Detox may seem like just a buzz word these days. Everywhere you turn there is a pet program you can buy and do, from the classic cayenne pepper + honey, to multi-phase prepackaged protocols. These range from benign to downright dangerous, with helpful possibly somewhere in between. What is detoxification done right?
First of all, know your body is detoxing all the time. By design, it does this on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. You have all the right equipment already. So, why would we need to amp up and do a detox program? Do we? Ever?
In a nutshell, yes.
That’s because although detoxification is a vital function that your body should be continually performing, things may be a bit gunked-up, impeding your natural, in-born capability to do it as you should.
What things? For one, the onslaught of chemicals we deal with on a daily basis, in our water, air, food, cleaning solutions and also in our personal care products. In fact, the typical woman encounters 400 chemicals before she even leaves the house in the morning! The typical man is not much better, having ingested, washed with or slathered on 150 chemicals himself.
Our bodies deal with these chemicals in ever-increasing numbers and varieties every year. We just cannot process everything as we should, due to sheer volume. I see heavy metal toxicity regularly. Our bodies are exhausted trying to accomplish their innate detoxification duties. Also, some people’s have genetically slow detoxification pathways (revealed via Functional testing). These people are really up against it in a modern toxic world.
Secondly, many of us carry parasites or viruses or pathogenic bacteria in our gut without even knowing it.
We do not associate symptoms like skin rashes, brain fog, insomnia, joint pain, fatigue, obesity, or joint pain with that possibility, so we may never get tested for these (and by tested, I mean the kind of specialized functional GI testing I do in my clinic, which picks up hidden parasites and other pathogens missed by typical standard tests – more frequently missed than I have space to explain here). Many of these types of pathogens slow down the natural elimination process, and also impede detoxification.
Thirdly, the good guys in your tissues may be damaged from prior use of prescription drugs, past trauma such as head injury or surgery, or some of those above-named pathogens acting as “bullies” keeping the good guys from doing their job.
Lastly, a fatty liver, which I call the “General” of your detoxification process and which works closely with your gall bladder, cannot do its job well. Non-alcoholic fatty liver is now so prevalent, I’d say that most people in America suffer some degree of this.
But not all detoxes are created equal! Like I said, some – many – random detox instructions are actually dangerous, and I’ll explain how.
Detox is a three-phase process, with each step necessary and important. Think of it as “taking out the trash,” and think of your body as a house.
If your chore is taking out the house trash, first you go get all the trash from each room, right? Let’s call that “pulling.” You set it all beside the front door to be taken out to the curb. In your body, this is Phase 1. Toxins can be held in many places in our body, in many different tissues, like your microbiota, your fat, and your brain tissue. “Pulling” is getting your body to release these toxins. Some detoxes may accomplish this, but unfortunately that is where they stop. Read on.
In our analogy, the next duty is to get that trash out of the house. Imagine leaving it all at the front door! Your whole house would stink up pretty rapidly. You would definitely not earn your allowance if you left all the trash gathered from the rest of the house right there at the threshold. You need to take it out of the house to the curb. In your body, this is Phase 2, or “pushing.”
It takes specialized techniques and supplements to get toxic trash out of your body, and this is another place many “detoxes” fail. If you pull toxins successfully but fail to push them to the curb, you can get very very sick. All those toxins sit at your liver, skin and kidneys like piles of trash bags. With no provisions for being “taken out to the curb,” the toxins just back up again, which is dangerous to say the least.
The next proper step is Phase 3, or “catching.” This is like the trash truck coming to the curb and taking away that garbage you removed from all the rooms, and then took out to the curb. Generic “detox” products do not provide for removing toxins completely away, so are incomplete. In your body, your hepatic system (your gall bladder and your liver) must be equipped to convert the toxins into a form your body knows how to excrete in Phase 2, and then your body eliminates them in Phase 3 via your colon (bowel) or your kidneys (via urination).
In my practice, we make sure the elimination system is operating regularly before even beginning a detox. Taking the trash to the door, and then to the curb, but never emptying those barrels? Dangerous, again.
A final consideration – and of utmost importance – is personalization. For example, if your test reveals a candida overgrowth, your detox (or purge) should be different from that created for someone pulling heavy metals or defatting a liver. If you have all three, there is a proper safe order these should be dealt with. Even a parasite purge must be personalized, as what kills one may not kill another. This is personalized Functional Medicine, which should never be one-size-fits-all. This is my method, the IBSolutions Method.
Detoxification done safely is a powerful healing tool, and can play a huge role in turning around some’s ill health. But it has to be the right protocol done the right way. Make sure that yours incorporates all the important points that it must: Pull – Push – Catch. Phase 1 – Phase 2 – Phase 3. If a detox misses any of these steps, it is inadequate at best, dangerous at worst.