Learn how to guide patients through a healthy and safe detoxification
Detoxification is something our body is constantly at work doing. It’s not a new idea. So, why would we need to “do one?” And what is the best and safest way to perform a detoxification program?
Our toxic environment
We all deal with toxins daily with no exceptions. We are bombarded with exogenous toxins as well as endogenous toxins.
Our liver is constantly working to clear these toxins, and what it can’t clear, it will store. According to statistics there are 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S., 800 million pounds of herbicides used each year, and 167 industrial chemicals found in adult employees with no employment-related exposure. In another study done by the Environmental Protection Agency, 287 synthetic chemicals were detected in the umbilical cord blood of 10 randomly-selected newborns from a 2004 national cord blood collection program.
Those are some pretty staggering statistics that should be enough for everyone to rethink the need for a good metabolic detoxification program.
Let’s look at where toxins can come from in our day-to-day lives:
- Preservatives and additives in food;
- Air and water pollutants and cigarette smoke;
- Household cleaning products;
- Dyes, paints, new construction or houses built before 1978;
- Personal care products;
- Heavy metals;
- Pesticides and insecticides.
Metabolic detox explained
Metabolic detoxification is the removal of toxins by a complex, integrated system designed to convert lipid-soluble toxins to water-soluble molecules that will then be directly excreted by the body. It is done essentially in three phases.
Mobilizing toxins from storage sites is Phase 1. Toxins can be stored in the fat cells, bone marrow, joints, muscle, blood, liver and the central nervous system. Think of it as an unlocking of toxins to move them into a more water-soluble state.
Phase 1 reactions are catalyzed by different enzymes, primarily from the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) family of enzymes. This also makes the toxins active again and possibly more damaging if they aren’t handled properly by Phase 2 and Phase 3.
It is critical to make sure there are no significant deficiencies before engaging in Phase 1 to minimize any harmful effects. Make sure gut function is assessed; look for vitamin D, magnesium and B12 deficiencies as a starting point. A methylation profile-type test should be considered, running first in some cases where an endogenous toxic burden is suspected along with methylation issues. Vegans and vegetarians present unique challenges due to usually lower levels of B12 and higher potential for elevated SAH, an endogenous toxin produced as a result of imbalances in metabolism.
The conjugation of the toxins is Phase 2. Think of this as the step where toxins get neutralized and ready for removal.
The production of most Phase 2 enzymes is controlled by a protein called nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2 (NrF2). Conjugation enzymes from amino acids are a major player here. The two main ones are glycine and glutamate. They should be part of the detoxification program as well as the dietary intake during and after the detoxification.
Plant phytonutrients can increase NrF2 for Phase 2 support and help modulate endogenous antioxidants. There are many plant sources that support this pathway, but a key one is Spanish black radish. Milk thistle should be included for metabolic detoxification to prevent depletion of glutathione, act as an antioxidant and protect the liver from damage.
The elimination phase, in Phase 3 all toxins will be eliminated via the kidneys or the bowels. Fiber is essential to proper elimination and for binding to excess toxins and hormone metabolites.
Soluble dietary fibers will also support urinary excretion of toxins. Fiber acts as a prebiotic for beneficial bacteria in the GI tract, improving overall GI health. Bottom line: If they aren’t eliminating properly, toxins will be released back into the blood stream and will be processed by the liver again. They could go back into storage as even more toxic than they were before. A proper metabolic detoxification program will support this gently.
A patient shouldn’t feel like this process requires them to know where every bathroom is in a five-mile radius. But it is essential that they have regular bowel movements every day and are drinking the proper amount of water to support kidney and bowel health.
Simply being alive is a risk factor for toxic exposure and we all know we can’t live in a bubble. But what we can do is start by minimizing our exposure to toxins, along with performing a good metabolic detoxification program at least once per year.
It is important to educate our patients about the better choices they can make when it comes to personal exposure. We vote with our dollar. The more we choose environmentally-friendly products, clean skin care and organic foods, the easier it will be to find them.
And lastly, we need to guide patients through a healthy and safe metabolic detoxification. Look for a detoxification product that has a reputation as being safe and effective, with all the necessary nutrients to engage in all three phases of detoxification. Happy cleansing!
ANNETTE KUTZ SCHIPPEL, DC, is a functional medicine practitioner and trainer, and co-founder of Endocrine Wellness. She has traveled the world teaching thousands of practitioners about functional endocrinology and its applications for the patient. In addition to her own practice, she supervises training and consultation to practitioners wanting a greater understanding. She can be contacted through endocrinewellnessgroup.com.