How do I know if I should focus on detoxification?

Functional Medicine Practitioner


There are many detox remedies out there, but how do you know if you need to do anything about toxins? Toxins are unavoidable in today’s world. Some bodies seem to do better than others with handling them. But there can be clues that your body could benefit from detoxification support. 




First let’s go over what toxins are and how we are exposed. Toxins are poisonous substances that are unstable when metabolized by the body. There are many possible daily toxic exposures, including in air, water, food and products (household and personal care). Examples of potential toxins include: heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, mold, paints, plastics, old appliances, vehicle exhaust, caulking, cosmetics and personal care products.


Toxins can clog the liver, damage genes, increase inflammation in the body, cause blood sugar and digestive problems, disrupt hormone levels and immune system function (to name a few).

A lot of toxic exposure all at once may be easier to diagnose quickly, but the chronic, low level, long term exposures may be more difficult to identify. 




So let’s talk about detoxification. Detoxification, also known as biotranformation, is the process of removing potentially harmful products from the body. The body does this by transforming toxins into non-toxic parts or metabolites. Bodies require many players to be in the game. For example, organs need to be functioning properly and specific nutrients are needed for the different phases of detoxification. 


This process mainly takes place in the liver but other tissues play a role, too (gastrointestinal tract, skin, kidneys and lungs). Detoxification in the liver is accomplished in two phases. Either or both phases may be impaired. Another process that can be impaired is drainage. Think of the body as a funnel. If any part of that funnel is clogged, it will not drain. Drainage is a process of detoxifying the body by opening part of an organ and getting rid of the toxins. Drainage is different from detoxification. With detoxification, the body is forced to release toxins into the blood. If the body can not eliminate the toxins, the body must then store these toxins again. 


Who Should Consider More Efforts


Next, let’s discuss who might benefit from detox support. Anyone with the following should think about adding support: 


  • Chronic conditions (most of them!)
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing, chest tightness
  • Joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Rashes, redness, swelling 
  • Miscarriage, infertility, menstrual cycle abnormalities 
  • Bad reactions to drug, toxin, sulfites
  • Caffeine intolerance
  • Strong urine odor with asparagus
  • Garlic causes ill feeling
  • Sensitivity to smells or chemicals
  • Having certain genetic SNPs (MTHFR, APOE4, COMT, PEMT)


If toxins are not cleared out properly they can negatively impact many different processes in the body. They can damage enzymes, displace the calcium in bones, damage organs, increase rate of aging, change gene expression, damage cell membranes and cause hormonal imbalances. Essentially, toxins can cause a vicious cycle of chicken and egg. Certain toxins can increase the risk of developing asthma, cancers, infertility, osteoporosis, myocardial infarction, thyroid disease, diabetes, allergies, immune problems, autoimmunity, degenerative neurological conditions, birth defects and decreased IQ.


Ways to Support Detox


And lastly, let’s review ways someone can detox. We can decrease the amount of toxins coming in, and increase the amount of toxins going out. 


  1. Dietary and lifestyle changes to decrease toxin load coming in:


  • Clean water
  • Clean food
  • Clean air
  • Clean products
  • Reduce stress 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol


  1. Ways to increase toxins going out: 


  • Three cups cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) veggies per day 
  • Lots of green leafy veggies
  • Juicing (seasonally)
  • Coffee enema
  • Castor oil packs
  • Dry brushing
  • Sweating- sauna and exercise
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Proper water intake


For more information on supplements that can support detoxification/biotransformation and drainage, click here 


For an in-depth review of the methods listed above, special considerations and more advanced options per body system, consider consulting a functional medicine provider. We are trained to help identify which systems need help! 


Hope this helps,


Dr. Tara


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