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  • Writer's pictureDr. Venessa Madrigal

Detoxing for improved health

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Detoxification & Depuration!

Our world is replete with toxic chemicals. Many are known to cause health problems. Many have not been tested yet to see what kind of health problems they incur.

To start, let's define a few terms.

  • Detoxification = the process of transforming a toxic substance into a non-toxic substance

  • Depuration = the action or process of freeing something of impurities; this is the preferred term for the removal of xenobiotics by the body

  • Xenobiotic = a chemical compound that is foreign to the body or to an entire biological system (i.e. the planet); examples: food additives, medications, pesticides, solvents, plastics, industrial products and byproducts.

  • Half-life = how long it takes for the body to get rid of half of the dose

  • Endocrine disruptor = a chemical that interferes with the body’s endocrine system and can produce adverse responses/effects

Toxins can enter our body through several routes:

  • GI tract – ingestion

  • Small intestine: where most nutrients (& xenobiotics) are absorbed.

  • Lungs – inhalation

  • Skin – dermal absorption

Once inside our bodies, they are stored. They're stored either bound to proteins or in storage sinks.

  • Proteins in the blood – these are not filtered by the kidneys, which typically provide a route of excretion via urine; therefore, these type tend to have a long half-life

  • “Storage sinks” (i.e. adipose, bones, liver, kidneys) decrease amount avail for excretion

  • Adipose tissues, for example store PCBs

  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs):

  • a group of manufactured organic chemicals

  • are colorless to light yellow in color; no known smell or taste

  • no known natural sources of PCBs

  • Products containing PCBs are old fluorescent lighting fixtures, electrical appliances containing PCB capacitors, old microscope oil, and hydraulic fluids.

  • During the time that PCBs were manufactured, there were often no effective controls on disposal. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now found widely distributed in our environment. Generally their concentrations in the environment are quite low. However, the chemical properties of PCBs cause them to be concentrated up the food chain.

  • The manufacture of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that they build up in the environment and cause harmful health effects – lower birth rate, neurological development, endocrine/hormone function, potentially cancer-causing, suppress immune system

  • Testing: very expensive or not able to test for them & “no treatments available for reducing high body burdens of toxic chemicals”…according to conventional medicine.

  • When to test: when potential exposure…(aren't we all exposed?!), chronically unwell, autoimmune disease, cancer, multiple chemical sensitivities.

  • Bones

  • Cadmium, lead, aluminum, strontium, fluorine

  • Aluminum: may inhibit calcium uptake in bones

  • Cadmium: in mice, replaces bone calcium when calcium-deficient

  • Lead: bone stores more than 90% of body lead

Detox pathway:

  • Typically, the majority of xenobiotics undergo metabolic changes that lead to excretion

  • Phase 1: Degradation

  • Degradation phase can be inhibited by heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium); obesity; inflammation, chronic illnesses

  • Phase 2: Transformation

  • 6 pathways that need lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids, including vitamin A, niacin, B5, B6, folate, B12; selenium, zinc; glutathione; glycine, glutamine, & taurine.

  • if heavy metal is present, can lead to deficiency in glutathione

Now that our body has degraded and transformed these xenobiotics, it's time to excrete them.

  • Modes of excretion: Urine, Feces, Breath

  • Urine: kidneys not able to filter xenobiotics bound to proteins.

  • Feces: Liver is major organ involved with transforming xenobiotics then excreting them through bile, which is stimulated when you eat.

  • Poor digestion (poor chewing, low stomach acid, “leaky gut”, poor bile production, poor digestive enzyme production from the pancreas), & slow “transit time” (time it takes to move food from mouth to toilet), all contribute to decreased rate of excreting compounds from your body.

Effects of xenobiotics on Endocrine System:

  • Lots of chemicals are also known to be endocrine disruptors.

  • BPA, ethylene glycol (antifreeze, coolant), styrene (Styrofoam; food containers), solvents, paints, gasoline, cigarette smoke…

  • PCBs have a similar chemical structure to the thyroid hormone.

  • In vitro study (meaning, done outside of a body/a dish) showed PCBs binding to a thyroid hormone transport protein! That means, that the thyroid hormone can’t bind to its own transport protein and can’t go to the cells and tell them what to do =(

  • Thyroid hormone functions:

  • Fetal development: necessary for normal development of brain, lungs, heart, sensory organs

  • Post natal function: lots!!! Normal production of growth hormone; increases oxygen consumptions, which increases metabolic rate; involved with gut motility, heart rate, respiratory function, & more!

Detoxification/Depuration methods:

  • Promote good digestion!

  • Chew well, drink a little vinegar/lemon water before meals, eat in relaxed environment, try not to multi-task while eating – enjoy each bite!

  • Eat low toxin diet – non-GMO, organic; nothing artificial, that includes sweeteners

  • Fiber!

  • Rice bran was shown to increase the excretion of PCB in people with PCB poisoning in Japan. 7-10 grams, after meals, 3 times daily of rice bran.

  • Psyllium: increases the amount of bile that’s excreted; typically ~95% is reabsorbed into your body.

  • Support your thyroid:

  • Selenium: necessary of serum selenium to make adequate glutathione enzymes AND thyroid hormone

  • Studies suggest consuming 200 mcg selenium; this can be obtained by eating only 2-10 Brazil nuts per day. Brazil nuts grown in areas of Brazil with selenium-rich soil may provide more than 100 μg of selenium in one nut, while those grown in selenium-poor soil provide 10 times less.

  • Love your liver!

  • Easy on the cocktails…

  • Liver-supporting herbs – Burdock Root, Dandelion Root, Yellow Dock. They're alteratives.

  • What’s Alterative?: Alteratives may act through a combination of effects including: stimulating the gall bladder to release bile (cholagogue), stimulating bile production (choleretic), enhancing detoxification pathways in the liver, increasing cellular metabolism, laxative, nerve tonic, and stimulation of glandular functioning.

  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa): alterative, bitter digestive stimulant, liver protective

  • Dandelion root (Taraxecum officinalis): choleretic, cholagogue, tonic, antirheumatic, bitter, alterative, depurative.

  • Yellow dock (Rumex crispus): Tonic, lymphatic, astringent, cooling, alterative, bitter, hepatic, cholagogue, mild laxative.

  • What if I’m pregnant?!

  • A Japanese study on pregnant women who tested positive for PCBs & other pollutants. Those who took chlorella throughout their pregnancy had 30% lower levels of dioxin byproducts in their breast milk.

  • Dose was 6 g/day of Chlorella (30 tablets/day), in portions of 10 tablets after each main meal

  • Depuration

  • Excrete through your skin: Sauna 20-30 daily, if possible

  • Excrete through your bum: Colon hydrotherapy weekly

  • Castor oil packs: apply castor oil generously to skin over liver area (right side lower rib cage), cover with cloth, go to sleep. Do this nightly for ongoing depuration. Wash off in morning then go enjoy your day!


Burdock Root, Dandelion Root, Yellow Dock. The Naturopathic Herbalist. Accessed on 1/20/2017.

Nakanoa S et al. Maternal-fetal distribution and transfer of dioxins in pregnant women in Japan, and attempts to reduce maternal transfer with Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplements. Chemosphere. Volume 61, Issue 9, December 2005, Pages 1244–1255.

Nagayama J1, Takasuga T, Tsuji H, Iwasaki T. Promotive excretion of causative agents of Yusho by one year intake of FBRA in Japanese people. Fukuoka Igaku Zasshi. 2005 May;96(5):241-8.

Patrick L. Understanding Endocrine Disruption – Focus on Thyroid Disease (Conference Presentation). California Naturopathic Doctors Association Annual Conference 2015.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Accessed on 1/20/2017.

Selenium. Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Accessed on 1/20/2017.

#Naturopathicmedicine #detoxification #depuration #castoroil #hydrotherapy #Alterative #xenobiotics #digestion

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