Why Detox?

Learning Objectives:

  • Define Detoxification and Toxins
  • Why Detoxify?
  • Signs of a toxic overload
  • How does our body deal with toxins?

 Toxin or Toxicant Defined

Toxicant: Man-made (synthetic) substance that presents a risk of death, disease, injury, or birth defects in living organisms through absorption, ingestion, inhalation, or by altering the organism’s environment.

Toxin: produced in nature by a living animal or plant that also presents risk of death, disease, injury or birth defects

Detoxify defined

Detoxicate: remove toxic principle of substance

Detoxify: to remove toxic quality

Why detox?

1. Our bodies accumulate toxins – from the air we breathe, the water we drink and processed/artificial foods we may eat. We also produce toxins as part of our regular metabolic processes – from exercise and especially stress.

One of the main sources of these toxins and toxicants stems from our environment.

The Environmental Defence Agency tested people from across the country for the presence of 88 chemicals in their blood and urine.  60 of 88 chemicals tested for were detected, including 18 heavy metals, five PBDEs, 14 PCBs, one perfluorinated chemical, 10 organochlorine pesticides, five organophosphate insecticide metabolites and seven VOCs. (toxic terms discussed later in document)

Of the 60 chemicals detected:

  • 41 are suspected cancer-causing substances
  • 53 are chemicals that can cause reproductive disorders and harm the development of children
  • 27 are chemicals that can disrupt the hormone system
  • 21 are chemicals associated with respiratory illnesses

These compounds have been found to have an affect on:

  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine/hormonal system
  • Immune system
  • Allergies/Asthma
  • Chronic infections
  • Autoimmunity


2. Prep the body for seasonal change: Your body naturally goes through some purging with the change of season to prepare itself for new climate conditions, seasonal food changes and new activities. However, because we don’t eat seasonally, ingest processed foods, and inhale pollutants our body struggles to make the changes on it’s own. A detox helps the body do what it’s supposed to do naturally.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, seasonal change, like any change, can cause stress. The main cause of stress in TCM is Wind. Wind is said to be the “agent of 10,000 diseases,” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine). Wind is understood to be not just the movement of air, but also, any sudden change. Part of dealing with this seasonal stress is to consider foods we eat and help the body through this change.

In the Fall, the TCM element is Metal. The associated and most effected organ in Fall are the Lung and Large Intestine. From a TCM standpoint, the lungs are an organ system that opens directly to the exterior. Because of the direct contact to the exterior, the lungs are easily susceptible to cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and most of all, heat and wind. The lung’s is also related to the large intestine. The large intestine controls the transformation of digestive wastes from liquid to solid state and transports the solids onwards and outwards. It plays a major role in the balance and purity of bodily fluids. A fall detoxification program would also be advised to help deal with the stress of going into a winter season. Because of the pairing of the lung and large intestine, a cleanse is certainly in order to help this process along.

3.Better immune function: Your gut lining is the front line of your immune system and it is vital to keep it healthy. There are a number of factors at play:

  • The low pH (acidity) of the stomach is fatal for many microorganisms that enter it.  A detoxification plan should ensure your pH is where it needs to be.
  • Part of the immune system that resides in the gut (containing IgA antibodies) neutralizes many of these microorganisms before they reach the blood.
  • Health-enhancing intestinal bacteria serve to prevent the overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria.

With a detox, you are cleaning up your diet and promoting healthy elimination, thereby giving your first line of defense a good chance of catching those pesky bugs.

Gastrointestinal health and gut permeability also play a role in detoxification. Increased gut permeability allows for increased absorption of xenobiotics and toxins, which are processed and removed by the liver, thus increasing the demands on the liver detoxification system.

4.Better Long Term Elimination: Functionally, poor digestion, colon sluggishness, reduced liver function, and poor elimination through the kidneys, respiratory tract, and skin all increase toxicity. Toxins also build up when our mechanisms of elimination are compromised. A detoxification program will help you safely eliminate these toxins and improve your health and well being.

5. Chance to educate yourself on becoming eco friendly: a detox for the body is a great thing to do, and part of it also involves looking at the rest of your environment. What products are you using at home and work? Are they toxic and can you find a healthier alternative? Making these types of changes will help you maintain a healthier you and a healthier household/work place.

Signs that you need to detoxify:

  1. You have a pulse: joking aside, the air we breathe, the water and food we eat all contain a certain amount of toxins. By detoxifying a few times a year, you can avoid the long-term consequences of toxic build-up.
  2. Sleep disturbances or changes in energy level or mood.
  3. Alterations in weight, appetite and bowel function.
  4. Sexual interest and function change, in female any menstrual change.
  5. Changes in temperature perception, sweating, or flushing
  6. Alteration of hair growth and skin texture.
  7. Inability to handle caffeine, especially after noon (causes insomnia)
  8. Inability to handle medications, “I’m very sensitive”
  9. Adverse physical or mental reactions from exposure to ambient levels of chemicals that lead to:
  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue
  • SOB
  • Muscle weakness/spasm/collapse
  • Bowel response

Typically if you are toxic there is a pattern you will see:

  1. Allergies typically show first – food and environmental.
  2. Chemical reactivity usually begins after other allergies.
  3. Chronic viral or fungal infections (due to diminished ability of immune system to function properly)

The Low Down on Toxins and Body Processing

  1. Toxins are stored in your fat cells (fat soluble)
  2. To be excreted the liver must turn them into a water soluble product (why the liver is the number 1 helper in detoxification)
  3. Phase 1 of liver detox means that your are breaking down the toxins and sending them to the “phase 2” portion of the liver
  4. Phase 2 is responsible for rebuilding these substances in a less toxic way so that they can be excreted
  5. From liver the toxins are then excreted in bowel or through urine

Note: A healthy whole foods diet encourages this process to happen (especially with your dark bitter green vegetables!).

Talk to your health care practitioner about figuring out which kind of detox is right for you!!

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