Do I Need a Detox?

by: Alicia Hart, ND

People often come in wanting to do something to ?detox? in spring. Now, what detoxification means to you may vary. Usually people are saying they want to lose weight, feel healthier, and have more energy. Sometimes people are asking to get rid of heavy metals or environmental pollutants like organophosphates. Sometimes people are concerned about fat soluble medications that they feel are still affecting them. In general, your liver and kidneys do a marvelous job of processing your day to day exposure load, so congrats! You?re already detoxing.

When we think of detox for parents, we must consider nursing mothers specifically because breastfeeding itself is an act of detoxification. Breastmilk, with its higher fat and protein content, does tend to attract heavy metals and other contaminants. There is research that shows that we pass a tiny amount of this burden onto our children- but the exposure is far greater in the air we?re breathing. Not much of a consolation prize, and definitely a reason to continue fighting for a cleaner, greener earth. The good news is that the milk also contains important enzymes and antibodies that strengthen kiddo and make baby more able to deal with the pollution that is coating particularly urban areas. The benefits of breastfeeding, even extended breastfeeding, far outweigh the risks of the transferred pollutants.

Still, breastmilk is a solid way that your body excretes Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and heavy metals like lead and mercury. For this reason I do not recommend specific detox accelerants during lactation. There are still a number of things that you can do during breastfeeding to reduce the number of VOCs, POPs, and heavy metals- POPs in particular appear to correlate to your diet. While you?ll get conventional pushback that ?eating organic doesn?t matter?, research clearly demonstrates otherwise-? that POP levels in serum are reduced by eating an organic diet, and that decreasing POP levels increases your energy, makes your endocrine (hormone) system work better, and helps your nerves feel better.

Here’s a few things that all families can do for general support of their detox system:

1. Eat Clean

Eating clean to reduce POPs includes:

  • finding less contaminated sources of foods- organic fruits and veggies
  • reducing your animal product consumption
  • making sure that your fats are as ?clean? as possible.

This is the not-pesticide-treated movement in a nutshell. Keep in mind that organic as a movement has largely been co-opted as a marketing term. In general, you?re going to get your lowest-POP-level foods from local, small scale, organic farmers who are only selling seasonal vegetables. As a bonus, getting food from your local farmers supports small business and keeps the food chain local, which decreases diesel emissions (diesel emissions are connected to asthma and other health conditions).

When you?re on a limited budget, try to avoid the ?dirty dozen?– the 12 foods most contaminated with POPs. Those are: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes for 2019. The standard American diet relies pretty heavily on some of these, so it can be quite an adjustment. Don?t worry, you?ll find your rhythm again- and if you’re hitting the farmer’s markets to get organic versions of these, remember that most farmers markets in portland not only take SNAP- they match it, so you can get twice the food!

2. Love your Liver
  • Don?t drink alcohol like a fish. Or like an over-imbibing human. Especially not by binge drinking (4 drinks in 2 hours)
  • Try not to use so much Tylenol that you?re actively killing cells off.
  • Keep your sugar intake down so that you?re not stowing extra fat in your liver. (at the very least, keep those added sugars at 25g or less per day)
  • Routinely eat bitter greens to help your gallbladder dump out the bile that it?s holding.
  • Get good exercise to help your circulation take blood through your liver.

You can also bias your food intake to supply vital nutrients to the two phases of detox reactions that your liver provides for you. To conjugate and excrete things your body doesn?t need, you require cysteine, glycine, sulphur, glutathione, and glucuronide. Cysteine and glycine are amino acids which hang out in proteins. Glutathione is found in best quantities in unprocessed foods- not frozen or cooked. It?s a sensitive compound, so preparation and length of storage are important. Fresh asparagus, spinach, broccoli are all great sources, so again, make friends with your local farmers. Sulphur is in all of your proteins as well, and your cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts) and your alliums (garlic, onions, leeks, and chives). Glucuronidation needs a bunch of cofactors like magnesium (chocolate?! Dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds), B vitamins (pretty much animal products, dark leafy greens) and d-limonene containing foods (most citrus).

When you give your body the nutrition it needs to go forward, your body can do the rest. The roughage from increasing your veggies will help move your bowel function along too, so that you can poop out those POPs.

3. Hydrate

?To reduce pollution, increase the dilution? was a saying from one of my environmental med teachers. Once you?ve done all of that work in changing your diet and conjugating your environmental contaminants, you still have to get them out of your system.

Cue the kidneys, those sweet factories of elimination helping you pee out all the things you don?t need. In general, I tell people that a good rule to follow is the ? your body weight in ounces rule- so 200 lbs= 100 ounces of water per day. When you are nursing, additionally drink to thirst- your output will change with demand and may vary.

Once your kid is eating solid food, (assuming there are no other issues we need to look at) I recommend letting them have a cup of water nearby throughout the day. Your call on the sippy lid or cleaning up spills- we found that the pura kiki sippy worked great at our house.

4. Actively decrease your exposure to heavy metals, VOCs, and POPs

We already talked about ways to reduce POPs, but it bears repeating that environmental contamination is a problem pretty much everywhere and that this type of pollution messes with your nerves, hormones, and immune system. There?s convincing research out there tying the upswing of autoimmune disease to pollution, and postpartum moms are already more likely to develop some forms of autoimmune disease.

?Greening? your space by reducing your reliance on plastic products, artificial fragrances, weird cleaning solvents, hair treatments like Brazilian blowouts, and other things can truly make a difference for many. Because this is such a complex issue, it?s worth talking to an environmental medical professional to figure out where your specific exposures are. You might also check in with your local zero waste or environmental conservation groups.

5. What about specific detox treatments? I mean, that’s the whole reason I even clicked into this article!

Detox treatments can be critical for getting some folks to function. I don?t think they?re appropriate during pregnancy or lactation. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, it?s best to stick to a clean diet and exercise without pushing further unless there?s an extreme circumstance (active heavy metal poisoning that’s killing you, etc) to warrant.

For other stages of life we can use things like infrared sauna, which increases mitochondrial activity and removes these toxic substances from fat and places them into sweat, or we can use herbal protocols to help chelate and escort them out.

Many of our detox protocols are particularly useful for conditions which have a fatigue and pain component to them, like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. An easy thing to do that will be helpful for most is to eat some (nonpesticide sprayed) weeds- dandelion greens in salad, milk thistle seeds? and/or burdock root in stir fry, peppermint in your tabbouleh- adding wild greens and roots gives a ton of extra nutrition that often has studied and direct action on your liver.

5. This is not the article I was expecting around chelation, fancy clay applications, and expensive supplements. I really wanted just a simple protocol to follow so that I look good in a swimsuit in a few months!

Aw, you know Vitality isn’t like that, boo. If you want to look good in a swimsuit in a few months, get a swimsuit and put it on your body. We’re firm believers in Health At Every Size and you know we really like treatments that are based on increasing access for folks that might be in low resource areas, empowering everyone to make sustainable changes to their diet and lifestyle that will continue benefiting them for years longer than a bottle of motility activator would, and making a custom plan for each individual and family.? If you want a specific to you protocol, you gotta come in so that we can make something that will work specifically for you. You can schedule that here:

In the meantime, everyone benefits from cleaning up their diet, loving their livers and kidneys, and greening up their environment, no matter what stage of life they?re in. Get your detox on!