Detoxification: Your Questions Answered

What does detox mean, in a nutshell?

Detox is nutrient rehab. Detoxing means cleaning out the body, removing toxins, clearing out your jammed hormone receptors, and resetting key hormones. Most simply, detox is a tool of functional medicine: remove the obstacles to radical health, and add in the factors that support you. We accumulate junk mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually on a daily basis. I think of nutrient as a broad term that includes all the positive factors that support the intelligence of your body. It has become imperative to allow yourself the time to rest, reset, remove, recover, and restore. It’s like periodically rebooting your computer.

Have there been any new developments and findings regarding detox in the past year or two?the-hormone-reset-diet-book-cover

One of the most surprising things I learned while writing The Hormone Reset Diet is that you can reset insulin in seventy-two hours with your fork. That led to the development and testing of the seven hormonal resets, all of which occur in three-day bursts. I find that three days feels totally doable and manageable to the majority of women, and it provides a sense of hope that a hormone reset isn’t some huge project. It’s actually achievable in three days, especially when in the right sequence and at the right pace.

Other emerging trends that got my attention:

  • Genetics plays a key role in your ability to detox. For instance, I’ve inherited a faulty gene that makes me accumulate mercury when I eat sushi, and another gene makes it hard for me to clear stress and caffeine. The gene/environment interface is the topic of my next book and will be a primary focus in the next ten to twenty years of medicine.
  • Big Chemistry will be the Big Tobacco of the twenty-first century.
  • Endocrine disruptors act as obesogens and can make you fat (see chapter “Toxin Free” in The Hormone Reset Diet for the latest summary.)
  • Green tea may help you detoxify lead.1Sha’bani, N., et al. “Survey of the detoxification effect of green tea extract on the reproductive system in rats exposed to lead acetate.” … Continue reading I’d like to send a few gallons to Flint, Michigan.

How do you convince skeptics that detoxing really works?

Heavy metals such as mercury and lead and toxic chemicals can build up in our bodies and cause a number of issues, including increasing our risk to certain diseases and making us resistant to weight loss. We are constantly exposed to these heavy metals and toxic chemicals in our environment: Mercury can get into our bodies by way of fish, particularly large fish and shellfish; medications, such as thiazide diuretics, prescribed for high blood pressure; vaccines, which may contain thimerosal, a mercury compound used as a preservative; and dental fillings.

Furthermore, we can be exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals in our drinking water, as seen by the recent lead poisoning case in Flint, Michigan, and reports by the Natural Resource Defense Council about rocket fuel (perchlorate) and atrazine contamination of our drinking water.2“Safe Drinking Water.” National Resources Defense Council. 2016.; Bellinger, D. C. “Lead … Continue reading (Perchlorate is a toxic chemical used in making rocket fuel and explosives, and atrazine is a pesticide and a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with our hormones, even at extremely low levels.)

Detoxing can help our bodies get rid of the inevitable buildup of heavy metals and toxic chemicals that happens in modern life. It can flip the switch toward healing and repair.

When and how often people should detox? Why it isn’t enough to simply stick to a healthy diet year-round?

I recommend that everyone detoxify for at least twenty-one days on a quarterly basis. This practice is critical in maintaining resilient health, happy genes, and excellent molecular

sex between your hormones and their receptors. Many plants and supplements aid in detoxification. I don’t recommend taking them year-round, but to “pulse” them along with your quarterly intention to clear out toxins and other junk.

Which products and supplements can help with detoxing?

I recommend the following products and supplements for a detox:

  • Make a protein shake using dairy-free (no whey) protein powder, to replace at least one daily meal while detoxing. I find that when you are shifting the way that you eat, you can make life simpler by substituting a shake for a meal.
  • Get off caffeine. Transition slowly to avoid withdrawal. More than 50 percent of Americans are slow metabolizers of caffeine, so there’s a good chance you’ll sleep better and feel less anxious and revved up if you stop for twenty-one days.
  • Drink herbal teas. Some of my favorites teas are ayurvedic, including holy basil (tulsi) or ashwagandha, or oat straw before bed. When not detoxing or when transitioning off caffeine, drink green tea.3Chung, R. T. M.. “Detoxification effects of phytonutrients against environmental toxicants and sharing of clinical experience on practical … Continue reading
  • Purchase a dry brush to exfoliate your skin with organic products and to stimulate lymphatic flow. Incorporate this practice as a daily ritual.
  • Consume approximately 35-45 grams of fiber per day. It helps you remove bad estrogens, so that you don’t keep recirculating them like bad karma.
  • Choose adaptive exercise like yoga, Pilates, or tai chi to counterbalance mental, emotional, and spiritual junk.
  • Take essential, proven, and highest quality supplements. The ones I recommend for detoxing are as follows:
    • Berberine is the main active component of an herb called Coptis chinensis, and has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of conditions from metabolic syndrome, cancer, and gastrointestinal inflammation. More recently, studies are showing that berberine is also an effective blood glucose regulator that is even superior to metformin (a prescription medication used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes) in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.4Lan, J., Yanyun Zhao, et al. “Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and … Continue reading The safety profile is excellent.
    • N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful chelating agent for heavy metals from the body, such as lead and mercury. Your main source of lead? Lipstick and lead dust and/or peeling paint if your home was built prior to 1978. Mercury? Fish, dental amalgams, possibly vaccines.
    • Curcumin gives turmeric its characteristically bright orange color. Ayurvedic medicine has used curcumin for a wide variety of diseases and conditions. In studies, curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities—and may be the most potent anti-inflammatory known.

Who should and shouldn’t detox?

Nearly everyone can benefit from detoxing. The usual common sense applies: children and pregnant, nursing women should be very cautious and need to discuss risks, benefits, and alternatives with a health care professional. People with adrenal burnout and slow thyroid function should work with a collaborative clinician who can adjust the protocol as needed so it’s not too harsh or risky.

How do you manage a new detoxer’s expectations?

In the Hormone Reset Detox, we start off a with a preparation phase, which lays the foundation and eases the transition into the detox. Preparation is behind every lasting change when it comes to your body and your health. Set a start date, and let your loved ones know. Find accountability partners. Research shows that an accountability partner you don’t know very well subconsciously gives you less wiggle room.

How do you pick out true, solid detox plans from among a sea of trendy fads?

Great question because there are a lot of hucksters out there trying to take advantage of people who are feeling toxic, tired, or fat.

  • Make sure to choose a detox plan that addresses the root causes behind the symptoms you are experiencing; otherwise, they will most likely return.
  • I suggest following a plan created by a medical doctor who is board certified and has ten to twenty years of clinical practice. Don’t just follow your local yoga teacher who became certified last year.
  • Look for the slow and steady approach rather than a quick fix. I don’t like juice cleanses for most people because of the excess fructose, which can harm your insulin and leptin, and lead to rapid weight regain when you go back to normal eating. Juice cleanse can also be tough on taxed adrenal and thyroid glands.
  • Look for a protocol that sounds medically sound – particularly a functional medicine protocol that is preventive, proactive, personalized, and participatory.

To learn more about the Hormone Reset Detox, click here.





About Sara Gottfried MD
Sara Gottfried, MD is the New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr. Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a board-certified gynecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her novel online programs so that women can lose weight, detoxify, and slow down aging. Dr. Gottfried lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two daughters.


1 Sha’bani, N., et al. “Survey of the detoxification effect of green tea extract on the reproductive system in rats exposed to lead acetate.” Advanced Biomedical Research 4, (2015).
2 “Safe Drinking Water.” National Resources Defense Council. 2016.; Bellinger, D. C. “Lead contamination in Flint—an abject failure to protect public health.” New England Journal of Medicine 374, no. 12 (2016):1101-1103.
3 Chung, R. T. M.. “Detoxification effects of phytonutrients against environmental toxicants and sharing of clinical experience on practical applications.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research, (2015):1-11.
4 Lan, J., Yanyun Zhao, et al. “Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 161, (2015):69-81; Wei, W., et al. “A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome.” European Journal of Endocrinology 166, no. 1 (2012):99-105.