Over the next 4 weeks I will be covering detoxification and the purpose of doing a “reset”. After the holiday season or when you are ready to get a jump start to eating healthier, a reset can help reduce the cravings and lay a foundation for moving forward.
Part 1: Physiology of Detoxification
Myth #1: you need to do a detox program in order to detoxify toxins.
Truth: your body is detoxing all the time. Your livers biggest job is to remove toxins from the blood, filter out used up resources, hormones etc. and process them out of the body. Detox programs assist the body in removing toxins when your exposure has become so great, that the body is “backed up” and could use a little assistance.
Myth #2: you have to use supplements.
Truth: There are many foods that support detoxification, sometimes even better than supplements can. A really good detox program won’t just tell you to take supplements and you’re good. No, a very clean diet with specific foods that are known to assist in many aspects of detox are necessary for a successful detox program. However, supplements are needed in certain cases like if your liver needs support, or you are trying to detox heavy metals or other toxic chemicals, a binding agent may be necessary, in which case supplements are needed.
Myth #3: nobody needs to “detox”.
Truth: There are many signs and symptoms of toxicity including: brain fog, fatigue, sensitivity to strong smells, headaches, frequent colds, illnesses or infections, skin rashes and issues like acne, psoriasis etc. A detox program can be the solution to hitting the reset button, clearing out the toxins, and getting you back to feeling better, with more energy.
Most everyone can use a detox program now and then. We are exposed to so much sugar, processed and fried foods, refined carbohydrates, toxins in the air, in the soil run off that goes into our fruits and vegetables, in our water, in plastics that we eat and drink from, in cans, and heavy metals from working in mills, factories and even occasionally in our foods and dental amalgams (fillings for cavities).
Myth #4: detox programs don’t work.
Truth: some don’t, others really do. How can you know? We’ll cover this more in depth in Part 4 of this series, but the quick explanation is: looking at how you feel before hand and looking at those same symptoms again afterwards. Most people notice more energy, some experience weight loss, others notice better recovery after workouts and better performance, many notice their skin clears up, looks brighter and they have better memory and brain function.
How your body detoxes
The liver is the most popular organ known for detox, mainly because we think of our liver when we look at certain medications that are hard on the liver, or the most popular: when we drink to much alcohol.
One role that the liver plays is to filter the blood. It has some other tasks it achieves as well, but its main role is filtering the blood and effectively, cleaning it up.
It works to filter out any environmental toxins we are exposed to, toxins from metabolic processes that are a byproduct of the natural functions of our cells, and it also processes through used up hormones.
*Side note: if the liver doesn’t filter out used up hormones (like estrogen, testosterone, inactive thyroid hormone etc.) these can then be put back into the blood stream.
Unfortunately, when they are released back into the system in this way, the original organs that make new, active versions of these hormones, see the inactive version and think, “oh, there’s already enough… I won’t make anymore then”.
So, now you have useless hormones flowing through the blood and not enough new, active, helpful hormones being produced.
This is one way that detox can help restore proper function to the body. Anyone with low testosterone, high or low estrogen, and a thyroid that is “acting up”, can benefit from a good detox program.
The liver has more or less, two phases to detox. Phase 1 and Phase 2.
Phase 1 utilizes enzymes to breakdown the toxins or “xenobiotics”. This process can actually create harmful free radicals, so we must have enough antioxidants from the diet to support this process, and not create more damage.
Phase 2 takes the broken down toxins from phase 1 and binds them to molecules or agents that turn them into harmless, water soluble (or bind to water) substances. Because they no longer bind to fat, the substances can easily be carried out of the body interacting well with water – traveling out of the body through the kidneys or GI tract.
Elimination – the gut, kidneys and skin:
The skin and kidneys work in the removal of toxins that never actually reach the liver. The body utilizes sweat and urine to quickly process out toxins straight away. This puts less of a load on the liver, but also enables quick removal of toxins.
The Gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) plays a large role in detoxification because it is commonly part of the elimination role.
The skin/sweat, the GI tract/stool and kidneys/urine are the three routes the body has to eliminate toxins. Focusing just on the liver for detoxification is only a piece of the process.
If the gut is inflamed, or doesn’t have enough bulk or fiber to process the toxins out of the body from the liver, the liver has to utilize other routes.
In order to get toxins to the kidneys, the liver has to release the toxins back into the blood for filtration and removal.
If there are too many toxins or elimination routes are ineffective, the liver can get “backed up”. If the gut is useless either from inflammation, food allergies/sensitivities, and/or a poor diet, then the kidneys work double time to eliminate toxins.
Often, people do not drink enough water, which makes it even harder for the kidneys to filter out toxins, used up hormones and to balance the sodium/potassium the body needs.
If, you include food sensitivities or leaky gut (where undigested food particles enter the blood stream), now the skin is working to eliminate these substances. This can be the cause of chronic rashes like psoriasis, acne, eczema and other skin type rashes.
Living our daily lives exposes us to many unavoidable toxins. This isn’t something to get worked up over, because there are several things you can make sure to include into your daily routine to support the body’s natural ability to detox.
If you’d like to know what those are, stay tuned for the next post. Join the email list to make sure you don’t miss the next episode of this 4 part series!
If you think you may need to detox, this is something to discuss with your physician or schedule a consultation with me. An effective detoxification should be monitored by a physician.
In some cases, for example especially working with heavy metal toxicity, this should be done slowly and moderated in order to safely and slowly remove toxins from the system.
Are you ready to Reset?
Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015, 760689. http://doi.org/10.1155/2015/760689