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UltraWellness Lesson 5: Detoxification

UltraWellness Lesson 5: Detoxification

IN THE LAST LESSON you learned why the digestive system is so important to creating UltraWellness. The next step is learning how to optimize your detoxification system.

The role of toxins and detoxification in health has been largely ignored by medicine. But thankfully scientists and practitioners are starting to recognize its importance in health. But how do you know if you are toxic?

Many of you probably have symptoms of chronic toxicity that you don’t label as being toxic. Here is a list, and if any of these sound familiar, keep in mind that detoxifying might be critical for you to get healthy and feel good again.

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Sinus congestion
  • Postnasal drip
  • Excessive sinus problems
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Heartburn
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Food cravings
  • Water retention
  • Trouble losing weight
  • Rashes
  • Skin problems
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Canker sores
  • Acne
  • Puffy, dark circles under your eyes
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Other menstrual disorders
  • Bad breath

When you hear the word “detox” you might think drug detox or alcohol detox or wheatgrass enemas. That’s not what I am talking about.

I am referring to the science of how our bodies get rid of waste. If waste builds up, we get sick. And the key is to figure out how to enhance our body’s capacity to detoxify and get rid of waste while minimizing our exposure to toxins.

And why is this important?

It’s because many diseases of our society are actually related to toxicity. Here are some of the diseases that are linked to toxicity:

  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia syndrome
  • Cancers
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Food allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcers, colitis, and inflammatory bowel
  • Menstrual problems like heavy bleeding, cramps, PMS, menopausal symptoms, mood changes, and hot flashes

It might seem that everyone is toxic. That may be true to differing degrees.

Problems with detoxification is one root of illness. The gut is one of the core systems in the body that must be working well for you to be healthy. If you feel lousy, it’s likely you’re toxic.

If you answer yes to any of these questions you may be toxic.

  • I have hard, difficult to pass movements every day or every other day
  • I am constipated and only go every other day or less often
  • I urinate small amounts of dark, strong smelling urine only a few times a day
  • I almost never break a real sweat
  • I have one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, concentration and memory problems
  • I have Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • I drink tap or well water
  • I dry clean my clothes
  • I work or live in a “tight” building with poor ventilation or windows that don’t open
  • I live in a large urban or industrial area
  • I use household or lawn garden chemicals or get my house or apartment treated for bugs by an exterminator
  • I have more than 1-2 mercury amalgams
  • I eat large fish (swordfish, tuna, shark, tilefish) more than once a week
  • I am bothered by one or more of the following: gasoline or diesel fumes, perfumes, new car smells, fabric stores, dry cleaning, hair spray or other strong odors, soaps, detergents, tobacco smoke, chlorinated water
  • I have a negative reaction when I consume foods containing MSG, sulfites (wine, salad bars, dried fruit), sodium benzoate (preservative), red wine, cheese, bananas or chocolate, even a small amount of alcohol, eating food with garlic and onions
  • When I drink coffee or caffeine containing substances I feel wired up, an increase in joint and muscle aching or have hypoglycemic symptoms (anxiety, palpitations, sweating, dizziness)
  • I regularly consume any of the following substances or medications: acetaminophen (Tylenol), acid blocking drugs (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, Prevacid), hormone modulating medications in pills, patches or creams (the pill, estrogen, progesterone, prostate medication), ibuprofen or naproxen, medications for Colitis or Crohn’s disease, recurrent headaches, allergy symptoms, nausea, diarrhea or indigestion
  • I have had jaundice (turning yellow) for any reason or I have been told I have Gilbert’s syndrome (an elevation of a liver test called bilirubin)
  • I have a history of any of the following conditions: Breast cancer, smoking induced lung cancer, other type of cancer, prostate problems, food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances
  • I have a family history of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other motor neuron diseases, or multiple sclerosis

It is important to understand why we are toxic and how we can detoxify. I will explain how you can detoxify a little later, but first I want to tell you about where toxins come from and how we are overloaded.

How much toxicity is too much

To understand toxicity you must understand the concept of total load.

This is a total amount of stressors on your system at any one time and what happens like a glass filling over with water. It takes a certain amount to fill the glass and then, after a certain point, you put more in and it overflows.

When our detoxification system is overwhelmed, is overloaded, that’s when we start getting symptoms and get sick, but it may take years of accumulated stress and toxins to get to that point.

  • The total load includes the load of things like heavy metals, mercury and lead, petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers.
  • It includes food allergies, environmental allergies, molds and toxins from molds.
  • It includes a SAD (standard American diet).
  • It includes stress — the mental, emotional and spiritual toxins that affect us; isolation, loneliness, anger,  jealousy, hostility, which all translate into toxins in our system.
  • Medications can sometimes be toxins. Often we need medications, but the reality is that most of us are over-medicated and use medications for things for which there are better solutions such as lifestyle and diet.
  • Lastly, there are internal toxins, things like bacteria, fungus, and yeast that are inside our gut and may be affecting us, as well as hormonal and metabolic toxins we need to eliminate.

Now why aren’t we all sick given this incredible load of toxins?

It is because each of us is genetically and biochemically unique. Some of us are good at getting rid of toxins and waste, and others are not. I am not. That is why I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I became overloaded with mercury and I couldn’t get rid of it because I am missing a gene for GSTM1 — a critical detoxifying enzyme for mercury. But by learning to support my system and learning how to detoxify I was able to cure myself from an incurable condition.

How to detox

There are five key steps to optimal detoxification. Here they are:

  • Identify and Get Rid of Toxins
  • Fix Your Gut — a source of toxic load for many
  • Get Moving — to help your blood and lymphatic circulation do its job
  • Get Your Liver and Detox System Working
  • Detox your Mind, Heart and Spirit

But let me make it more practical for you. I can summarize them into ten basic principles you can start now:

  1. Drink plenty of clean water, at least eight to ten glasses of filtered water a day.
  2. Keep your bowels moving, at least once or twice a day. And if you can’t get going, then you need some help and this can include taking two tablespoons of ground flax seeds, taking acidophilus and extra magnesium capsules in the form of magnesium citrate. If you have any chronic diseases or problems you have to be careful about taking supplements, you should work with your doctor.
  3. You should also eat organic produce and animal products to eliminate the toxins in our food.
  4. You should eat eight to ten servings of colorful fruits and vegetables and specifically include, every day, the family of the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, as well as the garlic family, garlic and onions, which help increase sulfur in the body and help detoxification.
  5. Avoid stimulants, sedatives, and drugs such as caffeine and nicotine and try to reduce alcohol intake.
  6. Exercise five days a week with focus on conditioning your cardiovascular system, strengthening exercises and stretching exercises.
  7. Get rid of the white menace, which is white flour and white sugar.
  8. Sweat profusely at least three times a week, using a sauna, steam or detox bath.
  9. Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral.
  10. Relax deeply every day, to get your nervous system in a state of calm, rest and relaxation.

The comprehensive program outlined here will help to correct problems caused by toxicity, maximize your body’s own detoxification capacity, and help you safely eliminate stored toxins.

Depending on your symptoms, genetic predispositions and environmental exposures, you each may need different levels of nutrients and types of treatment. But remember, getting rid of toxins and learning how to optimize your detoxification system is essential for creating UltraWellness.

Next lesson, I will explain why creating energy is something many of us have trouble with and how to boost your energy metabolism!

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (41)

    • We do not offer wellness groups at this time. If you would like information on becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center please see “How to Become a Patient” at That site is designed to give prospective patients a comprehensive source of information about The UltraWellness Center. You may also feel free to call The UltraWellness Center at (413) 637 9991.

      Regardless of becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center, it sounds like you need to consult with a doctor. Please seek medical attention for the issues that you outlined in your message.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

  • Hello,
    I am a veterinarian who has been studying Traditional Chinese Veterinary medicine, of which nutrition and food therapy are very important. I was curious to know if you have any veterinarians on staff, or that you refer questions to? Some of the underlying theories in TC(V)M are abit dificult for the general public to understand, so if I could offer more of a “Western” perspective, I think more of my clients will better understand what they are doing with their food therapies.

    Thanks for all the great work!
    Mary Lindamood DVM
    Howell, Michigan

  • Have you ever heard of someone who cannot eat broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables? If I eat these foods which are supposed to be good for you I get extemely bloated with gas and painful stomach problems.

  • what does low blood levels mean? Do you have a wellness center on the south shore of Ma? I would like to work on toxins in my body with food and supplements

    • Thank you, Corby, for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. To locate a practitioner of functional medicine in your area see the “Find a Functional Medicine Practitioner” link at the Institute of Functional Medicine’s website. Here you will find a place to enter your zip code and look for practitioner’s in your area that have completed the institute’s five-day training course in functional medicine. Understand that not all of the doctors listed here will fit your particular needs. Many different medical professionals complete this training, and you will have to do additional research on your own regarding a particular practitioner’s approach and whether or not it fits your specific medical requirements. This may include calling the practioner’s office, visiting his or her website, and/or scheduling a consultation.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

    • Thank you, Cheryl, for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Questions regarding conditions cannot be answered in a responsible manner via the Internet.

      If you would like information on becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center please see “How to Become a Patient” at That site is designed to give prospective patients a comprehensive source of information about The UltraWellness Center. You may also feel free to call The UltraWellness Center at (413) 637 9991.

      Regardless of becoming a patient at The UltraWellness Center, it sounds like you need to consult with a doctor. Please seek medical attention for the issues that you outlined in your message.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

  • Ok, I have brain fog, comes and goes, some days hits me 5 times or more a day, last about 2 – 3 min, they slowly goes away, then I am exhausted, and nauseated. then I can go a week and nothing, then boom again, when it starts, I get a strange feeling in my stomach, then slowly my head feels clouded, foggy, lost, also I have noticed my ears being somewhat plugged. slowly the foggy, lost feeling fades, then as I said, sometimes Nauseated, had numerous test, eeg, mri, etc., all the test came back nothing wrong, all clear, no blockages, but still no answers, it’s difficult to work, after these episodes happen, I am drained of energy and just want to sleep. Please someone help me. No one seems to know the answer. This started about 2 years ago, first with saying strange things, like I would be talking to someone and right in the middle of my sentence I would say “house plants” then continue on like nothing. Once they told me, I would repeat my sentence and again, “house plants” pops out. I would do this maybe 5 times, and then finally, I would realize I had said it. This lasted for maybe 6 months, comes, and goes, then now, I don’t say strange words, I just as I said in the beginning, freeze up. I can just be sitting there, and wam,, head lost. As said, it is causing me issues with being able to work. Don’t know when it will hit, but once it does, I may as well go home. Anyone with any suggestion, please. It is getting worse, when I get them; I seem to get them every hour on the hour. Help!

  • Judy,
    I wonder if you are suffering from one of the tick-bourne diseases. I am not a doctor or have a medical training but have recently received a diagnosis of Lyme and Bartonella. I have been learning and going to Lyme support meetings and hearing from other patients that have similiar symptoms. I know brain fog and fatigue are symptoms. Unfortunately the symptoms of Lyme, etc. often mimic other diseases and doctors don’t always look for Lyme or other tick-bourne diseases or even use the correct tests. I hope you find out and get better!
    Mary Jane

  • I have a low thyroid and have read that brocoli, brussels soy etc. are bad for that. does it mean I have to live off seaweed and green powder to make up for that?

    • HI Ginny There is no need to stay away from cruciferous veges. Just make sure you cook them to eliminate at least some of the goitrogenic substances in broccoli etc.

  • Hi,
    Because of chronic symptoms including asthma, sinusitis etc. that my doctors have described as an autoimmune disease, I’ve decided to take Dr. Hyman’s advice, no more gluten, dairy or sugar. This is my 3rd day.
    I do have one question, can I eat prunes and other dried fruits?

    Also, I want to say how happy I am to have discovered Functional Medicine. And in particular Dr. Mark Hyman, a doctor who gives a damn!
    Soon after I began seeing doctors in 2008 I remember thinking to myself, “doctors are just drug dealers.” since all of them were giving me the same drugs and didn’t seem to be interested in understanding WHY I was dealing with all the inflammation.
    The perspective of Functional medicine reminds me of the film MIndwalk, in which the scientist poses an argument for Systems Theory, illustrating that our world (just like our bodies) is interconnected and if we don’t approach it with that in mind, we won’t find sustainable solutions to our problems.

    What I don’t understand is why it’s taken Western Medicine so very long to adopt this obvious perspective…is it simply because it’s more lucrative to sell tires than fix the road?
    I hope not.
    To all of you involved in this overdue revolution, have a wonderful new year!

    • Hi Alex,

      Thank you for your interest in functional mediince and Dr. Hyman’s work. We are glad you are beginning to experiment with food and your health as this can be VERY empowering, albeit a bit challenging in the beginning. The best answer for the dried fruit is that they should be eliminated when doing any form of detox program or anti inflammatory protocol. Yet, if you do not have issues with sugar tolerance, yeast, weight etc. than in complete moderation as dried fruit is truly natures candy, it can be included… Also look for preservative FREE (no sulfites etc.).

      In good health,

  • Hello,

    I wanted to know whats your thoughts about the IGg Food Intolerance blood test. ?


  • My husband came across your article and study on the 10 year old little girl and it hasn’t been quite two weeks that I have been doing the gluten/dairy/sugar free eating. I have history of asthma, allergies, IBS, and alopecia areata. In the past 1.5 years I have lost most of my hair and everyone’s reply is it is auto-immune and there is nothing we can do. My dermatologist doesn’t want to do steroid shots anymore. I am praying this works for me.. My question is with the sugar free part of the eating- does that mean all sugar including substitutes? Also, what about fruit- it has natural sugar but does that count as sugar? What about agave, honey, etc. Thanks for posting all the articles and Dr. Hyman gives me a little hope when no one else does. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

    • Hi Tara,

      Thank you for your interest in Dr Hyman’s work. Yes, you would remove all artificial and alternative sugars. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      For personalized nutrition coaching please visit:

    • Tara, please see the drwheatgrass alopecia site for very encouraging info on that condition. Please read also the history of Pines wheat grass. That company provides a very effective, high quality whole food supplement in their wheat grass powder. In addition, you might consider taking a freeze dried wheat grass juice — don’t know whether we’re permitted to name it on this site — called Sweet Wheat. It tastes a whole lot better than tray-grown juice, and I believe is more nutritious than tray-grown. If I were you, I would take the Pines whole leaf powder or tablets 3 times a day (i.e., 21 tablets daily), and possibly also the freeze dried juice from the other company at least twice a day, along with the topical spray form drwheatgrass. Best wishes, Judy

  • I know that Dr Hyman recommends sauna or the Ultra Bath for detoxing. I have been using the Ultra Bath for many months now. Unfortunately they do not make me sweat. I have not had access to a sauna before, but now I dohave access to both a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna. I have read many sites online telling you which is better than the other. Does Dr. Hyman recommend on over the other? I did not see anything about it on the website or in the books of his I have read (unless I missed it).


      • Regarding the Ultra Bath… Do we not absorb all the junk in tap water? I was wondering if the Epsom salts and baking soda he recommends in his baths bind all the toxins in our tap water to prevent those from absorbing too.

  • Did you really mean to state this in #3 as a way to detoxify?

    “You should also eat organic produce and animal products to eliminate the toxins in our food.”

    Animal products contribute to the toxicity in the body…..I sincerely hope this was a typo.

    • Dear Lauren,

      Eating animal products is a personal choice, the statement suggests that for those who do they should be organic.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • You said that garlic and onion are good to clean toxins. The people that have gastritis and reflux can eat cooked onion and garlic?? I have so confused of what can I eat and cannot. Could tell me where can I find information regarding that??

  • This is helpful, I have these friends whose been bothering me for some time cause he looks and move not normal and we are looking for people who can help him can you give a rehabilitation facilities that can help him. Every reply can be helpful.

    • Thank you for your interest In Dr. Hyman’s work. Unfortunately he cannot provide you personalized medical advice in this forum. In order to provide you the proper care you need we hope you will seek the attention of a local qualified Functional Med practitioner soon. To locate a doctor near you who practices functional medicine like Dr. Hyman, go to and scroll down to where it says “locate a practitioner” and enter your location. Progress accordingly from there.

      You can also make an appointment to be a patient at Dr.Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, MA. Please go to:
      Wishing you the best of health,
      Dr. Hyman Staff

  • Hi Dr. Hyman,

    I’m on Day 5 of the 10-Day detox and I have really intense pain in my muscles and joints. On Day 3, the pain in my upper back was excruciating, and now my lower back and hips are painful as well. I have gotten two massages and tried yoga, and they help for a short time but not with any permanence. I have a little bit of psoriasis under my fingernails but I’m otherwise healthy, as far as I know.

    Am I just toxic? What is causing this muscle and joint pain?

    Thank you!

  • Hi

    I was wondering as I have autoimmune disease’s which are Low thyroid function, Addisons disease can you tell me if your methods are safe for me ..As I was going to try to rid toxins from my body using Cilantro leaf extract and Chlorella, however I found that Chlorella can make my disease react which is not good,
    I have looked at my diet and stopped smoking also cut out wheat, and sugar.

    Many Thanks

  • @Liam there is these things called self medication and alternative medicines that would actually help you upon taking the road to recovery.

  • Detoxification is the creative term for purifying your blood. Detoxification of the body is the natural therapy to remove all the impurities of blood through the liver.

  • Dr Hyman,

    Thank you so much for you published work. I was particularly impressed when you associated the Gilbert’s syndrome with toxicity. This is the story of my life! I am from Eastern Europe and been diagnosed at an earlier age with either Autoimmune haemolythinc anaemia, or Gilbert’s syndrome. Sad part was that NOBODY gave me a cure for this. All the doctors told me to just “live with it”. Nobody ever mentioned that the cure was linked to toxicity. The one and only clue I have ever received was when my mother told me that my jaundice disappears for a good while after I have anti parasitic medicine. Also that my jaundice disappeared during the summer time when I was outdoors and more active. Can you believe it, all those doctors and no clues. And I did develop many health issues as a teenager because of the toxicity nobody told me about. Sadly, even to this day, you are literally the only doctor to link this with toxicity. I am glad that after some time, I knew to follow my heart and dealt with toxicity and removed my symptoms of jaundice. But yes, you are so spot on with the toxicity symptoms and cures. I believe it’s not about the toxic environment you live in, as much as it’s about the lifestyle. To give you an example, I lived in India for 2 years. In the capital of New Delhi. Everybody will tell me that it was not a clean environment. But to my delight, my autoimmune symptoms cured so fast over there, that I felt that I was a new normal functioning human being again, for the first time in a very long time! The answer to that amazing health improvement was in my newly founded lifestyle: eating only vegetarian food, with many indian spices in it (which, in case you don’t know, kills internal parasites naturally), living under plenty of sunshine (vitamin D was there to help me detox) and sweating my life away (having to drink at least 4 litres of bottled water per day). This happened every day, for 2 years, and I WAS CURED!
    Interesting enough, when I moved to UK, London, the symptoms started to slowly come back. At the same time, I drank less water, didn’t have to sweat so much, drank tap water, has lot less ventilation, had some mold issue in my bathroom, ate less vegetables and most sad of all, had much less sunshine.

    Now a days, I have learnt that you can be toxin free even in the most difficult environments. It’s never about the place, it’s about your lifestyle. Even in London, I know that if I exercise, if I break a sweat now a then, if I stick to a vegetarian diet, if I clear the mold in my living space, I am still very much autoimmune disease free. But yes, can’t compare this to the absolute health I have got in Delhi. Interesting fact on its own, isn’t it?

    Thank you again Dr! You are really really great and thank you for doing the kind of work that few doctors choose to do – it’s your independent thinking that I value most and your published results can impact the lives of many.

  • I was given Levaquin for Pneumonia. After taking 4 pills, I developed additional Fibromyalgia pain, my legs swelled to the point that I couldn’t walk. and then brain fog set in over two years ago.

    I hope that your detox program will work for me and others. Please let me know if all foods ( including meat) should not be heated. Is there danger in eating uncooked meat? Thank you!

  • Hi and thanks for the information. I am currently dealing with detoxing from some viral/bacterial issues and am doing it naturally but have incredibly intense and overbearing detox side effects. What do you recommend for exercise if one is exhausted and in pain and short of breath? I don’t feel like doing anything but resting but its getting old and boring and depressing. I’d appreciate suggestions on the fine line between resting and moving your body. Thanks!

  • One of the mail reasons for stomach pains, while you are doing a detox is:

    A)Not drinking enough water
    B)Probably have been living a pretty unhealthy lifestyle, hence all the bad symptoms.

    Remember, the more toxins you have in your body, the worse you’re going to feel as your body expels them.I eat non-GMO produce, grass fed and hormone free meats, drink primarily water, no synthetic sweeteners (aspartame is a poison, just FYI), etc. I lost 25 lbs after doing the Lady Soma Detox twice. Yes, I had alot of toxins in my body, and they came flying off.

    My stomach is slightly uneasy when using the Lady Soma Detox, but overall, nothing to complain about, because it does cleanse you. A friend recommended this to me and I’m glad she did.