Alternative, Practical 'Detox' Methods

Words: Dr Taylor Bean
Photos: Eszter Biro


When someone says they are doing a detox, what does that mean? Does that mean they are doing a colon cleanse, removing heavy metals, supporting liver function or working at even a deeper, cellular level? It truly depends on what agents you are using when you plan to do a detox. But also, our bodies need to detox well continuously for us to stay healthy.

But first, what is detoxification? Detoxification is what the body’s chemistry does to rid itself of unwanted chemicals, whether the chemicals are left over from metabolism, or enter the body from breathing, ingestion, or applied topically (such as lotions/makeup/perfume).

The process of detoxification mostly involves creating a new molecule rather than breaking it down into something smaller. For example, if the body wants to get rid of a molecule, such as estrogen, it is usually combined with another molecule, making it bigger but subsequently less toxic.

Once packaged, the unwanted molecule is discharged from the body directly from the liver into bile, where it travels to the intestine and out, or, the liver puts the package into the bloodstream, where it travels into the urine via the kidneys. Some toxins, such as heavy metals, find their way out through hair and nails. A minor exit for toxins is through perspiration. For the most part, toxins are bundled for excretion from the body by a process that results in a bigger package.

My approach, as a naturopathic doctor, when it comes to detoxification:

  1. Reduce things in your life that may be toxic. In terms of reducing, this ranges from what you put in and on you body. Over the years of supporting patients live a cleaner life, I have found 3 main areas that should be altered to decrease toxic exposure are: personal products, plastics and water. Many women, in particular, are not aware of the amount of chemicals that personal hygiene and makeup products contain. Did you know you can apply over 300 chemicals on your body before even leaving the house? Be mindful of where your makeup comes from. Check the ingredients in your lotions, deodorant, hair products and perfumes - Yes, perfume! Just because it smells nice doesn’t mean it is healthy for your body. The chemical substance known as phthalates - used to lengthen the life of the fragrance - create havoc on our endocrine system (hormones). Skip the chemical-laden perfumes, lotions and home fragrances: opt for using essential oils or nothing at all. You may find your headaches start decreasing and even cognitive function starts to improve.
  2. Restore liver, kidney, digestive and cellular functionSupport the key areas of the body that remove toxic substances, which includes your liver, blood, lymphatic system, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines. How do each of these areas help with detoxification? Read more here.
  3. Reach for healthy alternativesReach for whole foods! GREEN foods (not artificially colored food) which have nutrients to support your biochemical pathways, so you can better eliminate toxic substances.

If the body is healthy and working well, toxins are easily eliminated. It was thought that a detox program, such as a fast or a cleanse, was the best way to support detoxification of the body. However, in medical terms, there’s no such thing as ‘detoxing’. The rightful approach to detoxification is to nourish the body thoroughly, fueling the body's natural detoxification mechanism with the nutrients needed to achieve optimal detoxification activity.

The general detoxification systems in the body are:

  1. Liver
  2. Skin
  3. Lymphatic system
  4. Lungs

Overall, think plain and simple in every area of your life to support your whole body in its mission to detoxify your system and support your good health. The more ingredients on a label that you cannot pronounce - be that a personal care product or food - may be an indication it will put more stress on your detoxification system. Drink plenty of filtered water and eat wholesome foods to get all your vital nutrients. These modifications alone will help your body detox well continuously - not just on a one off attempt!