Research & Education

The Importance of Detoxification

Detoxification has become quite popular these days. In conventional medicine many do not think about detoxification the way most of us in alternative medicine do. In the conventional realm it is typically associated with drug and alcohol detoxification. If you google detoxification or do a PubMed search you will most likely get information on drug detoxification and treatment facilities.

In the world of functional and nutritional medicine detoxification is really just our individual ability to detoxify our bodies by eliminating toxic substances. This is essential to our overall health. All of us live in an ever-increasingly toxic environment. More than 80000 chemicals are introduced into the world each year and in all honesty our indoor environment is likely more toxic than our outdoor environment. We are exposed to pesticides herbicides chemical solvents xenobiotics and industrial chemicals of all kinds that we encounter through the food we eat the water we drink and the air we breathe. These toxins accumulate in our body and contribute to the total toxic load that can cause a variety of health problems.

Some of the symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Fatigue headaches generalized muscle aches
  • Poor exercise tolerance
  • Skin rashes (food allergies/sensitivities)
  • Immune weakness
  • Environmental and chemical sensitivity
  • Lack of concentration depression mood changes memory loss sleep disturbances

There are a multitude of detoxification programs available today ranging from juice cleanses to fasting. Some people look at these programs as a way to eliminate toxins while others think of them as a means to lose weight. Many programs are very low in calories and deprive the body of valuable protein and nutrients which can lead to the unfortunate consequences of dehydration fatigue and headaches. Programs that involve fasting should be avoided plain and simple. Detoxification pathways significantly decrease in as little as 36 hours of fasting. In addition fasting depletes glycogen which prevents glucuronidation; also the other three phase II conjugation pathways are all protein dependent.

Nutritional Support for Detoxification

There is significant evidence that support the importance of diet and nutritional supplementation in maintaining detoxification pathways. Let's look at several of these critical nutrients:

Milk Thistle is one of the most protective herbs for the liver. There have been hundreds of studies that confirm these protective properties.

N-Acetyl Cysteine is a modified version of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine that is a precursor to glutathione which supports phase II detoxification. It has been used for decades for acute poisoning from pain-relieving medications. 

Calcium D-Glucarate aids in liver detoxification and supports healthy hormone metabolism and clearance of excess hormones through the glucuronidation pathway. Keep in mind that in liver detoxification many of the substrates are xenobiotics such as pollutants and excess estrogens. Calcium d-glucarate is an essential part of the detoxification process by preventing the recycling of potentially harmful environmental toxins and excess estrogenic hormones while promoting liver detoxification.

EGCg is one of the most extensively studied green tea polyphenols. Green tea supports detoxification by enhancing the glucuronidation pathway and in addition offers many other benefits such as helping to modulating blood glucose control and providing antioxidant neuroprotective and cancer-protective properties. 

As health care providers we all know that everyone can benefit from detoxification yet countless patients shy away from it. This is probably because many programs are difficult to follow and truthfully they just don't taste good.  Educating patients about manageable and palatable detox programs is key so they can reap the abundant health benefits such as increased energy deeper sleep reduced joint pain improved weight loss better focus and memory improved sex drive and improved digestion.


by Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN