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Dr. Michael Hummel's Blog

Detoxification Therapies for Improved Health

Chris was a young patient who came to see me for treatment for his worsening condition with multiple sclerosis. At 32 years old with two little kids, it was striking how fatigued he was all the time. What impressed me the most about Chris though was his optimism. He refused to consider that he would die from his disease and knew that he just needed to figure out what the cause was, address it, and he would heal and get better.

He was right. I watched him go from a state of extreme muscle weakness and fatigue to working out at the gym and being healthier than I was at the time. I still have his thank you card on my wall where it says, “Thanks for straightening me out and making me believe in Chinese Medicine Magic”. The truth is Chris got better because Chris did the work and believed he could heal. Additionally, there were specific findings that were unique to his case. 

When Chris first came to the clinic, we ran a battery of tests. We found he had extremely high levels of pesticides and herbicides in his blood and was a poor methylator. Basically, Chris had a genetic tendency to have difficulties with detoxification and a high toxic burden. He did some unique approaches to get the toxicants out of his system but ultimately that’s all we did… We removed the obstacles and his body did the rest.

Living in a Toxic World

Nowadays, any of us could end up like Chris due to the significant levels of toxins and toxicants in our environment. Toxins are harmful substances typically produced in nature, whereas toxicants are harmful substances that are manufactured.1 Most pesticides and herbicides would be considered toxicants. It’s difficult to avoid toxins/toxicants because they are found in our medicine, foods, air, and water supplies. If you ever want an eye-opening moment, just take a look at the CDC’s biomonitoring data tables for environmental chemicals.2 There are 38 categories with many substances within those categories!

It’s worth noting that industrial chemical corporations and food suppliers seem to have a revolving door with our government agencies. In what world is it ok for the head of the food and drug administration to have direct ties and financial interests to the very industry they are supposed to be regulating to keep us safe?3 Although the current head of the EPA has a “decent” track record, many who have come before have had direct connections to the coal and other polluting industries.4,5 The takeaway from this is we are all exposed to poisoned medicine, air, water, and food, and it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. 

Even if avoidance is extremely difficult, this is the first strategy to detoxification. Know the poisons and do your best to avoid them. For example, in Chris’s case we discovered a high level of pesticides and herbicides. Thus, the first step was to discover the source. Once he figured out that he lived in an area where spraying crops was common and many of his foods were highly contaminated, he made a couple of important choices. He was unable to move homes, so he bought really high quality air and water filters.6,7 The next step was to improve his body’s pathways of detoxification.

Detoxification Pathways Explained

The two main detoxification organs in the body are the liver and the kidneys.8,9 The liver’s primary function is to cut and bind toxins/toxicants so that they can be moved through the GI tract or through the kidneys to the urine.9 Supporting the liver’s mechanisms is thus extremely important to any good detoxification program. These are typically described as Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification pathways. 

Phase 1 is the first line of defense against toxins, oxidation (CYP enzymes), and it consists of enzymes that neutralize substances. Phase 2, conjugation, neutralizes the byproducts of Phase 1 and other remaining toxins, making toxins water-soluble so they can be excreted from the body. Three important components to support these pathways are water, protein (amino acids)10, and B-vitamins. There are certainly other supportive agents, but by making sure these are in plentiful supply, you can detoxify appropriately. 

Although Glutathione (a major antioxidant) is often suggested to support this process, I recommend it only for short-term use or not at all, as I would rather focus on enhancement of the body’s natural production of glutathione over taking amino acid supplements. Specifically, I’ll suggest N-acetyl cysteine, as it tends to be the limiting component and has been shown to increase glutathione production in the body.11 After supporting Phase 1 and Phase 2 pathways, the next step is to support Phase 3, or in old naturopathic terms, open up the emunctories.

Phase 3 represents supporting the pathways out of the body. Thus, we want to see the unimpeded flow of bile from the liver, stool through the digestive tract, urine through the urinary system (including the kidneys), sweat through our skin, and moving lymph through our lymphatic system. One aspect that is often overlooked is the pathway out of our lungs. In other words, the exhalation of carbon dioxide. All of these pathways need support in order to ensure toxins/toxicants are being eliminated. Let’s turn to some practical advice regarding each of these pathways.

Tips for Healthy Detoxification

Simply put, the three most important things we can do are drink plenty of water12, exercise14, and eat plenty of fiber. 

Drink Water

Notice water just came up again! The typical rule for water intake (there is no perfect rule) is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily.  For example, a 150-pound person would need to consume 75 ounces of water daily, which means throughout the day and not all at once. I know that can seem like a lot of water, and if you’re not accustomed to it, you’ll urinate more until you adapt. Proper water consumption is also really helpful for moving stool and urine, and thus supporting the Phase 3 component. In addition, water is essential to making energy in our bodies, which is how it supports Phase 1 and Phase 2 as well. 


In terms of exercise, I tend to point to the CDC guidelines and recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.13 When we exercise, we move blood and lymph through our body, which increases energy and helps move toxins to our kidneys for filtering into our urine. We also sweat and studies show how sweat contains various toxins.15 More research is needed for this, but in general, pathways out of the body are going to move toxins out. 

Eat Fiber

Most of us don’t get enough daily fiber. Fiber intake is important for three reasons: 1) it binds up toxins that move through our gut, 2) it feeds our gut bacteria to keep our gut moving stool, and 3) it even enhances gut barrier function, helping to prevent the absorption of more toxins through that route.16 I recommend eating about 25-30 grams of fiber per day. This can be accomplished by eating plenty of grains (at least 100 grams), 1 cup of cooked beans, and 2-3 servings of fruit daily. This is just one example, and there are many ways to accomplish the proper fiber intake on a daily basis. 

In most cases, integrating these tips into your daily lifestyle will be enough to support healthy detoxification. For those that need additional support, I have outlined additional strategies below.

Additional Strategies for Healthy Detoxification 

#1 Move the Lymph

If you are not able to exercise regularly, seeing a lymph massage practitioner can be helpful to help move the lymph.20 I typically recommend doing this at least once a week for those that need heavy detoxification support. Another option is to consider using a vibration plate or bouncing on a small trampoline for a few minutes each day. I’m not talking about Olympic trampoline bouncing! What I’m referring to is a light up and down movement on a small indoor trampoline (often called a rebounder). Many indoor trampolines come with bars to hold onto if you need support. You can also do dry brushing right after a warm shower as a method of self-massage for the lymph.

#2 Move the Stools

For those that have chronic constipation, I often recommend the use of coffee enemas at least once a week. I like room temperature coffee enemas in the short-term as they can help get bile flowing in the liver and stimulate bowel movements. These can be difficult to do for some folks and if that’s the case, you can find a colon hydrotherapy practitioner who can do those or use water to flush out the colon. These are not recommended long-term and are best done under a wholistic practitioner’s guidance to make sure you get the benefit of getting your gut functioning as well. There are also herbs that can be considered in the short-term to help move stool.

#3 Move the Urine

In some cases, using herbs to help move urine can be helpful. Some folks need a little diuretic action to support this particular pathway, even with plenty of water intake. Two of my favorite herbs for this are dandelion and horsetail.17,18 Both of these herbs are very gentle, improve urination, and are nutritive. Dandelion is also great for the liver to enhance detoxification as a bitter mover of bile, and horsetail is good for connective tissue. For dosing, I recommend both dandelion and horsetail in tincture form at one teaspoon, three times per day. Both can also be made in tea form, but it can take a while to get all of the nutrients from these plants when extracted with water. If you prefer the tea, three cups per day of each is best.

There are additional approaches to consider when choosing to follow a detoxification plan. One of my favorites is sauna therapy, which I wrote about previously in my blog Sauna Therapy and Cancer.19 Doing a dry sauna at least three days per week can be really helpful as part of a regular detoxification strategy. 

Supporting healthy detoxification as a regular part of your lifestyle, or as more of a targeted therapy when ill is a huge subject, with many aspects and considerations. Hopefully, this article has given you some strategies you can implement easily. If you’d like a personalized detoxification assessment and plan, I would love to support you! Please call us at 541-488-3133 to make an appointment, or fill out the form on our Become a Patient page.


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Meet Dr. Michael Hummel! 
Dr. Michael Hummel is a board-certified Naturopathic Physician providing comprehensive care with an emphasis on natural therapies, to include general medicine and primary care, as well as specialization in integrative oncology and chronic infectious disease (including Lyme disease). He has further areas of focus in bioidentical hormone therapies, botanical medicine, nutrition, family medicine, healthy aging, and naturopathic adjustments/physical medicine.

Dr. Hummel received training in both modern allopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine before earning his medical degree from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Prior to coming to Mederi Center, Dr. Hummel conducted his practice out of Envita Medical Center in Arizona, where he specialized in integrative oncology and chronic infectious disease. He blends naturopathic medicine with our Mederi Care methodology in his clinical work with patients.

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