By Dr. Natasha Turner ND
Over 80,000 industrial chemicals have been developed in the past 75 years, including heavy metals, solvents, phthalates, polychlorinated bisphenols and organophosphates. I find this number mind- blowing! Surely the knowledge of this statistic makes gentle support of our kidneys, liver and digestive system – the three main organs that support the removal of these harmful compounds from the body – a very good idea.
Our thyroid gland, the master controller of our metabolism, is particularly sensitive to these chemicals and others including chlorine, fluoride, mercury, and pesticides. These types of chemicals have also been shown to disrupt communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid – the pathway that closely controls our metabolic rate. In fact, researchers have looked at the effects of synthetic chemicals such as DDT, phenol derivatives, phthlates, polyhalogenated hydrocarbons, amitrole and thiocarbamates on the thyroid, and have noticed mild thyroid suppression.
PCBs and organochlorinated pesticides were also found to decrease thyroid function in a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in May 2003. While their long names may make them sound complex and foreign, these thyroid-threatening chemical agents are all around us in our food, water and even in everyday household items including toys, cosmetics and perhaps even your shower curtain.
Your fat cells are also a haven for toxins and they are constantly creating, sending and receiving hormonal signals that change the complex chemical soup present within you. Besides housing a host of hormonal and inflammatory messages, your fat cells tend to be a major storage facility for toxins in the body. Most of the toxins I have just discussed here are fat soluble, meaning the inside of a fat cell offers the perfect environment for them to set up shop. Once we begin to metabolize fat cells through weight loss, fasting, exercise or stress, those stored toxins are released. So just when the liver is already busy handling all the day-to-day toxins that come our way, it gets hit with an extra-heavy toxic load to process. If we lack sufficient nutrients to aid optimal liver function, we are definitely setting the body up for extra stress. As a case in point, studies have found an increased risk of cancer in individuals who lost as little as 20 pounds. Some health professionals, myself included, suspect this elevated risk could be related to the release of stored toxins and hormones from the fat cells.
As you would expect, this toxic buildup leads to a dramatic increase in long-term health risks. And it certainly does not leave us feeling our best in the short term either. Complaints such as headaches, weight gain, acne, PMS, infertility and poor memory are common. Not surprising, given that the brain and the glands responsible for releasing the hormones are affected most by toxin exposure.
The Metabolic Detox Pathways in Your Liver
Regardless of their source, all toxins must be processed through the body via the detoxification pathways in the liver. Liver detoxification consists of two phases designed to allow potentially toxic compounds to be converted into water-soluble forms that can be easily excreted into the bile for passage through the digestive tract as waste or filtered through the kidneys.
Phase I, otherwise known as the cytochrome P450 system, is the phase that turns toxic compounds into water-soluble products. During this process, enzymes add an oxygen molecule to the toxin to make free radicals, which are often more toxic than the original substance. Throughout Phase I, the nutrients copper, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C are essential to protect liver cells and prevent free radicals from causing damage.
Phase II focuses on neutralizing the products from Phase I by adding another substance that makes elimination through the kidneys or bile easier. After passing through Phase II, the original substance becomes completely water soluble, allowing it to be excreted from the body. This step is vitally important to the breakdown and elimination of hormonal waste products.
Here’s the catch – these two phases are intimately related and should ideally take place at the same rate. Sometimes Phase I, however, is accelerated, leading to increased re-absorption of the toxic by-products before they can be properly processed by phase II. Otherwise referred to as “pathological detoxification”, it is something we want to avoid because of the potential for additional health risks.
Tips to Balance Your Detoxification Pathways in the Liver:
With a few simple dietary and supplement suggestions you can re-activate and re-balance your liver’s natural detoxification pathways. The Metabolic Detox Kit really helps to detoxify your liver and support your body effectively but gently during a detox.
In clinical practice I typically prescribe one or more of these recommendations for a minimum of two to six weeks, though most of the suggestions are safe for long term use.
To slow down Phase I:
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and coffee, including decaffeinated coffee
- Eat grapefruit and wheatgrass (NOTE: If you are taking medications, be sure to first check whether grapefruit leads to increased drug action.)
- Add the spice curcumin (turmeric) to your diet or take it in supplement form since it inhibits Phase I action while increasing Phase II activity.
- Consider supplementing with the nutrients required to protect the liver during Phase I, including copper, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C (additional 1000mg to 2000mg buffered vitamin C daily could suffice.)
To speed up Phase II:
- Avoid processed foods, white sugars and simple carbohydrates.
- Increase sources of sulfur. Your supplement choices include N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC) (typical dose is 500mg 1 to 3 times daily), taurine (500 to 1000mg daily), cysteine, or Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) (500 to 8000mg daily) Our go to formula for this is Clear Liver Support.
- Take Hormonal Detox Support as it helps to support with this detox phase, particularly the breakdown of harmful excess steroid hormones like estrogen and testosterone. 5 capsules in the morning with breakfast.
- Increase cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, all of which are high in sulfur. Eggs are also a good source of sulfur.
Finally – keep these tips in mind:
If you currently experience lethargy, difficulty concentrating, joint pains or stiffness, headaches, bad breath, strong body odor, acne, psoriasis, water retention, abdominal bloating, excess body fat, difficulty losing weight, PMS, indigestion, or constipation, these simple detox tips could be just the needed boost to turn your health around. But don’t be surprised if you feel headaches, fatigue, irritability and general malaise for the first day or two of your detox diet, as your body is doing a whole lot of house cleaning. And remember this general rule of detoxification: the worse you feel – the more you really need to do it!
Allow yourself time to rest if you feel sluggish. Drink lots of water and take extra vitamin C to reduce detox symptoms. By the third or fourth day, you should feel your energy increasing and mental focus improving. If you typically drink a lot of coffee, decrease the amounts you consume slowly throughout the first few days to minimize the effects of caffeine withdrawal. Also, drink at least two liters of water per day. Reverse osmosis water is best; spring water should be your second choice. Distilled water should be avoided because it may leach minerals out of our body.