Beyond weight loss: The importance of detoxing

As the season of indulgence transitions into the new year, people often feel the need to reinstate balance and get back into a routine. Detoxification practices have become more mainstream and often sought after for health benefits such as weight loss and increased energy.

Symptoms that may clue you into the need to detox include acne, skin rashes, digestive issues, headaches, bad breath, and pain in your joints and/or muscles.

Toxins in our environment can stem from air quality, food, cookware, pesticides, and topical products. Increases in toxic exposures contribute to health conditions that are on the rise, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, infertility, dementia, and more. Major toxins on our radar include phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and heavy metals.


Phthalates are used in plastic toys, cooking utensils, fragrances, nail polish, cosmetics, and paints. As a progressive city, San Francisco has already banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys, but we are still exposed to it elsewhere. Bisphenol A is best known to be included in plastic water bottles, but can also be found in receipt paper. These chemicals are in a category of toxins called xenoestrogens, which can lead to overall hormone disruption.


Heavy metals can be found in our food, food preparation, cosmetic products like deodorant, dental fillings, old paint, and more. These harmful metals can be stored in different organs, damage our DNA, and bind where healthy minerals are expected to bind, leading to imbalance in our bodies’ systems.


We do the best we can to reduce our contact with toxins, but some exposures are inevitable. We have a few systems that help us deal with toxins we come into contact with: our skin, lungs, digestive system, liver, lymphatic system, and kidneys. Using expired air, urine, feces and sweat, our bodies are able to eliminate both toxins our bodies naturally make and those from our environment.

Detoxification has been an integral part of our culture worldwide for centuries. Supporting these pathways of elimination using diet and lifestyle relieve stress from our bodies, thus allowing them to run efficiently. Here are some detox methods:

Brush up: When bathhouses were common, there were many elements for improving circulation and therefore detoxification. One such practice was dry skin brushing. Using a soft natural bristle brush, one would brush the skin starting with the extremities and working inward toward the heart. For the arms and legs, one would use long strokes and circular motions over the abdomen. Today many day spas offer dry brushing treatments.

Turn up the heat: Our skin is our largest organ serving to protect, regulate, and sense. It allows nutrients like vitamin D to be absorbed and utilized, helps to release minerals via sweat, and is one of the major tools our bodies have to eliminate toxins. Sweating has been a therapy for centuries incorporated into many cultures. When our body temperature increases, it allows the blood vessels to widen for more blood flow to move toxins to the surface. In research, we have found phthalates, bisphenol A, and heavy metals to be mobilized and released in our sweat. You can break a sweat simply with exercise or take it up a notch by exploring dry sauna therapies.

Cool rinse: Adding a cool rinse to the end of your hot shower, sauna, or exercise offers an added benefit of stimulating lymph movement. This hydrotherapy technique moves our immune cells and supports healthy circulation. A short cold exposure constricts blood vessels to stimulate circulation and expel toxins. It has other benefits as well like reducing inflammation and increasing fat loss.

Keep regular: Our digestion plays a major role in detoxification, making regularity of bowel movements essential to healthy function. The liver and gallbladder work to process and bind toxins for elimination through the intestines. Consuming a fiber-rich diet of vegetables, complex carbs, and seeds assists in providing the nutrition required to optimize gut function.

Hydrate: The kidneys work hard in filtering 200 quarts of blood daily, and when it comes to detoxing, people often skip over nourishing them. They simply require clean filtered water and can benefit from a few simple additions like lemon and nettles, a liver and kidney nourishing herb. Nettles have been shown in studies to improve the kidneys’ ability to filter and cleanse. It can easily be added to a routine in the form of tea.

No matter what your underlying motive, the sad fact is our environment is becoming more toxic each day, and detoxification has never been more important.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background includes both conventional and alternative modalities, and her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances, and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: [email protected]