The human body is truly amazing. It has the innate ability to heal itself and get rid of toxins, but sometimes our lifestyles can get in the way of our natural detox systems. The result? Inflammation and oxidative damage accumulate in our bodies, and we experience symptoms from weight gain and joint pain to brain fog and fatigue.
Most people miss the signs that it’s time for full-body detoxification–or just don’t know how to get started. Functional medicine relies on a detox to optimize everyday habits that enhance your body’s built-in elimination pathways. In this blog post, we will talk about how to effectively detox your body with the support of integrative medicine.
Whether it be household products, food choices, or exposure to environmental toxins, health is affected by your everyday behaviors. And today, the average American is exposed to an overwhelming amount of harmful chemicals.
What does an overwhelmed detoxification system look and feel like? Here are 12 signs it’s time for a detox.
12 Signs You Need a Detox
You crave sugar and carbs.
Intense cravings for sugar and carbs can be your body’s way of telling you that you need a reset. A diet that contains sugar and other processed foods can put you on a hormonal rollercoaster that only further exacerbates your cravings for sugar.
You experience digestive distress like bloating.
Any kind of trouble in your digestive tract is an obvious sign that things aren’t working the way they should be. Contrary to what many think, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.
You feel spacey or foggy.
If digestive symptoms are the most obvious signs that something is wrong, experiencing “brain fog” is the most commonly overlooked signal that your toxic load is too high. If you’re having trouble focusing or remembering details, natural detox pathways in the brain may be overburdened, which leads to a buildup of damaging inflammation (1). A detox can help relieve your body and brain of inflammatory toxins.
You’re always exhausted.
Fatigue or exhaustion that never lets up no matter how much sleep you get is a sign that your brain and hormones aren’t communicating the way they need to be. Hormones like cortisol carefully control energy levels. Cortisol reaches a peak in the morning and decreases in the evening, but issues like HPA axis dysfunction (sometimes called adrenal fatigue), can make you tired in the day, but feel “wired” at night (2). A detox can help restore balance to your adrenals, which control cortisol production.
Read more: High-Stress Hormones + HPA Axis Dysfunction
Your skin is a mess.
A sluggish detox system is a big bummer for the health and appearance of your skin. Environmental toxins, excess hormones, and other various metabolic waste products make their way to your liver, which is one of your powerhouse detoxification organs. A poor diet, stress, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and even high blood sugar can slow liver detox. And since sweating is also a way for some toxins to leave the body, these waste products find their way to your skin, triggering inflammation, rashes, and acne.
Your joints are achy.
Stiff, achy, sore, or creaky, joints and muscles are a big sign you’ve got a build-up of inflammation that should be addressed. If you haven’t changed your workout routine lately or been hitting the gym extra hard, your joints shouldn’t hurt.
You’re stressed, depressed, or anxious.
Many people make the mistake of overlooking mental and emotional symptoms when it comes to the health of their body. Outside stressors contribute significantly to your overall health, including having a profound effect on immune health and hormones. A detox can help you optimize certain nutrients your brain needs to feel a sense of calm, but it can also involve addressing certain lifestyle stressors as well as implementing tactics like mindfulness and meditation.
You can’t lose weight.
Extra pounds that just won’t budge despite regular exercise and good nutrition are often a sign of imbalanced blood sugar and appetite hormones like leptin (3). Optimizing detoxification pathways in the digestive system and liver removes the roadblock to weight loss that you’ve been struggling to attain.
You have trouble sleeping.
Your internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, depends on hormonal regulation from your adrenal glands and liver. If these systems are receiving conflicting input–you’re going to feel it in your sleep patterns. And unfortunately, not sleeping well only creates a vicious cycle for poor health. Detox for better sleep, and watch how everything else falls into place!
You can’t concentrate.
As mentioned above, we often don’t connect mental symptoms with the health of the rest of our body, but if your brain feels all over the place, it’s time for a detox. Research shows that ADHD symptoms get worse in the presence of heavy metals (4).
Read more: 10 Strategies to Address ADHD Without Meds
You have signs of hormone imbalance.
Fatigue, PMS, low sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles–they’re all big signs that something is up with your hormones. While both male and female hormonal systems are complex, many hormone imbalance symptoms can be improved by resolving inflammation triggered by slow detoxification pathways.
You’re sick all the time.
Is it a cold? Allergies? A case of Strep throat on repeat? No matter which way you look at it–your immune system is struggling, and this is a big red flag. A healthy detox can help resolve harmful inflammation that’s taking a battering ram to your immune function.
If you can answer yes to more than one of the above signs, it’s time to say goodbye to toxic chemicals! Instead of jumping into a quick fix program that can have unpleasant side effects, follow the tips below for a functional detox you can try safely and effectively any time you’re feeling in need of a reset.
What’s the fastest way to detox and lose weight?
You don’t need a complicated or expensive protocol to complete an effective detox. The best detox for weight loss involves 4 things:
- Improving liver function and digestion
- Specific nutrients to optimize the natural detoxification process
- Reducing toxin exposure
- Adopting detox-friendly lifestyle habits to allow your body to properly metabolize and remove toxins
Integrative Medicine Detox Options at CentreSpringMD
As functional medicine practitioners, first, we want to identify potential issues with certain areas of detox, including mold, heavy metals, environmental toxins, and hormones. This helps pinpoint the best way to detox for your genetics and individual situation.
In addition to looking at the genetic data, lab tests check for environmental toxins and how well you are metabolizing hormones. This helps dictate which foods to incorporate (or reduce) and which supplements to use in your detox plan. Functional testing includes:
- Food Allergies & Intolerances – ALCAT
- Saliva and Urine Hormone Testing
- Genetic testing
- Heavy Metal Analysis
- Underlying infections
- Nutritional deficiencies testing
- Gut function analysis (GI Effect)
When it comes to weight loss, there are no shortcuts–but a healthy detox can give your weight loss efforts a boost!
3-Step Detox for Effective Weight Loss
Detox Step 1: Have a whole-food base
The first step to eliminate toxins in your life is to completely remove ultra-processed foods and prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods like quality proteins, organic fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Foods that make up the basis of a great detox are:
- whole, minimally-processed grains
- organic fruits and vegetables
- nuts and seeds
- sustainably raised meats, fish, and eggs
- bone broth
- minimally processed oils such as olive or coconut oil
This means you’ll omit certain foods, sugars, and artificial additives (pesticides, sweeteners, preservatives, dyes) that could be slowing your body’s capacity to eliminate toxins. During your detox, you may also decide to limit red meat to once per week or less as your digestive system heals.
Want a shortcut to better health? Optimize the most important thing in your wellness journey.
Detox Step 2: Eliminate trigger foods and other toxins
Sometimes the “toxins” that make it more difficult for your body to function optimally aren’t toxins at all! But foods or additives that you have a sensitivity to, but haven’t identified the symptoms yet. Immune and gastrointestinal issues can trigger an inflammatory response in the gut that leads to systemic inflammation and symptoms outside the gut like eczema, joint aches, and migraines (5).
Common food intolerances include gluten, soy, corn, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and dairy. You may eliminate common allergens for a few weeks (preferably under the supervision of an integrative medicine doctor), and then slowly work them back into your diet. An elimination diet may not be best for everyone, so it’s best to consult your functional medicine experts or dietitian.
It’s also extremely beneficial to eliminate alcohol during this time. Your liver processes alcohol as a toxin, and in addition to increasing the risk for liver cirrhosis and NAFLD, it slows other metabolic waste products from being processed and eliminated.
Detox Step 3: Cleanse and detox in the liver + digestive system
Your liver, digestive system, skin, and kidneys are your body’s primary detox organs. There are certain nutrients and special supplements you can incorporate into your detox program to boost detox pathways naturally.
For better detox in the digestive system, add:
- Citrus fruits: lemons, oranges, and limes
- Mung beans
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Essential Amino Acids: glycine, glutamine, cysteine, taurine
- Berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries
To support detoxification pathways in your liver, add:
- Milk thistle
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Green tea or matcha
- B vitamins – folate, B6, B12
- MCT oil
- Leafy greens: cilantro, parsley, kale, chard
Add more of these glutathione-boosting foods/supplements:
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, cauliflower, broccoli sprouts, bok choy.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant. Increase its production to eliminate free radicals and calm inflammation.
Other tips for an effective detox + faster weight loss
Infrared sauna is a weight loss and detoxification powerhouse! It boosts energy levels, reduces inflammation, increases the function of your thyroid gland (improving metabolism), decreases risk for cancer and heart disease by reducing oxidative stress, enhances mood to decrease depression/anxiety symptoms–and even speeds up wound healing (6).
Hydration: Aim to drink a minimum of half your body weight in ounces per day. You can also include detox-friendly teas like ginger, turmeric, or dandelion tea.
Regular exercise and activities like massage therapy improve lymphatic system drainage, which helps rid your body of metabolic wastes and toxins.
Try intermittent fasting: This activates genes that increase detoxification pathways.
Reduce stress. When stress is high, your body allocates resources away from healthy detox. This is a great time to check in with how you’re managing stress levels in your everyday life.
Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep increases the function of your brain’s glymphatic system–or its own cleanup and restoration mechanisms (7).
Which detox is best for weight loss?
Detoxification helps to remove toxins from our cells and organs at a cellular level where they cause damage and interfere with communication between body systems. A whole-body detox also boosts immune function, increases energy levels, reduces inflammation–all leading to improved overall health!
Many people think that detoxification means fasting or taking supplements to eliminate these harmful substances. But it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can perform a whole-body detox with simple lifestyle changes and an integrative medicine doctor who will work one on one with you to design the perfect plan for your needs.
Functional medicine doctors can design the perfect detox protocol for your individual needs—without resorting to pills or harsh diet restrictions.