Detoxing has become quite a trend and I think leaves a lot of confusion in its wake. What is a detox? Why do some people rave about them? Who needs a detox? Are they safe? There are tons of questions and dozens of ways to help the body detox better. My goal with this blog is to simplify and educate on the world of detoxification. Here we go…
Let’s Start With Toxins
What are toxins? Is this only something people working with chemicals everyday needs to be concerned about? Unfortunately no. We all need to be concerned about this. Without knowing it everyone is exposed to a large toxic load daily. 2000 new chemicals are brought into our environment daily in America and most have not been studied for adverse health effects they may cause. To compound the issue, even if they did study this in a short clinical study it would likely prove grossly inadequate because these tend to accumulate in our tissues over time (i.e. years) before causing significant health issues. Those born with gene mutations like a MTHFR mutation(s) or underlying liver disorders often have decreased ability to detoxify these toxins normally and they may experience even more significant and quicker symptoms from the chronic exposures.
Where Do the Toxins Come from?
One of the largest sources that has bombarded our bodies over the past 50yrs is plastics. Plastics have been linked to many neuroendocrine disorders and we are exposed to them all day every day almost. To make matters worse many of us heat our food and drinks up in them releasing more toxins! And don’t be fooled by BPA free labels. BPA is not the only bad guy in plastics. Take my word or do some self study online but please, please, please reduce your use of plastics. Other sources are pesticides, exhaust fumes, carpet, drywall, clothing, cleaning supplies and beauty products. Even in small doses, if we are exposed to it daily then it will add up and can eventually lead to cancer, autoimmune disease and other chronic diseases.
The Body’s Natural Detox System
This will be a common sentence on this blog but it needs to re-iterated because it is foundational: The body is build to heal itself and remove foreign invaders. The body has built in detoxification that occurs constantly via the blood and sweat. The blood is filtered via the lymphatic system, liver and kidneys. If our natural detox pathways suddenly broke we would not be able to survive for a day. However, most people do not have a broken system but a poorly functioning system due to overload. In our highly toxic city-dwelling lives, if we were eating phyto-nutrient rich plant-based diets, clean meat, drinking filtered water and sweating daily then we would be supporting the body’s ability to keep up. Unfortunately this is not common practice for most of us. We are eating processed fast foods, drinking out of plastic bottles, and not exercising or sweating daily. This is a recipe for disaster.
Signs of Toxin Build-Up in the Body
As the body is exposed to more toxins than it can remove, it can start to show signs and symptoms slowly or it can wreak fast havoc. This all depends on the host environment and what you are already working with (genetically speaking). Therefore the list of symptoms can be long and seem unrelated but a toxic internal environment will eventually show itself externally. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms you may want read on:
Increased adipose (fat) tissue and weight gain
this may be the most common side effect of toxin build-up. Why? Because the body will store extra fat to enclose and house the excess toxins it can’t get rid of. This is a common cause of resistant weight loss despite cleaning up diet and getting more active.
Swelling or bloating after a meal
Mood imbalances (depression/anxiety/despair/anger)
Is There a Test to Assess the Body’s Detox Pathways?
I’m so glad you asked! Yes there is a phenomenal test called an Organic Acid test. Several labs offer these and they can give you a very good idea how well you are clearing toxins by looking at specific metabolites in the first morning urine. Is it necessary? Maybe. You could safely do a gentle 2-3 week detox and see how your body responds. In other words, do a clinical trial with N=1 (1 person that matters the most- You). If you feel significantly better after it and lose some body fat, then you were almost definitely not detoxifying well. If you don’t feel much better, see your functional medicine provider, do some further testing and see if you can identify where you need to put your focus.
If you are not ready to get any testing done but are ready to self experiment, it can be done safely. Here are my recommendations:
Try a food detox
This is safe and the most gentle way to see if food toxins are behind any of your symptoms.
Whole30.com gives a very well guided 30 day protocol which is an introduction into very clean eating but also functions as a gentle detox. You up for the challenge?
Try a food + supplement detox
This is a little more potent but still very safe and even more effective than food alone. There are many supplement based detox options and quality varies. Just make sure if you don't use the one recommended below, that you do your homework and make sure it is from a highly reputable supplement company.
PaleoCleanse Plus Detoxification Program is an easy-to-follow 14 or 21 day Detox Program that comes ready to go with Instruction Booklet in the box.
It has detailed instructions but it is basically a shake twice a day taken with a supplement pack and one clean meal. It even has recipe options in the booklet.
This will really give you an idea if your symptoms and weight loss resistance are really just a toxin overload!
They are pricey but remember that you are basically only eating one meal a day for the 2 or 3 weeks of the program so it’s not that bad
Other Daily Detox Tips:
jumping pumps lymphatic flow better than most other exercises and is easy and gentle. Get a mini trampoline and bound for 5 mins every morning!
If you can't get in a good workout sweat 2-3 days per week, consider going to a local infrared sauna 2-3 times per week to sweat some toxins out. If you live in the area, we have several to choose from. Send me a message if you desire details.
Increase high quality water intake
Nothing is quite as beneficial as good clean water. The problem is that good clean water is hard to find these days. Consider adding a high quality filtration system to your drinking water first and then consider adding one to the whole house! (www.ecowatertexas.com is who we used)
Clean Up the Meat First
Even before you start shopping for organic vegetables and fruit, get your meat sources clean. Poorly treated animals are highly toxic and we eat them daily if we are not intentional. Look for grass fed beef, free-range chicken, wild caught salmon, pastured eggs and “no hormones or antibiotics”
A Note on Chelation Therapies
Chelation therapies for removing toxins from the body are controversial. It is a form of detoxing in which a binder is injected into the blood to try to bind up toxins; commonly done for removing heavy metals. Chelation therapy obviously has proven beneficial for many people or it wouldn’t still be very popular in certain circles. However, there is a higher risk of side effects and if the natural detox pathways are not ready to get rid of the toxins that have been bound up then it could cause a number of problems. Oral chelating agents have also been FDA approved but also have a high risk of side effects. This may prove useful for proven lead poisoning or other toxic heavy metals but not as a first line for suspected toxin overload like we are discussing here. There are some broad claims in this world of chelation therapies and I have not been exposed to enough of it to say whether they seem legitimate or not. Exercise caution in this area.