How to Detox Your Body
Before you learn how to detox your body you must first understand your detoxification system. Yes, just like your gastrointestinal system, immune system, nervous system, etc., your body has a built in detoxification system.
Although you don't hear about it very often, just like other systems in your body, your detoxification system knows how to function on its own when it is taken care of properly, but it gets worn down and doesn't perform its duties adequately because of a variety factors like poor diet, high stress, environmental toxins, genetic polymorphisms or overgrowth of bacteria, yeasts, parasites, or viruses.
Even though you can find a wide range of wild and exotic natural ways to detox your body including spas, clinics, detox diets, fasts, drinks etc. all of that is really not necessary, your body knows how to detox on its own, given the right circumstance.
As a matter of fact some of those methods may actually be harmful for some people with certain health conditions like hypoglycemia, adrenal fatigue, migraines or those who are in poor health overall or who have a high level of toxicity in their body.
For example, people with hypoglycemia and adrenal fatigue should not be fasting because their blood sugar levels will go to low and many people with migraines develop a migraine if they do not eat on a regular schedule.
Additionally, the wrong method can exacerbate symptoms in those who have a greatly impaired detoxification system. If that method starts mobilizing toxins that are stored in the body and the body is incapable of excreting them, then the toxins just get recirculated and stored again. If you try to jump start the system when it doesn't have what it needs to run properly, then it just gets more impaired.
You can also find a variety of pre-made nutritional and herbal formulas designed specifically for detoxification. These may or may not be helpful depending on the biochemistry of the individual who is taking them and the ingredients in the formula.
For example, John Doe, may have a detoxification system that doesn't work properly because he is deficient in zinc, copper or molybdenum, while Mary Doe may have impaired detoxification because she is deficient in the amino acid glycine. So if one is lucky enough to need the specific ingredients that are targeted in a particular formula then they may see results, however, if the formula that they take does not contain the ingredients they need to address their unique underlying issue then it may not be effective.
Not only that, some supplements if taken too early in the detoxification process can actually cause more harm than good. For example, NAC or N-acetyl-cysteine and cilantro are commonly used in many nutritional detox formulas and are great detoxifiers. However if someone has mercury in their body, both of these supplements can actually drive the mercury deeper into the tissues and the brain if they are used too early in the process.
So the crucial point in learning how to detox your body, is to address the unique root factors that impair your detoxification system and this may vary somewhat from person to person.
The Detoxification System
There are two phases in your detoxification system, Phase I and Phase II. Both of these take place in the liver.
Phase I consists of enzymes known collectively as cytochrome p-450 that burn or oxidize the toxins, making them more reactive so they can be conjugated and more easily excreted. Some toxins may be excreted directly through phase I, but most of them move on to phase II.
Phase I functioning is dependent on your nutritional status, exposure to toxins, and genetics.
Phase I can be permanently damaged by some chemicals like pesticides.
In Phase II, the oxidized toxin is then conjugated and excreted. This means it is combined with another molecule that carries it away. It converts a fat soluble toxin into a water soluble toxin, so it can be eliminated through the feces or urine.
Within phase II detoxification there are 7 conjugation pathways. These are the molecules that attach to the toxin to carry it out, which are as follows:
Each pathway handles a particular type of toxins, however there is some degree of overlapping.
When these phases or pathways are not working properly, then toxins build up in the body and get deposited in fat, tissues, cells and organs, which results in a vast array of health conditions, symptoms, illnesses or syndromes. In order for the body to detox properly, both phase I and phase II need to be running optimally. There can be problems in one or both areas.
Phase I can run too slow, which results in an accumulation of toxins, but it can also run too fast. If phase I is too fast and phase II is impaired and can't keep up with it, then toxins are not cleared from the system.
Since toxins are oxidized in phase I, that means they are actually more toxic at that point than they were when they entered the body, so it is crucial that they be conjugated and excreted.
If phase I is overactive and phase II is under performing, this is typically called a pathological detoxifier, and is the most dangerous combination, as phase II will not be able to keep up with phase I and lead to a build up of toxins that have now been oxidized into more potent toxins.
This puts a double whammy on the body with the build up of toxins and a high level of oxidative stress.
If any of the conjugation pathways in Phase II are not functioning adequately, then phase II becomes impaired.
Both phase I and phase II require a variety of nutrients to function properly, therefore when there are nutritional deficiencies present, both phases can be impaired.
There are a variety of genetic polymorphisms that can affect both phase I and phase II detoxification. An individual may have a polymorphism in the Cytochrome P-450 enzymes or in one of the conjugation pathways like methylation, acetylation, glutathione or glucoronidation.
Through a variety of functional medicine tests and detoxigenomics, you can assess the efficacy of your detoxification system, identify where your vulnerabilities or impairments lie and then incorporate a variety of interventions to improve the system.
Improving Phase I and Phase II Detoxification is done through a four step process, as follows:
Eliminate external factors that are overburdening the system.
This step includes cleaning up the diet, environment, water, air and lifestyle. The primary cause of a detoxification system that does not work properly is that the system is overburdened with too many toxins to eliminate. Our food, air, water, environment etc. contain an abundance of environmental toxins that must be reduced.
We are all exposed to an abundance of environmental toxins on a daily basis. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, this was not the case. The human body was not designed to detox this amount of toxins.
Eat organic, avoid pesticides, switch over to natural and non-toxic personal care products and household cleaning products. Read these green living tips for more ideas.
Eliminate internal factors that are overburdening the system.
Within our body we may carry an overgrowth of unfriendly organisms like yeast, bacteria, viruses and parasites. In their quest to survive, they release a variety of toxins within our body that our detoxification system must process.
When toxins from these organisms are high, it can overburden the system. These organisms must be kept in balance to reduce their toxins and improve functioning of the detoxification system.
Combine the internal toxins with the external toxins and your detoxification system is working overtime to deal with it all.
Improve function of the detoxification system
The third primary cause of an overburdened detoxification system is that it becomes impaired in its ability to function properly. However, with the exclusion of a genetic polymorphism, the primary reason the system can't function properly is because the body is not receiving the nutrients it needs.
The reason the body is not getting the nutrients it needs is related to step #1 and step #2 -- a poor diet, excessive stress, environmental toxins in the water, air and food, unfriendly organisms that inhibit absorption of nutrients, etc. All of which lead to nutritional deficiencies.
In this step you must first identify what nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids etc.) that you are deficient in and then replenish them. Give your body the nutrients it needs to do its job.
Additionally, testing for and identifying genetic problems will enable the individual to make interventions that can override the impairment as well.
When the body is under a lot of toxic stress, this triggers the sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the body's fight or flight system and thus the body remains in a constant state of stress. When the body remains in a constant state of stress the detoxification system becomes impaired even further, as well as the immune, endocrine, nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
Practice maintenance of step one, step two, step three and step four throughout your life.
Detoxification isn't something you do once and be done with. It is done on a continuous basis, daily. Your detoxification system works 24 hours a day, you must give it what it needs to function as optimally as possible. If step one, two and three are ignored for any length of time, then the system will become overburdened again.
With 200 plus years since the Agriculture revolution we are all bombarded with a slew of toxins every day. Our detoxification system has to work harder than ever. If you do not practice maintenance, then the detoxification system is likely to become impaired again. Although the Industrial Revolution brought a variety of benefits to our lives and changed the course of history, our life and our economy, it has also brought a vast array of negative consequences on our health. Our air, water, food, and soil are saturated with toxins.
So you can see that the supplements or protocol one chooses when learning how to detox your body may vary somewhat from person to person depending on their unique circumstance; which internal and external factors they have and which nutritional deficiencies may be present. A variety of functional medicine tests can be used to identify the path that you should follow.
Who Needs to Detox?
Everyone needs to know how to detox your body. Detoxification is a normal function of the body that is supposed to occur on its own 24 hours a day. Optimizing the detoxification system is an crucial component of optimizing our mental, physical and spiritual health.
No matter what health condition you may have, be it psychological or physiological there is typically a detoxification factor. Even if you have no diagnosis, optimizing detoxification is important to prevent diagnoses in the future. Just like you take antioxidants, exercise etc. for a strong cardiovascular or immune system, the detoxification system needs nurtured as well.
You should read, How Toxins Make You Sick, to understand this issue better. However, some of the most common conditions that have a toxin related component include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Alcoholism and Addiction
- Compulsive overeating
- Adrenal fatigue
- Chronic fatigue
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
- Heart Disease
- Gulf War Syndrome
- Chronic Pain Syndromes
But, the bottom line is that if you are sick for any reason, you are likely to have at least some impairment in your detoxification system.
There are other factors that come into play with these conditions as well, like nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, chronic stress, but toxins are almost a major contributing factor. An impaired detoxification system is one of the first things you look for as an underlying cause, regardless of the diagnosis.
The goal in learning how to detox your body is to enhance your phase I and phase II liver detoxification by identifying what external and internal toxins you are dealing with and reduce them. Identifying genetic problems and any nutritional deficiencies you may have and applying interventions to replenish them, and continuing this practice for a lifetime.