At its core, the concept of detoxification is quite simple: whatever goes in, must come out, in order to maintain balance (homeostasis) in the body. For many people, this process happens without any conscious thought or intervention. For children with neurobehavioral or neurodevelopmental complications, this doesn’t always happen according to plan, and detoxification must be assisted.

I liken detoxification to the way a household air filter works. If the air filter is in proper working condition and the air pollution in the room is low, the filter has no trouble maintaining a healthy environment. However, if the air filter is placed in a large room with many airborne toxins, it may not be able to keep up with the demand and may not be very effective. Imagine now that the air filter is placed in a polluted environment AND is not in optimal working order. The combination of the two is overwhelming, and the air filter eventually may not have any impact at all in keeping a healthy home.

Our bodies are made of up several “air filters,” or organs of detoxification, including the respiratory system, the liver, the skin, the digestive system, and the immune system. Each of these plays an important role in reducing harmful chemicals or pathogens that can trigger inflammation in the brain, which is the primary cause of neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental symptoms.

That’s it! Honestly, “detox” is just the body’s process of packaging and excreting harmful substances, and it is often functioning suboptimally in our kids. This can be caused by genetic predisposition, insufficient nutrient status, infection, abnormal inflammation response, or excessive exposure to toxicants.

The basics of detox are simple:

  1. Diet
  2. Stooling
  3. Exercise
  4. Sleep


Focus on whole foods that are organic, and non-processed. Focus on a large amount of the following:

  • High antioxidant foods like berries, artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, dandelion greens, red cabbage, and dark chocolate
  • Culinary herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano
  • Cruciferous vegetables like kale, spinach, lettuce, etc.
  • High fiber foods like nuts and beans
  • Grass-fed organic meats, wild-caught (not factory farmed) fish
  • Filtered water: a general guideline is to consume half your body weight in ounces (ex: 150-lb adult should consume roughly 75 ounces of water per day)
  • Remove sugars, additives, preservatives
  • Avoid your specific food sensitivities

Not convinced? Give it five days. A 2006 study found that five days of “eating clean” reduced the mean urinary excretion of organophosphorus pesticides to nondetectable limits (Lu et al, 2006)!


I always recommend that my patients have at least one bowel movement per day, of sufficient quantity, but honestly, the ideal is to have a bowel movement after every meal! I know that this is much easier said than done with children in general, and with children with neurobehavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders in particular. It is possible to be constipated even if you are having a bowel movement daily. Look for these signs of constipation in children:

  • Hard, small, pellet/ball-like stools
  • Encopresis (soiling of underwear when past the age of toilet training)
  • Posturing on hard surfaces at abdominal area

If your child is presenting with aggression or self-injurious behavior, it is likely gut-related, and we need to rule out constipation and other causes of GI dysbiosis

My favorite tools for addressing constipation:

  • Increasing fiber in diet (i.e. flax, vegetables, fruits, etc.)
  • Increasing fluids – at least ½ body weight in oz daily
  • Probiotics
  • Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Oxide
  • Aloe – must be certified and organic aloe
  • Vitamin C

Other Tricks to Try:

Sucking on a lollipop or homemade ice pop: the sucking can help with peristaltic movements to get the bowels moving

Having your child sit on the toilet consistently every day at the same time for 10-15 minutes

Using a Squatty Potty

Qi Gong Massage

  • Rub abdomen in counterclockwise direction fast, 9x
  • Rub abdomen in clockwise direction slowly, 9x
  • Rub abdomen in counterclockwise direction fast, 9x
  • Pat down his legs (starting with his thighs and moving down his legs to his toes)
  • Put hand behind legs and gently squeeze and move from their calf down to the ankle

Also, talk to your healthcare team about adding antimicrobials if gut dysbiosis (i.e. yeast overgrowth, clostridia, parasites, etc.) is a possibility!


Exercise is the most underutilized treatment for chronic illness in individuals of all ages! Opinions on the best way to exercise vary between practitioners, but my simple rule of thumb is to move to the point of SWEATING. I recommend at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise a handful of times per week, but shorter sessions with more intensity that alternate exercise with rest are effective, too.

A few of my favorite exercises for children with sensory processing issues, neurobehavorial and neurodevelopmental disorders include:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Bouncing on a stability ball
  • A gentle game of “tag”

Exercise helps maintain excellent digestion and sleep cycles, with additional benefits of helping with motor skills, social skills, and health benefits (Toscano et al, 2018). We also see that regular exercise can decrease autistic traits such as stereotypy (Ferreira et al, 2018 and Petrus et al, 2008)!


Sleep is critical component of detoxification for the brain! During sleep, our bodies are able to clear byproducts of neural activity that accumulate during the day. This incredible process is facilitated by the glymphatic system in our brains, clearing away toxins and waste products. Our glymphatic system is about ten times more active during sleep than when we are awake, making sleep an essential brain detoxification method. While we sleep, our brains undergo physical changes that allow the glymphatic system to work faster and more efficiently. Brain cells shrink by 60%, increasing the spaces between them, so that toxins can be flushed away more effectively (Xie et al, 2013), which I think is brilliant!

Here are some tips for quality snoozing:

Establish a nighttime routine with a consistent bedtime

Discontinue the use of electronics at least one hour before bed

Block out blue light from all electrical devices

  • Utilize phone features such as the “night shift” setting and blue light blocking apps
  • Try blue light blocking glasses

Consider turning off WiFi in the house at night

Have your house evaluated for EMFs

Dim lights around 60 minutes before bed

Establish a completely dark room at bedtime

Cool the temperature in your child’s bedroom

Consider talking to your healthcare team about melatonin or various herbals that can help with sleep as well!