Holistic Detox

Did you know there are over 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the united states.  80,000!!!!!  It’s common to be exposed to over 100 chemicals before you even leave your house in the morning. YIKES. Xenobiotics are substances that are foreign to the body, aka not produced by the body and therefore not expected to be in the body.  Our cells dedicate a large amount of ATP, our chemical energy, towards the process of removing these foreign substances.  Removal of toxic build up from our bodies will greatly enhance our organs ability to better absorb nutrients, perform basic biological functions, and stimulate the healing process. 

What is Detoxification?

Detoxification is defined as the process of removing toxic substances from the body. Holistic detoxification is aimed at full body toxin elimination by turning toxins into waste, thus enhancing the body’s detoxification pathways (especially in the liver). Detoxification is a focus especially in the naturopathic approach to healthcare, which links holistic healing with modern science. The holistic approach looks at the body as a whole and tries to identify and remove barriers blocking the body’s forces for self-healing. By creating a favorable environment inside the body, these approaches minimize the risk of harm and open the path to optimal health. Practices to help the body detox can be fasting, drinking only juices or similar beverages, eating only certain foods, using dietary supplements or other commercial products, using herbs, or cleansing the colon with enemas or colon hydrotherapy. A detox should ideally be combined with other wholesome practices that enhance the immune system and help psychological healing such as reducing environmental exposures, using a sauna, practicing meditation, yoga, Thai Chi, or other healthy forms of movement. These practices also contribute to the long-lasting effects of detox and make it a healing that continues to keep the body young and healthy years after the detox.

Goals of a Detox

Reduce Toxic Load

Fairly simple math: Decrease toxins in and Increase toxins out

Support Organs of Detoxification

Stimulate specific pathways in the body to support elimination

Repair and Heal Gut

About 3/4th of our immune system cells are located in the gut

Combat Oxidative Stress

Anti-oxidants fight oxidative stress in the body

Increase Energy Levels

Upon completion most people find their energy is sky high

Catch Potential Food Sensitivies

Better understand how food influences mental and physical being

Body burden is defined as the total amount of a chemical present in the body.  It’s crazy that we have a term designated towards the amount of chemicals in our bodies.  Most people have no idea how toxic our world really is.  Toxic load takes into account different factors for each individual such as current state of health, duration of exposures, and our genetics.  Healthier individuals are able to tolerate a higher toxic load.  Hence why it’s a good idea to support our detoxification processes in the body.   

Everyday Toxins We Are Exposed to

In modern times, where everything is wrapped in plastic, following a western diet, we commonly over-consume substances such as sugar, processed meats, milk products, and white, processed flours that can be harmful to the body in the long run, our body has to spend considerable amounts of energy on detoxing. The conventional farming practices in agriculture, that involve the use of large amounts of pesticides contribute further to the accumulation of toxins in our body.  Xenobiotics are menacing substances that are foreign to our body, that are frequently found in our bodies including pesticides, air pollutants like benzene, and heavy metals. These cause our bodies to spend a lot of time and energy on the removal of such substances. Consequently, the accumulation of toxins from our environment leads to problems such as fatigue or lack of energy, headaches and migraines, muscle and joint pain, psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, mood swings, and skin problems like acne, rashes, and eczema. The most immediate impact can be seen in the digestive system where the constant exposure to toxins quickly leads to digestion issues like constipation and constant weight gain. When we look at the food, water, and general living environment that most people in the Western world are constantly exposed to, it is no wonder that chronic illnesses are on the rise. 

Organ Systems Involved

Liver

Largest gland in human body.  Numerous digestive, metabolic, and detoxification roles.  Liver cells detoxify pharmaceuticals, xenobiotics, and alcohol.  Liver cells also degrade hormones and process many nutrients.

 

It’s one of the first organs that receives blood from the intestines via the portal vein.  Remove amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose from the blood and are stored for later use.  Livers phagocytic cells eliminate bacteria that have escaped the intestinal tract and into the blood stream.  We will take a deep dive into the detoxification pathways later on.  

Intestines

First area in body where xenobiotics are exposed.  Intestines provide a physical barrier to these compounds.  Assuming there is no increased intestinal permeability aka leaky gut which allows xenobiotics to skip intestinal detoxification and enter the circulation too early.  Having a healthy gut allows the chyme to move through the intestines and for these compounds to be presented to the immune system. The blood is delivered to the liver via the portal vein.

Kidneys

The kidneys main functions are to remove waste from blood, balance body fluids, and form urine.  It’s through the production of urine that the nephrons act as filters that clean our blood.  

The glomerular capsule contains cells called podocytes which wrap around the capillaries.  The blood is filtered here which retains larger molecules as smaller molecules such as water, salt, amino acids, and glucose continue along the process of urine formation (filtrate).

The skin

The Integumentary System aka the skin also plays a role in detoxification.  First is acts as protection for our internal environment.  It houses pain receptors to alert the nervous system of any injuries.  Acidic secretions occur which have an anti-bacterial action.  The integumentary system can stimulate or inhibit sweat glands which ultimately allows blood from capillary beds to radiate heat through the skin. Sweating is an important component of any detoxification program. 

Benefits of a Holistic Detox

To counter the dangerous impact that the toxins that surround us daily have on our body, an increasing number of people practice the art of detoxification. This can help to reduce the toxic load and support organs of detoxification by stimulating specific pathways in the body and supporting toxin elimination. Furthermore, they restore gut health, which is crucial for a healthy immune system since about 75% of the immune system cells are located in this area.  A holistic detox can help you understand the interaction of your food with your gut and finally with your overall mental and physical health.

To counter the dangerous impact that the toxins that surround us daily have on our body, an increasing number of people recur to detox. These can help to reduce the toxic load and support organs of detoxification by stimulating specific pathways in the body and supporting toxin elimination. Furthermore, they restore gut health, which is crucial for a healthy immune system since about 75% of the immune system cells are located in this area. With all these actions of the detox on the body, it also contributes to overall increased energy levels and combats and prevents food sensitivities in an early stage. Finally, a holistic detox can help you understand the interaction of your food with your gut and finally with your overall mental and physical health.

All these wonderful benefits are achieved by minimizing or stopping the influx of environmental toxins into the body and using products that work with specific organs and organ systems of the body in order to cleanse them and help their healing and better functioning. One of the most important organs in this context is the liver. Detoxification is one of its primary functions and is achieved by making blood from the portal vein pass directly through the liver, which then metabolizes, detoxifies, excretes, synthesizes, and stores the substances it is presented with, according to their function within the body. While glycogen, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, B12, iron used for the synthesis of red blood cells, copper (used as an integral part of enzymes), fat, and other substances are stored in the liver for later use, it prepares the excretion of others. Namely, through a staggering number of metabolic pathways involving a series of enzymatic reactions that neutralize toxins and make them soluble for excretion by the liver or kidney, the liver manages to alter toxins in such a way that they can be transported out of the body mainly through the digestive tract by way of bile and through the kidneys in the form of urine. Yet, it should be noted in this context that not all toxins can simply be expelled from the body by way of the liver and other organs. Some substances, such as alcohol also cause permanent damage in the liver and other parts of the body, that can take a long time to heal or even be irreparable. When to organ systems, the digestive system is the one, that mainly helps to expel toxins from the body. Mainly in the intestines, the digestive system has cells that dispose of a detoxification system, which serves as a chemical barrier in the gut. Here, toxic substances foreign to the body are metabolized by detoxification enzymes, and the resultant less-harmful compounds are efficiently excreted from the cells. 

Interested in completing a detox?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss the best option for you

The Science

As you can see, this is a very complex detoxification system.  Unfortunately, my hand drawing doesn’t do it justice.  The simple version of this complex process allows for the liver to detoxify toxic materials via 2 major pathways, Phase 1 and Phase 2.  What goes through these phases: drugs, pollutants, xenobiotics, bilirubin, androgens, estrogens, mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, fatty acid derivatives, retinoids, and bile acids.

 

The liver has a high concentration of an enzyme called cytochrome P450.  CP450 essentially is responsible for metabolism of xenobiotics, steroids, bile acids, fatty acids, and carcinogens.  This enzyme is considered to be part of Phase 1 liver detoxification.  Phase 2 detoxification focuses on conjugation pathways.

As you can see, this is a very complex detoxification system.  Unfortunately, my hand drawing doesn’t do it justice.  The simple version of this complex process allows for the liver to detoxify toxic materials via 2 major pathways, Phase 1 and Phase 2.  The liver has a high concentration of an enzyme called cytochrome P450.  CP450 essentially is responsible for metabolism of xenobiotics, steroids, bile acids, fatty acids, and carcinogens.  This enzyme is considered to be part of Phase 1 liver detoxification.  Phase two detoxification involves different mechanisms resulting in conjugation.  Conjugation just means the joining of two molecules.

 

Phase 1 & Phase 2

Cytochrome P450 (phase 1) converts fat-loving (lipophilic) toxins into more water soluble (hydrophilic) intermediates. A series of conjugation enzymes (phase 2) attach certain molecules to the intermediates which results in excretion from the body.

Phase 1 (cytochrome P450 enzymes)

Oxidation, reduction, or hydrolysis reactions occur based on the structure of the xenobiotic.  The main objective of this phase is to change the structure of the toxin so we can prepare it for phase 2 and elimination.  The main reactions involve the following groups. 

  • -OH (Hydroxyl group)
  • -COOH (carboxyl group)
  • -NH2 (Amino group)

Takes a nonpolar lipid-soluble toxin and via the above mention reactions turns the toxin into a more polar and less lipid-soluble state (aka intermediary metabolites).  This step enables the pathway to continue down the conjugation pathway (phase 2).

Phase 2 (Conjugation)

The intermediates produced from phase 1 detoxification combine with glucuronic acid, sulfuric acid, glutathione, or other amino acids.  This step reduces toxicity of intermediates by converting it into a polar and water soluble product.  These are now excreted via stools are urine.  If phase 2 is inhibited these intermediates damage proteins, lipids, and DNA.

Other conjugation pathways

  • Amino Acid Conjugation:  usually glycine, taurine, glutamine
  • Methylation: CH3
  • Acetylation: CH3-CO
  • Glutathione conjugation

After Phase 1

Cytochrome P450 enzymatic reactions result in production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).  Free radicals that contain oxygen are called reactive oxygen species

Free radical = an atom or molecule that has one or more unpaired electrons. This imbalance leads to high reactivity which can result in damage to tissues.  Anti-oxidants in the diet can help combat oxidative stress. 

Interested in completing a detox?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss the best option for you