Detoxification and Immune Health Q & A

By Heidi Kussman, ND, FABNO

Every day we are surrounded by many different chemicals, from pesticides on the foods we eat to pollutants in the air we breathe. The good news is, there are methods to detoxify our bodies to ensure that we maintain optimum wellness. This can be especially helpful for anyone undergoing cancer treatment.

What are some of the comm on sources of toxins in our daily life, and what symptoms might a person experience from exposure to these chemicals?

We don’t live in a pristine environment: plastics leach chemicals into food; we breathe in toxins from pollution; even the quality of our drinking water has been said to be declining. Some of the more potent chemicals are found in things like plastics, paints, dyes, detergents, cleaning agents, gasoline, and more.

Signs of cellular toxicity include and contribute to nausea, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, and poor immune function.

What are some practical steps we can all take to help remove some of these toxins from our daily lives?

Even if we’re careful, we can’t avoid exposure. We can, however, identify known carcinogens in some household items and work to reduce our exposure to and intake of those carcinogens to maintain our health.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them— it reduces pesticides on the surface of the food.
  • Eating more organic foods, including meats, is helpful.
  • Buying locally grown produce can help because it isn’t shipped long distance and is less likely to have been treated with post-harvest pesticides.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
  • Use protective equipment like gloves, masks, or a respirator anytime you’re working with toxic substances.
  • Avoid using pesticides on your lawn or in your home when possible, and find a reputable horticultural and landscape professional who understands biodiversity and the beneficial use of lawn care strategies.
  • Drink and cook with purified water, rather than tap water. Because there are so many toxins around and in our everyday items, there is no way to eliminate them all from everything we do, but we can do things to reduce our intake significantly.

Beyond working to remove obvious toxins from our environments, are there specific detoxification nutrition protocols or other plans that someone might follow?

There is no specific detox protocol because this is something that should be tailored to the individual needs of the person doing the detox. I would not recommend doing an over-the-counter detox product. Get an assessment first by a qualified naturopathic doctor who is willing to work with you and your general physician. There is not one specific detox protocol for all patients as a detox is something that should be tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Naturopathic medicine as a profession is licensed in some states. Check with to find a qualified naturopathic doctor near you.

What is the benefit for cancer patients of a process like detoxification?

Many patients are already immunecompromised, so they may be more susceptible to outside influences, like the chemicals in foods, cleaning products, and other substances.

Working to support and modulate immune function during cancer treatment, and reestablish immune anti-cancer signaling pathways after cancer treatment, can help patients maintain the best health possible, so they are in a better position before, during, and after treatment.

Detoxification steps patients might specifically benefit from include restorative and detoxification protocols that patients complete with the close supervision of their medical team. The most important factor for patients, however, is that they are led through a process of getting the right support by a team of educated professionals who can help them adjust their behavior as necessary with professional supervision.



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