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There are many surprising telltale signs you need to detox. I first discovered them, and the incredible health benefits of detoxing, while healing from adrenal fatigue.

Even though my adrenal healing protocol was improving my energy, I knew there were some missing pieces to my fatigue puzzle.

My energy still felt ‘flat’, and I had niggling symptoms like brain fog, PMS and stubborn belly fat I’d been trying to solve for so long.

Then I started reading about detoxification and the signs you need to detox.

When I found that my symptoms were linked to what’s called a ‘toxic load’ or ‘toxic burden’ in the body, those missing pieces started to fall in to place.

(This is why I’ve devoted a series of articles on why detoxing is so important, what the main toxins are to be aware of, signs you need to detox, how you can safely detox, plus the myths and mistakes commonly made when detoxing. Read the previous articles here and here)

I realised that the stress I’d been under for so long (stress inhibits your body’s ability to detoxify), coupled with an unhealthy lifestyle of eating lots of sugar, refined carbohydrates and fried foods, drinking to excess, smoking and being exposed to many environmental toxicants had led to a high burden placed on my liver – the body’s primary detoxification organ.

What happens then is that your liver can’t neutralize and remove the toxicants fast enough, so they accumulate in your body, where they can cause inflammation and have far-reaching effects on the body.

I also discovered that the link between feeling constantly tired and toxic burden runs deep

Having a toxic load can make your fatigue worse, as these chemicals can damage mitochondria – the batteries in our cells responsible for 90% of our physical energy.

If your mitochondria aren’t working properly, you’ll experience chronic fatigue.

And if your mitochondria aren’t working properly in your liver, detoxification will be compromised, creating this feedforward cycle of fatigue and an increased toxic burden.

A toxic burden can also cause the stress hormone cortisol to be continually released, placing a further burden on those who have adrenal fatigue – and can even cause adrenal fatigue!

A toxic burden can also cause the stress hormone cortisol to be continually released, placing a further burden on those who have adrenal fatigue - and can even cause adrenal fatigue! Click To Tweet

And that a toxic load is a major cause of weight gain…

If you’ve been gaining weight when you haven’t increased your food intake, or you’re struggling to lose weight, this could be a sign you need to detox.

This is because our body stores the toxic chemicals that can’t be eliminated as far away from our vital organs as possible – in our fat cells.

In fact, chemicals in some plastics are classed as ‘obesogens’ as they’re known to cause you to put on weight in this way!

With more than 60% of Australian adults being overweight or obese, given our exposure to toxicants in our food, air, water, and environment, along with the epidemic of chronic stress, we have to consider toxic burden as part of the picture.

With more than 60% of Australian adults being overweight or obese, given our exposure to toxicants in our food, air, water, and environment, along with the epidemic of chronic stress, we have to consider toxic burden as part of the… Click To Tweet

Hence weight gain isn’t just a metabolic issue. It’s a toxicity one.

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s best to do a detox program first, which will make your weight loss efforts much more effective.

Also as your body loses fat, you’ll want to make sure those toxins are removed from the body rather than being recirculated and reabsorbed (particularly in your brain, where many of these toxins are damaging) as this can damage tissues and organs.


So, what are the signs you need to detox?

There are many symptoms of a toxic load, with these being the main ones:

  • Chronic fatigue/feeling constantly tired
  • Weight gain – especially being 9kg or more overweight
  • Feeling stressed
  • Depression or low mood
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive problems: brain fog, poor memory
  • Neurological issues: balance problems, tremors
  • Skin problems like psoriasis, acne, and eczema
  • An increase in or trigger of asthma or hayfever
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Food allergies – especially an increase in foods you’re sensitive to
  • Lacking vibrancy and health for your age
  • PMS, infertility, fibrocystic breast disease, uterine fibroids
  • Sore, achy, weak muscles and/or joint pain
  • Numbness, tingling and nerve pain in the face or head (neuralgia)
  • Chemical sensitivities (especially finding you can’t tolerate certain smells or drugs so well anymore)
  • Anaemia
  • Bad breath, bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, smelly stools
  • Intolerance to fatty foods
  • Tender swollen liver
  • Gallbladder problems (including gallstones)
  • Getting several colds or flus each year

If you consume alcohol regularly, have a history of using steroid drugs including taking natural or synthetic oestrogens or oral contraceptive pills, have had high exposure to cleaning solvents, pesticides, antibiotics, diuretics, NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen), thyroid hormone or a history of viral hepatitis, you’ll also have an increased need to detox and minimise your toxic burden.

This is because these factors either place a large burden on your liver’s ability to detoxify or reduce your liver’s detox ability, therefore increasing your toxic load.

When it comes to diseases, having a toxic burden can worsen the expression of the symptoms of the following conditions, so lowering your toxic load may help alleviate symptoms:

  • Allergy and asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Chemical sensitivity (any adverse physical, mental, or emotional reaction to the presence of a chemical smell)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fertility problems and birth defects
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Bone marrow cancers – lymphomas, leukemia, multiple myeloma
  • Auto-immune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc.


How I lowered my toxic burden

I became so interested in detoxification that I undertook specialist training, which involved going through a detox program to experience the benefits and understand the ins and outs of detoxing.

Part of the process involved tracking my symptoms by doing a toxic burden questionnaire before and after the program.

When I completed the questionnaire before the program, my toxic load score was 82.

A benchmark of good health is a score of under 30 (ideally your score should be under 10), so my score showed that I needed to reduce my toxic load which really wasn’t a surprise given how I’d been living!

After going through the program, my score dropped to 26 – a 56 point reduction!

So many niggling little health issues or symptoms I had disappeared.

Not only did I get more energy. I dropped 3kg in weight, my skin was clearer, and I was able to think quicker and more clearly.

My mood also increased and my PMS symptoms reduced too.

Discover your toxic load score here

If you’re curious to know your body’s toxic load, I’ve created a questionnaire for you that covers all the signs you need to detox.

Simply download, complete the questionnaire then add up your symptom score to find out if you need to detox.

Once you’ve completed the questionnaire, if you’re game, come back here and share your score in the comments (it’s only fair since I shared my score with you!).

In the next article in this series, I share simple strategies to help you detox daily so you can start reducing your score and seeing improvements in your energy, weight and well-being.

To your health!

Melissa x



Pizzorno, J, Murray, M (2006) 3rd Edn. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. USA

Liska et al (2004). Clinical nutrition. A functional approach. Gig Harbour: The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Jones, D et al (2010). Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbour: The Institute for Functional Medicine.



Melissa is a naturopathic nutritionist and health coach who helps people who are feeling tired all the time get their energy and life back. She consults with people worldwide via webcam (AKA telehealth) from Melbourne, Australia.

Book a free mini consult with Melissa here.


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