What are Toxins and
Where Do They Come From?

A toxin is defined as any substance that causes harmful effects to our body. Normally, the immune system, liver and kidneys work together to remove toxins at the same rate as they are encountered.  However, when the level of these toxins exceeds our body’s capacity to remove them, they start to build up and store themselves in our cells until they are removed.

We can have toxins stored in our bodies for years without experiencing any negative symptoms, but once the burden of toxins crosses over a critical threshold,  we begin to fall ill.

We tend to think about toxins coming from environmental sources such as exhaust fumes, solvents and inhalants, but it also important to consider the other numerous, less apparent toxin-producing sources we are exposed to on a daily basis. These include toxins from our lifestyles, toxins created within our bodies (internal toxins) due to chemical or metabolic processes,  and toxins created from our states of mental and emotional stress.

The Role of the Liver in Detoxification

How the Liver Works

How the Liver Works

The liver is the main organ of detoxification in your body. Every other system in our body is compromised if our liver is not functioning properly. The reason for this is that most of the toxins we are exposed to are fat soluble, which means that they are attracted to the fatty portion of cells throughout our body, instead of directly being excreted in water-based urine.  This attraction then allows them to be easily transported into cells where they settle and exert their toxic effects. These toxins can stay in our systems permanently, and can begin to negatively affect various organs – including liver, colon, kidney, heart, brain, lungs, skin and endocrine system (hormones).

A good detoxification program should assist the liver in changing harmful fat-soluble toxins into a water-soluble form so they can be easily eliminated from the system through the kidneys or colon.  In addition, it should:

  •  Reduce incoming toxins into the body.
  •  Boost the liver’s ability to eliminate the incoming toxins, which will allow toxins that are stored in the tissues to be removed


Generally speaking, our liver eliminates toxins through a two-step enzymatic process, also known as Phase I and II detoxification (biotransformation) pathways. Specific reactions occur in these two pathways that help breakdown these toxins into harmless substances:

  • PHASE I:  A series of enzymes, called cytochrome P450, chemically changes harmful fat-soluble toxins into a more toxic substance called an “intermediary metabolite.” Since the intermediary metabolite is often more toxic than the original fat-soluble toxin, it has to go through Phase II to become less toxic
  • PHASE II:  Attachment (or conjugation) of specific molecules onto the intermediary metabolite occurs. This process makes intermediary metabolites non-toxic and water soluble so they can be eliminated through the urine or stool.

Why Should You Detoxify?

To Feel Better

When the detoxification and elimination systems of the body are not working at their optimal level, they are unable to handle the load of incoming toxins, and cause various symptoms to begin to show up as  toxic levels build up in your cells, tissues and organs.

Even after day-to-day external exposures are removed, toxins remain in our body until they are cleared out. An example of this is if we live near a factory and then decide later on to move to a less polluted town without any factories. Although we have stopped getting the external exposure of factory pollutants, the toxins we were exposed to from the previous factory we lived next to will still be in our body. With a good detoxification program, however, you will begin see a gradual improvement in your symptoms as the stored toxins are released and eliminated through newly efficient detoxification pathways.

To Unmask GI and Other Health Problems

Dr. Allen always seeks to go beneath the symptoms and find the underlying cause(s) for a patient’s illness. He believes that identifying the root cause of disease is particularly important, as in many cases a build-up of toxins in a patient’s system can mask or cover up what’s really going on. The accumulation of toxins can cause your present illness to either intensify, or it can manifest into other signs and symptoms related to ill health (depending on where most of the toxins accumulated in your body).

After completing a detoxification program, most of the toxins trapped in your body should be released, reducing the symptoms associated with toxin accumulation, giving Dr. Allen a better indication of your true health status.

To Maintain Good Health

If you have been feeling progressively sluggish, tired, achy and run down, a good detoxification program may be indicated.  Even if you’re feeling great, it might be prudent to consider a detox program once a year, or so.  If you are currently a patient of Dr. Allen’s, please feel free to discuss the potential benefits of such a program with him at your next appointment.

If you are not currently a patient, but feel that this approach to overall wellness might be helpful for you, please do not hesitate to contact our office for an appointment with Dr. Allen.  After a thorough evaluation of your current health status, he will tailor an individualized detox program to suit your unique needs.


Dr. Allen gives free lectures at the Library three to four times each year, on topics of interest from the cutting edge of integrative medicine.  If you would like to be added to our mailing list for these lectures and his other speaking engagements, please email da@davidallenmd.com.