Detox | Part 2

A Foundational Detox Plan

Dr. Aaron Hartman

July 9, 2024


Where would you start in supporting your body’s natural detoxification processes?

In this article, I’m going to lay out a basic detoxification plan that anyone anywhere can implement.

These steps can help you to move forward with your health, improve your sleep, give you more energy, and improve hormone balance — all with simple lifestyle and nutritional changes.

First, we need to understand why and how our body detoxifies already.

Our Body’s Amazing Ability to Detox

Why Does Your Body Have a Built-in Detoxification System?

First, because everything our body is exposed to needs to also be eliminated from the body somehow. Whether petroleum fumes from a traffic-filled area, smoke from a fireplace at home, chemicals from your garage, contaminants in food, or chemicals in personal care products that you use on your body, your body must remove these substances. If your body cannot accomplish the removal process, either because it is overloaded, or because it has become inefficient at doing so, these toxins begin to build up in your system.

Secondly, because our body actually MAKES toxins — as metabolic byproducts. Toxins in our environment are not the only exposure your body is busy dealing with. Metabolic processes in the body also create byproducts that must be removed. At the cellular level, every cell has its own energy factory called the mitochondria. As your cells create energy, they also make byproducts that are excreted from the cell and into the blood and lymphatic tissues.

How Does Your Body Detoxify?

Your body has several methods of ridding itself of substances that it doesn’t want. Through urine, feces, sweat, and even breath, your body is designed to get rid of what isn’t helpful.

Toxins that wind up in your bloodstream travel through your system to your liver, where your liver makes them water-soluble by a process called conjugation, and then puts it into bile. Bile then puts these substances into your colon. In the GI tract, bacteria further help the detoxification process until you poop them out.

Toxins in your lymphatic tissues are moved through your lymph nodes, the biggest of which is your spleen. We also have lymphatics in the skin, allowing us to sweat out toxins. Massaging your soft tissues can liberate some of these toxins so that they go back into the blood where the kidneys filter it, excreting the toxins through your urine. Dry brushing can also help with detoxification by physically moving substances through the lymphatic system.

Breathing is a less obvious way we detoxify. Our bodies produce carbon dioxide, which we expel with each breath. We also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Recent research shows that the amount of VOCs we exhale can indicate our health … or illness. One hospital study developed a device to measure VOCs and predict the risk of death in patients. Higher VOC levels were linked to more severe illness and a higher likelihood of death. We can see that breathing plays a crucial role in removing toxins from our bodies.

Armed with an understanding of our built-in detoxification, we can now understand lifestyle changes to amplify that natural process.

Lifestyle Medicine for Detoxification

Clean Water

We all need to drink a lot of clean water to facilitate the removal of toxins from our bodies. Water helps with detoxification not only through urination but also with eliminating toxins through sweat and stool. Many of us are chronically dehydrated and we often overlook this basic need.

Notice that I specified clean water. I usually recommend that people investigate the source of their water and have it tested. If you use your local city’s water, I recommend investing in a really good filter. I also drink lots of mineral water, because minerals are important for detoxification as well.

Beware of bottled water. Did you know that about 25% of bottled water comes from a city municipality? This means that there’s a one in four chance that your bottled water just came from the tap somewhere else. Bottled water is also the primary culprit of microplastics exposure.

How much clean water should we drink?

We need about one ounce of clean water per kilogram (or .5 oz per pound) of body weight — more if we’re very active or sweating. This means the average person needs at least 60 – 80 ounces of water daily.

Clean Food

Eating clean, organic, real food including lots of vegetables is a great way to help support your body’s ability to detoxify.

Ideally, we would eat organic, local, real food that has not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Local food is less likely to be sprayed or treated to artificially extend freshness. When we buy food that has been shipped across the country, it takes more chemistry to ensure that it arrives at your local store looking bright and fresh. Additives like bromate are added to salad bars to make lettuce look crisp and green, and trans fats are added to bread to extend its shelf life.

Vegetables are some of the most helpful foods for detoxification. Many of you are familiar with Terry Wahls’ work. In her protocol, she recommends 8–10 servings of vegetables a day. While her work is focused on multiple sclerosis, this part of her protocol could be beneficial for most of us. One of the powerful things about the Wahls Protocol is that it is a huge detoxifier.

Real food is powerful medicine!

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Clean Air

There are two aspects involved in giving our bodies clean air to breathe: the quality of the air we breathe and the breathing process itself.

Quality Air

It’s surprising that most buildings contain mold in the air. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are also present due to the off-gassing of materials in our homes and offices. Modern buildings are so energy-efficient that they trap toxins inside and prevent fresh air from circulating. One simple solution is to use a HEPA filter, which removes 99.9% of particles from the air. Since VOCs and chemicals attach to these particles, a HEPA filter in your bedroom, living space, or workspace is an effective way to clean the air.

Go Deeper

In this FREE Micro Course, I provide specific recommendations for HEPA filters. Explore: Creating a Healthy Home

Quality Breathing

The phrase “Take a deep, cleansing breath” holds so much wisdom.

We detoxify through our breath, removing VOCs from our bodies. Chronic stress often leads to shallow breathing, which doesn’t allow for the deep lung ventilation needed to expel these toxins. Shallow breaths only move oxygen and carbon dioxide without reaching deep into the lungs, leaving an air dead space. Therefore, it’s important to take deep, cleansing breaths daily, whether through meditation or by incorporating breathwork into your routine.


Some chemicals can only get out of your body through sweating. Certain solvents are only removed through the lymphatic tissue underneath the skin. Unfortunately, the average American hardly ever sweats. Think about how much people used to sweat 100 years ago. They would sweat all summer long!

How might we reintroduce sweating in our modern lives?

Exercise is an obvious option. We can also spend more time outside during the summertime. Embrace the heat! I personally love our infrared sauna because it allows our family to sweat — even when it’s cold outside.


Moving our bodies promotes regular bowel movements, enhances toxin removal through urine, and encourages deeper breathing.

If you have a dog, you know they need to move to have a bowel movement. Guess what? We’re no different! Physical activity stimulates our gastrointestinal tract. Movement also activates the lymphatic system, aiding in detoxification. After a vigorous workout, you might notice a change in your urine color, indicating that more toxins are being processed by your kidneys and excreted.

Massage aids detoxification by stimulating the lymphatic system beneath the skin. After a massage, you may be advised to drink plenty of water, and you might notice changes in your urine’s color or smell. This is because massage helps release toxins from your tissues. Dry brushing is another simple and cost-effective method to enhance lymphatic flow and support detoxification.


Sleep plays a crucial role in detoxification but is often overlooked.

Without enough REM sleep, the brain cannot effectively detoxify. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep is essential for both brain and liver detoxification.

Avoid eating too close to bedtime. Eating within 2-3 hours of sleep forces the body to focus on digestion during sleep hours instead of detoxification. By stopping eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, the body can concentrate on cleaning, repairing, producing hormones, and detoxifying the brain and body.

Supplement Resources for Detoxification

Please prioritize lifestyle changes before turning to supplements. Supplements are meant to enhance (i.e. supplement), not replace, the essential elements our bodies need to function well. That said, if we are eating, sleeping, and moving in ways that support detoxification, there are additional resources that can further aid the detoxification process.


Milk thistle, curcumin, and dandelion root are some of the best-known herbs that support detoxification. Milk thistle and dandelion help the liver make more bile. Dandelion also supports the kidneys in detoxification. Curcumin helps the bacteria in your GI tract to remove toxins more effectively.

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle contributes to overall liver health, preventing damage to the liver due to the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of silymarin and silybin, which are the active constituents found primarily in milk thistle seed. Silymarin also supports liver cell regeneration and protects the membrane of liver cells by preventing the entrance of toxins into the cells.

Furthermore, silymarin acts in modulating the enzymes responsible for glutathione metabolism and has shown to restore glutathione levels in humans. A study of thalassemia patients examined the effects of silymarin supplementation on serum antioxidant and oxidative status. The study found that daily supplementation of silymarin significantly increased reduced glutathione (GSH) levels in patients compared to a placebo.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is another herb that has been shown to positively influence liver health. It has antioxidant activity and the prebiotic fibers in dandelion help reduce fat accumulation, oxidative stress, and inflammation in the liver.


Curcumin, the plant chemical found in turmeric (Curcuma longa), offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and has been shown to support heart and liver health.


Certain vitamins like vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, and vitamin E help prevent the side effects caused by toxins, and they also support your body in removing them.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays an important role in detoxification, including the metabolism and elimination of heavy metals. (9) Several antioxidants, including Vitamin C, have demonstrated preventative and therapeutic effects on several liver diseases, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, and viral hepatitis.


Our bodies need a lot of minerals. You might have heard about the benefits of alkalinization. The primary way to alkalinize the body isn’t through special smoothies or alkaline water but through minerals. Magnesium, potassium, zinc, and other trace minerals make our bodies more alkaline.

When you buy sparkling spring water (we use Gerolsteiner in our home), check the mineral content to ensure it contains enough minerals. These minerals are essential for helping your body detoxify.


Certain fats, especially omega-3s and phosphatidylcholine (PC), are essential for detoxification.

Low-fat diets can impair your body’s ability to detoxify, which might be surprising. Toxins from solvents, food, and the air accumulate in body fats that need to be eliminated. Since oil and water don’t mix, water-soluble substances can’t remove these toxic fats. Instead, we need healthy fats to dissolve and expel them from the body.

A Note On Safety:

Supplements Quality & Toxic Burden

While we’re talking about detoxification and nutrients, I’d like to add a caution about supplements.

Some supplements can help with detoxification. However, it’s imperative to know that your supplements are clean and are not adding to your toxic burden. I would not want you to buy a supplement that contains lead, for example, as it would do you more harm than good. So careful sourcing is definitely important as we talk about supplementation.

Go Deeper

Supplements offer both the best of medicine and the worst of human deception. Explore: Supplements & Snake Oil

Further Reading

Detox Part 1: Is Toxic Load Causing Your Health Issues?
Detox Part 2: Foundational Detox Plan
Detox Part 3: Advanced Detoxification

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