Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Did you make a commitment to follow a cleanse as a part of your 2021 resolutions? If so, congratulations—you’re on your way toward better health. But before you start, remember that although the body is designed to detox every day of the year, there are times when your environmental toxic bucket reaches a tipping point, which can contribute to a range of health issues.
If you suspect that you’re experiencing a toxic overload, it’s important to know what you may have been exposed to throughout your life. Naturopathic medicine is uniquely designed to help identify these accumulated toxins and get rid of them.
It’s your genetic and biochemical individuality, health history, and specific toxin exposures that determine the best course of treatment for you. Licensed naturopathic doctors understand this.
Determining how your body responds to toxins
Naturopathic doctors are trained to determine how someone’s environment and toxins present in their body may be influencing their health. They evaluate toxic load along with other important diagnostics, such as genetic variations, nutrient deficiencies, stressors, dietary choices, microbiome status, vitality, and any associated conditions that may influence how the body responds to toxins.
This latter point is important because toxins from pesticides, herbicides, plastics, food, water, air, and household items may be causing undue inflammation in cells and tissues that lead to chronic health issues. Research clearly shows that inflammation from toxins may lead to obesity, neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune conditions, reproductive disorders, and cancer.
Identifying your personal triggers
Naturopathic doctors begin by assessing your health history and asking questions that help identify your toxic overload. Your answers may not spell out obvious signs to you, but to a licensed ND, they help guide the direction of treatment.
For instance, an ND may ask you when your symptoms started and whether that coincides with possible exposure. Maybe you remodeled your home, or experienced mold exposure from a flood or leaky pipe, or perhaps you haven’t been careful about toxins in your diet and personal care products. If you and the doctor are able to quickly identify the possible trigger, avoidance is the first step to better health.
Perhaps you’re experiencing vague health issues such as allergies, skin rashes, brain fog, and/or headaches. Naturopathic doctors spend a considerable amount of time with patients to record all symptoms. From here, a wide variety of tests help determine environmental exposure and provide information about your microbiome, hormones, organic acid compounds, micronutrients, genetics, and oxidative stress markers.
Your food choices may be a source of toxic exposure. Have you gone organic? Do you eat antibiotic-free poultry and fish and grass-fed hormone-free meat? Do you store leftovers in glass?
10 detox tips to consider
Once test results are available, a naturopath may prescribe vitamin, diet, and lifestyle changes, such as the following:
- To address unique genetic variations that may have altered your body’s detoxification pathways, a naturopathic doctor will prescribe specific nutrients, minerals, and/or botanicals to influence the antioxidants that fuel your detoxification pathways.
- To support your liver, the primary organ for detoxification, your body may need bioflavonoids, botanicals, and fat-soluble vitamins to increase cellular glutathione levels, the body’s master antioxidant.
- Dietary changes may be necessary to help your body detoxify, including eating more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. You may need to increase your intake of antioxidants with green tea and citrus, and supplement with N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
- Skin is an important detoxification organ. A naturopathic doctor will offer guidance on how to rid the body of toxins with sauna treatments and hydrotherapy.
- Your gastrointestinal system is a key route of elimination, so supporting healthy bowel function with targeted prebiotics and probiotics may be useful.
- Your food may be a source of toxic exposure. Have you gone organic? Do you eat antibiotic-free poultry and fish and grass-fed, hormone-free meat? Do you store leftovers in glass? Or in plastics that contain chemicals (even BPA-free plastics are suspected sources of toxins)?
- To address water and air quality at home and at work, you might choose high-quality water and air filters. Hydration is an important part of detoxification, but if your water is full of chemicals, it may be doing as much harm as good.
- Personal-care products are another consideration for a toxin-free life. Choose phthalate- and paraben-free shampoos and personal-care products to reduce unwanted hormonal disruption.
- Household cleaning products are another constant and common source of environmental-toxin exposure. Switching to commercial green cleaning products—or making your own—can help reduce your toxic burden.
Naturopathic doctors are uniquely trained in advanced therapeutics that promote detoxification. Rather than look for a one-size-fits-all approach to ridding your body of unknown toxins, remember that you are a unique being with a body that’s designed to heal itself. When your toxin exposure becomes too great, trained naturopathic doctors can identify the causes and determine how to help your body get rid of them.
In some cases, it’s important to take this process slowly, as detoxification can cause a worsening of symptoms if done too quickly. By taking the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor, you can learn to support your body, maintain optimal health, and prevent chronic disease.
For more on toxin exposure or to find a naturopathic doctor in your area, go to naturemed.org