Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND

As our awareness of environmental toxins and their impact on our health continues to grow, detox products and protocols are becoming increasingly popular, from fasting and raw food diets to foot baths and body wraps. These things may be good for us—or not—and they may help minimize our exposure to toxins, but they don’t detoxify our bodies.

Detoxification is a complex process involving several organs, hormones, enzymes, and nutrients, and it happens in three steps. First, toxins must be mobilized from their storage sites inside fat cells. Second, they must be transformed into compounds that our bodies can excrete. And third, they must be eliminated from the body. To accomplish all of this, successful detox programs like the one I wrote about in my bookThe Prediabetes Detox, incorporate a diet low in sweets and starches, nutritional supplements, regular exercise, stress management, good sleep, and sauna therapy.

As we learn more about the harmful effects of chemicals in our environment, detox is becoming increasingly popular. But it isn’t right for everyone. Here are six signs that it might be right for you.

#1 | You’ve never done it before

Toxic chemicals permeate our environment and they permeate our bodies. Research studies have detected 232 different chemicals in the cord blood of newborn infants and 493 toxins in people of all ages.1 Detox is the removal of these toxins and it’s like spring-cleaning for the body. Most people benefit from doing a detox program once or twice each year, usually in the spring and/or fall.

#2 | You don’t always eat organic

Every year in the United States we apply five billion pounds of pesticides to our crops.2 They soak into the soil where they’re taken up into plants through their root systems and distributed throughout, so we can’t just wash them off. They also enter waterways, contaminate drinking water, and accumulate in fish and seafood. Pesticides have been linked to several kinds of cancer,3 Alzheimer’s disease,4 Parkinson’s disease,5 diabetes,6 asthma,7 hormone-related problems,8 birth defects,9 ADHD,10 and developmental disorders in children.11

#3 | You eat a lot of take-out, packaged, or prepared foods

Chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used to make plastics, Styrofoam, and epoxy linings inside food and beverage containers. They leach into the foods and drinks we consume, especially when the contents are hot or the containers are heated. These toxins have been linked to chronic diseases including prediabetes which affects an estimated 86 million people in the United States,12 more than 1 in 3 adults and almost 1 in 4 adolescents.13 BPA, phthalates, and PFCs can be found in most food packaging including cans, cartons, boxes, bottles, and other containers like fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, plastic wrap, microwave popcorn bags, to-go cups, disposable plates and silverware, and nonstick cookware. They are also already inside our bodies. In the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, BPA and phthalates were found in 100 percent of the 2,5000 people tested.14

#4 | You use a lot of personal care productsparabens

According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person uses nine personal products containing 126 unique
ingredients every day and one-quarter of women use 25 or more products every day.15 More than 10,000 different ingredients are used to make these products and most of them have never been tested for safety. Harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens found in cosmetics and personal products are absorbed into our bodies when we apply them to our skin.

More than 10,000 different ingredients are used to make personal care products and most of them have never been tested for safety.

#5 | You have a metabolic condition such as prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome

Certain chemicals in the environment promote the development of metabolic imbalances including high blood sugar,16 elevated insulin levels,17 and insulin resistance.17 So far scientists have discovered at least four different ways this can happen. Toxins can damage cells and mitochondria. They can disrupt hormones. And they can interact with attachments on genes that activate and inactivate them, turning them on and off.18Decreasing our toxic burden through detoxification can help to restore a healthy metabolism and reverse these conditions.

#6 | You have a hormone-sensitive condition

Many environmental toxins act as endocrine disruptors which mimic the hormones made by our bodies and disrupt our natural hormone balance.19 Conditions that are hormone-sensitive like PMS, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, acne, and low testosterone levels in men can be aggravated by exposure to these chemicals. Removing them from the body can help restore hormone balance and resolve related symptoms.

Certain people should not undergo detoxification. They include pregnant women, breastfeeding women, individuals who have had recent surgery or chemotherapy treatments, and anyone experiencing constipation, unexplained abdominal pain, kidney disease, liver disease, or inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract. If you’re not sure whether detox is right for you, talk to your naturopathic doctor.

SarahCimpermanND_resisedSarah Cimperman, ND is the author of the new book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings. She graduated from NCNM in 2002 and has a private practice in New York City. Her expertise has been featured on Fox News and Huffington Post and in Natural Health magazine, Whole Living magazine, and the Well Being Journal, among other publications. Dr. Cimperman also writes two blogs, A Different Kind Of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet.


  1. Environmental Working Group. Toxic chemicals found in minority cord blood. [Web page]. EWG website. http://www.ewg.org/news/news-releases/2009/12/02/toxic-chemicals-found-minority-cord-blood. Accessed March 14, 2016.
  2. Environmental Protection Agency. 2000-2001 Pesticide market estimates: usage. [Web page]. EPA website. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/pestsales/01pestsales/usage2001.htm. Accessed March 14, 2015.
  3. National Cancer Institute. Agricultural health study. [Web page]. NIH website. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/ahs-fact-sheet. Accessed March 14, 2016.
  4. Richardson JR, Roy A, Shalat SL, von Stein RT, Hossain MM, et al. Elevated serum pesticide levels and risk for Alzheimer disease. Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology. 2014;71(3):284-290. http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1816015
  5. Tanner CM, Ross GJ, Jewell SA, Hauser RA, Jankovic J, et al. Occupation and risk of Parkinsonism. Archives of Neurology. 2009;66(9):1106-1113. http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=797977
  6. Montgomery MP, Kamel F, Saldana TM, Alavanja MCR and Sandler DP. Incident diabetes and pesticide exposure among licensed pesticide applicators: agricultural health study, 1993–2003. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008;167(10):1235-46. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/10/1235.abstract
  7. Hernández AF1, Parrón T, and Alarcón R. Pesticides and asthma. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2011;11(2):90-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21368619
  8. Beyond Pesticides. Pesticides and endocrine disruption. [Web page]. Beyond Pesticides website. http://www.beyondpesticides.org/health/endocrine.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2016.Carmichael SL, Yang W, Roberts EM, Kegley SE, Wolff C, et al. Hypospadias and residential proximity to pesticide applications.
  9. Carmichael SL, Yang W, Roberts EM, Kegley SE, Wolff C, et al. Hypospadias and residential proximity to pesticide applications. Pediatrics. 2013;132(5):e1216-26. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/e1216
  10. Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, and Weisskopf MG. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides. Pediatrics. 2010;125(6):e1270-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20478945
  11. Eskenazi B, Bradman A, and Castorina R. Exposures of children to organophosphate pesticides and their potential adverse health effects. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999;107(Suppl 3):409–419. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1566222/
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report. CDC Web site. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/2014statisticsreport.html. Accessed March 15, 2016.
  13. May AL, Kuklina EV, and Yoon PW. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999-2008. Pediatrics. 2012;129(6):1035-41. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/05/15/peds.2011-1082
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, Updated Tables. [Web page]. CDC website. http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/pdf/FourthReport_UpdatedTables_Feb2015.pdf. Accessed March 15, 2016.
  15. Environmental Working Group. Why this matters – Cosmetics and your health. [Web page]. EWG website. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2011/04/12/why-this-matters/. Accessed March 14, 2016.
  16. Alonso-Magdalena P, Ropero AB, Soriano S, Quesada I, Nadal A. Bisphenol-A: a new diabetogenic factor? Hormones (Athens, Greece). 2010;9(2):118-26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20687395
  17. Alonso-Magdalena P, Quesada I, Nadal A. Endocrine disruptors in the etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nature Reviews. Endocrinology. 2011;7(6):346-53. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21467970
  18. Ornish D, Magbanua MJ, Weidner G, Weinberg V, Kemp C, et al. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2008;105(24):8369–74. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2430265/
  19. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Endocrone disruptors. [Web page]. National Institute of Health website. http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/endocrine_disruptors_508.pdf. Accessed March 14, 2015.
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