Want a detoxification program? Start with the gut first (Detox Series Part I)

Written by Miriam Jacobson, the Food Coach nutrition associate

Modern life is an abundant source of toxins – and left unchecked they can disrupt the body’s functionality on a cellular level, which can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, seasonal allergies and even autoimmune diseases.

While the liver is the primary site of detoxification inside the body, it is vital to first look at gut health because this is the primary route of entry for toxic compounds. The microflora also helps to digest toxins such as mercury and other heavy metals. If the gut microflora is out of balance, detoxification (no matter how well the liver is functioning) will be compromised.

Below are four simple steps to up-regulate your body’s detoxification mechanisms:

 1. Clean up the gut microflora. The gut has two pounds of beneficial bacteria that promote vitality through digestive regularity, reducing inflammation in the GALT, improving energy levels, mood, and reducing the risk of obesity. If you have pathogenic bacteria, yeast or parasites work with a functional medicine practitioner to clear these out. I don’t recommend adding in a probiotic until this is done, otherwise, it’s like adding clean water to dirty water. Instead, toss the dirty water out, then add the probiotics (a.k.a water) in.

Dana has written an great article on benefits of probiotics and beneficial gut bacteria here –

2. Eliminate gluten and dairy. The gut is the body’s primary barrier to toxin entry. Tight junctions line the small intestine (where most nutrient absorption happens). These tight junctions can become hyper-permeable when exposed to bacterial infections, gluten and yeast overgrowth – meaning less defense against unwanted viruses, parasites and other toxins.

Seventy percent of the lymphatic system is located in the gut, also known as gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT). A high degree of intestinal permeability activates the immune system, which increases the inflammatory process and can lead to problems such as food allergies and food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, seasonal allergies and even depression (90 percent of serotonin receptors are also in the gut). Dairy increases mucous production in the GALT, which can further irritate the immune system and exacerbate inflammation.

3. Minimize exposure to toxins. Even if you’re eating organic produce, you’re likely to still be exposed to toxins. Dry cleaning, nail polish and other organic cosmetics all have toxins in them. While small amounts may not have any affect on the body’s functioning, low exposure from multiple sources lowers the system’s threshold. Start replacing your cosmetics with organic versions and seek out an organic dry-cleaner – they are more expensive but worth it!

4. Have a daily bowel movement. Digestive regularity is essential for toxin elimination. Fat soluble toxins are released in bile and if not eliminated properly they will be re-absorbed by the body. During weight loss, toxins that are stored in fat tissue are released with the fat tissue, which makes this an essential component to any weight loss program. If you are constipated, I recommend using 400mg of magnesium citrate combined with 2.5mg of vitamin C to promote a bowel movement.


Miriam is also available for consultation.