Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

As spring is now here, many people come in asking about the proper way to do a detox. For those who do not know what a detox is, it is a regimen that uses certain foods and supplements in order to rid the body of toxic compounds. While there are many products and plans that make claims for effectiveness, there are essential components that need to be present in order to ensure that it is done safely and effectively.

What are toxins and where do they come from?
We are constantly exposed to many toxins from the air that we breathe, from products that we put on our skin, and from foods and liquids that we ingest. Examples of these can include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and herbicides, solvents, tobacco smoke, food preservatives, synthetic food dyes, etc… Conventionally these chemicals are known to have a toxic effect based on a dose-response mechanism, where greater harm or health outcome results from higher exposure. But, what is very difficult to assess are the resulting health effects from smaller exposure to many different chemicals, where the dose of a single agent may not be high enough to have a significant effect, but where the additive effects of many smaller exposures results in an outcome.

How does your body deal with toxins?
The body is able to metabolize many of toxins that we regularly encounter by processing them in the liver. It is done in three distinct phases that serve to bind, inactivate and make the end product water soluble in order for it to be eliminated. This process may be affected by many things, including being overwhelmed by multiple exposures, by having alteration in proper urine pH (resulting in the re-absorption of the compound), and most importantly, by not having the proper nutrients available that are required in order to process the different compounds.

What are common symptoms?
Many of the symptoms that people experience due to exposure are non-specific, and may include symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, generalized muscle pain, headaches, and sensitivity to chemicals such as air fresheners, perfumes/cologne. Others, may experience symptoms based on how different chemicals are process in our bodies. For instance, many people may become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol or coffee.

What are the basic essentials for a proper detox?
In order to have the most effective detox, a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables should be consumed to ensure that your liver has the required nutrients available to metabolize the various offending compounds. Water intake should also be increased in order to aid in flushing the compounds from the body.

Supplements may also be chosen in order to assist this process, and they should be chosen based on their ability to affect the metabolism of toxic compounds. Caution should be used with many detox supplements as they often have potentially serious side effects, can interact with pre-existing health conditions or with prescription medications.

What to expect following detox
While the expected outcome of completing a detox may vary according to what symptoms are experienced prior to beginning, most people end feeling more energized and less fatigued, may be more mentally alert, have improvements in digestion, and usually lose a moderate amount of weight.

If you have questions about how to do a safe and effective detox or if you have questions about Naturopathic Medicine, please give me, Graham Beaton ND, a call at 613-290-6115. I am a naturopath practicing in downtown Ottawa.