It’s a new year … should I be detoxing along with everyone else?


Oh, you want some good reasons that are science-based and reassuring that taking the time to detox will be worth it?  Alright, let’s dig in.

Before I was in the field of Nutrition Therapy, back in my publishing and non-profit days, I had a perception of detoxes as experiences that looked a few ways. First, in my mind, looked like a group of hippies, participating in these kind of supernatural retreats that included being barefoot on a commune, guitars played, people meditating, and lots of sprouts – usually in Northern California. The second, looked like people in athletic gear; kind of a flesh, muscles, ponytails, sweat, music, revved and blurry collective in perpetual motion – usually chugging down a blended green sludge on the way to some form of body perfection. I heard about filling gallon-size milk cartons with water, lemon, cayenne pepper and drinking that – only that – for a certain period of time. I listened to stories of people eating only celery for fourteen days. For real, I mean, there are benefits in celery juice for detoxification – but…I’m hoping you agree with me, that fourteen days of celery isn’t going to get you where you want to go long-term.

I watched the New Year ads – the maddening pendulum swing, from cozy holiday commercials with stuffing and cinnamon rolls, to promises of twenty pounds off by Valentine’s Day, to dim living room light by the fire commercials, with family sipping hot cocoa, slamming into industrial lights, a single hollering head and neon weight loss logos causing me to squint in the glaring demand to “do more, be more, all while you weigh less in the New Year.” Are you awake to this media swing too? Manipulating much?

I am assuming that maybe you’ve heard these things about detoxes and listened to them as well. Maybe you are in the swirl of detox perceptions as I was before I sat down and took my digestion and detoxification course that changed all of these perceptions into a science-based, clear understanding.

All the hype around detoxification is worth it because it is important. What is also important is understanding what you are trying to do for your body, why you are trying to do it, and how you can do the work successfully.

We are trying to remove toxins from the body because our environment is overloaded with toxins and those toxins like to hide in our bodies, especially gravitating toward our fat cells which means that when we detox we not only eliminate toxins, but also the fat that is harboring it.

I see you there – asking yourself “Am I really at risk? Do I really need a detox?”

The short answer is yes. We all do. You may be exposed to some or all of the following toxins on a daily basis:

  • Air toxins from factories, auto exhaust, paint and cleaning products, heavy metals
  • Lifestyle toxins from cosmetics, skincare (America allows 3000 more chemicals into beauty products than Europe does), alcohol, over the counter drugs
  • Water toxins including bacteria, mercury, metals, solvents, pesticide run-off
  • Food and soil toxins from artificial food additives, colorings, preservatives; meats that contain hormones and antibiotics; pesticides, herbicides, insecticides
  • Cleaning products with petroleum ditillates, phenol, cresol, formaldehyde
  • Internal toxins from bacterial, yeast, fungal overgrowth, undigested food, stress, unresolved trauma or abuse (In 2006 the CDC reported that  the average umbilical cord blood contained 217 neurotoxins!)

We certainly live in a world crowding with more and more toxins.

Fortunately, without even thinking about it, we are already involved in detoxification. Our bodies make a tremendous effort every day especially when we are exposed to 100 chemicals just in the time it takes to get ready in the morning! Our liver is a wonder at handling the toxic load we navigate. Intentional detoxification efforts are our opportunity to collaborate with our bodies to enhance the work that it is already doing.

This is the kind of work we do here at Cornerstone. We help the “livers” of our community. =)

We recognize that it is important to periodically restore the body’s ability to cleanse itself and eliminate toxins while also helping the body to detox more effectively and efficiently in the future. Here at Cornerstone we do a 14-day detox where we guide people in not only removing toxins from the diet, but also cutting back on lifestyle commitments, minimizing stress, prioritizing eight hours of a sleep per night (and adding naps!), notching back activity intensity to milder, gentler movement, and leaning into relationships and connection.

You may be asking, “Exactly how does our body detox and what actually is detoxification?” Well, it is the work of taking external burdens off the body (and thus the liver) by minimizing external toxins so that the body can target the internal toxins and thus be eradicated.

So what’s happening in your body during a detox? How do the internal toxins get eradicated?

The liver eliminates toxins through a two-step enzymatic process:

  • Phase One is where Cytochrome P450 (a series of enzymes) chemically changes fat-soluble toxins into a more toxic substance called an “intermediary metabolite”. This intermediary metabolite is often more toxic than the original fat soluble toxin, hence the need for Phase Two.
  • Phase Two is the addition of specific molecules onto the intermediary metabolite making it non-toxic and water-soluble so it can be excreted through urine or stool.

In order for this kind of Phase One and Phase Two detoxification to happen, the body needs specific nutrients in significant amounts that many people do not have in abundance in their bodies. These nutrients, supplied through supplements and an intentional diet, boost the capacity and support the liver so that during the 14 days when we are limiting our external toxin load – the liver can go gang-busters and focus on eradicating the internal toxic load. It is awesome.

We run the Orthomolecular 14-day Core Restore Liver Detox out of our office several times a year. I run a workshop that lays out the 14 days of the detox, teaches about toxicity and the good work of detoxification, and passes around tips and tricks to make the detox more comfortable. I also provide a meal plan and recipes. We establish an online support group for the 14 days and in that space we share resources, articles, recipes, and humor. We all support each other as we go through the ups and downs.

Yes, there are typically ups and downs in a detox. Day one and two of the particular detox that we do are “fasting days” that include a morning shake and an evening shake. It can be challenging to withdraw from caffeine, sugar and the comfort foods we have as regular companions. We can get headaches. We can feel weaker than we are used to feeling. We can definitely experience hunger, which is unusual for many of us. As we move into day three and four, delicious, clean, real, whole food is brought in, as well as the largest hit of symptoms. The first days of a detox, our bodies are just starting to engage with the nutrients and pull toxins from our cells. By day three and four, there is a significant flow of toxins careening about our bloodstream as they have been pulled from our cells and into our system. This can lead to flu-like symptoms and I encourage folks to focus on clearing their day three and four so that they can rest and let the detox do its excellent work.

By day five, I generally see folks turning a corner toward greater mental clarity, symptoms are smoothing out, and energy is on the upward swing. Through the rest of the detox, the continued limitation of external toxins and eradication of internal toxins finds the liver happily chugging along with its super-mix of nutrients fueled at top efficiency. Of course, symptoms, timing, comfort, or discomfort of the detox varies for every individual. These are just general brush strokes.

Many people find symptoms like fatigue, skin disorders, bloating, allergies, irritability, joint pain, and insomnia let up, disappear and improve after a detox. They also turn corners toward health when they are working through complex issues. I see it. It is a beautiful thing and a joy for me to support people in the process of improving the quality of life experienced.

Obviously, I have come a long way from my hippy-dippy, fad-like-lycra impressions of detoxification (no offense to hippies or high intensity athletes – I dearly love many folks in both categories). It is just that this is science my friends. Science. When you collaborate with a science-based program, it is maximizing the mechanisms of our bodies to clear toxins and set the terrain of our bodies into a healthier environment for long-term well-being.

Because our livers work hard, I encourage folks to consider doing a liver detox annually. Kind of like changing the oil in your car, it helps everything run better. I encourage people to recognize the way that doing a detox helps reset the palate and lifestyle rails that we ride. It causes us to look around at how well we are taking care of our bodies. These are the bodies that we get, the only ones; we’ve got a lot of places to go and things to do.

Happy New Year! May it be happy, healthy and less toxic for all of us!

~ Moyra Jean Stiles, CNTP

To learn more about participating in a detox, give us a call at 720-452-7420.