Nutritional detoxification: What your clients need to know

In this article, we’ll be uncovering:

  • What qualifies as a ‘toxin’?
  • Are natural chemicals always safe?
  • Should we be scared of our modern toxic load?
  • How does the body handle this?
  • Can nutrition help?

Detox is quite a popular word these days and commonly attached to the word “cleanse”. We’ve all seen the ads online with detox claims such as “eliminating toxins from the body” and “boosting fast results after a few days”.

But, unfortunately, human biology is a lot more complex than that. This is why nutrition professionals mustn’t exaggerate or misrepresent the physiological effects of a nutritional plan, food or drink product, or supplement.

So, if you want to polish your communication with clients regarding all things detox, read on!

Your 24/7 detoxification machine

Human detoxification occurs 24/7, all day long, non-stop to keep us alive. This is a vital process that every one of your clients can benefit from learning more about. However, far too many health professionals don’t know enough about the long-established scientific fields of toxicology and detoxification to provide adequate guidance to their clients who need it the most.

That’s where the Detox Specialist™ Certification at The Health Sciences Academy can help you make a difference. This science-based certification teaches you everything you need to know about the fields of toxicology and detoxification so that you can help your clients in a safe and personalised way.

To help you get started, let’s discuss some important fundamentals about the long-established fields of toxicology and detoxification, including several professional opportunities you could explore when you acquire the expertise to support clients in relation to nutritional detoxification.

What qualifies as a ‘toxin’?

When we think about ‘toxins’, harmful substances come to mind. However, toxicity is a lot more complicated than this, and seemingly benevolent substances can become toxic too. Although it may come as a surprise, everything that we ingest, come into contact with, or absorb can be toxic. Even nutrients that are essential to survival, such as vitamin A, water, and oxygen, have toxicity potential. Think of hypervitaminosis A, water toxaemia, and hyperoxia….

What is it that makes a substance toxic, then?

Its dose or amount. Paracelsus (1493-1541), the father of toxicology, elucidated that: “Everything is a poison. There is poison in everything. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison”.

What Paracelsus meant is that we can say that any substance, natural or synthetic, when taken, inhaled, or ingested in sufficiently large amounts, can cause harm. Some of them require kilograms or litres to achieve a toxic dose, whereas others can be toxic (or even lethal) after just a few nano-grams or nano-millilitres.

In other words, toxicity is a sliding scale.

What are some common toxins around us?

Some substances have the potential of being more harmful at lower doses, which is why we usually see regulations around them. Some of the major types of toxins include:

  • Recreational toxins including narcotics, alcohol or nicotine
  • Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, or aluminium
  • Manmade toxins such as persistent substances that never disintegrate like PFOA/C8
  • Living toxins such as bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and parasites
  • Medical toxins from radiotherapy or chemotherapy
  • Toxins in our food, drinks, and personal care products
  • Water toxins including plastics, lead, chloride
  • Inhalable toxins both indoors and outdoors

Looking at the list above, it is clear that toxic substances are around us and can be found everywhere.

Many would argue that one way to reduce our toxic load is to stick to natural substances.

But are natural chemicals always safe?

There’s a common misconception that all-natural substances are always better for us or not harmful. But this isn’t always the case.

Natural doesn’t mean toxin-free.

For example, heavy metals like cadmium and lead are natural compounds. However, they’re capable of causing acute poisoning and even death. What’s more, many of them are known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and neurotoxins (causing brain cell death).

Also, some plants, seeds and pits have toxic levels of cyanide and other harmful compounds.

Even seemingly harmless supplements using natural plant-food substances may pose a toxicity risk. An example is berberine extract, which is likely neurotoxic at certain doses and cardiotoxic when taking antibiotics or other medicines.

Now, does this mean that our existence is lethal? Should we just put on hazmat suits and lock ourselves away from the rest of the world? Not quite.

Should we fear our modern environmental load?

Yes and no. The fundamental truth is that we are surrounded by environmental compounds that are harmful in tiny doses (traces). Sadly, they’re inevitable. Toxicologists argue that our world has always been toxic. Yet, we thrived and evolved as a species. This is because our innate detoxification systems and antioxidant protection mechanisms are remarkable and continue to evolve day after day to keep us alive!

Extremely persistent manmade substances are a huge problem. They are artificially-generated molecules that don’t degrade. An example is the carcinogen PFOA (or C8) manufactured by companies like 3M and Dupont. Chemists add 8 carbons to a molecule, making it almost indestructible. Think construction materials, paints, stain-resistant carpets, carpet cleaning liquids, medical equipment, medical wear, microwavable bags, and non-stick pans. Female workers in these factories decades ago had deformed babies and miscarriages, and nearby populations had higher cancer rates from environmental exposure in water and surroundings.

Because manmade materials like PFOA are persistent, the body cannot chemically destroy them or neutralise them. So these carcinogenic molecules bioaccumulate in blood, cells and tissue, and even passed on to future generations during pregnancy.

The human body is a detox powerhouse

Our innate detoxification systems and antioxidant protection mechanisms are remarkable and continue to evolve day after day to keep us alive!

Human detoxification occurs 24/7, all day long, non-stop, and this detoxification process can be mechanical or biochemical, or both.

The various human detoxification mechanisms include:

  • Detoxification through the digestive system
  • Detoxification through the mouth
  • Detoxification through the stomach
  • Detoxification through the intestines
  • Detoxification through the skin
  • Detoxification through the liver
  • Detoxification through the kidneys

A multitude of mechanical and biochemical detoxification pathways work alongside each other every second. Let’s take a closer look at how.

How does the human body handle toxins?

Under ordinary circumstances, here are the following ways the body handles toxins that can be very harmful in smaller doses:

  • By neutralising them – For example, antioxidants neutralise free radical molecules
  • By transforming them – For example, fat-soluble chemicals can be chemically transformed into water-soluble ones
  • By eliminating them – For example, through urine, faeces, sweat, mucus, and breath

Working with your lungs, skin, kidneys, and intestines, a healthy liver mechanically and biochemically detoxifies many harmful substances and eliminates them without contaminating the bloodstream.

However, certain foods or compounds found in the foods we eat can support and (in some instances) even enhance our body’s detoxification process. For example, a number of phytochemical compounds, which are chemicals from plants, have been heavily investigated for their role in detoxification at a cellular level.

Examples include:

  • Glucosinolates – For example, isothiocyanates
  • Terpenoids – For example, carotenoids or lycopene
  • Phenolic compounds – For example, resveratrol or anthocyanins

But guess what? Phytochemical compounds are mildly toxic and as a result of this mild toxicity, our cells “overreact” and trigger a number of beneficial epigenetic responses, such as switching on detoxification genes, longevity genes, and tumour-protective genes, or switching off oncogenes.

Nutritional detoxification can be facilitated in several ways, such as using food and its components to help modulate metabolic detoxification pathways. There are thousands of studies demonstrating the impact of food, drinks, and bioactive compounds on detoxification systems, including the modulation of the following detoxification pathways:

  • Cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP1, CYP2, CYP3, CYP4)
  • Glucoronidation
  • Glycine + glutamine conjugation
  • Glutathione conjugation
  • Sulphation
  • Methylation

A large number of nutritional compounds and food substances exist to support the body with carrying out the various detoxification processes beyond just essential micronutrients.

How can you acquire the expertise to safely support your clients with mitigating their toxic load?

By learning about the fundamentals of toxicology, you would be able to better evaluate someone’s likely exposure to harmful toxins, including potential signs, and help them reduce their exposure risk while referring them to a medical doctor if symptoms are acute or regular.

Additionally, as you gain in-depth knowledge about food substances involved in detoxification, you could make nutritional recommendations that can substantially impact a client’s health and wellbeing.

The Detox Specialist™ Certification equips you with the knowledge and expertise that you need to help your clients through nutritional detoxification while mitigating toxicity exposures. You would discover how to work with clients to identify (and reduce exposure to) certain food and environmental toxic chemicals, decrease their burden, and strengthen eliminative organs by applying scientifically proven and personalised nutritional strategies.

Now, how can you maximise your professional opportunities in the detox space?

Who would be your clients, and what are some professional opportunities you can explore once you complete the Detox Specialist™ Certification? Let’s explore some of them.


When you acquire the expertise to develop effective detoxification-supporting meals, you can help your clients with their weight loss goals by addressing environmental detractors such as obesogens.

Obesogens are a type of endocrine-disrupting chemicals associated with more fat mass in animal and human studies. They stimulate fat storage by altering fat tissue biology or by disrupting metabolic regulation and energy balance. They include:

  • Phthalates (plasticisers) – They can get into the body through the skin (high dermal absorption level, from indoor or outdoor dust) or diet (transferred from packaging). There’s a proven correlation between increased concentrations of phthalates in the human body and weight gain risk.
  • DBT salts inside PVC – a synthetic plastic found in indoor flooring, window frames, doors, bank cards, bottles, food covering sheets, packaging, can signal genes to generate more fat cells. It may also interfere with appetite through increasing leptin resistance.

By helping your clients evaluate and reduce exposure to these and other obesogens, you can help optimise their weight management outcomes.


You can deliver workshops and health safety programs for high toxicity risk workers about existing toxins in the following sectors once you have acquired the knowledge and expertise to do so via our Detox specialist certification:

  • Industrial production – Toxicants like manmade persistent (non-bio-degradable) materials, e.g. PFOA
  • Farming – Toxicants like pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers
  • Transport – Toxicants like pollution (e.g. cab/bus drivers) and toxicant dust (e.g. tube, trains)
  • Construction – Toxicants like manmade persistent (non-bio-degradable) materials, e.g. PVC
  • Mining – Toxicants like heavy metal load (lead, copper, etc.)
  • Engineering – Toxicants like UV radiation and poisonous gases and fumes from welding

And many other high-hazard sectors.


Is gastronomy or product formulation your thing? You could help with the formulation of detoxification-supporting products like phytochemical-rich, precursor-rich, probiotic-rich, or fibre-rich foods, drinks (e.g. smoothies), and supplements (e.g. extracts with bioactive compounds).


You could also help with developing food and drinks that support the body’s need for essential micronutrients, precursors, and compounds involved in biochemical (e.g. sulphuric compounds involved in the sulfation pathway) and mechanical (e.g. probiotics’ heavy-metal binding isotherms) detoxification processes (as shown in both in vitro and in vivo research).

You could get involved with the ethical commercialisation of products that do not promote ‘miracle’ claims and ethical production and packaging.


Have a love for cooking? As you discover the process of detoxification-supporting nutrients, you could incorporate these into meal planning. You could design personalised detoxification-supporting meals for the workforce and professionals and also prepare these meals for home or office delivery.


When you acquire the expertise to run effective detoxification programs, you would be able to help your fertility clients increase their fertility odds. Reproductive toxicants and endocrine disruptors can significantly reduce your clients’ fertility odds and increase their risk for reproductive disturbances, acceleration of reproductive ageing, and diseases like PCOS.

Mutagenic action from toxicants like PFOA can also increase disease risk in the offspring.


Do you have clients complaining about poor sleep? Then they may be at risk for neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury and stroke. This is because brain detoxification and waste clearance through the recently discovered glymphatic system are triggered and sustained by adequate, quality sleep. The brain’s glymphatic system functions mainly during sleep and is largely disengaged during wakefulness.

So insufficient and poor sleep compromises this waste clearance and increases their risk of these diseases. Accumulation of neurotoxic waste and by-products of brain metabolism is detrimental to the brain and cognition.

By equipping yourself with the right strategies, you can help your clients overcome this challenge.


Once you have acquired the expertise to do so, you can help your clients reduce their exposure to heavy metals and exposure to other neurotoxins that increase brain disease risk, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


If making an impact on a large scale is something you have considered, you could run environmental initiatives that help with the production of exposure reports, safety policies, implementation of toxicity risk reduction tasks, developing toxicology surveys and research once you have acquired the knowledge to do so through the Detox Specialist certification.

You can also be involved with raising awareness and prompting the government to take responsibility and help change our exposure to harmful or persistent manmade chemicals.

Your Next Steps….

If you want to learn how to support your clients’ detoxification goals effectively, the Detox Specialist™ certification will walk you through every step. Explore this specialisation inside our free 360° Detox Academic Tour today.

👉 Take the tour of the Detox Specialist™ Certification here →

Want to know more about running personalised nutritional detoxification programs and how to expand your client practice?

Check out our CPD certified webinar on Nutritional Detoxification Strategies, in which Alex Ruani, UCL researcher and our Chief Science Educator, will help you understand the science behind human toxicology and nutritional detoxification PLUS share proven, actionable insights and strategies for you to instantly apply in your client sessions.

See Also

Continuing Education Bundle

Upcoming Webinar

[PDF] Should We Fear GMOs?

2024 Science Report

Free Contrast Method

© Copyright

Everything on this site is original content, created and owned by or through The Health Sciences Academy ® or licensed accordingly.
Training Nutritionists of the Future™
© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.
The Health Sciences Academy® is the world’s largest 100% science-based, nutrition-focused online educational institution.
✔ helping health and wellness professionals grow successful client practices
✔ raising industry standards since 2012 through personalised nutrition science
© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.





About Us

© 2022 The Health Sciences Academy ® All Rights Reserved.

Send this to a friend