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Detox - What Does that Mean?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014

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by Marsha Nunley, MD

I have gone through many changes on my journey to health: gluten-free/dairy-free diet, limited alcohol, no processed foods, bio identical hormones, many, many supplements, meditation, yoga, etc. and for me, doing a detox is the last frontier. I think I have resisted because I did not really understand and honestly, it seemed a bit daunting. Juice, shakes, and limiting food intake? Really, I love my food and because I have adrenal issues, I am used to eating frequently. Yes, I pretty much eat whole organic foods and even try to get in as many raw foods as possible, but I do love a good steak every now and then. (Sushi does not count on a raw food diet.) So let’s explore the reasons we should consider doing a detox every six months (or at least annually).

In medical school, I learned about detoxification that occurs in the body to remove waste – a part of normal bodily processes. We also learned about how the body metabolizes drugs and other foreign invaders. The assumption seemed to be that the body had a system that would readily get rid of whatever it needed to, when it needed. Not much was taught about augmenting the process of detoxification. In medicine, it is referred to as a metabolic process. To your average physician, drugs and toxins are metabolized (not detoxified), so detoxification in the sense of patient treatment is not something that your average physician will be interested in or familiar with necessarily. Not to criticize, just to let you know that if you try and talk to your family doc about detox, you will probably be met with a questioning look and dismissed. I think it is really that most doctors are simply not aware of the burden we are putting on our bodies’ detoxification capabilities.

Toxins can be classified as inner toxins, which are generated within the body, or outer toxins, which are toxins that enter the body from the outside. Inner toxins come from the body’s normal metabolic processes and from invaders, such as an infection. So where do outer toxins come from? Read this article from the Environmental Working Group about a study where they tested volunteers for 210 chemicals (San Francisco Chronicle, 2004).

“There are more than 75,000 chemicals licensed for commercial use; more than 2,000 new synthetic chemicals are registered every year; the Environmental Protection Agency has tallied close to 10,000 chemical ingredients in cosmetics, food and consumer products. The 210 we were tested for are just a few of the industrial chemicals in our world. We can surmise that the actual number of manufactured chemicals in our bodies is far greater than our results show. Very few of these chemicals were in our environment, or our bodies, just 75 years ago.

In 1998, U.S. industries reported manufacturing 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000 different chemicals, and in 2000, major American companies — not even counting the smaller ones — dumped 7.1 billion pounds of 650 different industrial chemicals into our air and water.”

We are living in a sea of toxins and there is good evidence that it is affecting our health in a major way. Many chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, depression, and on and on are related to our toxic world. These chemical toxins are stored in fat in the body and are likely a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and the world.
We are living in a different world from our parents and grandparents. Clearly, regular augmentation of the body’s detoxification process is essential for us to remain healthy and vital. Even though it’s not easy, I am putting regular detoxification into my health regimen and encourage you to do the same. I am currently a week into a 21-day detox. I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Good resources on detox and toxicity in our world:

Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind. by Jeffrey Morrison, MD
Essential Cleansing. by Brenda Watson
Healing Digestive Illness. by Russell Mariani
Detoxify or Die. by Sherry Rogers
Environmental Working Group

Dr. Marsha Nunley is a Texas native who moved to California in 2000. She earned her medical degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. She currently practices Internal as well as Functional Medicine in San Francisco and Oakland, California. Dr. Nunley is also an expert in menopause, andropause and bio-identical hormone therapies. She has completed specialty training in Geriatric Medicine, Palliative Care, and Pain Management, and is also certified in the new area of Aging Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. She has completed an Associate Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, where she explored the benefits of mind-body medicine, chiropractics, acupuncture, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, hypnotherapy, and energy healing. Visit Dr. Nunley's website at:

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