What is a Metabolic Detoxification? By Dan Cardellichio DC, MS.

What is a Metabolic Detoxification? By Dan Cardellichio DC, MS.

People either swoon or cringe when they hear the word “detox.” Some think it might be drinking lemons and water, sitting in a sauna, or maybe doing a juice fast.

However, within Functional Medicine, detox has a specific definition: it is the process of reducing the body’s toxic load by lessening exposure to harmful chemicals we are taking in, while simultaneously implementing nutrition and lifestyle strategies to promote efficient elimination of toxins from the body.

Food can be a large part of a toxic load in the body. Individuals have a specific biochemistry and metabolism. As such, certain foods can cause an inflammatory response that can lead to a chronic lifestyle disease such as type II diabetes or an autoimmune condition. Simple blood tests in the form of food sensitivity testing can be extremely helpful in determining what foods you should be eating and what foods you should be avoiding.

Therefore, the first step of detoxification can be done, in part, by lessening the immune system load by removing reactive foods from the diet. The gold standard for this removal is the aptly named “elimination diet”, which is a simplified list of foods to eat and foods to exclude as part of a detox program as determined by your food sensitivity testing.

Typically, common allergenic foods and beverages containing corn, soy, wheat/gluten, eggs, dairy, shellfish, and peanuts are omitted from the daily diet in conjunction with caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.

In Functional Medicine, the elimination diet is often used as the first line of therapy for immune and gastrointestinal issues since it can help with reducing toxic load and cooling down any immune reactivity to foods.

In conjunction with removal of foods, it is best to take a complementary approach to bolstering the body with specific nutrients to help fortify its pathways of detoxification in the liver, so toxins can be easily removed. For example, it is well known that certain vitamins and minerals—like B vitamins and iron—are required to assist in the activity of these enzymes.  Coupling nutrients together with an elimination diet (through their inclusion as whole, plant-based foods and as scientifically formulated dietary supplements) is perhaps the most robust protocol for a medical detoxification regimen.

When to Consider a Detoxification Program

Each year more than 4 billion pounds of chemical compounds are released into the environment. Although the body is designed to naturally process and excrete these elements, an abundance of environmental agents combined with poor diet and nutrition can lead to an overburdened system. Metabolic detoxification helps by providing advanced, targeted nutrition to support the elimination of unwanted chemicals from your system.

If you have difficulty concentrating and mood swings, lack of energy, trouble sleeping, and are tired, feel bloated, live or work around environmental toxins, and have occasional digestive discomfort a metabolic detox can be for you.

Three Tips for Doing a Detox Right

  1. Do it at least twice a year. Your body is always detoxing—nonstop, 24/7—but it may not be doing it in the most efficient way because of nutrient deficiencies, stress, and even genetic factors. People can benefit from doing a dedicated detox protocol twice per year at the change of seasons (typically in March/April and in September/October).
  2. Ensure proper nutrient intake. There is a common misconception is that a detox must be a stringent fasting regimen. Often, it is associated with intermittent or complete abstinence from food or the consumption of fresh juices in place of food. What many people do not realize is that proper detox is just the opposite—specific nutrients are required to effectively eliminate toxins. Most people, even when eating a healthy diet, undoubtedly have some degree of nutrient insufficiency or deficiency. The degree of detoxing required is limited by the required nutrient that is in the lowest amount. Therefore, it is essential to get a complex array of macronutrients—like protein, carbohydrates, and fats—as well as vitamin and mineral cofactors—not to mention the protective, antioxidant phytonutrients. Taking shortcuts to detox by not accounting for nutrition will only short-circuit your detox pathways, so it is imperative that you are taking the right supplements in combination with a nutrient-dense diet.
  3. Choose a safe detox. We recommend the 28-day detox Ultra Clear from Metagenics!



In conclusion, detox has a specific and science-based definition within Functional Medicine.  In practice, Functional Medicine programs that modify dietary intake and supplement nutritional co-factors that support the body’s endogenous detoxification pathways can mitigate toxic burden to reduce incoming toxic exposures, and, at the same time, equip the body with nutrients known to support the body’s natural capacity to shuttle toxins out.

Dan Cardellichio, DC, MS

Adjunct Professor, University of Bridgeport

46 Newman Springs Road

Red Bank, NJ



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