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How To Test Your Body For Toxins: A Comprehensive Guide

Medically reviewed by 
How To Test Your Body For Toxins: A Comprehensive Guide

While “detox” is often a word linked to fad diets or juice cleanses, the reality of environmental toxicants in our modern world can’t be denied. Chemicals in our water supply, household goods, and the environment in which we live should all be considered when evaluating our exposure to toxic substances.  

Functional medicine testing can help bring to light both the body’s detoxification capacity and levels of toxins such as heavy metals, environmental pollutants, or mycotoxins from mold exposure, and can help personalize a game plan to support lowering an individual's toxin burden and relieving their symptoms.  


Signs and Symptoms of Toxicity

A high toxic burden can present in different ways. Some common signs and symptoms include

  • Brain fog
  • Low energy
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating and other digestion complaints
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Skin conditions
  • Living or working around known environmental pollutants. 

Long-term exposure to heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, or cadmium can impact kidney and liver function and may affect the nervous system and brain function. The presence of environmental toxins like plastics and other chemicals has been linked to adverse health outcomes, disruption of the endocrine system, impaired immune health, and more. Mycotoxin exposure that can occur in water-damaged buildings and homes can lead to chronic illness, headaches, gastrointestinal complaints, and other frustrating symptoms.  

It’s important to test for the presence of various toxins in order to personalize an approach to help bring an individual back into balance, safely eliminating these toxins and promoting optimal health. Functional medicine lab testing provides a means to identify each person’s toxic burden and their unique ability to detoxify and remove these compounds from the body.

Understanding Different Types of Toxin Tests

While “detoxes” are often marketed as quick weight-loss tools and “cleansing agents,” using functional medicine lab testing can help determine if detoxification support is actually needed and if an individual's detox pathways are working optimally.  

There are several different avenues to be considered when looking at functional lab testing for toxic load and detoxification ability. Blood, urine, and hair analysis can all provide different insights into various aspects of toxicity. Comprehensive stool testing may also be beneficial to assess an individual’s ability to properly eliminate toxins.

Urine Testing

Urine testing can evaluate for the presence of environmental toxicants, heavy metals, and even mycotoxins that may all be contributing to symptoms of a high toxic burden. Urine tests are simple to complete and can be used to assess for the presence of various toxins and to evaluate the efficacy of any detoxification protocol. 

Comprehensive tests like the Total Tox-Burden panel look at heavy metals, environmental toxins, and mycotoxins, making it possible to examine three major toxin groups with one simple at-home test.  

Hair Analysis

Hair analysis is a simple way to assess the presence of heavy metals, as well as mineral status, in a non-invasive manner. Unlike blood or urine samples, hair analysis also reflects long-term exposure to toxicants like heavy metals.

Blood Testing

Different blood markers are helpful when testing for toxins and detoxification ability. Liver enzymes such as ALT, AST, and GGT can be elevated or in the high-normal range with a higher toxic burden. To assess kidney function, micronutrient levels (which are important for phase I and II liver detoxification) and inflammatory markers like hs-CRP are also important blood biomarkers to look at.  

Taking Action Based On Test Results 

Based on test results, a functional medicine practitioner can help you to better support your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and remove any problematic exposures you’ve had.  A combination of nutritional interventions, targeted supplements, and lifestyle support may be used for each individual case.  

Making Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Toxin Exposure 

First, identifying and minimizing exposure to toxins should be addressed. When possible, using water filters, avoiding the use of plastics in cooking and water bottles, using air filters in the home, and eating organic, whole foods with adequate fiber intake are good starting points to minimize toxin exposure. If mycotoxins are present, mold testing of the home or work environment can be important to reduce repeated exposures in the future.  

Regular exercise is also important, as exercise promotes lymphatic flow and bowel elimination, both of which are important for everyday detoxification pathways. Dynamic movement has been linked to the excretion of heavy metals that are encountered in daily life for many. Staying hydrated with filtered water, ideally not from plastic water bottles, is also important for proper detoxification and elimination.  

Exploring Detoxification Methods Under Medical Guidance 

Supporting detoxification is no joke, and medical supervision is advised so that you don’t feel worse or experience negative side effects as you work to remove toxins from your body.  Over-the-counter “detox” programs aren’t personalized for each unique case and may not even remove toxins that are stored in various body tissues, as detox programs are often aimed at cleansing the bowels and affecting the makeup of the gut microbiome. It’s possible that doing an unsupervised detox program could result in worsening of your symptoms or unwanted side effects like bloating, rashes, or fatigue. 

Helpful supplements may include antioxidants such as glutathione and N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), any micronutrients that were found to be depleted with lab testing, vitamin C, and milk thistle or other liver-supporting herbs. Other supplements and binders may be necessary depending on an individual’s particular case.  

When to Retest Labs

It can take several months for the body to reset after working to remove toxins, and for severe cases, retesting every 3-4 months can be helpful to assess progress.



A detox plan should be considered as part of an overall lifestyle change once the major offenders that are contributing to your symptoms are removed. While supporting the body’s ability to detoxify is important, making changes to address exposure to toxins is key to a long, healthy life.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More

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Your Body Needs More Fiber: How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet. (2022, June 30). Fullscript.

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