Is "detox" a dirty word? Our Farmacist weighs in.
Mar 25, 2022
Let's chat detox.
The word "detox" has been widely used for years now as a trendy way to promote ridding the body of "toxins". There are loads of products and fad diets out there claiming to "cleanse" your body - many of them promoting unhealthy and, in some cases, dangerous methods. With so many companies and public figures using the word, we wanted to break it down for you from the perspective of our Clinical Herbalist and Senior Wellth Advisor, Erin Antosh. Let’s get into it!
So Erin, what’s the deal with this word “detox”? Is this really something that we should be focusing on and prioritizing as part of our wellness routines?
Your body doesn’t need help “detoxing” - your body has organs/systems that work together to clear out waste and toxins from the body. But what if these organs aren’t working optimally? Your body’s elimination pathways (the liver, kidneys, digestive tract, lymphatic system, respiratory system, and skin) can get overburdened with poor diet and daily exposure to environmental toxins.
I believe in supporting all of the organs involved in your body’s natural detoxification process (not just your liver!) on a daily basis, to ensure they are working optimally to support your overall health. This is a different approach than forced “detox” programs that use methods to “flush” or “cleanse” the body in an extreme way 1-2 times a year.
Optimizing your detoxification pathways, so your body can effectively perform detoxification functions, is crucial for hormone balance, weight management, and many chronic health issues. For example, if your liver is sluggish, it can recirculate excess hormones that are not needed by the body, instead of clearing them out, causing a hormone imbalance. Additionally, many people have compromised detoxification/methylation (you can get genetic testing for this), so they especially need to provide their detoxification pathways with some support through herbs and lifestyle approaches.
We brush our teeth and go to the dentist for a cleaning twice a year. What are we doing to ensure our detoxification pathways are working optimally? Our liver is our second largest organ (after the skin) - what are we doing to give our liver some love?
Got it. So you’re saying we don’t actually need to force a “cleanse” of sorts, but the best way to approach this is to support our body’s natural detoxification process. What’s the best way to go about doing that?
Reduce your exposures - The first thing we can do is lessen the burden on our body’s detoxification organs by reducing our exposure to toxins. The average woman uses 12 different personal care products before she walks out the door in the morning. This exposes women to about 160 chemical ingredients, and 60 percent of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into our bodies. PFASs (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances), pesticides, and chemicals in plastic have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, immune dysfunction, high cholesterol, impaired liver function, thyroid disorders, mitochondrial damage, diabetes and obesity. PFASs are called “obesogens” because they’re known to upset body weight regulation. So, take a look at your personal care products, pesticide exposures and plastic use, and try to clean up your routine.
Drink Clean Water - One of the simplest and most effective ways to support daily detoxification within your body is to drink plenty of water. And you want it to be clean water that has been filtered or from a spring. As we all know, insufficient water intake leads to dehydration and dehydration is one of the key culprits when it comes to constipation. If daily bowel movements are the most direct route to daily detoxification (and they are!), then water is key to staying “regular”.
Exercise - Moving your body supports daily detoxification in a handful of ways, making it an especially effective method. Getting your heartrate up to the point of moderate to heavy breathing elevates your heart rate and promotes healthy blood circulation. This supports the liver and lymphatic systems being able to do what they’re meant to do.
Sweating - Whether it is through a moderately intense aerobic workout, a brisk walk on a warm day, or jumping into a sauna for 10-20 minutes, sweating is your body’s built in way of naturally releasing toxins. Getting in a daily sweat each day (even a short one!) is a great way to naturally detoxify your body.
Dry brushing - This ancient eastern practice uses a natural-bristle brush in methodical circular motions across dry skin to stimulate the lymphatic system and increase blood flow. By gently brushing the skin, you are also able to turn over cell waste and remove unwanted environmental toxins.
Noted! Seems simple enough. These are definitely habits we can see ourselves incorporating into our routines more regularly. What about herbs to support the body’s natural detoxification process? Do you have any favorites that you recommend?
Schisandra Berry - Schisandra is not an intensively “detoxifying” herb, so it won’t stimulate the liver and cause trips to the bathroom. It actually optimizes liver function and repairs liver damage, so it gives the liver what it needs to effectively perform detoxification functions and clear out built up toxins. It gives the liver some love, so it can do its job better. Schisandra is also hepatoprotective, meaning it prevents damage to the liver. Schisandra is an herb you can safely take daily.
Triphala - This is a traditional remedy in Ayurveda for digestion issues, especially constipation. The colon is an important detoxification pathway - if you aren't eliminating daily, your body will store more toxins. Triphala's gentle but effective detoxification abilities help to support the liver in clearing out toxins and excess hormones, helping to reduce environmental triggers to health issues and balance hormones.
Chlorella - Chlorella is a freshwater algae that is best known for supporting the body in binding to heavy metals and stored toxins. It binds to and helps to escort out toxins. It also helps to regulate hormones (by helping the liver to clear our excess hormones instead of recirculating them), improve metabolism, and enhance immune function.
Dandelion Root & Leaves* - Dandelion root is alterative, meaning it supports the liver’s detoxification functions by increasing bile production and excretion. The root is also rich in prebiotic fiber to support gut microbiome balance (and gut dysbiosis compromises your body’s detoxification abilities). The leaves of dandelion are packed with nutrition and support the kidneys.
Burdock Root* - Burdock supports the liver while also enhancing lymphatic circulation. Rich in prebiotic fiber, this root also supports healthy gut flora, which is key in effective digestion and detoxification.
*While we don’t currently carry either of these as individual herbs, keep an eye out for our upcoming Spring Inside Scoop launch. You just might see them pop up there. Want to be on the list to hear about it first? Sign up here.
Annnnnd…*adds to farmacy*. This has been really great, Erin! Thanks for taking the time to educate us. Any final words of wisdom?
As someone who had mold illness, heavy metal toxicity, parasites, sluggish liver function and poor methylation, using herbs and lifestyle approaches to support my detoxification system was a large part of my healing. People think "you don't need help with detoxification - that is why you have a liver"...but our bodies are overburdened with toxins (due to increased toxin exposure) so our liver function is not optimal.
The focus is on gut health these days (which is also key in the detoxification process!), but I believe soon there will be a shift to focus more on liver health (and all of the organs/systems involved in the body’s detoxification process).
In traditional Chinese medicine, the belief is that if your liver is in harmony, the rest of your body will be in harmony. I find that to be true with the clients I work with in consultations. Maybe sluggish liver function (and how your liver interacts with all of your detoxification organs) is what is holding you back from achieving your health goals? It certainly was for me.