~ The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Third Edition, M.T. Murray & J. Pizzorno, ND (2012)
Have you heard about body detoxification, but are not sure whether you need to do it, or how to begin? Below are some basics to start you on your way.
Toxins & The Health Conditions They Cause
Largely due to the heavily polluted state of our environment, and the numerous eco-unfriendly consumer products used and foods ingested regularly, thousands of damaging toxins bombard the body daily. These include: (1) heavy metals (aluminum in antacids and cookware, lead in conventional cosmetics, nickel in partially hydrogenated fats, arsenic, and mercury); (2) persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (stored in fatty animal tissue and resistant to natural degradation; include pesticides, formaldehyde, and industrial chemicals like PCBs); (3) tobacco smoke by-products; (4) phthalates (make plastics more flexible; sometimes used as solvents); and (5) microbial toxins that bacteria and yeast produce in the gut.
Some indications that your body is on toxic overload and needs an internal cleansing include: (1) extreme fatigue and insomnia; (2) headaches, brain fog, and/or concentration difficulties; (3) chronic depression; (4) female issues (PMS, PCOS, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids); (5) unexplained muscle pains/soreness; (6) neurological problems (including MS); (7) poor digestion, bad breath and/or smelly stools; (8) weight gain and/or obesity; (9) skin conditions and dark circles/bags under the eyes; (10) diabetes; (11) high cholesterol; (12) high blood pressure; (13) allergies and chemical sensitivities; (14) compromised immunity; and (15) asthma.
How Detoxification Works
The body’s systems/(primary organs) involved in removing toxins, which function poorly when overloaded, are the digestive system /(liver, intestines), urinary system /(kidneys, urinary bladder), pulmonary system/ (lungs), integumentary system/ (skin); and lymphatic system (lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, spleen). These detoxify the body either by neutralizing or excreting toxins.
The liver (with the kidneys and intestines) is one of the main excretory organs that ensures ongoing removal of waste and toxins present from skin absorption, inhaled air, and ingested food and water. It removes toxins by (1) filtering blood (almost two quarts every minute!), (2) producing and secreting bile, which carries toxins to the intestines for excretion in fiber, and (3) neutralizing harmful chemicals (including medications, hormones, and histamines) through a two-phase enzymatic process.
Some Detoxification Programs & Lifestyle Changes
Some effective, supportive detoxification approaches include a: (1) 3-day fresh, organic, vegetable juice/ broth fast – a quick way to promote toxin removal, but which can cause detox reactions, including headaches, fainting, weakness, and dehydration; (2) comprehensive elimination diet – remove the most common allergenic foods and beverages from the diet (soy, gluten, dairy, corn, nuts, eggs, fish) and replace them with non-allergenic choices for four weeks; gradually add back the eliminated foods and observe their effects; (3) daily intermittent fasting (one easy way is to water/herbal tea fast 16 hours, and eat only during 8 hours of the day); (4) follow a daily core food plan that follows the exclusions listed below and includes organic (whenever possible) vegetables (especially cruciferous and greens), healthy fats (olive, avocado, coconut, flax), certain nuts and seeds, cooked legumes, berries, wild caught fish, and pasture raised chicken, turkey, and eggs.
These additional guidelines for following a detox program can also be particularly helpful: (1) plan to detox during a period when ample rest and restroom access will be assured; (2) prepare for a fast by having only fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for the last meal the day before it begins or, if possible, only raw foods a full day beforehand; (3) drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of alkaline spring or filtered water daily (up to half your weight in ounces), and avoid any other drinks except green and herbal teas; (4) avoid all processed foods, meat, and shellfish, alcohol and non-medicinal drugs, sugar, added salt, tobacco, and caffeine; (5) support the body with a high-potency multiple vitamin/mineral, a lipotropic formula, high-dose vitamin C, fiber, and milk thistle (see below); (6) use a sisal brush twice daily to stimulate the lymphatic system; (7) avoid heavy exercise, but practice yoga or other deep-breathing discipline (tai chi or qigong); (8) spend time breathing deeply in nature; and (8) break your fast by slowly introducing solid foods in limited portions. If you are ill, over age sixty-five, or more than forty pounds overweight, undertake a detoxification program only upon the advice of a holistic practitioner.
Some Important Detoxifying Dietary Supplements
The nutrients below can greatly increase the body’s capacity to detoxify and function effectively.
Amino Acids – Aging decreases the sulfur-containing, detoxifying amino acids L-cysteine and Lmethionine. Their levels greatly dictate how much the body produces free radical-fighting cellular glutathione, dubbed the “master antioxidant.” Research has established that N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) supplementation reduces heavy metal and drug toxicity and greatly extends life span. Whey protein (grass fed, organic, micro-filtered isolate) is an ideal dietary source of these amino acids.
SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine) – Critical to the methylation pathway in Phase II detoxification of the liver (Methylation Pathway), the body makes this compound from methionine and the B-complex nutrients vitamin B12 , folic acid, and choline. SAM-e deficiency is associated with impaired detoxification and can exacerbate liver injury. Supplementation with SAMe has proven supportive in several liver diseases.
Burdock – In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this herb’s root, high in antioxidants and anti-diabetic compounds, is known to detoxify the blood (particularly of heavy metals/cadmium) and promote its circulation in order to improve eczema and the overall quality and texture of skin. Its seeds inhibit inflammation and potentially the growth of cancerous tumors. Studies have also shown that burdock leaf extract can promote oral health by combating the growth of oral micro-organisms. Side effects can include allergic/inflammatory responses, including contact dermatitis.
Choline – All plant and animal cells need choline to preserve their structural integrity. As a lipotropic factor, it is essential to fat metabolism, and promotes general proper liver function and export of fat from the liver. Since the body cannot produce enough, diets low in choline (high in eggs), and the resulting choline deficiency, can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other types of liver damage, including liver cell cancer.
Dandelion Root – Various holistic practitioners recommend this herb for liver, gallbladder, and bile duct conditions. It is used as a diuretic, blood “tonic,” and to address minor digestive problems. Those allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies should avoid using dandelion.
Green Tea – Michael Crinnion, ND, states in his book Clean, Green & Lean that green tea is one of the most powerful liver-supporting foods in that it: (1) helps the body release fat from storage; (2) promotes the liver’s ability to clear toxins from the blood; and (3) helps fat-soluble toxins leave the body with the stool. According to Crinnion, “no other natural compound has such profound power over these toxins that are so reluctant to leave our bodies.”
Many studies have associated EGCG, the main polyphenolic constituent of green tea, with inhibition of cancers and metastasis. In one 2007 study of 42 people, researchers determined that EGCG boosted the enzymes viewed as able to convert known carcinogens to non-toxic chemicals, preventing them from damaging cellular DNA.
Milk Thistle/Silymarin – As milk thistles’ main flavonoid antioxidant, silymarin conserves glutathione in the body and lowers the oxidative stress in the liver resulting from toxin metabolism. In a 2016 animal study, silymarin improved diet-induced fatty liver by reducing inflammation. For over two decades, Michael Dworkin, PD, CCN, the founder of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe, regularly prescribed this herb in his clinical practice for various liver conditions. Studies have proven its effectiveness against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis C, and liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Minerals: Magnesium & Selenium – The Methylation Pathway has been receiving greater attention from medical communities due to its recognized importance in reducing disease risk. Magnesium [high in seeds, beans (soy), nuts (almonds/Brazil), whole grains (amaranth)] supports methylation, ensures proper energy production of liver cells, and increases production of glutathione. Selenium (ideally bound to L-methionine) is required for glutathione production and detoxifies mercury and other heavy metals.
A detoxification program, combined with dietary supplements, can greatly promote optimal wellness. Ideally, a practitioner should be consulted before using these methods to address any acute or chronic health condition.
The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, are for educational purposes only, and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice.
Submitted by Erika Dworkin, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®, Owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178), 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT, www.cthealthshop.com, nutrition specialists trusted since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups.
All statements in this article are practice or scientific evidence-based and references are available upon request.