By Melissa Lee ND

In our modern world our food has become refined and processed.  We tend to over consume these foods because they are simple, easy, cheap, tasty and addictive. When we combine bad quality food with a lack of physical activity we feel sluggish, fatigued, moody, sad and bloated.

Every year, how many of us are sick of this feeling and attracted to the concept of detoxification? How many of us have taken part in a detoxification kit and felt fantastic or even worse?  How many of us feel “clean” after a one week detox? In this article, we will explore the concept of detoxification, the best way to approach a detoxification routine and absolute no no’s in a detoxification program.

Throughout history various cultures and religions have documented the practice and significance of cleansing.  Fasting for example has been noted in the Bible, Pagan writings, the Koran, and writings of the ancient Greeks, where it (on water and spring greens) often occurred in the spring time when winter supplies ran low. As the concept of fasting evolved, it also became about health hygiene practices. These included: exposure to sunshine and clean air, drinking clean water, eating a vegetarian diet, moving through exercise, emotional balance and rest.

Today the contemporary concept of detoxification can mean multiple things. Two major terms that come to mind with respect to detoxing is: fasting and cleansing; what do these mean for us?

  • Fasting is about slowing down normal digestive processes. By minimizing food intake, we reduce the physiological stress of over consuming rich foods allowing our bodies to rest. Sometimes this includes drinking various juices or teas to mildly stimulate our liver, kidney and colon. During a fast we often experience a decrease in body weight, decreased blood pressure and decrease pulse. Our Metabolism (BMR) will also decrease until the body stabilizes at 75% of our original BMR. Fasting should be done under guided supervision by a healthcare practitioner.
  • Cleansing involves activepurging of toxins and residues from the body which have accumulated from toxic foods, toxic emotions, and toxic water. You may be familiar with the concept cleansing as it is often viewed as a 1-2 week protocol that involves violent elimination. The main concern with this current concept is it does not consider the normal and individualized circadian rhythms of our body and physiology; and violent expulsion of our elimination products isn’t the most therapeutic.

After a long traditional Canadian winter, how do we safely and therapeutically detoxify our bodies? Do we “cleanse” or “fast”? Your answer is neither. Think about detoxification as neither restricting nor purging the body; but about bringing each organ system back to balance and regulating the elimination processes. As you start to clean up the diet and remove processed foods, your organs “wake up” and function more efficiently. As a result the body will start to detoxify naturally and gently. Two things you need to consider when detoxing is:

  • Detoxification of the whole body does not take 1 or 2 weeks, it takes longer.
  • Food is your medicine. Through using various foods to detoxify and adopting a good foundation of nutrient dense foods, your body will cleanse naturally, gently and on an ongoing basis.

Starting to Detoxify

A detoxification plan can be done using simple health hygiene practices. You don’t necessarily need to get fancy with detox kits. To start a detoxification for yourself, keep three things in mind:

  1. High Quality Nutrient Dense food
  2. Great rest
  3. Great elimination

High Quality Nutrient Dense Food

 Whole foods will now be a big part of your diet. Whole foods meaning: “foods that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.”  Whole foods can be a big category, so start with this simple tip: consume unlimited vegetables and fruits.  Begin with 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day and work up from there, focusing more on the vegetable intake. The more dark greens, reds, blues, purples and oranges you add into the diet the more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals you consume.  Include vegetables like: collard greens, kale, spinach, bok choy, endive, rapini, asparagus, artichokes, beets, carrots, parsley, lemons, squash, onions, garlic, leeks, mixed greens, watercress. Focus on your dark fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple or papaya.

Great Rest

Sleep is crucial for our body to rest and recharge. The basic role of sleep as we know is restoration, growth in children, development of the brain, and memory processing.  Recent research has shown that sleep is also responsible for detoxification of the brain. In a recent study published by Science Translational Medicine, researchers demonstrated that during sleep our brain cells change structure. Specifically the glial cells shrink by 60%, allowing the interstitial space between cells to increase. As this happens, the lymphatic system of the brain (aka. glymphatic system) mobilizes and flushes out neurotoxic waste products that have accumulated over the day. How amazing is that?  If you have trouble sleeping, it may be wise to seek guidance from a Naturopathic Doctor. Tip: as part of your bedtime routine drink a warm cup of chamomile tea, lemon balm tea or passion flower tea.

Great Elimination

Pooping, peeing and sweating are important ways to excrete toxins from food, drink, and environmental products.

Pooping: How many of us feel great after a good poo? Ideally we want to have two bowel movements per day which are well-formed. Tip: add more fibre to the diet through adding water soluble and water insoluble fibres (ex. all types of fruits, all types of vegetables, flax seeds, chia seeds, prunes,).  Drinking water is also very important in helping to soften the stools allowing for easier elimination. Tip: make sure as you increase your fibre intake, you increase your water intake.

Peeing: Drinking water helps your kidneys do their job by eliminating water soluble toxins. On average males need to consume about 3 liters of water per day and females need to consume around 2.2 litres of water per day.  This amount can vary depending on our diet, our physical activity and our health, but ask yourself: are you consuming these amounts of water?   If you aren’t coming close to these amounts you may be dehydrated.  Tip: use the colour of your pee as an indicator of your hydration status: the lighter the yellow the better.

Sweating: Your skin is the largest elimination organ, so sweating is a great way to detoxify through your pores.  The best way to sweat is to have a good work out. Tip: three times per week, go for a brisk walk, yoga, the gym, and work up a good heart rate and a good sweat.  These workouts can be limited to 20-30 minutes.

Absolute No No’s when detoxifying:

  1. Do not detoxify during the winter seasons or extreme cold weather. An extended fast or detoxification can be harmful in cold weather.
  2. Do not detoxify during serious physical or mental degeneration.Detoxification requires energy!
  3. Do not detoxify if one is starving or deprived of proper nutrition. Detoxification will not happen unless certain vitamins, minerals, nutrients and enzymes are present.
  4. Do not detoxify during pregnancy or lactation. Its beneficial to nourish one’s body during these times

Remember: slower, milder “cleanses” with selected whole foods can bring about remarkable healing.

For more information on an in depth detoxification or supervised detoxification program contact Dr. Lee at Insight Naturopathic Clinic or visit


  • First, to do no harm

  • To cooperate with the healing powers of nature.

  • To address the fundamental causes of disease.

  • To heal the whole person through individualized treatment.

  • To teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine.