Detoxification: Remove a Big Barrier to Better Health with Good Nutrition

By Jeffrey Field
January 2, 2018

Detoxification: Removing a big barrier to better health with good nutritionChemicals in our environment, heavy metals in our fillings, unhealthy food and the weight of stress on our bodies can take a collective toll on us. Detoxification is the process of removing some of these burdensome factors in order to improve our health and vitality.

Emily Day, APRN, in Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System, says people often think of detoxification as weaning off a dependency to drugs and alcohol, or doing a strict fast, along with a colon cleanse. The challenge is that anything too strict, too quickly can lead to more serious health problems.

Day says it's better to think of toxicity as anything that stands in the way of our health and healing, including stress, illnesses, unhealthy foods or exposure to chemicals in the environment.

Herbicides and pesticides used on crops, for example, are known endocrine disrupters that affect many systems in our body, Day says.

Our bodies have a way of managing those toxins – to a point.

"We are not meant to live in a bubble," Day says. "Our bodies have very sophisticated mechanisms to help us process the pollutants that we come in contact with on a day-to-day basis, neutralize them and then excrete them from the body. Our body was designed to do this."

She says problems arise when those mechanisms don't function well or if we come into contact with too many pollutants. That's why it's a good idea to reduce exposure when we can, so the body isn't being overworked. Detoxification is an effort to decrease one's total toxic load, something which can help prevent future illness and chronic disease.

"It's usually not any one thing that someone needs to 'get rid of,'" Day says.

And detoxification shouldn't only be a New Year's resolution or "spring cleanse."

"Doing too big of a detox at once can be hard on the body and make you more sick," Day says. "We're trying to look at everyday behaviors you can incorporate that reduce that toxic load."


"We can't effectively detoxify without good nutrition," Day says. "Being nourished is a way to buffer the body from the toxins that we come in contact with every day."

Dr. Leigh Wagner, formerly of Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System, says nutritional detoxification doesn't have to be anything extreme, painful or dramatic.

"It can actually be just simply eating a few different, supportive foods (brightly colored vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and good quality protein), drinking plenty of water, and making sure you have the sufficient and right nutrients (B vitamins, magnesium, protein) that will allow your body to do what it's meant to do," Wagner says.

Day says to build your meal by starting with a clean protein. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids, which are vital for adequate detoxification mechanisms.

By "clean" proteins, Day says she means meats raised in environments without growth hormones or exposure to other chemicals. This can include pasture-raised chicken or turkey, grass-fed beef or bison, lamb, wild-caught fish or eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Clean proteins can also include beans and other legumes, organic milk and some organic, non-GMO soy products, like edamame, tofu and tempeh.

"With soy, we do prefer that they're (not genetically modified) – organic, ideally – so you avoid the herbicides and pesticides that are often used when growing soy," Day says.

Pea protein and whey protein are also options as smoothie ingredients.

In addition to the protein, its essential to have an array of colorful fruits and vegetables. The vital nutrients in fruits and vegetables are colorful, non-caloric pigments that have many beneficial effects, including helping the process of detoxification.

Day says organic produce is the best way to reduce exposure to herbicides and pesticides.

"But if organic is unavailable in your area or it's too expensive for your budget, still buy fruits and vegetables," she says. "Just make sure to wash them well."

Day says with produce, the best way to ensure nutrient density is to eat them raw or cooked just enough so they get a bright color.

"Cooking vegetables too much suggests degradation of nutrients and possibly even some damage," Day says.

Day also singled out sugar, which she says negatively affects the detoxification pathway.

Lastly, Day says to make sure you drink plenty of water. Take your weight in pounds, divide it in half and drink that number of ounces every day. A 140-pound person, for example, should try to drink at least 70 ounces of water. People who are athletic, have sluggish bowel or are going through a particularly stressful time should drink more.

Focusing your initial, everyday detoxification steps on the foods you eat is not only essential, but can set the stage for long-lasting health.

Integrative Medicine at The University of Kansas Health System can help you learn good nutritional habits and a personalized pathway to better health. Call 913-588-6208 to make an appointment with a member of our team.

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