Nutritional Detoxification Part 1 (Before the Diet)

G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN

I answered the phone, and the voice on the other end said, "Hi, Dr Andersen. Could you teach a nutrition course for us on detoxification? The scheduled instructor just informed us they are unable to give the seminar."

I answered her question with 2 questions: "How long will the lecture be?" and "Is the course content predetermined or will I create the entire lecture?" She answered that it would be 10-hour talk and that there were published course topics.

I said, "Okay. Give me at least 6 weeks to put it together. When is it scheduled?"

There was a pause, and in a low voice, I heard, "This weekend."

I replied, "Since this is Monday afternoon, do you mean in 4 days?"

She answered, "Yes."

I said, "Can I review the scheduled instructor's notes or presentation?"

She said, "We never received anything."

"Well, "I said "You do realize this will be my views and not yours?"

"We're desperate," she replied.

I informed the attendees at the onset "those who expect a product-based approach may be disappointed" because my emphasis was a common sense, low tech program rather than which powders, potions, pills, proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, herbs, and nutraceuticals were best for (detoxifying-cleaning-rejuvenating) a given organ. I further informed the group that it was hard for me to recommend a cleanse if I could not find any credible information to define or determine what is "dirty."

In general, people do not seek detoxification-type nutritional intervention for single-incident exposures. Those are normally reserved for poison control treatments. Nutritional detoxification programs are normally done for long standing problems that may be vague or progressively increasing without the presence of frank pathology. Ongoing complaints such as pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, neurological, and musculoskeletal dysfunction which have a less than satisfactory response to various types of intervention are the kind of patients targeted by the supplement industry for detox programs in their promotional literature. In my experience, if 1.) environmental exposures can be identified and then reduced, avoided, or minimized and 2.) nutrient-depleted, stressful, proinflammatory foods are eliminated from the diet, then 3.) only a very, very small subset of patients will ever require a costly supplemental treatment program.

External Toxins and Lifestyle Habits

Identify and eliminate toxic exposure from all possible/practical sources. In the categories that follow, an in-depth question and answer exchange is required to determine what is a possible, unlikely or definite problem.

  1. Medications
    Look up the signs, symptoms, and interactions of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications regularly used. It is not unusual for prescription medications to be ordered by more than 1 physician and filled by more than 1 pharmacist. It is also not unusual for a patient receiving these drugs to neglect disclosure of over-the-counter medications they use. Patients on multiple drugs are often surprised to discover how many problems can be caused by interactions that have been overlooked.
  2. Home Environment
    In their household environment, is there a possibility of mold, mildew, rodent, or insect infestation in their immediate living and sleeping quarters? Questions regarding the age of the mattress and how often items such as carpets and drapery are cleaned. Animal exposure should also be addressed.
  3. Kitchen
    Are sponges and brushes washed regularly? How long do leftovers sit before refrigeration? How many days are leftovers typically consumed? Is there cross contamination during meal preparation?
  4. Personal Hygiene
    Anything that a person wipes, sprays, rubs, or places on their body is potentially toxic. Are toothbrushes ever cleaned and/or changed regularly?
  5. Household Cleaners
    Everything from laundry detergent to products used on floors, counters, windows, carpets, wooden structures, and other materials should be investigated for potential links by either direct contact or inhalation.
  6. Yard/Projects/Hobbies
    Insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, solvents, paints, metals glues may be potential sources of toxins. It is common for chemicals used during relaxing or fun activities to be overlooked as possible irritants.
  7. Air
    Have heating and air conditioning filters been changed or cleaned regularly? Determine if there are windows open which draw air from nearby industries or major highways. If there are air purifiers present, are the filters being changed? The State of California just banned some ozone purifiers because their use increased asthma and allergies. Did symptoms increase following the purchase of such a product?
  8. Water
    Have household water filters (including the freezer's ice maker and the refrigerator's cold water dispenser) cleaned or replaced regularly.
  9. Workplace
    Is there any link between anything at the job and the onset, development, or exacerbation of the patient's complaint complex.
  10. Sleep
    Find out the amount of sleep that is normally attained and then ask how much sleep is optimal.
  11. Activity/Exercise
    Determine the amount of weekly activity (frequency and length) that promotes continuous heavy sweating.

Pre-Dietary Recommendations

Rarely will you encounter a patient that doesn't have any non-dietary issues which can cause, contribute or exacerbate their symptoms. Prior to dietary changes address any external issues.

  1. Physicians and pharmacists must be informed of all prescription/over-the-counter medications used and take the appropriate managerial steps correct any interactions which may have been overlooked.
  2. Clean any suspected sources of household toxins. Remember that old mattresses are probably full of mites. Insure proper paint and insulation is used. If fumigation is required, insure the treatment does not replace one problem with another.
  3. Wash kitchen sponge (in dishwasher if possible) no less than twice a week. Refrigerate leftovers promptly and discard unconsumed food after 48 hours.
  4. Eliminate any personal hygiene products that have a suspicious correlation with any complaints. Clean toothbrushes regularly.
  5. Eliminate any household cleaning products that have a suspicious correlation with any complaints.
  6. Avoid all exposure to yard, project, and hobby chemicals when undergoing detoxification and replace those with suspicious.
  7. Clean/replace all air filters.
  8. Clean/replace all water filters.
  9. If workplace exposure is a suspected source of toxins, discuss with supervisor ASAP.
  10. Detoxification must include the optimal amount of sleep no less than six days a week. If a patient is too busy to sleep, they are not ready to get serious and commit to a true detoxification program. If insomnia is a primary problem, it must be addressed by a professional with experience.
  11. Exercise or activity that promotes heavy sweating must be performed a minimum of 3 times a week (unless precluded by injury) for at least 20 minutes and preferably 5 to 6 times a week. Again, those who are too busy to exercise are not ready to make the changes necessary for success.

By cleaning up a person's environment and life style first, the odds of successful nutritional changes are greatly elevated. This is important because if a person doesn't feel better eating apples over cookies, they will return to cookies. The goal of diet modification is permanent habit change rather than "I'm eating healthy because I'm detoxing." Next month we will discuss the dieting aspect of detox.


916 E. Imperial Hwy.
Brea, CA. 92821

(714) 990-0824
Fax: (714) 990-1917


Copyright 2004-2007, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824