Detox Your Body With These 6 Functional Medicine Approved Supplements
There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling lethargic, down, and just plain unhealthy. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, I see many people walking through life feeling off with nagging symptoms that won’t go away. One of the biggest culprits? Toxin exposure.
Toxins are all around us but play an insidious role in our health problems. But thankfully there is a lot we can do to decrease our toxin exposure and support our body’s ability to detox, including supplementation. So let’s take a look at why we need to detox in the first place, some natural detoxing practices, and the best detox supplements so you can win the war against toxins.
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Why do we need to detox?
Our level of toxin exposure has increased exponentially over the last hundred years. In fact, toxins can be found in almost every area of our lives from our food to our personal care products. These are just a few examples:
- Perchlorates: A by-product of jet fuel production found in drinking water and food supply chains that has been linked to thyroid problems.
- Flame retardants: Used in furniture, computers, and tvs, these have been linked to developmental issues.
- Plastics: All around us, plastic chemicals can lead to thyroid problems and other chronic health conditions
- Xenoestrogens: Chemicals used in personal care products that act as estrogen in the body contributing to imbalanced hormone levels.
Normally your body’s detoxification system (your liver, gallbladder, and digestive system) does a great job at filtering out the toxins you are exposed to in your environment. However, this seemingly never ending onslaught of chemical exposure can be too much for our bodies to handle.
This toxin overload can make it difficult for your body to filter out these toxins fast enough which can lead to chronic inflammation that further inhibits your body’s ability to detox. Therefore, we need to do everything in our power to mitigate our toxin exposure and clear out toxins as much as possible from our system so that we can function optimally.
Signs that you need a detox
You can’t avoid toxins altogether so the question is not if you should do a detox; it’s when based on your individual tolerance to toxins and level of exposure. These are some tell-tale signs that your body has reached its toxin limit.
1. Your skin’s a mess
Your skin is responsible for eliminating waste and toxins from your body through sweating. If your body is overloaded with toxins this can manifest on the surface of your skin in the form of acne, rashes, and eczema.
2. Your hormones are imbalanced
A lot of the toxins we encounter on a daily basis are considered endocrine disruptors that end up mimicking hormones and throwing our own hormones out of whack. If you are experiencing symptoms like fatigue, weight-loss resistance, irregular periods, irritability, or brain fog, you may have toxin-induced hormone imbalance.
3. You have digestive distress
Gut problems are one of the most obvious signs that you need to detox. Bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and food intolerances are not normal. Detoxing is one way to give your gut a much needed break. It’s also important to start making a dietary shift toward more clean, whole foods instead of prepackaged foods with multiple unnecessary additives.
These symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg. Since everyone is different, toxin overload can manifest in many different areas of your body. Check out my article for more signs that you need to detox.
The best detox supplements
Which supplement is best for detox and what vitamins get rid of toxins in the body, are two questions I get asked the most in my telehealth functional medicine clinic. While there is no quick fix when it comes to detoxing, there are detox supplements that can help facilitate the removal of toxins from your body and support your body’s detoxification pathways.
Activated charcoal has this ability to adsorb - the chemical process of one substance attaching to the surface of another substance - so it is commonly used to attract toxic chemicals from our body and makes it one of the best detox supplements you can take. When taken orally, these toxins will then move with the activated charcoal through our bodies and be removed as we pass the charcoal through our bowel movements. Charcoal’s ability to remove toxins from the body is so powerful that it is even used as a natural cure to overdoses and acute poisonings. (1)
2. Milk thistle
Another one of my favorite detox supplements, milk thistle is a plant that aids in eliminating toxins that have built up in the liver while also helping to restore liver cells that have been damaged from increased toxin exposure. It’s one of the most well-researched natural remedies for treating liver problems and has been used for years to treat a variety of liver ailments, from hepatitis to alcoholic liver disease. (2)
3. B Vitamin Complex
Methylation is a biochemical process that happens more than 1 billion times a second with detoxification being one of its main responsibilities. Since genetic mutations and inflammation can impact your body’s ability to detox, it’s important to support your detoxification system as much as possible with B vitamins that act as fuel for your methylation pathways.
Because there are many types of B vitamins, a B vitamin complex is going to be best as it contains all the types of B vitamins your body needs to thrive. I also suggest looking for a supplement like The Detoxer from my supplement collection that contains activated forms of these vitamins to ensure maximum bioavailability.
4. Siberian Ginseng
Also referred to as eleuthero, this adaptogens is high in compounds known as eleutherosides that can help support liver health and assist in the removal of toxins from your body.
N-acetyl-cysteine - or NAC for short - is a potent antioxidant that has long been studied for its ability to protect the liver from oxidative damage from toxins. Researchers have even found NAC to be so beneficial for liver health that doctors often administer it in the cases of drug overdose and liver cancer. (3)
Chlorella is a type of blue-green algae that lives in bodies of fresh and saltwater around the world. Due to its high chlorophyll content it has next-level detoxification properties especially when it comes to heavy metals. In fact, one study found that 90 days of supplementation was enough to significantly reduce heavy metal toxicity in patients with long-term titanium implants and amalgam dental fillings. (4) There are few other detox supplements that can be backed with this kind of research.
Additional best practices for detoxing
Because toxins can have such a negative effect on your health, people want to know what they can be doing in addition to supplementation. It can even be tempting to take part in any one of those trendy detoxes or cleanses that pop up on your social media feed.
So do detox pills do anything? And what is the most powerful detox? The answer is this: there is no quick fix when it comes to detoxing. Sure, cleanses can help you reset your body but they are not a long-term solution. The biggest thing you can do is make your entire life a cleanse.
By mitigating your toxin exposure and supporting your body’s own ability to detox, you’ll eliminate the need for drastic cleanses. These are some of my favorite lifestyle tools for detoxing.
1. Switch to non-toxic products
Remember, your skin is your biggest organ, and it absorbs all the toxins that are in conventional soaps, shampoos, and makeup products. Even your cleaning products emit harmful chemicals onto your surfaces and into the air you breathe. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for finding new products with better ingredients to replace your current favorites.
2. Filter your water
Use a quality water filter in your house to remove at least the majority of common toxins that are found in most municipal water supplies.
3. Eat organic
Buy organic as much as possible to avoid the harmful pesticides and other chemicals that are sprayed on your food. You will also avoid the added antibiotics and hormones that are added to many animal and dairy products. The EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists will help you determine which produce to buy organic and what to buy conventional if you can't buy all organic. And when you can’t buy organic, wash your produce and choose whole foods over prepackaged to avoid unnecessary additives.
Seeking help from a functional medicine practitioner
Remember, detoxing is not a one and done kind of thing. In functional medicine, we realize the importance of making your life a cleanse by limiting toxin exposure and supporting your body’s own ability to detox.
If you are ready to work toward a more toxin-free life, a functional medicine expert can run labs to help you identify your exposure to certain chemicals and help you come up with a detoxing plan, including what detox supplements are going to work the best for your specific health case.
To take this next step, check out my telehealth consultation to see how we can help you using functional medicine and shop my supplement The Detoxer, that combines milk thistle, B vitamins, and other herbs for the ultimate detoxification support.
As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
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- Juurlink, David N. “Activated charcoal for acute overdose: a reappraisal.” British journal of clinical pharmacology vol. 81,3 (2016): 482-7. doi:10.1111/bcp.12793
- Abenavoli, Ludovico et al. “Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 24,10 (2010): 1423-32. doi:10.1002/ptr.3207
- Mokhtari, Vida et al. “A Review on Various Uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine.” Cell journal vol. 19,1 (2017): 11-17. doi:10.22074/cellj.2016.4872
- Merino, José Joaquín et al. “The Long-Term Algae Extract (Chlorella and Fucus sp) and Aminosulphurate Supplementation Modulate SOD-1 Activity and Decrease Heavy Metals (Hg++, Sn) Levels in Patients with Long-Term Dental Titanium Implants and Amalgam Fillings Restorations.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 8,4 101. 16 Apr. 2019, doi:10.3390/antiox8040101
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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