Dr Julie Durnan

13 Things to Look for in a Good Detox

Detox drink womanWhat is a Detox?

Detox is a buzzword these days. It seems everywhere we turn, there is a nutritionist, dietitian, or physician touting their detox program to be the best.

But here’s the truth – most detoxification programs on the market are actually just ‘cleanses’.

This means that most of the programs out there are just healthy diets. Sure, they give your body a break from eating junk for a period of time 3, 5, 10, or 30 days, but they don’t actually key up any of your detox pathways and truly eliminate toxins.

A true detox, and not just a cleanse, will shift your detox pathways into high gear, eliminate toxins, and leave you feeling great, well after your detox program is over.

See Your Doctor:

As a naturopathic physician, I recommend doctor-supervised detoxification programs. Period. There are three reasons I suggest you seek professional support while detox-ing:

1)   So we can use gentle but powerful methods to clear toxins from your system.

2)   So we can monitor your progress and watch for any signs that the program needs tweaking.

3)   Doctor supervised detox programs are individualized, thorough, and effective.

Does Your Detox Measure Up?

Whether you decide to follow this doctor’s orders or to venture out on your own in search of the perfect detox, there are a few things you need to consider.

Here is a handy list I’ve put together of the top 13 things to consider when choosing your detox program. A high quality detox will meet each of these criteria:

1. Liver support – The liver needs supporting. We are exposed to numerous chemicals everyday and many of them are cleared through this amazing organ. Specific nutrients and herbs help to stimulate toxins’ clearance through the liver and these are an essential component of any detox program.

2. Digestive support – When toxins go in, they must come out. It’s important to ensure that the gut is working well during any good detox. Poor digestion and constipation can cause toxins to become recirculated in the bloodstream. This can negate any progress you made with your detox.

3. No strong cathartics – Several detox programs on the market contain Senna, other strong cathartic herbs, or even drugs that stimulate the bowels to empty. When taken at the improper dose, this can lead to intense cramping, gas, and urgent diarrhea.  There is a time and a place for laxatives but we must be careful.  Often a good fiber and balanced nutrients are all that we need to clean out the intestinal pipes.

4. Fiber – Psyllim fiber doesn’t just help clean the colon, it has actually been shown in several clinical trials to bind to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, chemicals that are industrial toxins) and certain pesticides. Ensure you’re getting some daily.

5. Antioxidants – The cells of your body are vulnerable to damage by the toxins to which you are exposed. Antioxidants help to quench free radicals and protect the cells of your body from the damaging effect of toxic chemicals. These are crucial to your success and often what’s missing in poor quality detox programs.

6. Nutrition – No herb or supplement can take the place of good quality nutrition. Giving your body a break from chemically-laden food for a period of time is vitally important so your body can clear toxins without any added work. The foods that we eat during a detox will ensure that our body has the protein, vitamins, minerals, and energy needed to clear toxins efficiently. A good quality detox will provide you with clear instructions on what to avoid and include during your detox time.

7. Gluten-free – Gluten can raise insulin levels, cause abdominal cramping, bloating, weight gain, is usually genetically modified, and is associated with sugary processed carbohydrates that contain the very toxins you’re trying to get rid of. Make sure your detox program is Gluten-Free.

8. Stimulant-free – Some weight loss products are marketed as detox products. They are not the same. Often these programs that advertise fast weight loss via detox contain caffeine pills and other stimulants, instead of providing your body with proper nutrients to encourage safe, gentle detoxification.

9. No synthetics  – I have seen many detox products on the market full of hidden synthetic chemicals. Some products are very well marketed and endorsed by celebrities. Your detox should not include any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. Avoid products sweetened with NutraSweet (aspartame) , Splenda (sucralose), and acesulfame potassium.  In general, your detox should contain only ingredients sourced from nature or your body could end up dealing with more chemicals than you started with.

10. Taste – If you are going to adhere to a detox program for a certain amount of time, you’d better like the taste of the foods and supplements.  Some products containing rice, hemp, or other fibers can taste bitter and be gritty.  A good quality detox powder or drink should taste relatively good and go down smoothly and easily.

11. Probiotics – Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria that when ingested, help to regulate digestion through the intestines. Ensure your detox program includes a good quality probiotic supplement to encourage proper digestion of your food and detox supplements.

12. Convenience – A high quality detox will make your life easier, not harder. If your detox program involves you lugging around numerous bottles throughout the day, it can become a pain. Quality detox programs will contain all of the vitamins, minerals, protein, herbs, and nutrients needed to effectively detox in the least amount of packaging.

13. Price – Some detox programs can be extremely costly. Unless your program is supported through consultations with a physician or includes other in-person therapies (acupuncture, intravenous vitamins massage, etc), a detox shouldn’t break the bank.  Be watchful for detox programs that bill your credit card monthly without an ending date or charge more than $30 per day products alone.

When Should I Detox?

The change of seasons is a great time for a detox. But the best time for each person is different depending on current state of health, energy levels, stressors, and nutritional status. If you are feeling tired, bloated, irritable, have insomnia, have gained weight, or suffer from cravings for sugary processed foods, then the time is now.

I’ll say it again – remember to please see your naturopathic physician for the detox best suited to you.

And don’t forget to hop down to the comments section and tell me about your detox plans!

Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you soon!

Dr Julie Signature BLACK


  1. Good post, Julie! A friend of mine and his wife recently did the “Jeffrey Morrison 30 day detox.” Any opinions on that plan? 

  2. Dr Julie says:

    Thank you, Stephen! Dr. Morrison’s detox is good and the ingredients are high quality. I like that it comes with a thorough plan and a start and end date. 30 days is a great amount of time, though can be tricky for some. Happy detox-ing!

  3. Jason says:

    Dr. Julie,

    Excellent post! I love how you break things down into simple, bite-sized pieces. When it comes to the topic of health, it’s beyond easy to slide into a world of complex theories and confusing jargon. You keep things clean, clear, and simple, the surest way to deliver advice that actually gets done. Great job!

  4. Julie – Thanks for the tips.  I have considered detoxing but I am not quite sure of which direction to go in.  I have seen programs that only require you to eat certain foods, like fruits and veggies and no carbs for a certain period of time; and others that require you to buy their products.  Would you recommend one approach over the other?

  5. Dr Julie says:

    Thank you, Jason! I am happy you enjoyed it!

  6. Dr Julie says:

    Thank you, DeVonne! It is certainly helpful to avoid certain foods during a detox and many supplements can help to key up our detox pathways. Both are important to your detox success.

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