This article is intended for educational and entertainment purposes, not to replace your relationship with your primary care physician. Always consult with your physician when starting a new health protocol.
According to detox expert Wendy Myers, the term ‘binders’ or ‘toxin binders’ was coined by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, who specializes in Lyme disease, heavy metal toxicity and other chronic illnesses and infections. Binders are substances that ‘bind’ to toxins to help move them out of the body. Some work by trapping the toxins, others also attract the toxin through a negative charge.
I was introduced to the idea of binders a few months after I found out I had been exposed to toxic mold. (As a quick frame of reference, I found out after not being able to recover my health despite other interventions, and our first point of discovery was from a mold inspector who sampled our home.)
The first binder I took was activated charcoal. I was using this at the recommendation of a naturopath as part of a protocol to treat mold toxicity and Epstein Barr virus. To be honest it was hard to tell if this binder was doing anything. But using it in combination with other things, such as sauna and complete mold avoidance, I did start to feel better.
A couple other binders I tried after the charcoal were clay or zeolite based. Again I didn’t notice any knock-out effect, and one I tried was about $60 for 1 ounce! But looking back on this experience (it was about 1.5 years ago), I was still new to understanding mold toxicity and how to treat it. I now better understand how binders work, and I definitely think they offer a use for both health maintenance (we are all exposed to many toxins on a daily basis) and in the recovery of chronic health issues.
I hope you benefit from this brief introduction to binders. As I researched this topic, I found there are a lot of nuances that need further exploration, but this will get us started!
There are a couple prescription binders established for off-label use by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker. Personally, I have not used either. When I proposed using Cholestyramine to my new naturopath, he said flatly that he didn’t think I could handle it. This was based on the fact that I reacted severely to some chelating agents he had used with me, and that in general, this is a strong agent that can cause various side effects.
According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, the granddaddy of mold research, Cholestyramine is the strongest binder we have available. He also uses a binder called Welchol, which is only 25% as strong, when patients cannot handle the Cholestyramine.
The Biotoxin Journey blog explains that Dr. Shoemaker tried and tested several natural binders on his clients and found that patients’ inflammatory blood markers and visual acuity tests did not improve. When I read this I was concerned that maybe natural binders don’t do much.
Dr. Shoemaker, to my knowledge, did not publish a formal study on this. It also sounds like he used these binders alone, without complementary therapies. As I mentioned earlier, I think they are more effectively used in combination with other therapies.
My stance on pharmaceuticals is to be open to them if natural options can’t do the job. I have used a few pharmaceuticals in the midst of this journey, but I have not used these two binders. If you have and would like to comment below, that would be great. There are many natural options for binders, and we’ll explore these next.
Activated Charcoal and Bamboo
Activated charcoal is literally charcoal from wood, peat or coconut shell that is ‘activated’ through heating it in the presence of a gas that creates more internal gaps within the charcoal. These gaps provide an environment to entrap toxins.
Activated charcoal can be used as a general toxin binder on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Remember that toxins can come from our external environment but are also by-products of internal imbalance, for examples in cases of leaky gut, food poisoning and parasitic or bacterial infections. I find charcoal especially helpful if I have gas!
It also can be used for the toxic by-product of drinking alcohol, otherwise known as a hangover. Take the night after drinking and again the morning too with plenty of water.
It can be used to mitigate a Jarisch–Herxheimer reaction, which is a side effect of using an antibiotic, antimicrobial, chelation or another detox agent. As we mobilize and destroy toxins, the organs of the body may become overwhelmed, and symptoms like a headache, fever or rash could occur. This is one of the most important uses of binders- to allay these symptoms and prevent the toxins from landing elsewhere in the body.
Activated charcoal is affordable and generally considered safe. Note that any binder can bind up medication and nutrients, so take 2 hours away from medication and supplements and 1 hour away from food. (At times I have taken a binder and then later taken a natural sleep aid, and the sleep aids still worked. So I don’t think binders binds things 100%. Just FYI in case you get into the same situations as me!)
Activated bamboo I just found out about while researching this article but I’m very intrigued! Supposedly the naturally porous structure of bamboo makes it 10 times more effective than activated charcoal.
Jennifer Robins, of the blog Predominantly Paleo, says Takesumi Supreme (a brand of activated bamboo) is her favorite binder and she can feel the difference after taking it.
According to the website Lyme Knowledge :
“Research from Japan claims (activated bamboo) emits far infrared rays (thus improving circulation) as well as negative ions, and it shields the body from EMFs (Electromagnetic Fields). It also is a natural source of minerals (macro and trace) and is reported to be alkalizing. Patients suffering from variegate porphyria should avoid the use of Takesumi Supreme.”
Activated bamboo is a little more expensive than activated charcoal but, if this information is correct, it may be worth it. Uses and instructions are similar to that of activated charcoal.
Your first thought might be, “why would I eat clay? Isn’t that something you’re not supposed to eat?” Similar to charcoal, the clay is going to just pass through you, giving you some beneficial nutrients and absorbing some harmful ones. I think of it as just getting some earth into us, something that happened more often when we lived closer to nature. Clays and other binders are used in veterinary medicine, and wild animals will eat earth when they have stomach upset.
Just to make things complicated, there are actually many types of clay. I’ll cover a few here:
This is volcanic ash from Fort Benton area of Wyoming. It binds electrically- once mixed with water it has a negative charge. It also gains a spongy texture when mixed with water that can be used to absorb toxins, heavy metals, antiviral, and antibacterial effects. It contains vitamins and minerals. You can you use a ¼ cup in a bath to draw out toxins too.
Precautions: Take away from food and supplements. Don’t use a metal spoon to scoop it or put in a metal container. Can cause constipation: take with 8 - 16 oz water as needed.
French Green Clay:
Also called illite, French green clay is a type of mineral composed of both decomposed plant material and trace minerals such as calcium, aluminum, magnesium, silica, phosphorous, copper, and zinc. It is prized as a facial mask, and a 2007 Arizona State University report found: “French green clay effective in inhibiting Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Mycobacterium marinum, bacterial pathogens that cause serious and sometimes drug-resistant skin infections.” (Source)
Oregon Blue Clay:
This variety of clay is from the Cascade mountain range. I found out about this clay from a colon hydrotherapist who recommends it to clients. We have been using it in our home for over a year. It is a k- rectorite clay, which is just indicating the mineral composition of the clay.
I use a brand called Healthy Clay by Mineceuticals and their website shares this: “ongoing research on MineCeuticals™, LLC is being conducted at Arizona State University in conjunction with other Universities research of the base clay’s incredible antibacterial properties and abilities. In several rounds of testing, harmful bacterial strains of pseudomonas, staphylococcus, (MRSA), extended spectrum beta lactamases (E.S.B.L), salmonella, buruli ulcer, and E. coli were added to the minerals used in MineCeuticals™, LLC and cultured for 24 hours. At the end of the 24 hour observation period the bacterial count for all measured zero!”
Since I am so familiar with this brand, we will likely sell it in the near future. Take two capsules once or twice a day on an empty stomach. Can be used as a binder while using a sauna or ionic foot bath.
I have never had an issue with constipation while taking a binder but it is possible, so take with plenty of water and start with a lower dose.
Chlorella is my new favorite binder. I had always thought of it more as a nutritive supplement, so, at first, I didn’t understand while people in our mold recovery group were so into taking chlorella. More than one person in this group says that they take chlorella if exposed to a new mold source.
Chlorella is a blue-green algae usually sourced in Hawaii or Japan. You’ll see it advertised as having a broken or pulverized cell wall for better absorption. It is a very popular supplement among the Japanese population. According to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, who I mentioned at the start of this article, chlorella pyrenoidosa is a better binder; Chlorella vulgaris is a better nutritional option. (Source)
In addition to this anecdotal evidence above on assisting with mold toxicity, chlorella is often used to mobilize and bind heavy metals, including radioactive metals present after a nuclear accident or radiation therapy.
It does have a nutritive component, providing B vitamins, iron, fatty acids and amino acids. It oxygenates the blood. Folks with toxicity often have thick, sludgy blood from lack of proper detoxification.
Chlorella quadruples itself every 24 hours- that’s some serious growth potential! Its high amount of nucleic acids (that form DNA and RNA) can provide much-needed fuel for our own cellular repair and generation, often hampered in conditions of chronic toxicity.
Chlorella can be taken with food, if you are doing a gut detox protocol. But if you are going after metals or other toxins, take away from food.
Precautions: check with your doctor if on blood thinners or if you have an iodine allergy. Taking too much chlorella too quickly could bring on those detox reactions I mentioned above. Start slowly, perhaps with 500 mg twice a day.
There are other binders that I didn’t get to today such as glucomannan, cilantro, zeolite, pectin and ionic foot baths. So I’ll have to have a part two. I am also testing out brands of binders to carry on upcoming detox online shop.
I will admit there is very little documented research on the efficacy of natural binders. But this could just be a lack of research funds put into it. I encourage you to do your own research and to keep up with our site as I write more blogs on the topic.
And I do encourage you to start using binders. Toxins are the biggest global challenge to our health. We need to combat them both with our shopping choices and in our bodies.
Share your research and experiences below!