Do I Need A New Year’s Detox?

Do you need a new year’s detox (or detox in general)?

The answer is probably yes.

I realize this may conflict with what many other physicians and medical professionals will tell you.

After all, we’re trained that the body has built-in detoxification systems, which makes any additional detoxification practices unnecessary.

However, after years of treating patients in traditional medical settings and now in my functional medicine practice, I believe nearly everyone can benefit from a regular, targeted detox program.

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into why I recommend most of my patients partake in at least an annual detox, including:

  • Why most people need to detox in the 21st century (and probably should have in the 20th century too)
  • 7 signs you need a detox
  • Who should not do a detox
  • Why I typically don’t recommend juice cleansing, fasting, or trendy detox cleanse diets
  • How does detox work? Including the organs, systems, and 3 phases involved
  • What is the best way to detox your body?
  • My favorite detox supplements, including a link to save 15% on my go-to advanced, science-based detoxification program
  • Info on how to join my New Year’s 2023 Advanced PushCatch Detox Program Challenge

We’ve got a lot of fascinating info to cover here, so let’s get started.

Why Most People Need To Detox In The 21st Century

Patients often ask me, “Why do we need to detox if our parents and grandparents didn’t?”

It’s a fair question, and my answer is that we live in a far more toxic world than previous generations.

That’s not to say our parents and grandparents weren’t exposed to toxins because they were—and they probably did need to detox.

The 1960s and 1970s were a particularly toxic time (think lead, DDT, mercury, etc.). And anyone born post-industrial revolution (or even before in some cases) likely had some level of body burden.

All that said, previous generations weren’t exposed to the sheer volume of chemicals we are today.1

What type of volume are we talking about?

The average person is exposed to hundreds of toxins daily from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food and medications we ingest, and even the products we use at home and put on our skin.

To put this in perspective, there are over 84,000 chemicals accounted for in our environment2 and the average newborn has about 300 toxins in his or her umbilical cord.3

This far exceeds the toxicity burden of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. There’s even evidence that certain toxins, such as flame retardants4 and PFASs (perfluoroalkyl substances used in non-stick cookware, food packaging, waterproofing, etc. ) 5 can be passed on from parents to the child.

So we have the challenge of living with over 84,000 chemicals in our present-day environment, plus the likely burden of generational toxins passed on unknowingly from mom and/or dad.

Once you understand the gravity of the situation, it makes sense that our body’s sophisticated detoxification systems can become overwhelmed.

This is where the right detox can be highly beneficial in supporting your body’s elimination pathways, helping reduce body burden, and getting you back on the path to optimal health.

7 Signs You Need A Detox

As previously mentioned, most of us would benefit from a detox. However, some people require more detoxification support than others, and some should avoid detoxing altogether.

First, let’s look at the 7 telltale signs that your body needs to detox:

  1. You’re fatigued and tired all the time.
  2. You’re experiencing digestion troubles, such as bloating and excess gas.
  3. You’re suffering from chemical sensitivities or allergies.
  4. You’re having trouble sleeping. 
  5. You’ve tested positive for mold toxicity, chemical exposure, heavy metals and/or suspect you’ve been exposed to harmful toxins at home, work etc.
  6. You’re experiencing hormonal imbalances, PMS, intense menopausal symptoms, etc.
  7. You plan to become pregnant in more than 6 months—detoxing before pregnancy can be very beneficial for reducing the mother and baby’s toxic load… However, as I discuss in Why You Should Detox Before Pregnancy, do not detox if you’re already pregnant or breastfeeding, or you plan to get pregnant in less than 6 months.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s dive into the details on detox.

Who Should Not Do A Detox?

There are times in life when detoxing is not advised.

Some exceptions to detox include:

  • If you are trying to conceive (ideally we put more aggressive detox on hold 6 months prior to trying, and focus instead on avoidance).
  • If you’re pregnant or nursing.
  • If you’re going through chemotherapy.

Possible Exceptions:

  • Always check with your doctor if you have certain chronic conditions or life-threatening disease.
  • The same goes for those taking medications, as certain supplements may cause interactions.
  • People with mercury amalgams or breast implants tend to be more sensitive and need a more gentle approach.

The takeaway is that most people can safely detox based on a personal inventory of those signs and symptoms.

However, if you’re unsure, taking medications, or under medical supervision, always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner first.

What About Juice Cleansing, Fasting, Or Detox Cleanse Diets?

Generally speaking, I am not an advocate of juice fasts, water fasts, or trendy detox cleanse diets.

Although these approaches may have their place in certain situations, more often than not, they end up depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to detox effectively (like protein).

This often results in…well, poor results, such as healing crises, increased fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, hormones gone haywire, or acceleration of chronic illness.

Plus, it’s a waste of time, effort, and money.

To be clear: I am a big fan of vegetable juicing and green smoothies as part of a balanced, whole-foods-based diet.

However, after a couple of decades studying and practicing this detox thing, I’ve learned that most people will benefit from a more balanced, science-based approach…which we’ll cover coming up.

How Does Detox Work?

We hear a lot about the latest and greatest detox cleanses and the benefits of detoxing from various experts.

Yet, few of them go into the science behind how detox actually works.

I don’t know about you, but I like to know what something (a detox program, medication, supplements, etc.) will do to my body before I try it.

So here’s how it all works within the three phases of detoxification.

First, What Is Detoxification?

Detoxification refers to your body’s ability to get rid of waste. It accomplishes this through specific detoxification organs and pathways.

The gut and digestive system play a vital role in nutrient absorption, assimilation, and elimination.

As we covered in previous articles, the gut can become permeable when inflamed due to an imbalance of bad bacteria. This can lead to intestinal hyperpermeability (aka leaky gut), which hinders the normal elimination of toxins.

An overabundance of bad gut bacteria can also lead to the production of endotoxins which can increase intestinal permeability 6 resulting in reduced glutathione levels.

We’ll discuss this more in the next section, but glutathione is your body’s master antioxidant that plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to detoxify.7, 8

The liver is the most talked-about organ of detox for a reason, it works its butt off for us (figuratively speaking)!

I don’t usually use sports analogies, but think of your liver as your body’s detox quarterback. That’s because it’s involved in every detoxification stage and is a master at catching, neutralizing, filtering, and even storing toxins when necessary to protect your more delicate organs.9

It also:10

  • Filters the blood
  • Stores excess glucose (which can also become toxic) in the form of glycogen
  • Regulates levels of amino acids (the building blocks of protein)
  • Plays a role in fat metabolism and cholesterol synthesis
  • Produces bile and other enzymes
  • Removes harmful bacteria from the bloodstream
  • Creates immune factors that protect from infection
  • Transforms chemicals, hormones, drugs, and toxins into water-soluble metabolites that can then be excreted by the intestines, kidneys, and skin.

Your liver loves (and needs) regular detoxification support.

The kidneys filter over 150 quarts of blood daily.

They also filter out various toxins and prepare them for excretion in the urine. Including ammonia, creatinine, heavy metals, urea, and other toxins conjugated by the liver in Phase II detoxification (more on this coming up).11

The kidneys also play a role in electrolyte balance and synthesizing Vitamin D—a critical nutrient for detox, immunity, hormonal health, and more—into its active, usable form.12

The skin is our body’s largest organ.

It’s also  been called “the third kidney” because of its role in detoxification, primarily through sweat.13

Research has shown chemicals such as phthalates, BPA, and heavy metals can be excreted through sweat.14, 15

This is why I’m a huge advocate of non-toxic personal care products. They reduce body burden and allow your skin to function optimally.

The lungs aren’t typically thought of as an organ of detoxification.

However, inhaled toxins often cause the worst problems (just think about asbestos and those warning labels on cleaning products, for example) because our lungs are designed for exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. We breathe in toxins, but we don’t necessarily breathe those same toxins out. Often they may get trapped in the lungs and/or must go through other detox pathways to be removed.

Plus, we breathe in toxins every day such as: environmental air pollutants, cigarette smoke, household chemicals found in things like cleaning products, air fresheners, and personal care products, dust, mold, mildew, pollens, etc.

So you can see our lungs have a lot to contend with.

In traditional systems of healing, the lungs are viewed as prized organs of detoxification. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example, the lungs are considered the “yin” partner of the intestines; the lungs breathe in the new and the intestines expel the old.

The cell membranes are another underappreciated player in the detox symphony.

Without getting too technical, your cell membranes are a double layer of lipids and proteins that surround your cells and protect them from the external environment.

Cell membranes play a role in detoxification through their effects on metabolism—specifically, the production of ATP, which produces energy 16, intestinal barrier function 17, 18  and skin health.19

Unfortunately, the lipid layers of the cell membrane can become damaged by free radicals (unstable molecules) produced by (you guessed it) excess toxins. This leads to inflammation and symptoms of aging if left unchecked. 

The lymphatic system is one of the most under-appreciated systems of detoxification.

It is an extensive system of nodes, organs (like the spleen and thymus), vessels, and ducts that flow throughout the entire body.20

This system’s functions are extensive and include:

  • The clean-up of unwanted toxins, bacteria, and other pathogens
  • Being an integral part of the immune system
  • Maintaining fluid balance
  • Playing a key role in gut health via the transport of fatty acids through lymphatic capillaries in the gut lining, immuno surveillance, and the removal of interstitial fluids from the intestines21

It’s important to understand that the lymphatic system doesn’t have an automated pump, and therefore relies on regular movement or massage to function properly.

This is why I always recommend exercise, walking as much as possible, rebounding, etc. during a detox.

All these organs and systems work together to neutralize and eliminate toxins via:

  • Urine
  • Stool
  • Sweat
  • And Breastmilk—so no detoxing while you’re breastfeeding, please!22

This detoxification system is truly miraculous in protecting us from toxins, pathogens, and foreign invaders.

However, if it becomes compromised due to illness, chronic stress, a diet high in processed foods and low in plants, a sub-optimal lifestyle, or just too many toxins, it can make us sick.

Now, here’s the part most people are unaware of: there are three phases of detoxification that involve specific organs and systems.

And all three phases must be supported for a detox to be successful.

Phase I Detoxification:

Phase I is the first line of defense against toxins that takes place in the liver—one of your body’s largest and most hard-working organs.

In Phase I, reactions occur primarily by cytochrome P450 enzymes, which help transform fat-soluble toxins into less harmful chemicals that can be metabolized by the phase II enzymes, which we’ll discuss coming up.

This process produces free radicals (unstable molecules that can cause oxidative damage and inflammation in the body), which are checked by antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

However, liver cells can suffer from free radical damage if we don’t have enough antioxidants to meet the demands of excessive toxins.

This is a big part of the reason Grandma was right about eating your fruits and vegetables! They provide an essential source of antioxidants that help protect your body.

The danger here is if these free radicals accumulate, they cannot be metabolized by the Phase II detoxification pathways.

This results in widespread oxidative damage that can lead to chronic inflammation, aging, and various types of chronic disease.

Phase II Detoxification:

As previously mentioned, the liver is central to metabolic detoxification.

It filters the blood, processes hormones, regulates cholesterol, and plays a vital role in digestion by creating bile and other enzymes.

The liver’s detoxification process works through a series of enzymes via pathways referred to as Phase I and Phase II detoxification.

This system requires adequate nutrients, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and protein (yes, protein!) to function properly.

The liver transforms chemicals, hormones, and toxins into water-soluble metabolites that the intestines, kidneys, and skin can then excrete.

During Phase II detoxification, the liver makes these intermediate metabolites water-soluble through a process called conjugation.

This process involves specific pathways that conjugate (attach) molecules to toxins so the body can excrete them.

The six major pathways involved in conjugation include:

  • Glutathione conjugation (more on this to come)
  • Methylation (we’ll touch on this below, too)
  • Sulfation
  • Glucuronidation
  • Acylation/Glycination
  • Acetylation

Glutathione is our master antioxidant and the most valuable player (there’s another darn sport’s analogy) in detoxification.23

It prevents free radical damage and makes toxic chemicals more water-soluble so we can excrete them.

You can learn more about glutathione in: Why Your Body Needs Glutathione.

Phase III Detoxification:

Phase III detoxification is the final stage, where the transformed, conjugated toxins are shuttled into bile, stool, sweat, or urine for excretion by the intestines, kidneys, and skin.

Liver health is critical to Phase III detoxification, which requires optimal bile production and fluidity to support the transport and elimination of toxins through membrane-bound cellular proteins.

The kidneys and intestines also play a vital role in filtering, binding, and draining toxins during this final phase.

Regular, healthy bowel movements are an exceptionally part of detoxification and proper elimination of toxins and other pathogens.

To Summarize

Detoxification strategies that fail to support all three phases can result in unfortunate health outcomes, including:

  • Toxin recirculation
  • Healing crises
  • Unpleasant detox symptoms
  • Worsening of existing symptoms
  • Or even damage to your health

In other words, it pays to be choosy about the type of detoxification programs you partake.

It’s also a really good idea to minimize your exposure to toxins as much as possible…without driving yourself crazy.

Let’s dig into some practical steps you can take to optimize detoxification right now.

What Is The Best Way To Detox Your Body?

The best way to detox your body is to avoid toxins as much as possible (avoidance, avoidance, avoidance!) and most people also benefit from a science-based detox program 1-4 times per year.

First, let’s address the biggest issue: how to avoid toxins in a super-toxic world.

Focus On Diet And Nutrition

What we eat either helps promote natural detoxification or causes toxicity. It’s that simple.

So, what types of foods should you focus on?

Load up your plate with nutrient-dense foods such as colorful vegetables and fruits (emphasis on the vegetables), clean proteins, and nutritious, gluten-free whole intact grains.

My perfect plate is half colorful vegetables, a quarter clean protein, and a quarter clean starch with some healthy fats mixed in.

Decrease the antigen load by avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, and gluten. Some people will also benefit from avoiding dairy products, although many tolerate fermented dairy and hard cheeses just fine.

To learn more, check out Foods To Support Detoxification, 5 Science-Backed Reasons To Go Gluten-Free, and Why You Need Protein On A Detox.

Adopt a Low-Tox Lifestyle

We cannot insulate ourselves from all of life’s toxins. However, we can do plenty to reduce our toxic load by making some simple lifestyle changes.

One of the easiest and most effective ways is to work on reducing toxins and chemicals in your home.

I go into this at length in 12 Ways To Detox Your Home. Here are some starting points:

  • Eliminate fragrance. It’s rife with endocrine-disrupting toxins such as phthalates,24,25 which are bad news for your body.
  • Filter your water with a high-quality filter that also eliminates fluoride. Hydration is key to optimizing toxin removal! So aim for at least 8-10 glasses of filtered water per day. To boost water’s detox benefits, consider adding organic lemon, lime, or orange slices. These citrus fruits contain d-limonene which has been shown to support phase 2 detox pathways in the liver.26 
  • Ditch and switch any chemical cleaning products for non-toxic alternatives. You can DIY with things like white vinegar and baking soda or use my favorite brand, Branch Basics, which allows you to take one concentrate, add water, and turn it into any type of cleaning or laundry product you need.
  • Replace plastics with glass in the kitchen whenever possible.
  • Use non-toxic beauty and personal care products. The clean beauty space has gone mainstream; which is good and bad. Good, because makeup and skincare products are more affordable and available, but bad because there are many toxic products marketed as “green & clean”. Check out the brands I trust in: A Functional Medicine Doctor’s Clean Beauty Routine.
  • Get rid of your lawn or pest service and replace with an eco-friendly, non-toxic alternative (there are services out there).
  • As you update your home, consider non-toxic building materials and furnishings such as solid wood flooring vs. carpet, formaldehyde-free cabinets and sofas, rugs made from natural fibers such as wool or hemp, and non-toxic mattresses.
  • Address any signs of water damage, mold, or mildew right away! Learn more in: Could Mold And Mycotoxins Exposure Be Causing Your Mystery Illness?

Learn more in: 12 Ways To Detox Your Home.

Incorporate Self-Care That Supports Detoxification

Nearly any type of self-care practice supports detoxification because it reduces stress. Certain types of self-care, like those listed below, also lend biochemical support.

Some of my favorite ways to unwind and boost detox include:

  • Hot/cold therapy can be done in the shower or sauna and helps stimulate circulation.
  • Saunas have been shown to promote detoxification through sweating and many other aspects of health.27 I like my Higher Dose Sauna Blanket and no-EMF Space Saver from Sauna Space for this purpose.
  • Exercise and movement support all the organs of detoxification and promote healthy sleep, weight, and mental health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk daily activity, and be sure to add in some weight-bearing exercises.
  • Lymphatic massage can also be beneficial (and relaxing) in promoting detoxification. Brisk walking and rebounding can also help stimulate lymphatic flow, which helps flush out toxins.
  • Movement/exercise is essential for proper lymphatic function and drainage. It also benefits digestion, elimination, sleep, mental health, and much more. Any movement is better than no movement. However, I typically recommend at least 30 minutes a day of brisk exercise (walking, bike riding, HIIT, strength training, dance, pilates, etc.).

When you’re actively detoxing, it can also be helpful to bounce on a rebounder for a few minutes a day to really activate that lymphatic flow.

And be consistent! Even if you can only commit to 10 minutes of self-care at a time, it makes a big difference.

I also recommend scheduling your self care time so it doesn’t get lost in the mix (as a working mother of 3, this is it only way I’m able to stick to my routine).

You and your health are worth this time, so schedule it in and make it happen.

My Favorite Detox Supplements + A New Year’s Detox Challenge

I recommend almost everyone do a detox program at least once yearly (often more) in addition to diet and lifestyle changes.

The detox supplements I recommend most to my patients are from Quicksilver Scientific.

They have some of the most advanced nutraceuticals for detoxification and antioxidant protection, developed by one of the leading scientists in the detoxification space, Chris Shade, Ph.D.

Dr. Shade is a pioneer in heavy metal toxicity, and his research has been published in numerous scientific journals. Quicksilver Scientific is my go-to for safe and effective detoxification protocols.

I personally use Quicksilver Scientific’s Detox Program, and will be hosting an Advanced PushCatch Detox Program 30-day challenge in January! 

We’ll use the first week of January to work on nutrition and lifestyle, and we’ll start The Advanced PushCatch® Detox System from Quicksilver Scientific together on January 9.

I’ll be doing 5 days on, and 2 days off (i.e., M-F and Sat/Sun off), and you can use this link to get 15% off the program for a limited time.

But before you commit, let me share more details about this detox protocol.

The Advanced PushCatch Detox System Supports All Essential Phases Of Detoxification

The PushCatch Detox system utilizes a specific combination of potent nutrients, binders, and bitter phytochemicals to optimize all three phases of detoxification.

This combination of nutraceuticals helps activate critical detoxification pathways and optimize bile flow, to ‘push’ toxins through the body for excretion.

It also supports elimination of mobilized toxins by using binding agents such as charcoal and bentonite clay to ‘catch’ them, preventing redistribution.

Additional toxin removal support includes:

  • Liposomal glutathione for antioxidant and immune support.
  • High dose phosphatidylcholine to promote healthy cellular membranes and toxin export.
  • And targeted phytocompounds that support lymphatic drainage and kidney health.

Here’s a summary of the The Advanced PushCatch Detox System Products and how they work.

  • Liver Sauce: is the “Push” aspect of the system. It contains four potent bitters, dandelion, gentian, goldenrod, and myrrh, to aid bile fluidity and flow and help push out toxins. It also contains powerful liver and detoxification support from milk thistle, DIM (diindolylmethane—a natural compound found in brassica vegetables), quercetin, and luteolin.
  • Ultra Binder: is the “Catch” part of the system. It does double duty, by acting as a binder to help catch toxins in the intestines while supporting normal bowel function and healing of the intestinal lining. Its binding agents include bentonite clay, activated charcoal, chitosan, and Quicksilver Scientific’s proprietary mercury-binding complex. Acacia gum and aloe vera provide a mild laxative effect while soothing the gut lining and promoting the growth of friendly flora.
  • Liposomal Glutathione: is a highly absorbable form of glutathione (your body’s master antioxidant), which supports all three phases of detoxification via its antioxidant, binding, and neutralizing properties.
  • Kidney Care: is a unique blend of Western and Traditional Chinese herbs, such as dandelion, goldenrod, Fu Ling, Astragaloside IV (a derivative of the herb astragalus), and Ferulic acid (a protective phytochemical found in various fruits and vegetables) designed to nourish and protect the kidneys by supporting normal structure and function.
  • Membrane Mend: provides broad-spectrum support for the cellular membranes, an often forgotten powerhouse of detoxification. It contains phosphatidylcholine, plant-based essential fatty acids, astaxanthin (an antioxidant sourced from algae), and tocotrienols which promote cell and cell membrane health and resilience.

The 30-Day Detox Protocol

This detox program takes place over 30 days, during which you take the supplements (called Product Cycling) for 5 days at a time, with 2 days of rest (alternatively you could do 10 days on, 4 days off).

As mentioned, we’ll also be tackling diet and lifestyle first (using some of the tips I shared in the previous sections) to help you get the most out of this detox program.

You can check out the Advanced PushCatch Protocol Booklet here to learn more about dosing and what to expect.

When starting a detoxification program, people commonly experience
  • Increased hydration needs—so drink plenty of filtered water! Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs., aim to drink 70 ounces of water daily.
  • Increased urinary frequency—the kidneys are important elimination organs and increased urination supports the removal of excess fluid and waste. You can add electrolytes as needed.
  • Changes in bowel habits—it’s essential to have at least one bowel movement a day. Hydration, exercise, increased fiber, and sometimes magnesium can be helpful for constipation.
  • Fatigue—if you’re feeling more fatigue during the first few days of detox, give yourself some time to relax and recharge. You may need to be gentler on your body for the first few days. If hydration and rest do not offer relief, you may need a lower dose.

Note for those of you on medications: Because Ultra Binder contains activated charcoal and other substances which may affect the absorption of medications, it should be taken at least two hours before or after prescription medications.

How long does it take to fully detox your body?

This particular program is designed to go for 30 days, but the optimal amount of time really depends on the person.

Think of it as a simmer versus a boil; if you overdo it and it makes you feel bad (beyond just a couple days of feeling a bit more tired or lethargic) then pull back a bit.

Some sensitive people need to go very slowly and use lower doses of supplements. This will inevitably take a while longer, but you’ll still receive the same benefits.

That said, most people can complete a 30 day detox like this once a year, or even once a quarter.

Want To Do This Together?

As I said, I’ll be embarking on an Advanced PushCatch Detox Program starting January 9, 2023.

We’ll work on lifestyle strategies the week before, then launch into the full program January 9 after you’ve had time to place your orders.

What better way to kick off a new year? And I’d love to have you join me!

Quicksilver Scientific and I will be sharing detox tips, information, Instagram Lives, Q&As, and updates (including a free giveaway for a chance to win the Advanced PushCatch Detox Program!) via Instagram @drchristinemaren and @quicksilverscientific.

Use this link to get 15% off Quicksilver’s Advanced PushCatch Detox Program, and I hope to see you in the challenge!

Finally, if all this detox information has piqued your interest about other aspects of health, be sure to check out our functional medicine services (available for residents of Colorado, Michigan, and Texas) and join the conversation on Instagram.



About Dr. Maren

Christine Maren D.O., IFMCP is a board-certified physician and the founder of a virtual functional medicine practice in Colorado, Michigan, and Texas.  She is best know for her work in thyroid, gut and reproductive/ preconception health. Dr. Maren is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP)

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