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Getting encouraged to do a “detox program” by a naturopathic doctor is almost cliche. It seems as though we think pretty much everyone is toxic.

And we do.

The fact is, living in the modern world takes a toll. In this article I’m going to explain what’s in us that gets out through a detox program, and how it is that gunk gets out.

We are daily encountering two classifications of chemicals that our bodies have to deal with, aka detoxify: Toxicants and toxins.

We don’t typically make a distinction between these two in our day-to-day use, but it is worth pointing out the difference between them.


This encompasses things external to us, including all kinds of chemicals and metals. While we commonly refer to pesticides and plasticizers and jet fuel additives and flame retardants as “toxins,” they are technically “toxicants.” They are synthetic (such as phthalates) and/or have no role in human health (such as arsenic or aluminum).


This label technically only describes substances of biological origin that can cause us harm if in excess. For example, ammonia can build up in the blood under conditions of liver failure. That ammonia becomes a toxin. Snake venom would be another example of a toxin because it was produced by a living organism. Bacteria in our gut often produce endotoxins, a specific type of toxin that can make us miserable.

Why take the trouble to distinguish toxicants and toxins? Because both testing for and detoxing from toxicants and toxins are different processes.


Toxicant testing

Several labs offer this kind of testing. I commonly use the Environmental Toxins panel (which we now understand to be testing for toxicants, right?). This panel tests for 39 different chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, plastics, plastic metabolites, and much more. Each chemical is reported as a percentile: if you register in the 95th percentile, that means you have more of that chemical being excreted in your urine than 95% of the population.

I find this testing to be extremely valuable in putting together the detoxification approach, as we’ll see below.

Toxin testing

There are several options for this testing as well, and it depends on the history and symptoms to determine which is most indicated. Is there known or suspected mold exposure? Then mycotoxin testing is appropriate. Is there a history of significant digestive issues and inflammation? Measuring immune markers related to bacterial endotoxin exposure might be best.

Case Study

A 60 year-old female patient was experiencing ongoing symptoms following acute Covid illness in the Fall of 2021. She also had a long history of general lack of vitality. In order to find the underlying cause of her symptoms we ran several labs, including the Environmental Toxin panel I mentioned above. We were shocked to find the dramatically high level of several types of chemicals that were being actively excreted in her urine.

She tested in the 95th percentile on four different chemicals, including glyphosate, and on all but one chemical tested she was at least in the 75th percentile. 

A detoxification program was created in our holistic health clinic in Portland Oregon, one that brought in a wide range of therapies, and the same test panel was repeated two months later. Here you can see graphically the impact it had:

detox case study in portland oregon

Note that the initial level is the light blue indicator on each bar of the graph, and the more recent result is dark blue.


All chemicals that had been in the 95th percentile dropped into the 75th percentile. All of them, in two months coming into the clinic for once-weekly sessions during that time. Most importantly, her post-covid symptoms had resolved, and she felt better overall vitality than she had in many years. That’s better than any test result!

Maria is stocking up our supplies to lead a group though the 9-day cleanse program we created and that hundreds of our patients have now completed over the years. Virtually everyone reports feeling greater vitality by the end of that program, and many find they lose weight as well.

Anyone can sign up for the cleanse (group limited to the first 12 registrants). If you would like to make the cleanse part of a larger toxicant/toxin assessment and detoxification program in our holistic health clinic in Portland Oregon, schedule a consult with me to determine the most appropriate kind of before/after testing, as well as to create the most appropriate detoxification program utilizing many therapeutic options in the clinic. 

A cleanse and detox program is a great thing to do as we head into the holidays. Call the front office at 503-719-4806 or email to get on the list for Maria’s group cleanse, and to schedule with me if you’d like an even more comprehensive test-and-treatment program.

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