Detoxing - Body, Mind and Soul


This talk was given by Dr. Connie Hernandez ND in October 2007.  Her contact info is below.

The detoxification process in Naturopathy includes:

  • cleansing,
  • restoring,
  • rejuvenating
  • maintaining health.

In cleansing, the goal is to facilitate the natural bodily processes of eliminating or neutralizing toxins. The skin is the largest organ of elimination.  The other organs of elimination  are the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, and lymph.  These are the systems we concentrate on in


When toxins are not eliminated, they are often stored in fat cells.

Before these toxins are neutralized or eliminated, or when these toxins are released from storage,  they disrupt enzymatic, endocrine and immune functions throughout our bodies, causing all kinds of signs, symptoms and diseases - everything from:

  • fuzzy thinking
  • fatigue
  • vague muscle aches and pains
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • auto-immune diseases of every kind.
  • Headaches
  • joint pain
  • allergies
  • bad breath
  • skin issues
  • weight gain
  • insomnia
  • irritability….

Almost anyone can benefit from cleansing, though the timing may not always be optimal. I have had people come to me in tremendously depleted states, and those people may need to be nourished more than they need to engage in active detox.

Also when people come with the attitude that detox is deprivation, I temporarily discourage detox for them, just as I discourage detox during holiday seasons and family celebrations. It’s certainly possible to detox during those times if your holidays aren’t based on family and food, but it’s usually better to detox when you have time to set aside for yourself

Given the world as it is, we’re almost always choosing to eliminate one thing or another from our bodies and our lives. Cleansing at a certain level becomes a way of life.  Food choices are a good example. An every day example is the choice to cleanse our diets of alcohol or caffeine or trans or hydrogenated fats. This is a way of life for many of us, and we do it on an ongoing basis.

Intensive cleanses, though, are much more comprehensive and generally not sustainable as maintenance diets.

Chemical connection

Talks on detox often begin with dark and depressing statistics on chemicals and poisons in our food and in our environment … pesticides, heavy metals and drug residues (exogenous); but also on the toxins that are generated from metabolic processes within our own bodies (endogenous).

I find the lists of toxins we are now exposed to be overwhelming, and I don’t find it comforting to think of the huge numbers of toxins found, for example, in the fat cells of native Alaskan Indians living in what we would think of as pristine environments, or the amount of Toxins we are finding in mothers milk across the globe.

How to…

And secondly, I’d rather concentrate on giving ideas on how you might organize a cleanse for yourself. You can improve your health dramatically with a very simple, general, and self directed cleanse. Or you can choose to seek expert advice and be technical and specific in your efforts.

From the array of available books and products, I found two very different books to be very useful. The first is a book by Linda Page called Detoxification. This book outlines cleanses specific to many situations, and offers user friendly recipes and ideas, oriented towards self care.

The second book is 7 Day Detox Miracle, by Peter Bennet and Stephen Barrie. This book outlines the more technical and medical aspects of fasting, and offers explanations of many of the tests we do as naturopaths. This book is heavier on the value of supplementation, and is oriented towards working with a doctor.


With regards to products, Gaia has a detox product out called Supreme Cleanse. I call it a detox in a box. It has complete instructions and products for a two week cleanse. 

I recommended it to a patient of mine,

a stewardess. She had had a huge lump in her hand for months, and was considering having it surgically removed. It went away with the cleanse.

Starting with a detox box product like this is an easy beginning… and I want you to know that you have the option of that simple beginning.  But let’s do now get a bit more complex, a bit broader in our considerations.

Mind Body and Soul

When we talk about detoxification, we need to ask some fundamental questions. The first question is who we conceive ourselves to be, and at what level we want to detox? Are we talking body? Are we talking body, mind and soul? What are the boundaries of the self that we want to detox?

I’m going to be esoteric for moment here, and then I’ll return to practicalities, so forgive me if the next few moments seem a little out there. I promise I’ll come back.

I want to give you a background context by drawing on yogic philosophy. Within yogic philosophy, there is a way of characterizing the age in which we find ourselves. And these ages cycle continuously through time, and are called yugas. And each yuga lasts for 25,000 years.

From the beginning of the 20th century, we left the age which was called Kali Yuga, and we entered a time which is called Dwapara Yuga. Kali Yuga was an age in which man’s life was defined by matter, and everything was understood in terms of physical reality.  Newtonian physics, and the medicine based on Newtonian physics,  comes from the culmination of the understandings of the age of matter.

We are now in Dwapara yuga, which is an age of energy, and our medicine is more and more based on the understandings of Einstein, rather than Newton. We are in a time in which human perceptions are expanding;  and windows are opening in consciousness. In Dwapara Yuga, our fundamental understanding is that it is energy that is the essence of matter, and we begin to understand everything in terms of energetic realities, and to attune to finer vibrations.

We cant really separate out matter and energy.

Vibrational Influences

Matter and energy are expressions of the same universal substance.  And that substance is characterized by vibration.

We actually live in a sea of vibration. On the grossest level are the dense vibrations of the physical world. The earth itself emits vibration. Sound is vibration. Color is vibration.  Electromagnetic energy is vibration. Everything in creation has a different rate of vibration, and  all of these vibrations interact with each other and affect each other and affect us.

A moment ago I asked the question as to what are the boundaries of the self or the levels at which we’re wanting to cleanse or detox. And I’ve just said that our physical bodies are not separate, as we might have imagined from all that surrounds us. We live in a sea of vibration.

Science is beginning to understand that our health is affected by vibration in ways we never before imagined. Vibrational fields affect cell to cell communication, cellular membranes, metabolic processes, even our very DNA. There is an increasing body of research that questions whether the vibrations emanating from electrical wires contribute to childhood leukemia; and whether the vibrations from  cell phones contribute to brain cancer.

One level of detoxification then, would be to detox from these electromagnetic vibrational fields surrounding us.

Mental Influences

Another type of vibration surrounding and influencing us is thought. Thought, or consciousness itself, is a vibration. What each of us chooses in our consciousness affects everybody around us all of the time.

In a study of transcendental meditators, it was found that the serotonin levels of people living within one block of the meditators were increased. That’s that neurotransmitter than influences emotions. So here we are being influenced in body and mind by the state of consciousness of our neighbors.

The Japanese researcher Emoto Sensei studied the effects of words on crystals of frozen water.  He has many books out now, and in his books, we see that heart felt words and harmonious music make beautiful crystalline structures within the water itself, whereas violent words cause muddied and disintegrated structures. This is true even if the words are simply written words because the written words contain the thought.

Think about it! As human beings, we’re 70% water, so what does that say about the impact of every word we speak, and every thought we think, and the music we surround ourselves with? Detoxification might then involve changing the music we listen to, the media to which we attend, the words we choose to use. Or starting the day with meditation, affirmation or positive energy.

We are developing the realization that our environment has blended with our bodies, both through unconscious action and conscious choice, in vibrational and in physiologic ways.

Detox on All Levels

Detoxification could mean cleansing your environment of those things that are unnecessary or disruptive to your life, whether it be weeds in the garden, trash in the house, relationships or work situations that are no longer right for you.

One thing that many people like to do during detoxification is to write on paper those thought forms that are muddying up their mental, emotional, or spiritual lives, and to burn the papers in a kind of a ritual… a fire ceremony to eliminate unwanted mental garbage.

Physical Issues

On the level of the physical body, we ingest along with our oxygen and our food, heavy metals and toxic chemicals. It is to a large degree the nature of the world in which we now live, that our air and water are not pure; our soil is depleted of nutrients; the ecosystems are upset.

We can put filters on our showers, purify our drinking water, buy organic, or even we grow organic. These are daily cleansing life style choices.

You could make it a practice to read all the labels of all the products you take into your body or use on your body, and to make a conscious choice as to whether you want each one of those ingredients going through your digestive track, or crossing through your skin into your vasculature, and being distributed throughout your body. This would include everything you eat and all soaps and lotions and hair products and salves and creams, whether conventional or botanical or homeopathic. What are the ingredients? Do you want them in your body?

Dietary principles are guidelines. They’re not laws. One way of cleansing on a physical level is by following some dietary guidelines. And as with all the cleansing methods we’ve been talking about, you can be more or less strict with your guidelines depending on your needs.

In the past, in old time naturopathy, water fasting was often recommended as a form of detoxification. These days, we’re contending with far more toxins in our bodies from our environment, more stressed out lifestyles, and with people who are wanting to cleanse while continuing their everyday working lives. Not a good scenario for water fasting.

You could begin cleansing with an easy to understand and follow food plan that you could do while you maintain your involvement in your every day world.

Begin Your Cleanse

You begin by eliminating from your diet all non organic foods, as well as those foods which cause the most problems for the most people, and any foods

that we ourselves might be sensitive or allergic too.

(You may or may not know what those foods are. A good guide is that we crave those foods to which we are allergic. So if there’s a food that you’re craving and or

consuming on a daily basis, that would be a good one for you individually to eliminate. If you were uncertain about your situation, you could order an IgG, IgE, serum food sensitivity/food allergy test)

The first foods to be generically eliminated would be:

all gluten containing grains (wheat, oats, rye, barley);

dairy products,

red meat and poultry products.

Most of you probably know about the gluten issue, with many people being very sensitive, and symptoms for these people ranging from bowel problems to autoimmune diseases.

Meat and dairy have become a major problem, as animal fat composition has changed due to feed lot feeding, and animal flesh is filled with disruptive

hormones and antibiotics.

We also eliminate foods that are somewhat omnipresent in our diets, as these tend to become allergens in this society, these are corn, soy, peanuts, and oranges.

We eliminate sugar sources, whether simple sugar or highly concentrated sugar sources such as fruit juices and dried fruits.  No artificial sweeteners, as they are actually far more detrimental than sugar itself. 

Then we need to be very careful about which oils we chose to put in our bodies.  No trans or hydrogenated fats, no fried food, no rancid oils

We would include heart healthy oils like olive oil, avocado, macademia nut oil, possibly coconut oil, and oils containing essential fatty acids such as hemp, flax, cod liver, fish oil.

So the diet is a diet:

  • utilizing rice, quinoa, and millet as grains
  • variety of fresh organic fruits and vegetables
  • possibly some free range eggs and wild fish.

We drink plenty of purified water, white or green tea, maybe some cleansing  herbal teas or teas with specific actions….dandelion root tea for the liver, peppermint and ginger teas for digestion, chamomile and lime blossom for calming … some nourishing drinks like coconut water for its electrolytes, cranberry water to alkalinize the body and help the lymph flow; lemon or lime water to awaken you in the morning. or specialty drinks as treats… goji berry juice or pomegranate juice in sparkling water with a twist of lime ( We might even include as a treat some fair trade organic dark chocolate, preferably 82% or more);

We’re not going for deprivation here. Detox doesn’t necessitate deprivation.

You can actually eat creatively and fabulously on a cleansing diet.  You can find spa cookbooks, and raw food cookbooks that will give you many delicious recipes that fall within even strict dietary guidelines. You may find that you want to sustain a modified cleansing diet as your normal way of eating.

Deeper Detoxing

You can move further into detoxification by moving towards raw veggies and vegetable juices and broths. Naturopathically, we often recommend increasing amounts of a metabolic detoxification powdered food to use throughout the day, to stabilize blood sugar, to aid the liver in its detoxification processes, to cleanse the colon. I like to add in botanicals and nutrients to cleanse and support the liver and aid in digestion.

For a more intensive dietary cleanse, you might ask to be guided in a cleanse using medical foods and support. For this type of cleanse, you might like to take some time off work to optimize the experience.

We have many supplements designed to help you along the way, but if you’re not into swallowing lots of pills, you could try my favorite liver support, which is castor oil packs over the liver.

Digestion and Detox

Whatever we eat, we need to pay attention to digestion as a channel of elimination. If a person has disrupted digestion, I may order a comprehensive digestive stool analysis to discover whether beneficial bacteria is present or absent, whether potentially pathogenic bacteria or fungi are in overgrowth situations in the colon, whether food is digested or absorbed well, and what the condition of the colon wall is. 

All of these problems can be specifically corrected.  Generically, without testing, you could simply take digestive bitters, or digestive enzymes to promote digestion. (That detox in a box we mentioned earlier contains digestive bitters, as well as a colon cleansing agent)

If constipation is a problem, we’re in trouble for detox. Your liver detoxifies substances and discharges them into your colon; when you’re constipated, you reabsorb those substances right back into the body.  Solutions range from home enemas to colonics to taking  herbs to tonify the colon to taking the mineral magnesium to promote healthy bowel movements. The only side effect of excess magnesium is diarrhea, so you can freely experiment with the remedy.

Detox Though Lungs and Skin

The lungs are also a channel of elimination. You can saturate your lungs with cleansing oxygen with full yogic breaths, and or you can add liquid stabilized oxygen to the water you’re drinking. You could do alternate nostril breathing to balance your brain function, and breath of fire to enhance your  digestive function, and the burning of toxins.

You might also inhale essential oils. I use one which is called Sacred Breath It is a  pure organic Ravensara oil, which is oil harvested from laurel trees which grow in Madagascar.  This particular oil can detoxify both you and your environment from bacteria, viruses and funguses, and is particularly good for the respiratory system. I use it when I fly, and I use it when I am cleansing.

Your skin is your largest organ of detoxification. One of the simplest techniques to detox through the skin is to do dry skin brushing before showering. 

You could also use any one of a number of recipes for a detox bath…. Epsom salts, apple cider vinegar, baking soda. Powdered calcium EDTA (Beyond clean). Chinese herbal detox packets from Dr. Chi. Easily done at home if you have a tub.

My favorite method of detoxing through the skin is infrared sauna. You can sweat out many of those toxins that are disrupting body function right through the skin. It is recommended that you sweat at least twice daily, and this is a real easy way to do it.

All manner of movement helps with detoxing.  This means exercise, bodywork, and acupuncture to help with movement of your blood and energy systems.  The intensity of your exercise will depend on the intensity of your cleanse, and the energy you have.  The movement and breath practices are especially useful, as they move and balance energy…. Yoga, tai chi, chi kung.

And Most Important….

I do also want to say something about energy.

In naturopathic medicine, we work with what we call the Vis Medicatrix Naturae. This is translated as the healing power of nature. I like to call it conscious cosmic energy. Whatever you call it, this force creates and animates and balances all physical form and function.

Our conviction as naturopaths is that the healing power of nature acts powerfully through healing mechanisms in the body and mind. Naturopathic doctors work to restore and support these healing mechanisms when they have been broken down, by using methods and medicines and techniques that are in harmony with natural processes.

This often means the use of vibrational medicines. In naturopathic medicine, when we speak of vibrational or energy medicines , we think of homeopathy, flower essences, gem elixirs, color therapy, light therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, and hands on healing. These modalities all work to balance subtle

and physical body energies.

We can work with these modalities to detox and to promote balance. Flower essences are particularly good for detoxing toxic emotions. We talked about dandelion root tea. The flower essence of dandelion is used to relieve tension held in the physical body; Yarrow Special Formula dispels the effects of  environmental radiation; Nicotiana helps relieve addictions.

Detox for Breast Health


In another vein, I want to mention a major connection of cleansing to women’s health, and breast health in particular.  Environmental toxins disrupt hormonal balance. As I know you know, many female conditions have to do with an excess or deficiency of one hormone or another. Very often we’re looking at conditions with an absolute excess of estrogen or a relative excess of estrogen over progesterone, or an excess of a more toxic estrogen metabolite.  So cleansing would involve both cleansing our bodies of the toxic input, and cleansing our bodies of the resulting hormonal excesses.

As always, we can be general or specific about what we choose to do. If we choose to be specific, we can carefully evaluate the hormonal situation, balance the hormones, and measure the efficacy of our treatment.

I may advise salivary, urinary, or serum testing. Urine testing has the advantage of allowing us to look at how estrogen is being metabolized in the body. As you may know, estrogen isn’t just one thing in the body. There are major factions of estrogen (E1, E2, and E3), and there are metabolites of these that might be considered as either protective, or proliferative.  For more info on estrogen testing, go here.

The metabolites which I call proliferative are those that feed estrogenic conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer. By urinary testing, we can learn what the metabolites are in our bodies, and whether the ratios of estrogen metabolites are favorable or unfavorable, and we can use our foods, medicines, and other cleansing therapies to optimize those ratios. 

Another way that we test is by looking at the estrogen effect on susceptible tissues. In our office, we use breast thermography to do this. Thermography is physiologic testing. It detects physiologic change in the breast tissue.

Estrogen influences the vascular patterns in the breasts. We can monitor the effects of estrogens and anti estrogens on the breast tissue; we can see vascular changes, and temperature differentials between the breasts.

Early thermal imaging photos establish a baseline from which to monitor breast health. Breast disease alters breast temperature and the surrounding blood supply creating reliable signs that can clearly be seen on a thermal image.

Comparative studies allow for early detection of physiologic changes. We can monitor disease progression and efficacy of treatment.

If we are simply looking at an excess of estrogen, a detox protocol might involve using phytoestrogens such as flax lignins or natural aromatase inhibitors (such as chrysin or Dr Chi’s Myomins formula), or progesteronic formulas based on  (Vitex agnus castes) chaste tree to balance pituitary function.

From that cleanse, we would, of course, move into the realm of hormonal balancing. The endocrine system is interconnected. Thyroid hormone and estrogen and progesterone and cortisone have close relationships . Each is influenced by the other, and they all need to be balanced.

From cleansing, we always move on… we move to restoration and rejuvenation.  We move from microcosm to macrocosm. We think about everything from repleting iron, B12 and folic acid: to iodine levels and vitamin D levels; to amino acids which support the neurotransmitters; to beneficial bacteria for the colon.

And, at a broader level,  we think about commitment to exercise, and where it is that you find joy and passion in your life.

One last thing I’d like to say though, is that if you decide to cleanse, you’ll benefit most if you embrace the process.

Choose rituals and therapies and home practices that you enjoy and that you believe in, that nourish you. If you’d like, choose professionals who can support and guide you in your process. In any case, please know that you are bringing positive change, not just to your body, but to your life. And this change will lead you on the path to optimal health.

Dr Connie Hernandez can be reached at Pacific Naturopathic in Palo Alto California.  She is available for phone consultations. 

Her Website is  and the phone is 650-857-0226.  Please tell her you heard about her from the Breast Health Project

Published 1/28/2008





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