Is Detoxification Safe? 6 Prerequisites to Detoxing
Many of the "detox programs" readily available today, are not safe. Let alone effective. As a general rule of thumb, if you can buy it via the click of a social media button, are presented with the testimonials of super models, or are told "this [product/program] is the ONLY way," chances are, this is a gimmick. These "quick fix" scams are out for a quick buck and do not have your health held at highest esteem. In fact, these methods can leave you more toxic than you were to begin with.
Once you have found a trusted program (consider working with a functional medicine provider and a 3rd party GMP certified company), there are still several considerations to address prior to embarking on your detoxification journey. Here are a list of six prerequisites:
1. Elimination: this one is two fold. Elimination as in the removal/avoidance of certain foods/products from your consumption, but also as in the release of that which you have already consumed. In order to most effectively support your body's ability to detoxify, it is important that you become aware of that which you are consuming. It would make the most sense to work on elimination of genetically modified foods, processed foods, sugars, and any form of tobacco or alcohol.
When it comes to elimination of what you have already consumed, consider what renowned Institute for Functional Medicine instructor Dr. Bob Roundtree explains, "we are what we... can't eliminate." That which we do not eliminate, continues to ferment, and toxic bi-products get reabsorbed and recirculated through the body. Therefore, be sure that you are having regular bowel movements (2-3 per day that are formed, brown, not offensive smelling..), urinating an amount that is equal to the amount of liquids you consume, and are able to provoke sweating (ideally daily exercise will allow you to observe this) BEFORE you focus on pushing detoxification.
2. Hydration: "the solution to pollution is dilution." Water is a wonderful way to dilute toxicity. When the toxic load increases in the body, the body's natural response is to protect. One way that it does that is by holding water. As a naturally physiologic response, your body will shift water extracellularly (edema/swelling) to buffer the harmful effects of the toxicity. So one way to help alleviate dehydration at the cellular level is to ensure that you are drinking lots (at least half your body weight in ounces per day) of water. Does drinking water help "flush" the toxins out of your system, though? Well, all toxins are fat soluble (in fact, fat gain is another protective physiological response to increased toxicity), NOT water soluble, so no. Increasing water intake alone will not effectively decrease toxicity. That being said, a dehydrated body, a dehydrated cell, is not in support of effective detoxification.
3. Micronutrient Status: detoxification is an integral part of biotransformation, or digestion, and as such, requires a lot of energy and vitamin and mineral resources. If a deficiency is already present, replenishing the pond of nutrients is of primary concern. A well informed professional will be able to pick up on any potential risk factors or symptoms of micronutrient deficiency and be able to assess and care for any found imbalances prior to a detoxification protocol.
4. Fatty Acid Balance: omega 3 to omega 6 ratio specifically should be balanced. There is an excess of omega 6's in the Standard American Diet (SAD, an eerily accurate acronym) which predisposes the body to a surplus of inflammation. Especially in the midwest, there is a lack of fresh, wild-caught fish in the diet (one of the best sources of omega 3s) in conjunction with easily available meat sources (ie cattle, often times feed corn, which is very high in omega 6s and saturated fats and therefore a more inflammatory food source). Beyond inflammation, fatty acid balance plays a huge roll in cellular integrity (as omega 3's are an integral part of cellular membranes). A lack of cellular membrane integrity makes for a leaky cell, makes for a leaky body, makes for poor detoxification, or even increased toxicity. Lastly, the liver (our major detox organ) is highly responsible for digesting and mobilizing fats, so supplying the body with proper fatty acid balance relieves stress on the liver which allows for better detoxification.
5. Biomonitoring: when embarking on a detoxification focused journey, it is important to monitor your body's response. Biomonitoring is defined as a measurement of exogenous agents (consumed toxin from the environment in this case) in a biologic medium (blood, urine, hair, nails, stool, adipose tissue). This means we are looking at the toxic effect within the particular human's body, not the toxic effect in an isolated petri dish. Furthermore, in order to assess how the body is responding, we require a mark of where numbers are at the start. In certain cases, it may be necessary to capture blood work (or another medium) prior to detoxification. In a lower risk population (one that is less susceptible to toxicity, or has a lower risk of disease due to toxicant susceptibility), another less invasive form of tracking may be utilized. A body composition test that gives values at the cellular level (RJL body composition analyzer) would be a good form of biomonitoring, for instance.
6. Mindset: last, but certainly not least, reflect upon your reasoning for seeking out a detoxification program. Are you looking for a quick fix? Are you wanting to shed pounds fast? Any detox that is marketed for such outcomes is not the sign of a good/healthy program, but rather good marketing. Also, reflect upon your relationship with food. Have you suffered with eating disorders in the past (or currently)? Most detoxification programs require adjustments to your food intake and could serve as an unhealthy trigger. Lastly, reflect upon any toxic thoughts, beliefs, or relationships that are present in your life. A toxic mind, thought pattern, or relationship can be far more detrimental that any other lifestyle factor and should be treated with paramount importance.
There are so many programs, protocols, products out there. It can be overwhelming to decide what might be the best move to make. If you're looking for a professional to partner with you in your health journey, or to evaluate if a detox is the right call for you right now, I, Dr. Kylie, am more than happy to have those discussions with you. Call 715.204.4223 :)