Every day we are exposed to toxins in our environment. Fortunately, our body has a built-in detoxification system comprised of organs that each function uniquely to filter and eliminate potentially harmful substances from our body.
What is Detox?
Our liver is an integral component of our body’s detoxification system. Liver detoxification is divided into two major pathways or “phases” that convert toxins from fat-soluble to water-soluble metabolites through a series of reactions. Phase I reduces fat, glucose, carbohydrates, proteins and toxins absorbed through the digestive tract into intermediary substances, while Phase II converts these substances into water-soluble waste products that can be eliminated from the body (Grant, 1991).
Once the liver has done its job, the secondary detoxification organs work to eliminate waste from the body. Our skin helps eliminate toxins through sweating, while our lungs do the same through respiration. The gastrointestinal tract and kidneys help us eliminate toxins that have been filtered through the liver via bowel movements and urination.
How you can support the detoxification process?
Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the simplest (hardest) thing you can do to keep your body and detoxification systems healthy. Living in St. Louis, being near highways everywhere we are being exposed to toxins every day. Other things like stress, and eating a high processed food diet also can contribute to tiring out your body’s ability to eliminate toxins. One thing you can make sure you do a few days a week is get in a good workout and eliminate some of these toxins through sweating and respiration. Research has also proven that toxins accumulate in the body due to chronic disease including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity (Hodges & Minich, 2015). If you would like to give your detox system a helping hand consider the following supplements to your regimen. We highly recommend doing a 7-day detox every 6 months. Just put it on your schedule and forget about it.
Supplements that support detoxification include:
Glutathione and N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
Glutathione, a tripeptide composed of cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid, is found in most of our cells in two forms: reduced (GSH) and oxidized (GSSH) (Pizzorno, 2014). The ratio of GSH and GSSH regulates the cell redox system responsible for maintaining cellular homeostasis by generating and eliminating reactive oxygen/nitrogen species and free radicals (Trachootham, Lu, Ogasawara, Valle, & Huang, 2008). Essentially, glutathione functions as an antioxidant, which helps reduce oxidative stress and remove free radicals generated during the detoxification process. Glutathione also acts as a cofactor for a number of antioxidant enzymes and aids in recycling antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. Furthermore, glutathione facilitates excretion of toxins (mercury, POPs), regulates cell proliferation and apoptosis, and plays a role in phase II liver detoxification reactions (Pizzorno, 2014).
Due to its poor absorption in the human digestive tract, glutathione supplements are commonly prescribed in liposomal form. N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor to glutathione, helps to maintain glutathione levels and neutralize free radicals (Kerksick & Willoughby, 2005). Clinically, NAC has been used to restore depleted GSH levels due to its improved bioavailability and absorption (Hodges & Minich, 2015).
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays an important role in detoxification, including the metabolism and elimination of heavy metals (Jan et al., 2015). Several antioxidants, including Vitamin C, have demonstrated preventative and therapeutic effects on several liver diseases, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, and viral hepatitis (Guan & He, 2015).
A study investigating the relationship between the use of vitamin C supplements and gallstone prevalence provides evidence that regular vitamin C supplementation is associated with reduced prevalence of gallstones (Walcher et al., 2009).
Similar to Vitamin C, milk thistle contributes to overall liver health, preventing damage to the liver due to the antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects of silymarin and silybin, which are the active constituents found primarily in milk thistle seed. Silymarin also supports liver cell regeneration and protects the membrane of liver cells by preventing the entrance of toxins into the cells (Vargas-Mendoza et al., 2014).
Furthermore, silymarin acts in modulating the enzymes responsible for glutathione metabolism and has shown to restore glutathione levels in humans (Kiruthiga, Pandian, & Devi, 2010; Karimi, Vahabzadeh, Lari, Rashedinia, & Moshiri, 2011). A study of thalassemia patients examined the effects of silymarin supplementation on serum antioxidant and oxidative status. The study found that supplementation of 420 mg per day of silymarin significantly increased reduced glutathione (GSH) levels in patients compared to a placebo (Darvishi-Khezri et al., 2017).
Sulforaphane is a phytochemical metabolized from glucoraphanin and can be obtained through the diet by consuming glucoraphanin-rich foods such as broccoli and broccoli sprouts, brussels sprouts, and cabbage (James et al., 2012). Sulforaphane is an essential component of the detoxification pathway as it activates the production of phase II liver enzymes. Specifically, sulforaphane induces Nrf2, the transcription factor involved in the cell’s defenses including detoxification (Houghton, Fassett, & Coombes, 2016). Studies have also noted the cancer-protective effect of sulforaphane in helping to neutralize harmful carcinogens in the body (James et al., 2012).
After fat-soluble toxins have been processed in the liver, it’s important to ensure your body can eliminate waste effectively. The gastrointestinal tract allows us to digest our food, absorb nutrients into the body and eliminate waste, preventing the absorption of harmful substances into the bloodstream. Fiber is an essential component to gut barrier function and proper elimination as it binds to toxins and helps to usher them out of the body through the gastrointestinal tract.
Fiber not only provides bulk to your stools and binds toxins for excretion, it also makes up one of our body’s physical barriers. Fiber increases glycoproteins called mucins, which help to make up mucus. Mucus protects the lining of the gut, provides lubrication and prevents translocation of toxins and other harmful substances (Kieffer, Martin, & Adams, 2016).
Take The Next Steps
Knowledge is only potential power. So now you are aware of the detox process. So take one more step and use turn this knowledge into action.
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