Back To Basics: Detox 101

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, bestselling author of Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Own Your Health and Glow, speaks with Purist Editor-in-Chief Cristina Cuomo about the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself, and how you can support your body with simple detox-friendly lifestyle changes.
Work with the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms before experimenting with harsh cleanses. Photo: Bob & Dawn Davis Photography and Design

CRISTINA CUOMO: What is detoxing?

DR. STACIE J. STEPHENSON: Detoxification is a normal process going on every moment in your body. It’s literally like taking the garbage out. We have the skin, the microbiome, the immune system, all sampling everything we take in from the environment. Your body asks a simple truth: Safe or unsafe? Can I use this substance? If I can’t use this substance, it has to move through a filtration system of some sort and be eliminated.

CC: How does the body detox?

SJS: We are highly evolved in our liver function; we’re able to manage a very complex, high load of substances that aren’t of use to us. Drugs have to be detoxed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cold medicine, a flu medicine, an allergy medicine. The trouble comes with the volume of toxicity we’re subjected to, chemical and environmental, from drugs to hormones to what’s in our food, to herbicides, pesticides, the air we’re breathing. The concept of detoxification has become more of a hot button, because every generation is exposed to a larger global toxic load.

CC: From the moment we are born, we inherit environmental toxins.

SJS: Remember, some of it is normal. Some of it is just life. We are exquisitely capable of taking in an average amount of waste. We are not exquisitely capable of taking on such a high volume and eliminating it.

CC: If you have a high level of heavy metals in your body, what can you do about that?

SJS: Heavy metals are so tricky. They’re hard to treat, hard to analyze. We have a saying in functional medicine: The solution to pollution is dilution, and that means water, water, water. It takes an enormous amount of fluid to move anything through the detoxification system, because it has to move through the kidneys, the liver, the gut. Everything has to go out, and the only other way it goes out is through the skin. We detox some of these metals through the skin. That’s where sweat and saunas, heat and exercise help.

CC: With regard to trendy, expensive programs and plant-based cleanses out there—do they work?

SJS: As far as cleanses go, there’s never a magic bullet. If you want to play around and do a three-day juice cleanse, just drink a lot of water, please, and only do it for two or three days. Just don’t kid yourself—save your money and buy better food.

CC: It’s important to remember to hydrate after a sauna, or if you’re sunbathing or doing a rigorous exercise regimen outdoors in the heat. You’ve got to triple the hydration.

SJS: You absolutely have to triple the hydration, but also remove all other impediments. We are a pharmaceutical culture. If you’re on hormone therapy, or utilizing any kind of hormones, you have to detox that. Even the natural hormones we produce in our own bodies have to be eliminated through the liver.

You can get rid of sugar. You can reduce and eliminate your caffeine, and elevate your hydration. Remember, half your body weight in ounces per day is a good minimum for hydration, and add more depending on how much heat and sweating you’re going through. Just those things—hydration, reducing or eliminating caffeine, substantially reducing or eliminating sugar, reducing processed foods—provide an enormous foundation. Think of these as daily aspirations, daily graces, a meal at a time, an hour at a time, a glass of water at a time.

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson is on the board of the American Nutrition Association, and serves as ambassador for the American Heart Association. She is also vice-chair of Gateway for Cancer Research, which at the Gateway Celebrity Fight Night fundraiser in March, raised $5 million for cancer research.