journey. Start where you are, with what you have available to you now, and allow your journey to unfold for and with you. This can start with setting a simple intention to detox, clear, release or let go of what has not been working in your life. Setting this intention will make each step of the way a bit easier, as a solid foundation is built and a springboard emerges in which you and your body can thrive.  In essence, it’s all about taking the time to reflect and review all categories of your inner and outer world.

How To Begin

In this day and age, we have deep knowledge and powerful healing technologies that can lower the toxic burden and optimize our sophisticated detox system. Before diving into this section, I recommend first reviewing and cleaning up your mindset, diet, environment and lifestyle. For more details on this, you can check out the Let Go & Grow program. I would equally prioritize elimination, ensuring that you have regular bowel movements (everyday), healthy urination (input equals output), and sweat on a regular basis. Without proper channels of elimination, toxins will have no choice but to accumulate. Below are my initial thoughts.

  • Mindset. Create the space to go within, quiet the mind and connect to yourself. Set a powerful intention. Detoxify distress. Have a process to Let Go & Grow, where you can release the mental-emotional blocks that no longer work for you.
  • Diet & Water. Clean up your diet. Steer clear of gmo’s and chemically laden foods. Choose high quality nutrient dense foods that support your body. Drink clean, filtered water, free of fluoride and other chemicals.
  • Environment. Review your health, beauty and cleaning products. Look into natural deodorants, lotions, makeup and sprays. Connect to the earth. Bring nature inside, and allow plants and filters to help you cleanse the air.
  • Lifestyle. Choose an exercise routine that works for you. Work up a sweat. Enjoy your life, and optimize sleep for deep restoration. Sleep gives you the unique opportunity to rest and process your day.
  • Supplements. For detoxification to work properly, a wide variety of macronutrients, micronutrients, cofactors, etc. are required. For the most up to date recommendations that we are using in clinical practice, feel free to check our fullscript under “favorites” where we have a detoxification and binders category.
    • Milk Thistle is well known for its ability to support the liver. Other supplements, like LV-GI Detox, are also available.
    • Cleansing with the Himalayan Pink Salt Sole, in the morning, considering Magnesium Glycinate, at night before bed, and a good probiotic, anytime during the day, along with a balanced, reset diet may be able to jumpstart your metabolism and healthy bowel movements.
    • Flower Remedies may be the perfect place to start if you are feeling mentally and emotionally blocked.
  • Healing Tools. Infared saunas are an incredible way to work up a sweat, detox heavy metals and xenobiotics and leave you feeling clear and cleansed. I personally love my Sunlighten sauna. Recently, coffee enemas have also caught my attention, based on Dr. Kelly Brogan’s recommendation and her late mentor, Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez’s work.

Finally, I encourage you to have patience with the process. It’s a journey. Detoxification is a lifelong commitment. Unraveling the layers, can bring symptoms to the surface. Sometimes, symptoms can worsen before they get better. I have seen this time and time again. My advice is to always stay intuitive and focus in on your next best steps. When we learn how to tune into the process and work with our bodies, minds and spirits, we tap into an infinite well of wisdom, where we can detoxify, regenerate and heal.

For more information and a tried and true springboard, check out the Let Go & Grow Mind Body Reset program or my private practice. I have found, personally and professionally,  guidance of this kind to be very powerful.