Flushing out the Toxins

We have all come a long way in our awareness of the role the 87,000 chemicals that have been created in the last hundred years (which are mostly untested and unregulated) play in conditions ranging from Infertility,  Autism, Cancer to Obesity.   As a result of our understanding of just how detrimental these substances can be to our health, most of us are now using “green” cleaning products, natural deodorants (without aluminum) skin care and makeup without parabens, phthalates and mineral oil, and we are trying to eat more organic food, free of pesticides and avoiding genetically engineered crops.

But what about the toxins from the old days?  The ones that our body has stored?   If you haven’t made a conscious effort to get rid of those, they may be preventing you from functioning at an optimal level.   More specifically, those toxins may be a major block in your efforts to lose weight.   Did you know that fat cells form around toxins to protect our vital organs?   That is indeed the case.   Subsequently, as we begin to lose weight, toxins are liberated.  If we do not take specific actions to detoxify or pull the toxic substances out of our system, then after we lose the weight, the body (in its innate wisdom) will once again form fat cells around the toxins.  Not only will our health suffer, but we will most likely regain the weight.

Detoxifying or internal cleansing as a practice has been used for centuries as a means of  restoring vibrancy and health.  Cultures including the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Native Americans and Ayurveda in India have all used botanicals and other forms of cleansing for this purpose.  But now, in addition to purging the body of toxins created by our own metabolism  we live in a time where there’s the added burden of thousands of relatively new chemicals in our air, water and food including the 2.2 billion pounds of chemicals that are sprayed on crops each year. Almost ¾ of these new substances are small enough molecules to cross cell membranes (1).

The most recent report from the CDC found the average American had in their body 116 of the 148 synthetic compounds they tested for, including the infamous dioxin, polycyclic hydrocarbons and organochloride pesticides (2). Further studies by EWG revealed these same substances were also in human milk, placenta and umbilical cord blood, and in the blood and body fat of newborns!  Another report by the same group showed out of the 287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animals (3).

New research is indicating that these same chemicals found in humans from birth to old age are contributing to the growing number of chronic illnesses that 54% of our kids and 60% of adults are affected by.   Conditions such as abnormal fetal development,  diminished intelligence, behavior problems, asthma, ADHD, breast cancer, autism, obesity, dementia as well as reproductive system abnormalities (precocious puberty, infertility) are all associated with the (mostly untested) chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives.

Sources of Toxins:  Here are but a few:  processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, chemicals used in dry cleaning and household cleaning products, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, building materials, plastic containing BPA, perfumes, scented shampoos, skin lotions made with mineral oil (a derivative of petroleum), heavy metals (dental amalgams are 50% mercury), infections, vaccines (which contain aluminum,  formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, ethylene glycol, phenol, MSG, propylene glycol) as well as chemicals our body creates from our own metabolism and when under stress.

The Liver to the Rescue: Our liver is a complex 3 lb. organ with over 500 functions. It is located under the upper right area of our ribcage and due to the onslaught of toxic chemicals it is being called on to neutralize, it is by far, the most overworked and underappreciate organ in the body! In addition to producing cholesterol, breaking down estrogens, regulating blood sugar, manufacturing bile, it has the burdensome task of detoxifying harmful substances by making them into water soluble molecules that can be eliminated in the urine, stool and sweat.  

When the liver becomes overtaxed, symptoms such as low energy, poor digestion, skin eruptions, inability to lose weight often develop.  When the body begins to eliminate some of the internal pollution, it relieves enormous stress on our organs and tissues. Immune function is enhanced, energy improves, and other symptoms such as headaches, joint stiffness and GI conditions improve as a result of giving the liver a chance to function optimally.

Tips for a Cleanse:   

  1. First and foremost, start by eating a “clean (organic only) diet”.  If you begin a deep cleanse with herbs for instance without first eliminating caffeine, alcohol, trans fats,  potentially allergenic foods (dairy, soy, gluten etc.), sugar and processed food, your system will not be properly prepared and you may experience severe detox symptoms  such as headache, fatigue and nausea which may (let’s be honest) prevent you from going further.  However, if before you add the detoxifying herbs, you eliminate the potentially offending foods and give yourself a week or two of just eating clean before adding in the active cleansers, the uncomfortable symptoms will be greatly minimized.  For a full list of foods to avoid and those to include (fermented vegetables, soaked grains etc.), check out the information here .
  2. Water: To assist in the flushing out of toxins, drink at least ½ your body weight in ounces of filtered water each day. Use glass water bottles only.  Also drink a Detox tea upon rising and before bed.   The main ingredient should be Milk Thistle (an herb that helps the liver tremendously in it’s function of detoxification).
  3. Necessary Nutrients: Make sure you have proper nutrient support during the cleanse. The liver’s function to detoxify is a very nutrient-dependent process and for it to work effectively, it needs an array of amino acids from protein, minerals and vitamins.  In addition to eating pure sources of protein and vegetables, many people provide extra nutrients to assist the liver by drinking fresh made organic green based juices while cleansing.  At the very least, it’s advisable to take a high quality, comprehensive multi vitamin and mineral supplement.  Cleanses that eliminate all food or other source sources of nutrients will not provide the liver with what it needs to detoxify efficiently and effectively.
  4. Bowels: It is essential during any cleanse to be having 1-2 bowel movements per day. If drinking ½ your weight in ounces of pure water per day and adding sources of soluble and insoluble sources of fiber are not enough to produce this result, then taking additional herbs (such as those found in Smooth Move Tea) to assist the colon may be necessary.
  5. Cleansing Herbs: After 2 weeks of following steps 1-4, begin taking specific herbal combinations that target a deeper release of toxins.  Combinations may include:  Buckthorn, Senna, Licorice root, Nettles, Astragalus, Slippery Elm, etc.
  6. Exercise to sweat. Remember the skin is the biggest eliminative organ.   So exercising at least 5 x per week with the intention of sweating is important for flushing out the toxins.
  7. Dry Brushing: Do some dry brushing prior to bathing which stimulates the lymphatic system (which is the body’s waste management system)
  8. Epsom Salt: Take baths at night with 1-2 cups Epsom salt. Epsom salt not only contains Magnesium (a mineral needed for over 300 functions in the body and which helps with anxiety, panic, eye twitches, tense muscles, heart palpitations etc.),  but Epsom salt also contains Sulfur.  Sulfur is used to form an enzyme (PST) that assists the liver in detoxification. So soaking in Epsom salt baths is both relaxing and supports the detoxification process.
  9. Sleep: the liver does the bulk of its work while we sleep. So during a cleanse,  try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  10. Skin Care: Your skin is a semi permeable organ and traces of whatever you put on it can be found in many organs within 26 seconds. Since the average woman applies over 120 different ingredients to her skin each day (many of which have never been evaluated for safety) and she absorbs 5lbs of lotions and makeup per year, in addition to eating a toxin free diet and cleansing periodically, be sure to use makeup and skin care products that do not contain formaldehyde, hormone disrupting chemicals and mineral oil (which prevents the skin from releasing toxins). Contact us for our skin care product recommendations.

Ending a cleanse:

  1. Please don’t make the mistake many people do (and I’ve been tempted to do) which is on day 31, go out and order a large pepperoni pizza and a beer! Trust me, you won’t feel good!  Additionally, many people pay hundreds of dollars to integrative or functional medical doctors to order specialty lab testing that determines which foods you might be sensitive to.  It’s called an IgG food profile. Well, guess what?  By eliminating the prime suspects for 30 days as you do on this cleanse, after it is over, if you reintroduce them one at a time (leaving 2-3 days between each new introduction) your body will tell you what your sensitive to and you just saved yourself hundreds of dollars!
  2. Now that you have 30 days under your belt and you are most likely feeling more vitality, less bloating, thinking more clearly and have more energy than you’ve had in years, don’t go back! Sure, have that piece of organic dark chocolate or a glass of wine once in a while, but be conscious, listen to your body, limit your exposure to toxic chemicals, drink lots of filtered water and sweat regularly!
  3. As far as your maintenance diet goes, try to eat non GMO, organic most of the time, include healthy fats and if you do eat meat, choose locally raised grass fed beef. Supplements may include a high quality comprehensive multi vitamin, a probiotic that contains at least 10 billion CFUs per cap (as it helps absorb toxins from your colon), a mercury-free form of fish oil as a source of Omega 3’s to fight inflammation and once you have your level of Vit D test, 2000IU to 5000IU of this important nutrient per day.
  4. Once you do an effective cleanse, your body, mind and spirit will thank you for pressing the “reset” button and you won’t need me or anyone else to remind you not to go back to the way you used to feel. After you periodically flush out those toxins, going back,  just won’t be an option!

Bio: As a holistic, nutritionally oriented Registered Nurse for more than 30 years,  Maureen assists people from all of the country in regaining their health and vitality by coaching them on a 28 days to Healthy Living Plan.  This program focuses on weight loss and flushing out toxins.  Maureen is the Health Editor of WNC Woman Magazine and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. For additional information and or support, contact her here.



  1. Statistic from official FDA government site. http://edkb.fda.gov/
  2. cdc.gov/hceh/dls/report
  3. Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005
  4. Documentary: Our Chemical Lives

Maureen H. McDonnell, RN

I am a registered nurse with a strong interest in helping to reverse the escalating number of children affected by chronic illnesses. After coordinating the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences for 10 years, I joined forces with Jill Urwick to form Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. This website and our conferences focus on the role nutrition and toxins in the environment are playing in Autism, ADHD, childhood cancers, etc. More importantly, our goal is to offer solution-based information that is both practical and affordable.

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