Many Ways to Detox
But Only One Speed
Detoxification! It’s all the rage on the internet.
It’s also a common focus in the Functional Medicine and naturopathic world.
But as someone who battled — and overcame — chronic environmental illness, just how effective is it at improving health?
“You don’t need to “detox.” Your body has a liver.”
— Well-intentioned, but mistaken internet advice.
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I think so, yes. And I’ll tell you why.
We don’t need to generically “detox” — not just any old way. Certainly not the “cleanses” and “fasts” — or many of the hyped supplements — we see floating around the internet.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve personally worked with that can trace their health challenges back to a cleanse or fast — or even megadoses of supplements. Be careful with those! (And all internet health advice — be careful!).
Even advice on this site! Be careful with all of it.
But I do think we need to understand detoxification as a practice — its rewards and risks — and implement it wisely in our lives.
Why? Because I’ve seen what it can do, personally. I’ve seen it become a major component of my own — and many clients’ — recovery.
I’ve seen it restore mental acuity in countless elderly folks.
I’ve seen it invoke healing in folks with environmental sensitivities.
My belief is that we are living in a very toxic world. Our air is less fresh (air fresheners and fragrances only make this worse), our buildings trap our bad air, and our food is less clean. Our gut microbiomes are struggling — poisoning us after we eat (via endotoxin, released from more-robust pathogens).
All signs point to the likelihood, and logic, that we would benefit from detoxification support — IF we knew a safe and effective way to do so.
Safe and effective is the key, here.
If popular fads — and Functional Medicine programs — may not be safe and effective.
But if they aren’t the answer — or even safe to try — what is?
Let’s look at a few of the wrong ways to detox, first, before we explore the right ways to detox.
Hard ‘Detoxing’ Has Consequences
Nutrients Are Rapidly Lost
When detoxification ramps up in intensity — nutrients are used at an increased rate.
The liver suffers when adequate nutrition is not available to meet demands. We can even develop a fatty liver due to lack of nutrients — and a sluggish, fatty liver is not good for detoxification.
Detoxification requires adequate minerals, B-vitamins, protein, and fatty-acids. When gut health is poor, deficiencies in these nutrients will already be widespread.
Gut Health Suffers
Toxins in liver bile don’t want to stay in the gut — and in poor gut health, they are easily reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. They’ll then cause inflammation and overwhelm the liver & kidneys.
To combat this, it’s common to take “binders” to sop up these toxins, trapping them in the gut.
However, harsh binders are bad for the gut microbiome, and commonly cause severe constipation.
To combat constipation, laxatives are typically prescribed (via prescription or high-dose magnesium), all of which can have negative impacts on gut health.
Perhaps worse, harsh binders can trap nutrients in the gut — including the b-vitamins, minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins as well. This can make any pre-existing nutrient deficiencies even worse.
Ironically, the harsh binders used to facilitate detoxification can rob the body of necessary nutrients required for detoxification.
Harsh binders, themselves, have negative effects on the microbiome.
How To Take Binders
First, choose more gentle binders, such as chlorophyll and chlorella. These are super gentle on the gut, and may even improve the gut microbiome — without causing constipation.
Second, if using pharmaceutical binders (cholestyramine, etc), or even activated charcoal, use very small, infreqent doses.
The best method is to rotate on & off. Take a binder for several days to0 a week, then go off of it for the same amount of time. This will allow your body to continually improve its nutrient levels and organ health before you begin a next round of binders.
If the liver lacks any nutrients, it’s under stress.
As nutrient supply drops and gut health suffers, sleep can suffer, too. A main characteristic of heavy detoxing (and worsened gut health due to binders) is terrible sleep — and for quite obvious reasons.
When inflammation is high, gut health is low, nutrients are being lost — sleep is less likely to happen.
Sleep is an extremely hormonal process, and hormone production requires nutrients. Minerals, b-vitamins, and fat-soluble vitamins — as well as caloric energy — are all important for sleep.
Years of depletion — due to excess toxicity and poor gut health — will leave the body depleted; harsh binders can exacerbate this effect by preventing the body from absorbing nutrients from food.
Yet, decent sleep is of utmost importance for your healing.
Restorative sleep is necessary for detox and healing.
Excessive Detox & The Liver
An overburdened liver needs to be supported: by nutrients, by an improving and function digestive system, by optimal circadian rhythms, and more.
Therefore, detoxing needs to be done slowly over time — in a healthy and improving system. It’s an ongoing process that can — and should — last months or years, even.
This doesn’t mean we can’t start feeling better quickly. In fact, that’s a main reason to detox slowly! We focus on restoring bodily function as a means of facilitating detoxification.
I believe this represents the best scenario for your recovery of health. The body’s energy and healing power improve together: nutrient levels rise, sleep improves, gut health improves… and the body’s total function improves. At this point, detoxification naturally rises, along with thyroid function and every other marker of health.
Does undercutting crucial bodily functions help the healing process? Maybe not.
Let’s look at how, in many cases, “hard detoxing” can result in unwanted outcomes.
Hard detoxing often causes:
Nutrients to be depleted. This is stressful on the liver.
Hard detoxing always causes:
Additional liver toxins to be dumped into a gut which might already be compromised.
Constipation — and/or leaky gut — mean toxins are reabsorbed into the body, which is dangerous.
Excessive gut toxins can be a big problem. Therefore:
Practitioners recommend binders, to soak up the liver toxins in the gut.
This only wrecks gut health (even further) AND prevents nutrients from being absorbed (even further).
Binders are blocking nutrient absorption. Therefore:
Naturopaths & FMD’s often recommend expensive nutritional supplements and functional food powders — to “shore up” nutritional deficits.
What they don’t understand is that nutrients are not being absorbed in the first place — because the gut & the body are so inflammed. (Inflammation blunts cellular uptake of nutrients, in addition to a concept known as nutritional immunity where nutrients are made unavailable to both the body and potential pathogens).
These expensive powders can even deplete your primary nutrients — like sodium and potassium — due to excessive prevalence of low-importance nutrients.
If binders are used, these expensive nutritional supplements become even less effective.
Binders are making constipation worse. Therefore:
Magnesium and other laxative-like supplements are given.
This further prevents nutrients from being absorbed (gut hypermotility).
Megadoses of magnesium can also deplete important nutrients like sodium, calcium, and Vitamin D.
Sleep is disrupted by gut toxicity & nutrient depletion.
Herbal sleep aids are “prescribed” — but they only work for a short time, in part because they are boosting GABA (similar to a benzodiazepene) and estrogen (which burdens the liver further). Sometimes they block cortisol, which can cause the 1) hypoglycemia, and/or 2) rebound cortisol when not taking.
Herbal sleep aids rarely solve the sleep issues created by heavy detoxing.
Food tolerances become worse, due to poor sleep, and disrupted gut health.
Practitioners encourage patients to restrict the diet even further — until there’s not much left to remove… or eat.
Following this path too long can result in:
How to Detox Slowly
Your Progress — 48%
This page is also via Healthy Buildings, for its correlation with mold exposure: