Detoxing with the Help of Toxin Binders

By: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®

Detoxing flushes toxins from the body. Unfortunately, some toxins resist and remain in the body. Over time, the levels of these toxins rise causing various health issues. To remove these toxins, you need toxin binders that attach to the toxins making them easier for your body to eliminate.

Toxin binders are similar to soap molecules, each of which has two ends — one end of a soap molecule attaches to a water molecule and the other attaches to an oil molecule. This is how soapy water removes dirt and grease from dishes, laundry, and even your body.

Toxin binders work the same way, attaching to toxins and bodily fluids, so the combination can flush the toxins out of the body. Think of toxin binders as tiny sponges that sop up poisonous debris.

Recognizing Sources of Toxins

Toxins enter our bodies from the food and beverages we consume, the air we breathe, certain substances we are exposed to, and organisms that live in our bodies and produce their own waste products. Common sources of toxins include:

  • Pesticides
  • Mold
  • Bacterial infections
  • Air and water pollution
  • Tobacco products
  • Household cleaning products
  • Laundry and dry-cleaning products
  • Furniture
  • Clothing

The body does a fairly good job of removing these toxins. Most are picked up by the blood, which is then filtered through the liver, where toxins are removed and then emptied into the gallbladder. The gallbladder mixes the toxins with the bile it produces and empties the mixture into the intestines. Bile plays a key role in the breakdown and absorption of fats.

Knowing When to Use Toxin Binders

Toxin binders can improve the effectiveness of any detox program but are especially helpful in the following scenarios:

  • Mold toxicity
  • Whenever mobilizing (stirring up) toxins; for example, during a liver cleanse or lymphatic cleanse
  • When cleansing the GI (gastrointestinal) tract

In my functional medicine practice, we consider the use of intestinal toxin binders in the following instances:

  • Mold toxicity: Symptoms of mold toxicity include pain, fatigue, brain fog, chronic unexplained health problems, chronic sinusitis or allergies, and of course history of exposure to mold. These are generally unrelenting symptoms that have not responded to conventional or holistic treatments.

If I suspect mold, I test for mycotoxins in the urine to confirm or rule out mold toxicity. If mold toxins are present, this is a good time to start binders along with a full mold toxin remediation protocol.

Mold toxins can congest the liver and restrict the flow of bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine. Part of a mold protocol would include flushing mold toxins from the gallbladder into the intestines for elimination. In this case I would want to mop up the mold toxin entering the intestines.

  • Infection: Infections, including infections in the digestive tract, can be part of the underlying cause of many chronic conditions. If I suspect intestinal infection, I run stool testing to confirm or rule out our suspicions.

If infection is detected, herbal or prescription antibiotics may be used to kill the infectious bacteria. During the ensuing die-off, the gram-negative bacteria release endotoxins referred to as lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Laboratory studies indicate that clay can be used to bind up LPS.

Clay and charcoal are used widely in holistic medicine to bind to and remove the bacterial toxins from the body.

  • Antibiotic treatment: Often antibiotics wipe out the good bacteria as well as the infectious bacteria, but studies show that using a binder during antibiotic treatment helps to maintain normal counts of healthy bacteria.

Getting the Bowels Moving First

Getting the bowel moving before conducting a detox is an important first step, because the body needs to be able to quickly eliminate the toxins that the toxic binders latch onto. Whether you’re preparing for a fast, cleanse, or detox, get the bowels moving first.

If a patient is experiencing bowel movement irregularity, I try to regulate the bowels with dietary changes first. Often, the binder helps to improve bowel regularity and also supports patients with diarrhea. When bowel regularity is restored, we then proceed with the detox or cleansing protocol.

Using Binders

Binders can be used for a variety of reasons. Activated charcoal is used in situations of acute poisoning, in which case, the use would be robust and short-term. When treating more chronic conditions, such as mold exposure, I typically use binders for treatments lasting from a few weeks to several months.

The binders I use most often are:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Pyrophyllite clay

A common myth about binders is that they deplete nutrients by removing them from the body, which can lead to malnutrition. The truth is that although binders may bind to some minerals, they do not remove significant amounts of nutrients from the body.

Another myth is that the charcoal used in a detox is like the charcoal used in a backyard barbeque. The truth is that activated charcoal used in detox is made from a variety of organic or carbon containing substances, and it is clean. It is commonly made from wood, peanuts, or coconut.

Do’s and Don’ts of Using Toxin Binders

If you think you need to cleanse or detox and are thinking toxic binders may be useful, here’s what I recommend:

  • Consult a doctor — preferably one with a Functional Medicine background and training — who can supervise your cleanse or detox and provide guidance on using one or more binders. Don’t try to fly solo.
  • Avoid taking binders with other supplements and medications.

Highlighting the Benefits of Toxin Binders

My patients who have used toxin binders have experienced the following benefits:

  • Improved bowel regularity and consistency
  • Decreased bloating
  • Lower levels of heavy metals on lab testing
  • Reduced mold toxins on lab testing
  • Increased energy
  • Improved condition of the skin

If you think that you may benefit from a cleanse or detox, I strongly recommend you consult a Functional Medicine practitioner for diagnosis, testing, and possible treatment. Cleanses and detoxes are not always beneficial and can actually be harmful if not conducted properly. For example, many people detox too quickly, stirring up high levels of toxins that exceed the body’s ability to eliminate them. If you’re going to cleanse or detox, do it under medical supervision.

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Florida. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP® from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), he has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa.

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