Detox- What does that really mean?


The flowers are starting to bloom and it’s time for some spring cleaning. As a follow-up to the last blog post, this article will discuss some of the benefits of detox.

First of all it’s important to understand what a detox is. Detoxification is the process of transforming and neutralizing toxins, and then eliminating them from the body. Our bodies are designed to handle different toxins, but with the increase of chemicals in our environment, these toxins accumulate overtime. When we speak or hear of doing a “detox”, it’s essentially referring to dietary and lifestyle changes that reduce the intake of harmful chemicals, while improving elimination.

So how do our bodies detoxify and actually get rid of toxins?
Some of the organs and systems involved include the liver, kidneys, bowels, skin (through sweat) and lymphatic system. When thinking about doing a detox, it’s important to identify which detoxification organs are ‘stressed’ and what effect toxins are having on your body. For example if you experience constipation, then you’re not elimination waste through your bowels and so you may need to work on the digestive system as part of your detox plan. The liver is also one of the most important detoxification organs and is responsible for breaking down (metabolizing) everything from toxins to hormones. Inside the liver cells there are sophisticated enzyme pathways that perform this function. These pathways make up the 2 phases of detoxification- known commonly as phase 1 and phase 2. When doing a detox, it is important to support both phases of liver detoxification to ensure they are functioning optimally.

Some of the benefits of regular detoxification are:

  • Balancing hormones
  • Healing the digestive system
  • Increasing metabolism
  • Balancing blood sugar and insulin production
  • Decreasing stress and promoting mental health
  • Healing the skin
  • Decreasing inflammation

Clearly, supporting our bodies’ ability to detoxify helps remove obstacles to cure, reset healthier habits and improves overall health. You can see why it’s a good idea to make detoxification part of your health routine. Detoxes are popular in the New Year, spring and fall, but you can really do it anytime you want. Depending on one’s toxicity levels and their exposure, it’s a good idea to follow a personalized detox protocol at least a couple times a year. What you actually do as part of your detox plan will also depend on your health goals and as is true for all naturopathic protocols, an individualized approach is recommended. 

With that said, there are five components I like to think of when doing a detox:

1.     Reducing Exposure: by knowing where your exposure is coming from you can take steps to remove toxins in your environment. Gradually replacing things like household cleaning products and cosmetics, and instead transferring over to clean toxin-free products can help with this.

2.     Diet modifications: eating specific foods that support the two phases of liver detoxification, as well as focusing on increasing your intake of water and fiber (both of which have an important role in supporting detoxification).

3.     Supplements: herbal and nutritional (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.). This should be tailored to the individual patient based on their symptoms picture, health history and concurrent medication use.

4.     Lifestyle: implementing lifestyle strategies and building habits to support the body’s ability to detoxify. Examples include: physical exercise and hydrotherapy practices.

5.     Mental/emotional: Addressing the mind body connection is an important aspect of cleansing to help clear stresses and restore mental wellbeing. Using mindfulness and relaxation strategies to reflect on our thoughts, feelings and relationships will motivate positive change and affirmation.