Demystifying

Detoxification

Have you ever been tempted to try a detox?

Detoxification is possibly the most misunderstood nutritional concept for so many reasons. Many people assume that detoxification is a quick and manageable way to right the wrongs of bingeing. We head to the internet and turn to juice fasts, water diets, or apple cider cleanses that end up doing nothing at best or making you feel awful more often that not. In fact cleanse programs by and large are the most prolific health fad of the past decade. The first thing to go is often red meat, based on the assumption that protein is the reason for your toxicity in the first place. Meat couldn’t be further removed from a juice cleanse. Right? 

So while there is a camp that claim you do not need to perform a structured detoxification as there are organs well equipped to perform this task, is not quite correct either. There are broadly two types of toxin classifications.  Endotoxins, which are made inside the body, such as waste products and oxidisation. And exotoxins which come from the environment and the foods we consume. 

The detoxification system is remarkably clever and utilises multiple systems to perform the task of removing waste and harmful compounds from the body. To do this it applies very specific enzymatic processes and phases. If any ingredient is missing, the full effect is impaired. 

The gut, skin, liver and kidneys all have a role to play in this system - none can be left out.

In the first phase, the liver filters waste products out of the blood through binding an enzyme to the toxin. During the second phase, the liver attaches an amino acid to the toxin, making it water soluble so that it can be eliminated from the body. Amino acids come from protein and eliminating protein in order to detox is counter intuitive and deprives the process from working correctly as amino acids can only be derived from protein.

 

Fasting, juices and water do not supply the amino acids needed to neutralise the oxidised toxins produced during phase one. Instead, they recirculate back into the blood triggering the detox hangover that so many people experience. 

Added to which, many people have a genetic mutation that inhibits methylation. Your body makes its own glutathione from amino acids and then recycles it via methylation using methyl donors like vitamin B12 and folate. Under normal conditions, your body makes and recycles enough glutathione to handle all the toxins that you're exposed to. However, if you have this common genetic mutation your ability to carry out this process will be compromised. 

Our fat cells are a major storage site for toxins, especially estrogenic toxicity. When the body does not have the necessary equipment to safely neutralise toxins, fat burning is therefore shut off as a precaution. 

The next common oversight is repeated toxin exposure. This can be a tricky one as we are exposed to toxicity everywhere and on a scale never before seen in human history, which is why our natural detoxification pathways are overloaded.  A lot of people embark on a detox without reducing their exposure to toxins. But there are numerous steps that we can take to reduce our exposure to toxicity. 

 

Food Choices

  • Try and eat organically grown fruit and vegetables. Meat, dairy and eggs from grass fed, free range or organic farms. While it may not be possible to get this right 100% of the time. Minimising your exposure by as much as 20% will help enormously. You could try growing your own potatoes or herbs as a start. Whatever is sustainable and simple tends to last longer. 

  • Filter Tap water and avoid drinking out of plastic containers. 

  • Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers.

  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol puts a lot of strain on the kidneys and liver. In fact alcohol slowed down all metabolic function.

 

Choose natural cleaning and personal care products. Body washes, shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants, makeup and body creams contain parabens, phthalates, and other toxic compounds that add to the toxic load your system must deal with. Nowadays there is a great choice of natural, chemical free options that are extremely cost effective. Chemical exposure is such massive health  issue that the European Union has imposed legislation, preventing manufacturers from selling personal care products contenting these chemicals. But for now they are still widely available. 

 

 

Medication

Where possible, reduce your consumption of anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, pain medication, antacids, birth control, and blood pressure medication. These all have to be filtered by the liver and kidneys.

The Gut Connection

The most obvious detoxification pathway is the gut. Possibly the largest absorption and elimination organ - and what we don’t excrete literally re-circulates. Lack of fibre in the gut impairs elimination and enables the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Too little hydrochloric acid hinders the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, including amino acids leading to leaky gut which trigger intolerance to these foods and creating immune-confusion. If you aren’t having a bowel movement twice daily, chances are toxins aren’t being eliminated.

All said and done, most of us really do need to carry out a correctly administered detoxification program at least every six months. Especially if you have an autoimmune condition, gut problems, fatigue or hormonal imbalance. The best way to do this safely is with an experienced functional medicine practitioner or nutritional therapist who has been trained to do so. And fully comprehends your health history and any existing health issues. 

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