Monday, January 14, 2013

Detoxing, Pregnancy and Lactation Oh My!

Submitted By: Jen Pagano © 2012

Using supplements to detox is a hot topic online, but despite all the hype, you don't find much for pregnant and lactating women. What benefits and risks are there? What can a mother safely do? Should she try to detox at all?

First of all, the body is always detoxing. Dumping waste and toxic substances from the body is part of normal biological function. We identify, breakdown and excrete things through our sweat, urine and stool using our excretion system. This is normal. We breathe in and consume and rub on our skin thousands of substances, good and bad, and the body sorts through them.

In our current society, the average person's toxic load can often be higher than the body’s ability to handle it. The body will then store these excess toxins, either in organs or fatty tissue. In some situations, the toxins remain in the bloodstream, entering fragile areas such as the brain. This leads to symptoms that then lead people to consider detoxing.

But having an overload of toxins is not only through over exposure. We cripple the normal cleansing process by removing the tools and supports the body needs with our lack of fermented foods, lack of dietary supports and lack of adequate sleep. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and prolonged stress add to the burden.

The detox protocols often mentioned online are targeted at removing the excess toxins in the body with  dedicated periods of time to push the body a little farther than normal in its process of cleansing. Typical discussions of detox involve triggering the body to move toxic substances out of storage and into the bloodstream, and providing supports so they can be removed. This process usually comes with discomfort (symptoms of detox) but leads to overall improved health.

What happens when one is pregnant or nursing though? Forcing the body to detox more than normal during pregnancy and lactation comes with additional concerns because the mobilized toxins can then move through the bloodstream, passing through the placenta and being distributed to the baby. Or they can deposit in the mother's milk, where they will then be ingested by the baby.

With the somewhat uncontrollable process of forced detoxing, mothers have no way of dictating how much their bodies will mobilize or how it will all be excreted, putting the preborn or born child at risk. For that reason, these are not times to push the body to detox unless medically necessary.

But, it's arguably healthy for you and your baby to offer your body gentle, reasonable support during pregnancy and lactation. This support is focused on keeping your excretion organs working well, so that you don't build up toxins or dump them into the placenta or milk. Supporting the normal detoxification process can also help to protect the baby from whatever toxins the mother is dealing with so that both mother and baby have better health than without these supports.

Here are some suggestions:

  • A tea called Chiro-Klenz appears to be very gentle. I would not recommend taking it while pregnant, but it has been helpful for many moms I know in alleviating morning sickness when taken prior to conception. It is pleasant tasting and appears to be safe while nursing. It does have herbs that one should be cautious with, however, the dosage seems to be low enough to be gentle. 

  • The GAPS diet is safe while nursing or pregnant, however, I would back into it slowly and NOT do the Intro Diet while pregnant or nursing a very small one. Very dramatic diet changes can trigger harsh detoxes. I'm planning to do the intro when my nursling is one, but go backwards through the stages to reduce any shock to my system. GAPS is an entire protocol and can seem really overwhelming, but just incorporating some of the principles will make a huge difference. I'm doing “GAPS lite” right now. (My older DD is on full GAPS.) The biggest challenge is that some people fall into a trap of eating low carb, which is not ideal while pregnant and nursing for most women. There are plenty of high carb foods legal on the GAPS diet, so take advantage! 

  • Detox baths (which are an essential component of the GAPS diet) help to flush out toxins very gently. They are an excellent support to other detox measures. Toxins are pulled through the skin into the bathwater, and the body soaks up minerals and other benefits in exchange! Just put a half-cup to a cup of epsom salt, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, clay, etc. in a warm (not hot) bath. Sit it in for at least a half hour. Or just whatever time you have. Foot baths are wonderful, too. 

  • Try a digestive aid - Apple cider vinegar (just a little diluted with water will do the trick), lemon water, or another acid before eating to help kick start digestion and improve absorption of the food you eat. Shoot for 15 minutes prior to eating, or just sip throughout the meal. 

  • Liver support during detoxing is critical. Liverlife (bioray) is a great supplement, though expensive, but just getting enough fluids, and taking some Milk Thistle or Nettle for support can be key. 

  • Bentonite Clay or Charcoal can help absorb toxins or ease symptoms of detox. Take orally between meals and away from supplements. (charcoal especially will absorb everything.) Chlorella is much smarter about what it absorbs. These are very helpful for nausea especially. 

  • Juicing is another method of cleansing. You need to watch which veggies you use, as you don't want it too high in sugar, or too high in raw oxalate veggies(brassica, dark greens). Juicing can provide concentrated minerals and nutrients to the body without the slow-down of fiber, and adding a generous amount of fat can help the body properly utilize these and reduce the glycemic load. Juicing can stimulate tremendous detox in some people (especially certain herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, etc.) so it should be done with caution.

And if you just skimmed this entire article - here is the most important thing: Go slowly and gently - watch your body, watch your nursling. If it seems like you are feeling really awful, back off and eat some rice. Nurturing a little one is a huge toll on the body by itself, so provide your body with whatever support you can, and enjoy this time!

Disclaimer: the author's post does not replace or constitute medical advice. Seek the assistance of an informed care provider when trying out new methods or treatments, especially during pregnancy and lactation. 

Jen is a dedicated mama to two girls who shares her knowledge and experience about gut health and dietary changes on her blog:


  1. Something I just learned about too is that oil pulling is safe for pregnancy! That is a fantastic way to pull toxins and heal the mouth. The only trick is finding the time to not talk for a little while :)

  2. Thank you so much for this! I had just begun serious working towards detoxing (I already had to go slow, working as a nurse doesn't go hand in hand with severe detoxing. They frown on too much time spent in the bathroom during shift!) when I found out... little one #8 is on his or her way! I am so glad to see that I can continue this very much needed process. (As a neotnatal nurse, I already knew not to go whole-hog!)