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All About Detoxing

By Felicia Assenza, ND

“Detox” is a word that quite commonly gets thrown around in the health and wellness world. From juice fasts and diets to detoxifying supplements and products, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available on the subject. After a quick browse on the internet, one can find themselves thinking: “What exactly is a detox? Should I be detoxing? Is it safe? Where do I start?” Hopefully this will answer those questions and provide some clarity around detoxing.


What does it mean to detox?

Detox is short for the word detoxification, which is the process of removing harmful substances or toxins. A toxin is a substance that causes harm to the body and while it can be something that causes immediate, emergency harm, these are generally not the type of toxins wellness experts are referring to when talking about detoxing. What they are more commonly referring to is toxic burden or load.

Toxic burden is the build up of substances that, in small concentrations on their own, may not cause large issues but, as they build up over time, their accumulation may start to pose a threat. As an analogy, think of a can of pop. One can - while definitely not the most nutritious drink - won’t kill you but continue drinking this sugary drink every day and your body starts to lose its ability to properly regulate blood sugar, potentially leading to diabetes. 

Should I be “detoxing”?

It is important to note that the body is quite good at detoxification all on its own. Organs of elimination such as the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin help clear out waste, excess hormones, drugs or harmful substances. The liver is often most well-known for it’s important role in detoxification of the blood, filtering things our body doesn’t use or recognize, such as excess hormones. medications, or artificial sweeteners. The kidneys also help in filtering the blood and expelling excess fluid. The lungs help clear out carbon dioxide and harmful gaseous by-products from our bodies as well as filter the air we breathe. The intestines expel waste products through bowel movements. Finally, the skin expels harmful substances or waste products through sweat and filters substances coming in from the outside world.

Sounds like our body has it covered then, so why all this buzz around detoxing? Well, the environment we live in today has many aspects that add to the toxic burden our organs of elimination are processing. Things like additives in food that our bodies can’t recognize, environmental pollutants, medications, pesticides, etc. build up over time and can become overwhelming for the body to take care of on its own, especially for anyone who has impaired function of any of the organs of elimination. A “detox” then should act to support these organs and help them function better, while also minimizing exposure to substances that add to the toxic load.

Is it Safe?

The short answer to this question is, it depends. With all the information around “detoxing” floating around the internet, there is some good advice but also advice that can be potentially harmful. Things like extremely restrictive diets, juice cleanses that go on for too long, or even supplements that really may not be right for everyone can all pose some very serious risks to health and may do more harm than good. This is where it becomes important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting on any sort of “detox”. Keep in mind that what’s best for one person, may not be best for everyone. Everyone is different and it is important that any approach to improving health reflects that. 

Where do I start?

The best place to start is by reducing exposure to things that you already know put extra stress on your body. This step can actually be quite simple.

Could your house use a clean? Clean it up, open a window, and you’ve just reduced your exposure to air pollutants that could be adding to your toxic load. Home environments can be teeming with hidden toxins like mould, dust, or harmful chemicals. Make this clean-up even better by simply using a vinegar solution to clean instead of a cleaner that may add more harmful chemicals to the environment.

Go to the grocery store (or local farmer’s market), buy some real, whole ingredients (things that don’t come in a box!). Make a home-cooked meal for dinner. Now you’ve just reduced the number of food additives or chemicals that could be adding to your toxic load. To also reduce pesticides that may be contributing to the burden, try buying organic and wash your produce very well.


Get moving! Did you know that exercise can actually improve the function of all of your organs of elimination by increasing circulation? So get moving, even if it’s just a simple walk.

Once you’ve taken the simple steps to reduce your toxic load, you may want to consult a healthcare professional, like one of us here at Awakening Health, about further supporting your body’s natural detoxification process. For example, our Naturopathic Doctor can work with you to assess the health of your organs of elimination and come up with a plan to optimize their function. Our Physiotherapist can help you get moving and address any restrictions that may be altering your mobility. Our Osteopath can also help with releasing any restrictions that may be preventing optimal circulation, especially to the organs of elimination.

As you can see, “detoxing” doesn’t have to be extreme or restrictive, it actually tends to be more effective when it’s not. Our bodies are smart and often quite capable of handling what the world throws at us and sometimes we just need a little extra help, support, and guidance along the way.

What can Awakening Health do to help you?

You probably have some sort of idea of how to lead a healthy lifestyle but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start or you may have other factors such as pain or lack of energy that prevent you from making healthy lifestyle changes. That’s where we come in.

Our naturopathic doctor will spend time listening carefully to your health story and perform any relevant physical exams or lab work in order to piece together what may be contributing to your high blood pressure. She will then work with you to make any dietary and lifestyle changes that will help lower blood pressure/heart disease risk and are reasonable and attainable. In the meantime, therapies such as herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture will help support you, lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health as you make these changes.

Our physiotherapist will work with you to determine any restrictions or mobility limitations that may be preventing you from leading an active lifestyle. He will also work with you to come up with an exercise program that restores proper biomechanics and decreases your risk for heart disease.

Our osteopathic practitioner will use hands-on manual techniques to address other factors that may be restricting blood flow to help restore optimal circulation throughout the body and improve heart health.

Our massage therapist will help promote relaxation and improve circulation throughout the body.

This article contains health information. It is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide health care advice. For advice specific to your concern, please consult a regulated healthcare provider.

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