How To Detox Your Body The Right Way

So you’ve decided to go on a detox cleanse.

Maybe you’re starting a seven-day cleanse.

Or you’re going on a juice fast.

NEWSFLASH! Neither of these methods are true detoxification, the kind that can remove harmful toxins from your body. 

Don’t get me wrong. Both seven-day cleanses and juice fasts can have real benefits. Seven-day cleanses are great for people who are generally healthy and who want to reset their bodies. Juice fasts give your gut a break, and you’re boosting your antioxidant intake.   

But if you’ve been exposed to toxins and really need to detox your body, those strategies aren’t going to work. 

In this blog post, I’ll go into what detoxification is and what it isn’t. But before we go there, let’s review the red flags that suggest you need to detoxify in the first place.


Common Symptoms of Broken Detox

The only way to know for sure if you need to be on a detoxification program is to work with your functional medicine provider to order the right tests (more on this later).

But there are some symptoms of toxin exposure that can clue you in that you need detox. For example:

  • Autoimmune problems
  • All over joint and connective tissue pain
  • Brain fog
  • Flare ups of latent viral infections (loss of immune tolerance). For example, your herpes infection comes out of hiding after 10 years and causes you to suddenly get cold sores. 
  • General malaise
  • Random headaches
  • Rapid skin aging
  • Resistant weight loss
  • Skin breakouts like eczema, acne, rashes
  • You just don’t feel as well
  • You react to everything around you: food, chemicals, environmental exposures like pollen, the fact that it’s Wednesday. ☺

But you don’t have to be a complete mess to have a detox problem. In many cases, the full ramifications of having toxins build up in your body doesn’t show up until years later. 

A lot of people are overburdened with toxins and don’t know it because symptoms haven’t showed up yet. 


Sources of Toxin Exposure

Toxins are all around us in the food, air, and water supply. Here are some of the more common ones we’re exposed to daily:


Toxins show up in places you’d never think about—like the disposable plastic lid on that almond milk latte you just grabbed to go. Some common places that you’ll encounter toxins include:

  • Seafood (mercury)
  • Non-organic fruits and vegetables (glyphosate, pesticides)
  • Water-damaged buildings (mycotoxins). Half of all buildings in the United States are water damaged, so mycotoxins are a common problem.
  • Items not labeled BPA-free: Linings of cans, cash register receipts, toothbrushes, cloudy plastic containers. However, even items labeled BPA-free can contain BPS. This is another type of chemical that is just as toxic or more so than BPA.
  • Personal care products like shampoo, conditioner, moisturizers (phthalates)
  • Pesticides and herbicides sprayed on your yard or around your office (glyphosate and others)

You can’t get away from these environmental toxins, so your best bet is to get tested to make certain your detoxification is working like it’s supposed to do. With those results, a detox program can be tailored to your needs. How do you do that? By working with functional medicine providers like me to order the right tests and design customized protocols.


How To Test for Toxins in Your Body

Before starting a detox cleanse, it’s critical to get tested to see if you have a detox problem and how severe it is. 

Patients who have had an obvious exposure should definitely get tested. For example, if a person grew up in an agricultural area, or near a coal plant, or worked in a hair salon, it’s a safe assumption that a detox treatment is needed. 

Sometimes, however, it’s not so obvious. Exposure can come from working in the garden, eating food that’s not organic, drinking tap water for years, living or working in a building with water damage, and the list goes on and on. 

We often see patients who are loaded with really nasty toxins. 

Testing not only helps us understand how well your detoxification is working—it also helps us establish a baseline, so we can get a snapshot of whether detox treatments are working by retesting again after treatment.

The tests I use to tell how well your detox pathways are working are reviewed in the next section. But popular detox cleanses and juice fasts miss all of this. They don’t address how well your body’s detoxification- your unique biochemistry- is actually working.


Common Detox Tests

Your body cleanses itself of toxins using glutathione, sulfation, methylation, and a few other pathways. So, I always run tests to tell me how well these detoxification pathways are working in your body. 

We want to know whether you have a glutathione deficiency as indicated by urine pyroglutamate and sulfate tests. Low sulfate levels show the body is using up glutathione faster than it can make it due to the high burden of toxins. 

When you run out of glutathione, it leads to a high level of oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between damaging free radicals and beneficial antioxidants. The body needs some oxidative stress, but when there’s too much of it, cells become damaged. Tissues can be harmed. Disease processes can be triggered and aging speeds up.

My favorite antioxidant test? Urine 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine, or 8-OHdG for short, is a marker of DNA damage due to free radicals. If that marker is 3.5 or higher it means your detoxification is shot. Your rate of all-cause mortality just went up significantly, you have a greater chance of getting cancer, and you’re aging faster. But there’s good news. We can balance your DNA damage by boosting levels of glutathione and antioxidants.    

Detox tests often measure levels of the following markers: 

  • Pyroglutamate – High levels mean that your body is detoxing vigorously and needs glutathione support. 
  • Sulfate – Low levels indicate your body is running out of what it needs for detoxification, especially sulfation and glutathione.
  • 8-OHdG – High levels indicate your detoxification is weak and antioxidants are out of balance.
  • P-hydroxyphenyllactate – High levels of this marker show that your antioxidant levels are getting too low. You may need vitamin C.
  • Hydroxymethylglutarate – High levels show you’re not getting enough of the antioxidant and energy producer, coenzyme Q10.
  • Methylmalonate – High levels show you’re having trouble with your methylation detoxification pathway. You need vitamin B12. 


What a Detox Program Is Not

First, going on a juice fast is not detoxing because it’s low in protein. All the detox pathways need amino acids. And where do we get amino acids from? You guessed it: protein. 

The best way to ruin your body’s natural detox abilities is to go on a protein-deficient diet. That’s why we see a lot of vegans or vegetarians who can’t carry out detoxification. Many of these patients haven’t developed a comprehensive nutrition plan to make sure they get enough protein, because creating this type of plan is labor intensive. And carrying through with it is even more difficult!

Going on a vegan or vegetarian diet often comes from a place of compassion and doing what seems best for your health. But there are some risks.  

It is very hard to get all of the nutrients you need on a meat-free diet. Vegans and vegetarians who aren’t getting the nutrition they really need and who have protein malnutrition can be highly toxic. Sure, they eat a lot of antioxidant-rich plant foods. But due to the lack of protein and impaired detox, they can ironically have a lot of oxidative stress. Remember, oxidative stress results when detox mechanisms aren’t working and it damages tissues and cells and speeds up aging.

We find that vegans and vegetarians can also have problems with an important process known as methylation. Healthy methylation is involved in so many processes in our bodies, including detox. Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient for methylation, but vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in this vitamin.  

Having said all that, a plant-forward diet is something everyone should be on for good health regardless of what other diet criteria you choose. 


A Real Detox Cleanse Takes Time

A real detox program is stretched out over time. It’s not the same as a seven-day detox cleanse. If your glutathione levels are depleted and you notice your aging is accelerated it’s going to take three to six months, or more in some cases, to get your detox tests in the normal ranges. It might take a year to get your glutathione levels up to where they need to be. 


How To Detox Your Body

The first step is to work with a functional medicine provider to help you personalize an effective protocol. When a patient needs to undergo a detox program, I always start with what’s going on in the gut. Often, the gut is the main source of toxins and oxidative stress. That’s why in most cases, I clean up the gut first.

In regards to dietary supplements, it’s really important that you address both Phase I and Phase II liver detoxification pathways. 

In Phase I, the liver breaks down toxins and makes them less harmful and water-soluble. This process creates a large amount of free radicals, which leads to excessive oxidative stress. 

In Phase II detoxification, another molecule is linked to the toxin to make the toxin less harmful. This is known as conjugation.     

Herbal combos that include dandelion, milk thistle, and artichoke leaf really just emphasize Phase I liver detox. If you’re taking supplements that address only Phase I and not Phase II,  you can go into what’s called pathological detox. This means your efforts to detoxify are actually backfiring. You’re not effectively getting rid of toxins. You’re making yourself more toxic.

When a patient feels bad during detox it’s often because the patient is doing pathological detoxifying by only supporting the Phase I pathway.  Or, in some cases, the patient doesn’t have enough bile flow to move the toxins out.  

Here are the detox supplements I often use in my patients to make sure I’m supporting both a patient’s Phase I and Phase II detoxification:

Coffee enemas can also promote bile flow.


Don’t Go It Alone

Your body’s detox can break in so many ways. That’s why a detox cleanse is going to be more effective if I customize a detox protocol designed especially for your needs. I do this based on testing to find out how well your body is—or isn’t—getting rid of toxins.  Book a free 15-minute troubleshooting call with me to find out the best course of action. 

If after the call you come on board as a patient, I’ll order the right tests for you. I’ll also support your gut health and your body’s unique biochemistry to address the root causes of your detox problems. If the tests warrant, I’ll put you on a cleansing detox program that supports both Phase I and Phase II in order to eliminate uncomfortable detox symptoms. The goal? Make your body as clean and pure as possible so you’ll feel your best once again.

Woman with depression sitting outside at sunset

How To Treat Depression & Anxiety Holistically - Part Two

In Part One of this series, I delved into the fact that depression and anxiety are not problems of JUST the brain or JUST the body. There is a definite mind-body connection, and the best treatments (and prevention) for depression and anxiety treat both. I also started going into the root causes – everything from childhood trauma to candida – and the solutions that might be able to help you. If you haven't read Part One yet, click here to go back and check it out!


Lots of people think “holistic” = “natural” or “alternative.”

But that’s not actually what holistic means!

A “holistic” approach looks at a person as a whole. Rather than seeing each part of the person - say their digestive system, or hormones, or mental health - as separate entities, holistic medicine views them all as interconnected.

(Sometimes, that does mean we use natural and alternative approaches to healing.)

But it always means that we’re looking at YOU as a whole person and not just a set of symptoms or a diagnosis.

I think that’s so important to make clear as I dive into the 2nd part of my series on treating depression and anxiety holistically.

Today, I’m going to explore how environmental exposure to toxins and hormone imbalances can play a role in depression and anxiety. It might seem crazy to think your detox pathways or PCOS could be related to depression or anxiety - but they can! Today I’ll explain exactly how and what you can do about it.

If you haven’t read Part 1 of my series, go HERE and read it first! Then come back and dig into Part 2!


What Toxins Are (And Aren’t)

Toxins is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean?

A toxin is any chemical or compound that has noxious or harmful effects on living organisms.

Toxins can come from outside us (our environment) but they can also be generated internally. For example, our hormones can become toxins if they stick around too long. They must all be “detoxified” - broken down and cleared from the body in order to make room for new fresh hormones to be produced. We also produce toxins in the gut.

But, the major source of toxins is the outside environment.

We have THOUSANDS of toxin exposures every single day. Here are just some of the most common ones:

  • Smog in the air we breathe
  • Touching receipts coated with chemicals
  • Pesticide residue on food
  • Prescription medicine contamination in drinking water
  • Hair & beauty products made with dangerous chemicals

The EPA estimates that in 2014, 4 billion pounds of toxic chemical waste was released into the air, water or placed in some type of land disposal in the U.S.

(And they consider this an IMPROVEMENT over the 4.7 billion pounds released in 2002!)

It’s likely that at least 25% of the United States population is dealing with heavy metal poisoning, too.

And while our body is equipped to deal with toxins (that’s what our liver is for!) the amount of toxic exposure humans have today is overwhelming. That’s why so many people's detox systems are overburdened. We can’t detox at a rate fast enough to keep up with all the toxins coming in!

This leads to fatigue, allergies, skin reactions, accelerated aging, autoimmunity, brain fog, yeast and bacterial overgrowths, and… increased depression and anxiety.


How Toxins Mess With Our Brains

The brain is a powerful and vulnerable organ.

The brain is made of nearly 60% fat. And that’s a problem - because many chemicals and toxins are fat soluble (including the nefarious heavy metals!).

The brain is so susceptible to toxin damage that there’s a specific name for toxins that negatively impact the brain neurons’ function: neurotoxins.

Neurotoxin exposure is a direct cause of depression and anxiety because they cause neurotransmitter dysfunction and inflame the brain.

This creates problems with brain signaling.

Neurons work by secreting specific brain chemicals (primarily serotonin and dopamine) out of the end of one neuron (called vesicle) into the space between the neurons (called the synapse).

Ideally, these chemicals are taken up by the receptor sites on the next neuron meant to receive the message. When that happens, a response signal is stimulated, and it continues on down the line to next neuron. If too much of any one brain chemical is released, it should be reabsorbed into the storage vesicles. This is called reuptake.

It’s sort of like your neurons are all playing a game of telephone.

But when toxins get in the way, the game gets messed up. The next neuron can’t hear the message clearly and passes it on wrong - or maybe not at all.

The toxins (and the inflammation caused by them) block the receptor sites on the neurons from taking up the chemicals  - aka “hearing the message.” Your neurons don’t get the signal.

And that means you don’t feel the effects of serotonin or dopamine, because they aren’t able to do their job.

Then, the serotonin and dopamine that should have been taken up start building up in the synapse.

Your body goes into action: it knows it can’t let too much of these chemicals accumulate. It starts creating enzymes to break down the serotonin and dopamine that are stuck in synapse.

The end result? Your reserves of serotonin and dopamine are lowered.

Depression and anxiety are both a result of the receptor sites in your brain being “shut down” and the lowered serotonin and dopamine this ultimately causes.


Signs Your Detox System is Overburdened and Needs Help

If you’re dealing with symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s a sign your detox systems could be overburdened - along with these other signs:

  • Memory, concentration, and focus problems
  • ADD or ADHD
  • Skin problems (acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives, rashes)
  • Fatigue
  • Overeating & food cravings
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Feeling chronically flu-like
  • Yeast overgrowth (Candida)
  • Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Food intolerances

But - all of these symptoms can be related to OTHER problems as well - which is why it’s so important to get accurate lab testing, and not just guess at a diagnosis based on symptoms.

Here’s what I commonly see with my patients:

A patient with depression or anxiety will also have digestive tract infections or dysbiosis, yeast overgrowth, or food intolerances.

These promote inflammation in the gut, and the inflammatory cytokines circulate in the blood and travel into the brain across the blood brain barrier, impacting brain function.  

(What do I do to help? Glad you asked! After testing, I use specific amino acids like 5-HTP, tyrosine, and GABA, plus nutrient cofactors to deal with shut-down receptor sites and neurotransmitter deficiency. At the same time, I’m addressing  underlying root causes of the gut infections.)


How To Address Depression & Anxiety Related To Toxin Exposure

The solution to depression and anxiety caused by toxin exposure is to address the cause of the inflammation: those toxins!

That means limiting exposure as much as you can: get a water filter, air purifier, buy organic, switch to natural beauty products, etc.

From there, I start by enhancing detoxification pathways with nutrient protocols, hydration, herbs, saunas, skin brushing, and lymphatic system support so the toxins can be broken down and excreted from the body.

Next, I use lab testing to identify where in the detox pathway things are getting gummed up. Is your Phase 1 or Phase 2 liver detox malfunctioning? Proper testing can tell us!

I also use Organic Acids Testing and Heavy Metals testing to see exactly what toxins you’re dealing with.

I have to give a warning here: you MUST be careful when doing detox work. It can be dangerous to stimulate detox and have the body suddenly dump toxins from storage into circulation.

It’s never good to detox someone who still has a leaky gut or gut issues - and it can make your gut issues get worse.

You shouldn’t feel sick when detoxing - this usually indicates pulling toxins out of storage faster than your body can clear them.

An experienced practitioner can help you detox safely.


Depression, Anxiety & Hormones

I’ve saved the best (worst?) for last: hormones!

On some level, almost all depression & anxiety is related to hormone imbalances.

Neuroscientists at the National Institute of Mental Health have even stated that most depression in the United States is caused or contributed to by HPA-axis dysregulation (also called adrenal fatigue) and hormone imbalances.

The most important players for depression and anxiety are cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Together they can trigger a biochemically-induced depression.


Cortisol Dysfunction

Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s has to be just right. Too high or too low, and you can have lots of problems. But it’s tricky because your cortisol levels shouldn’t be steady throughout the day: they should follow a predictable arc of rising quickly in the morning when you’re exposed to light and slowly lowering throughout the day.

(That’s why cortisol problems can be easily overlooked! You can’t just look at one reading - you need to look at both levels throughout the day, and the rate at which they rise and fall to get the complete picture of cortisol health.)

Low cortisol levels are related to depression - and in particular, are linked to postpartum depression. Low CAR response (the rise of cortisol first thing in the morning) can also be related to depression.

But  - high cortisol (especially high at nighttime) is also related to depression - both high and low levels can cause similar symptoms. Again - that’s why you must have accurate testing!

What messes up cortisol levels?

The big triggers for cortisol imbalances are are sustained and chronic stress! It can be mental OR physical stress - anything from a stressful job, being a super-busy new mom, or over-exercising can wreak havoc on cortisol levels.


Sex Hormones Imbalances

Progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are the primary sex hormones - but they can also have a huge impact on mental health and depression and anxiety in particular.

Here are just a few of the many ways sex hormones can directly impact mental health:

Progesterone helps balance blood sugar levels. Remember - the brain is dependent on adequate glucose to function. Low progesterone levels can lower the supply of glucose available to the brain. This decrease in "brain fuel" contributes to the most common psychological and emotional symptoms of PMS like:

  • Irritability
  • Rage
  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Memory lapses and loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased stress tolerance

Estrogen and progesterone also have a strong effect on the neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation:

  • Progesterone binds GABA receptors (which decreases anxiety and depression)
  • Progesterone raises serotonin hormone levels in brain
  • Estrogen increases dopamine activity in the brain

That means, any change in hormone levels (even subtle ones!) can contribute to psychological symptoms.

Unfortunately, the treatment given to many women who do experience mood symptoms with their monthly cycle is the hormonal birth control pill.

This drives me crazy as it only compounds the problem!

Birth control pills deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals like folate, b vitamins, and magnesium - all of which are involved in the synthesis of chemicals for brain health (among other things!).

This can result in intensified depression, anxiety and PMS! A number of studies have linked depression with the use of oral contraception.

Studies have also indicated that using the Pill for extended periods of time can alter the gut microbiome, especially predisposing users to candida overgrowth and other bacterial and fungal issues.

The nutrient deficiencies that are induced by the Pill are largely due to the influence on the gut microbes, where many of these nutrients are synthesized. (So again, many of these issues point back to the gut - make sure you read Part 1 of this series!)

But that’s not all…

Thyroid Problems

Every cell in your body has receptors for thyroid hormone - including the brain!

(That should give you a clue to how essential a healthy thyroid is for overall well-being!)

Thyroid hormone makes progesterone receptors more sensitive. This means that low thyroid hormone can mimic the symptoms of low progesterone. (Remember the fun PMS stuff we talked about in the previous section??)

Low thyroid hormone can also directly impact neurotransmitter levels. It can cause low dopamine levels - which translates to lack of motivation, drive, and willpower.

Taking Control Of Anxiety & Depression

No matter what root cause (or causes) of depression and anxiety you’re dealing with, there are certain steps you take with your diet and lifestyle to help alleviate symptoms.

For some of my clients, just making lifestyle and diet changes is enough to completely alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety! Here are some things to try in all the major categories:


  • Eat plenty of healthy fats (like avocado, coconut, and olive oil)
  • Avoid processed foods and excessive sugar
  • Some people can benefit from removing dairy & gluten
  • Choose organic foods (especially the Dirty Dozen)
  • Aim for 10 servings of fruits & veggies per day
  • Focus on eating for balanced blood sugar (avoiding processed carbs!)


  • Exercise has been shown to be as effective in most cases as antidepressant drugs for alleviating depression
  • Find what works for you and what you ENJOY doing
  • If you haven’t been exercising regularly, just start with 20-30 minute walks daily


  • Turn off screens 1 hour before bedtime
  • Schedule enough time for enough hours (8 hours or more)
  • Sleep in a dark room, with the temperature slightly cooler


  • Active stress management is something I recommend for ALL my clients (no matter what health concern they have)
  • Meditation, yoga, tai chi or qi gong, making art, dance, journaling are some of my favorite options for managing stress
  • Making a conscious decision to “switch” from fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest mode
  • Consider working with a counselor or therapist - especially if unresolved emotional issues are a factor for you


Next Steps For Treating Anxiety & Depression

After reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed.

It seems like you could have hormone issues, toxin exposure, gut issues, and maybe yeast overgrowth, too! (Plus there’s definitely some past trauma lurking that needs to be dealt with….)

As one of my mentors in Chinese medical school used to say: “You are entitled to more than one problem at the same time!”

The truth is that while some people have one primary cause, the majority of depression or anxiety cases is due to a “perfect storm” of factors.

Everything we’ve discussed in this series can be interrelated:

  • Having dysregulated cortisol levels can not only contribute to changes in the brain and brain chemistry, but can alter the way the immune system operates, leaving us more prone to inflammation and more vulnerable to infections in the gut
  • Having a leaky gut from food intolerances or infections will affect the brain directly, but will also be a major contributor to detox system overwhelm
  • Having low thyroid function can cause symptoms of low progesterone

The complex way all these systems interacts means one thing: you don’t want to go this alone!

I really believe everyone should have a trusted practitioner by their side, guiding them through the process of healing.

The right practitioner (trained in a holistic approach like Functional Medicine) can untangle the strings of depression and anxiety and get back to feeling like yourself!


If this resonates with you, I’d be honored to have you book a 20-minute consult with my team. These consults are totally free and a chance for us to share how we are trained to help you!

→ Learn more and book a free consult with my team here.