At certain times of the year, you can’t check your social media without finding all kinds of programs promoting cleanses and detoxes – all promising brilliant results and improvements in your health. If you’re healthy, this may be true. But if you have a chronic disorder, such as Hashimoto’s, you risk a flare-up of your symptoms.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of reasons why, let’s clarify some terminology. ‘Cleanses’ and ‘Detoxes’ are not the same thing, although they are often used interchangeably.
A cleanse is a short (5, 7, 10, 30 days) targeted opportunity to focus on health and prioritize health-promoting choices. These choices may or may not affect detoxification. A cleanse can be done from any state of disease/health. The experience may shift long-term health-promoting habits such as:
- Eliminating refined, processed foods and added sugars
- Eliminating or reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Removing animal protein
- Removing all refined fats and oils
- Eliminating all grain flours
- Increasing sleep, mindfulness, stress reduction, and mild exercise
- Optimize bowel movements, digestion, hydration
- Increase plant food intake to maximize phytonutrients.
A cleanse can be a safe method for those with Hashimoto’s, assuming care is taken with addressing any known food sensitivities.
A detox is a short, targeted opportunity to increase toxin excretion from the body. It is a way to reduce inflammation and systemic disease due to toxic impairment or overload. However, it is important that it be undertaken from a position of health and is not recommended for people with potential liver/kidney/gall bladder dysfunction or suffering from constipation, without undergoing essential preparation.
Many detox programs do not consider that binding and excretion of toxins is impaired in many people with chronic health conditions, such as Hashimoto’s. Encouraging the release of toxins without ensuring good toxin elimination can result in additional circulation of toxins and inflammation or flare-up of symptoms. It’s important that foundational detox strategies are followed – strategies that are based on the four steps of detoxification in the body.
Steps of Detoxification
Most functional medicine practitioners assert that there are 4 foundational phases to the body’s detoxification, as seen in the image below.
This is the phase where circulating toxins are transported into the cells via carrier proteins. This is all about the mobilization of toxins so that they can start the detoxification process.
Most toxins are fat soluble so they go through an initial process to make them water soluble for excretion. This is the half-way point or first step. Unfortunately, this step also makes the toxin more reactive and potentially more dangerous as it can cause more oxidative stress.
In this next phase, the toxin is conjugated or linked to a water soluble escort to then be excreted.
In this phase toxins are removed from the cell and excreted via bile (bowel movements) and the kidneys (urine). Healthy bile flow, bowel movements, and hydration are key to the success of this phase.
Successful detoxification can only occur when all four phases are working efficiently. And if you want to improve your detox function, you need to start with the last phase (phase 3) and work backwards. If you don’t, you risk creating a blockage. Think of your detox system as a series of pipes. If the final sections aren’t flowing freely, there will be blockages. And this is the main reason why many detox programs can be dangerous for people with chronic conditions – they focus only on the initial phase and not ensuring that the other phases are working efficiently first.
- If you have a chronic disorder, such as Hashimoto's, a 'cleanse' may be the first best step in making the dietary and lifestyle changes that are important in addressing the root causes.
- Most detox programs are not recommended for those with chronic disorders, such as Hashimoto's, unless that program follows the foundational strategies outlined above.
In later posts, I'll outline the various detox phases in more detail and provide suggestions on how to improve.
If you have questions about your health, you can book a free 20-min consultation with me. We will discuss your concerns and outline your options for moving forward to better health.