Medication Detoxification: Keeping Our Bodies Healthy While Taking Medication

Every day our bodies work tirelessly to cleanse our body from various toxins and poisons. This becomes even more difficult during the holidays when we tend to overindulge in foods and drinks. Toxins and poisons can reach our bloodstream through routes of administrations including oral, inhalation, or skin penetration, in addition to being released from decaying cells in our body or invading bacteria. The majority of toxins and poisons pass through either our liver or kidneys which act as waste-purification centers, as well as serving as the key mechanism for clearing out medications from our body.

Changes in Our Bodies

Medication toxicity can pose significant health risks and often goes unnoticed by both patients and healthcare practitioners. Symptoms of medication toxicity could include

  • dizziness,
  • blurred vision,
  • confusion,
  • memory loss,
  • fainting, and,
  • having an increased number of falls.

While toxicity can result from drug interactions and high doses, it can also occur simply because our bodies change the way we metabolize drugs over time. As we get older, especially starting in the fourth decade of our lives, we start accumulating fat and losing muscle mass while our kidneys and livers get worse at processing and clearing medications from our body. While older people are at a high risk for medication toxicity, younger people can still see those same symptoms.

The Major Medication Offenders

All medications including prescription, over-the-counter, herbals, vitamins, and other supplements pose a risk for drug toxicity, despite how safe we might think they are. Although some classes of medications such as anticoagulants, antidiabetic agents, and narrow therapeutic agents have a higher potential for harm versus other classes. These three classes account for nearly one-half of all emergency-room visits for adverse drug events in adults.

Anticoagulants are medications that act as blood thinners to keep our body at a lower risk for developing a blood clot (ex. warfarin, aspirin, clopidogrel, apixaban, rivaroxaban, etc.).

Antidiabetic agents are responsible for helping keep our blood sugars in check and to move sugars out of the bloodstream and into our tissues where they can be stored (ex. metformin, insulin, glipizide, canagliflozin, pioglitazone, etc.).

Narrow therapeutic agents include a variety of medications such as digoxin, phenytoin, lithium, theophylline, or valproic acid, all of which treat a variety of different disease states. Other commonly implicated classes of drugs that pose significant drug toxicity risks are antidepressants, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and pain killers.

Despite the long list of side effects that we commonly see from taking drugs, medications are important, can keep us healthy, and may improve our quality of life. However, what’s important to understand is that we need to keep our bodies as healthy as we can so that we minimize the risk of prolonged exposure to toxins and poisons.

Take Inventory

Everyone should start off with the simple but important task of keeping a careful record of all drugs that we are taking. This includes

  • prescription medications,
  • over-the-counter products,
  • vitamins,
  • herbals,
  • supplements,
  • homeopathic products,
  • eye/ear drops,
  • creams,
  • inhalers, etc.

Be prepared to bring this list with you to every doctor visit and keep your pharmacist aware of what you are taking. Many of us don’t realize that non-prescription drugs (ex. ibuprofen, acetaminophen, St. John’s Wort, loperamide, diphenhydramine, aspirin, cold medicines, etc.) can have serious interactions with prescription medications and can put us at increased risks for drug toxicity and side effects. It is also important to read the safety inserts that come with medications before taking it and to ask questions about the medications you take.  Pharmacies, like Coastal, offer medication therapy management which provides expert advice on what you’re taking and where interactions can occur.

Continual Detoxification Steps

Eliminate Hazards

It is equally important to try to eliminate hazards such as recreational drugs, consuming excessive quantities of alcohol, unsafe sex, and raw shellfish; all of which can potentially cause liver damaging hepatitis.

Keep Your Body Healthy

Water Intake

It is critical for us to keep our bodies in a healthy state by consuming at least 6-8 glasses of water daily, eating fresh fruits/vegetables, and whole grains.

Avoid Unhealthy Items

Avoiding tobacco, fried foods, animal fats, sugar, and caffeine are helpful in keeping our bodies functioning appropriately.


To stay healthy, exercising at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week plus strength training once a week will help convert fat to muscle mass. Excessive amounts of fat can severely impact how medications get absorbed and released from the body, in addition to damaging our kidneys and liver which are responsible for cleaning the body from waste and toxins.

Consume Probiotics

Lastly, probiotics can be helpful in regulating the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract which is important given toxins can be released from invading microbes. These can be found in both supplements and food sources (examples include yogurt, kefir, miso, and kombucha).

Short-Term Detox Diet

A general body detox diet has been shown to clear out toxins and waste, including helping medications get eliminated from your body if your energy level is especially low. Often these detox diets are done over the weekend where you start on a Friday night with a green salad. Saturday’s menu consists of lots of vitamin C and fruit juices which will help flush your body quickly. Typically every 90-120 minutes you would drink something so you don’t get deprived or too hungry. Eating brown rice, chopped vegetables, or miso soup are good options for meals due to the high fiber content. Relaxation techniques such as massage therapy, sauna, aromatherapy baths, walking, and deep breathing exercises can help with the cleanse as well.

Liver detoxification can be another avenue to explore given that our livers are often overworked with a combination of poor lifestyle and diet choices. Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin B, C, E, and betacarotene all have been shown to help cleanse the liver. Additionally minerals such as zinc and selenium as well as herbal supplements like milk thistle, silymarin, dandelion root, and schizandra may help protect our liver cells. One area of concern however is that there are no clear scientific studies to indicate a physiological benefit from using these vitamins and minerals. Another barrier is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate nutritional supplements meaning that there can be a great variety in purity, source, and strength of over-the-counter products.

It is always important to consult with a pharmacist or healthcare provider when thinking of taking or buying any products to ensure there are no drug interactions and that proper dosing instructions are followed.

In general, medication detoxification can be aided by re-hydrating your body, consuming proper nutrients, choosing appropriate food options, and adopting healthy lifestyles. Drinking adequate water during the day acts as a natural detox and can help flush the body of chemicals, toxins, and fats. Consuming nutrients and foods that are not processed or refined but instead are freshly prepared can go a long way.

Additionally, cutting down on sugars and bad fats while eating more fruits and vegetables can allow our body to stay at our finest. Some foods that are excellent for detoxification include chia seeds, cilantro, parsley, lemon, green leafy vegetables, berries, yogurt, fish, avocados, and almonds. Lifestyle changes can also play a critical role in increasing our energy and keeping our bodies running smoothly.

Trying to find ways to reduce our daily stress can help decrease the amount of stress hormones that are released such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which can have detrimental effects to overall health. Sleeping at least 8 hours each night can help reduce stress while giving us more energy during the day. Lastly exercise is another way to keep our body healthy, convert fat to muscle mass, and help alleviate stress.

In summary, most of us are taking some form of a medication, whether its prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, or vitamins. If taken correctly, medications can keep us healthy while improving our quality of life. It is extremely important to notify your local pharmacist and healthcare providers on every medication you are taking to ensure there isn’t any drug interactions or an increased risk for adverse events.

Making smart choices like choosing a healthy diet, keeping up with exercise, and avoiding smoking as well as excessive alcohol can keep our body running efficiently. Both our kidneys and liver are subject to damage from fat from the foods we consume but also from high-risk behavior such as unsafe sex, inappropriate medications, and drug interactions. Always remember: by making smart and healthy choices we can keep our body operating at a high level to get rid of the toxicity that medications can cause.


Barclay L. Liver Detoxification- Fact or Fad?. WebMD. 2005.—-fact-fad#1.

Fischer M. When Medicine Makes You Sick. AARP. 2009.

Gupta A. The Five Step Guide to Detoxifying Your Body from Drugs and Alcohol. Rehab Center. 2010.

Lerche-Davis J. Detox Diets: Cleansing the Body. WebMD. 2016.

About the Author

Michael Takach, Jr.

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

Mike graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Boston College and is currently in the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of New England College of Pharmacy. He expects to graduate in May of 2017. He has a strong passion for public health and is interested in pharmacies that advocate for medication therapy management, disease state management, interprofessional collaborative care, and improving patient health outcomes. Mike provides exemplary patient care at Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness as one of our pharmacy interns.


This site provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in the site and any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.

Where health claims of dietary supplements are referenced, the statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.