Effective Detoxification

Dr. Nick LeRoy, DC, MS

Detoxification is an alluring concept for most of us. The idea that we can cleanse our bodies of harmful, nasty chemicals--replete in the foods we eat as well as the environment in which we live--by taking a handful of pills, fasting or making short-lived dietary changes, is certainly desirous. However, there are effective, healthy ways to accomplish detoxification; and there are those ways, abundantly provided through the litany of internet supplement purveyors--that are not so effective and at times harmful. In the brief discussion that follows, I will attempt to provide some insight into detoxification as well as provide a questionnaire that can assist you in determining your need for a detoxification program. For more detailed information, please click detoxification.

Toxins are chemicals that damage bodily tissues, interfering with normal biologic processes in our bodies. They are poisons, in effect, damaging the very chemical reactions that sustain life. Toxic chemicals include medications such as antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, and antibiotics, as well as other man-made chemicals such as pesticides, food additives, adhesives, plastics, and solvents. Toxins also include chemicals that are produced by our intestinal bacteria and as a normal by-product of healthy cellular function. Unfortunately, many of these toxins are stored in fat and can be extremely difficult to eliminate from the body. Literature suggests an association between toxins and premature aging, cancer, Parkinson's disease, fatigue, joint/muscle pain and fibromyalgia. I have provided a form that will assist you with determining your need for detoxification.

In order to remove the multitude of toxic chemicals our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis, we possess a complex system designed to modify toxins so they can be quickly eliminated. This modification consists largely of the addition of a variety of specific molecules to the toxin and occurs predominately in the liver. This process makes the toxin more water-soluble and allows for easier elimination by the kidneys. Simply put, detoxification is the modification of toxic chemicals to allow removal from the human body. If the aforementioned process is in any way impaired, toxins will not be properly eliminated and symptoms will result. Efficient detoxification and elimination minimize the damage these chemicals can cause.

Fasting, once thought to be the most effective means of detoxification, starves the body of the very nutrients that are necessary for the processing and elimination of toxins. Likewise, "colon cleanses" and many "liver detox" supplements do not have these necessary nutrients. Most colon cleanses contain natural laxatives that provide nothing to help with detoxification. If you are constipated, you may feel better, but the pills have absolutely nothing to do with detoxification. Similarly, liver detox formulas that contain herbs like milk thistle and dandelion may be liver protective, but they have nothing to do with detoxification. So what does assist with detoxification? Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and some plant chemicals that act as "co-factors" in the numerous, very well elucidated, chemical detoxification reactions that take place in the liver.

A healthy, effective detoxification program normally consists of dietary changes coupled with supplements that provide the aforementioned nutrients. I typically recommend a 10-day or a 28-day program (determined in part by the detoxification questionnaire linked above) followed by long-term dietary changes. Long-term changes in eating behavior are ultimately more important than short-term cleanses that foster the erroneous notion that a person can eat whatever they want throughout the year, then undue the damage in two to four weeks.