Top 12 Health Detox Myths Debunked

Early in my health journey, I had this vague notion that “detox” was only for folks recovering from substance abuse, or it was a “cleanse” for fancy people in Los Angeles that liked to naval gaze and throw up in a bucket in the woods on "retreats." Not exactly my idea of a vacation. I definitely did not see the connection between detox and healing my weird gut issues, fatigue, and brain fog. 

Actually, at one point or another I believed every one of these myths below! That's why I’m excited to walk you through them. Knowledge is power, baby.

By the end of this post you’ll be a lot clearer on what real detox is and isn’t, why many health professionals don’t understand it, and why it may be worth looking into for you.

Myth 1: Detox is not necessary for anyone. 

(This one is my fave.) Because our bodies are brilliant and have their own complex detox mechanisms, many traditional doctors and health practitioners roll their eyes and say that additional detox is unnecessary. Michael and I paid those docs a lotta money and wasted years listening to that train of thought while we watched our symptoms get worse, not better.

Why do they say this? Well, doctors get an average of 7 hours in environmental toxin education in their entire academic career if it’s covered by their medical school at all.(1) Pretty strange, considering there’s plenty of data to cover - there are thousands of studies done on heavy metal exposure toxicity and related health conditions, and that’s just one class of toxin. (Don't take my word for it - search pubmed.com and see for yourself.

Bottom line - you can’t speak to something that you don’t understand.

You can’t share the impacts of common toxic exposure on your patients’ health if you never learned them in the first place. Did you know that it takes 40 years for emerging data to reach mainstream? Our collective toxic burden and the resulting inflammatory conditions are evolving rapidly. Those traditional docs may catch up eventually, but I’m guessing you don’t wanna wait.

Truth: Our bodies' natural detox systems are overloaded and need help.

We now have decades of exposure to environmental toxins in our air, food, and water that disrupt our body’s self regulating processes (2), distort our hormones (3), and overload our detox systems.

There are over 84,000 chemicals registered in the US, and while most of them have never been tested for safety, the few that have been studied by the CDC have shown up in 98% of the population. These few chemicals studied have been linked to cancer (4)(5), diabetes (6), digestive conditions, resistant weight loss, thyroid disease, hormonal imbalances (7), and more. Our bodies did not evolve with the chemicals, and don't have excretion pathways designed to combat them specifically.
Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a person who would not benefit from supporting their health with a detox protocol.
The data clearly states that toxins contribute to myriad health conditions. Why wouldn’t you want to treat the root cause of your health issues, not just the symptoms?

Myth 2: “Clean living” is enough to stay healthy.

As long as we’re exercising every week and making moderately responsible health choices, we shouldn’t need to detox.

Truth: See above. Clean living is wonderful, but for many of us it just isn’t cutting it anymore.

I wish it was enough! Because you have to eat food that’s been contaminated by herbicides and pesticides (even organic produce (8)), you have to breathe air that’s been polluted, and drink water with microplastics, antibiotic waste, and heavy metals that aren’t filtered out, and you have to live in a house with walls and furniture that offgas chemicals. It sucks, but that’s where we’re at.


Myth 3: Detox is only for people with a history of substance abuse.

Truth: See above. While alcohol and narcotics create additional burden on your liver and kidneys, the need to detox is not limited to folks with a history of substance abuse.
We’re all overloaded, and we’re several generations into the Chemical Era. We inherit mom’s microbiome and her toxic burden, which means we come into this world carrying hundreds of chemicals that our bodies didn't evolve knowing how to excrete. This has been increasing since the 1950's, when we had a major boom in petrochemical invention to use up that post-WWII oil surplus.
Studies have found hundreds of toxins present in our umbilical chords at birth (9). Then comes our own environmental exposure.
Everyone can benefit from some real detox support. (Please don’t start a detox while pregnant or breastfeeding, and always consult your personal healthcare authority before starting a detox protocol.)

 

Myth 4: Detox is a short term fix for all health problems.

Truth: Real detoxes are measured in months, not days, and include an ongoing maintenance plan to support your body afterwards. 
You lived your way into the state of health you’re in now, you’re gonna live your way out of it and into a better state. Cultures on every continent used to have short-term cleanses built into their seasonal and religious calendars, which is awesome for healthy people who want to stay healthy. But if you've got persistent symptoms, it's a longer process to unpack now that we're in the Chemical Era.
Michael and I definitely searched for the quick fix that would free us both from our symptoms, but no weekend cleanse is going to safely and effectively peel back decades of damage. Think of detox as a lifestyle, not an event. 

Myth 5: Detox is a tea or a protein bar.

Truth: Nope, no processed products can take the place of real detox.
Because the health industry is so poorly regulated, many companies can claim vague benefits to their processed products and toss around words like “detox.” While some herbal teas do contain anti-inflammatory properties and help support your body’s own detox processes (including dandelion, chamomile, peppermint, and cistus), they don’t qualify as a real detox protocol by themselves.
We use customized food plans tailored to your symptoms and health goals, but a real detox will also include targeted, high-quality supplements, detox therapies, and changes to your environment to reduce your ongoing exposure to the chemicals, plastics, heavy metals, and pathogens overloading your system. 

Myth 6: Detox is a juice cleanse.

Truth: Sorry, hon. Juicing by itself may help to mobilize toxins out of storage, but not safely excrete them.

While juicing can be a phenomenal detox support, if you don’t have binders and drainage support on board, you may get more symptoms in the short or long term. Work with a pro to keep yourself safe.

 

Myth 7: One detox “diet” fits all.

Truth: Food is medicine, but in this wacky world we’ve developed responses to food that are anything but healing.
Depending on your symptoms, you may have food sensitivities, histamine issues, or sensitivities to oxalates and lectins. During detox you’ll need a food plan that is tailored to your needs, whether you’re working on healing weight resistance, digestion issues from colitis to constipation, leaky gut, Candida, parasites, SIBO, mold toxicity, arthritis, thyroid dysfunction, Lyme… one size does not fit all!

 

Myth 8: Detox = anything that mobilizes toxins.

Truth: You need a protocol with strategic support at multiple levels to safely excrete toxins and reset your own healing systems.

Detox protocol elements include: proper nutrition, anti inflammatory support, drainage support, toxin mobilizers, toxin binders, and regenerative support to heal the damage caused in your tissues. Each of these elements should be chosen based on your symptoms and goals, and play nice with the other elements of your detox protocol.

Once your cells get exposed to toxins and enter the Cell Danger Response cycle, your body requires deliberate types of support to complete the healing process and return to health.


Myth 9: Fasting is the same as detox.

Truth: While fasting has historically been a powerful healing tool and can have many health benefits (10), people living a modern lifestyle are generally too toxic to start any fast without preparation and support.

We don’t recommend fasting without supervision, including intermittent fasting. Fasting can mobilize toxins too quickly without proper support for your kidneys and liver (11). 

Myth 10: You have to feel like sh*t when you detox.

Truth: Nope - you should NOT feel sick while detoxing.

Herxheimer’s reactions(12) can happen on many detox plans, but a well-designed protocol should be adjustable to help you avoid most or all detox symptoms.

The “detox flu” is usually a sign that you do not have the drainage support and binders in place to scoop up recently mobilized toxins, to help safely excrete them. Adjustments are needed to make sure that your healing protocol is actually supporting your body. (When detoxing certain medications or narcotics, the picture gets more complicated.) Check with the health pro that’s helping you through your protocol, and if they don’t know what to do, then you need to look for someone who does. *waves*


Myth 11: You have to feel deprived of comfort and joy while you detox.

Truth: Doing a deep systemic detox will help you to finally feel supported and at ease in your body. Get ready to be a whole lot happier!
While you will benefit from leaving old coping habits behind (sugar, alcohol, etc), the reasons you needed those crutches will heal with a proper detox protocol. It’s so worth it. Our clients and students are always amazed -  no more hangry moments, no more sugar cravings, no more energy crashes to compensate for, no more reaching for soothers to fight back stress. It’s well established that certain toxins contribute to anxiety and depression (13), and getting them out frees you from emotional triggers that had you reaching for those crutches. 

 

If I had understood all of this back in the day, I could have saved myself a lot of anguish.

For most of us, our symptoms come on so slowly, it’s hard to notice or remember what feeling energized and clear is really like. Or our inflammation buckets finally overflow when a stressful life event hits us, so we don't understand that this toxic build up has been accumulating under the surface for years. 
We struggle through life waiting to finally get sick enough to merit a diagnosis, and when we finally get one, our doctors don’t even know to tell us about toxins and their contributions to our health conditions. 

This is the biggest myth that I would bust, if I could: 

Myth 12: Our health is our doctor’s job to manage, and there’s nothing to do but muddle through until we finally get a serious diagnosis.

Truth: Our bodies are our own responsibility.

While we may need health practitioners’ support on the journey, we are in the driver’s seat at all times. They can only help with the navigation. 


And if you don’t like where you’ve ended up, hang in there - you can choose a new protocol that gets you headed in the right direction. It’s never too late to change your relationship to your body and how you feel. You have a divine right to feel healthy and powerful in your own skin. Don’t settle for less. 


I’m not embarrassed to admit that I waited to detox because I felt too fragile, and was afraid of losing my crutches that helped me to cope. If I’d figured this out sooner, I would have wasted less time in pain, feeling out of it, sucking at work, stressed in my relationships, coping and hiding from the world. But now that I’m healthy, I’ve learned to trust my body and myself again. Helping our clients and students navigate this journey has made it all worth it. 


Stick around to learn more detox tips - and if you need a little motivation, you can start with this benefits of detox post to get you inspired! 

If you'd like to learn more, take our free quiz and get your detox score:

Could your undiagnosed problem actually be toxic burden?

This quiz gives you major insight into your own health as a whole, and includes follow up tips to start incorporating detox into your own life in a way that's right for you. Good luck!

xo, 

Sinclair

 

 

References:

(1) https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/experts-see-growing-importance-adding-environmental-health-content-medical-school-curricula

(2) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29214770/

(3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20012598/

(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12148884/

(5) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11017893/

(6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20187939/

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19539684/

(8) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590157520300031

(9) https://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns

(10) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12470446/

(11) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29455546/

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5239707/

(13) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30532687/