The word “detoxify” has become somewhat of a buzz word in the natural health field. Many patients ask about it, and so I will share some thoughts on it. As you probably suspect, detoxification is a general term that refers to the body breaking down potentially toxic chemicals and eventually excreting them from the body. According to Chris Astill-Smith, DC, DIBAK, there are more than 75,000 synthetic chemical that exist.
There are five major organs of detoxification: 1) the liver, 2) the kidneys, 3) the colon (large intestine), 4) the skin, and 5) the lungs. Of these five organs, most people are aware that the liver is a major, if not the major organ of detoxification. Therefore, I’ll focus on the liver’s role and function in this process.
The liver has 2 major phases of detoxification: creatively named, “phase 1” and “phase 2”. There is actually a “phase 3” that is being talked about, but let’s keep it simple.
First of all, there are 2 main classifications of toxins: endogenous (those created within the body) and exogenous (those from outside the body or the environment). Endogenous “toxins” (or biochemicals that need to be cleared or detoxed) mainly consist of neurotransmitters, hormones, eicosanoids, certain fatty acids, and retinoids. Exogenous toxins (or xenobiotics) are just about every man-made chemical or pollutant (including drugs, cancer-causing chemicals, pesticides, etc.). Interestingly, Dr. Bruce Ames says that 90% of the body’s detoxification processes probably deal with toxins that are endogenously produced.
Many, but not all toxins are fat-soluble. Therefore, many toxins are stored in fat cells. So a person who has more (essentially excess) fat, could mean they have more toxins. And very often, as I frequently see, the body needs to shed those toxins before it is capable of shedding the excess fat. Regardless, the main purpose of the liver’s detox phases is to make a toxin more water-soluble in order for it to be excreted effectively. That said, some toxins will stay in fat tissue indefinitely if they are not converted to a water-soluble form.
I’ll keep it simple (so not entirely precise) and say that phase 1 deals with making a toxin water-soluble, in order for phase 2 to be able to rid it from the body. Keep in mind that many chemicals are actually MORE toxic after they go through phase 1. That is, they can then be considered carcinogenic (or cancer-causing) after phase 1 detox whereas if left “alone” they were only potentially carcinogenic. So a deficit in phase 2 detox can be extraordinarily dangerous. Then again, a problem with phase 1 detox can also cause a host of problems.
The bottom line here is that you need precise nutrients for each phase in order to detox effectively. Here they are (although there may be a few more than listed).
Phase 1: Vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12; folic acid; glutathione (made of the 3 amino acids; cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine); branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine); flavanoids (found in many fruits and vegetables); and phospholipids (fat-derived chemcials).
In order to protect the body from the damaging effects of toxins that are in the intermediate stage; which have gone through phase 1 but not yet phase 2, we need: Vitamins A, C, and E; along with (minerals) selenium, copper, zinc, manganese; coenzyme Q10; thiols (found in garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.); and bioflavanoids (found in fruits and vegetables).
Phase 2: the amino acids (or building blocks of protein): glutathione, glycine, taurine, glutamine, ornithine, and arginine
Again, there may be some more nutrients that are helpful, but if you cover your bases with those mentioned, chances are your liver will be well-equipped to handle most, if not all toxins. Please note that phase 1 mainly consists of B-vitamins, phase 2 mainly amino acids (essentially protein), and the “in-between” stage needs mainly antioxidants.
Unfortunately, there is no one nutrient that can take care of everything. Therefore, the most important nutrient that one needs in order to detox effectively is the one they are deficient in.
A thorough history, and in-office applied kinesiology methods can be effective in helping determine what nutrients may help you. There are also many laboratory tests that can help determine what you need most to detoxify effectively.
Many symptoms and conditions can be traced back to an inability to detoxify effectively, so delving into them all would seem a bit over the top. Simply cover your bases with a good whole-food diet containing adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. By the way, drinking organic vegetable juice(s) on a daily basis is by far one of the best ways to up-regulate detoxification. Don’t forget the protein though.
And one last thing: if you have a toxic colon, you may have to deal with that before your liver can get up to speed. I say this because one of the liver’s main functions is to detox the colon. I encourage you to read this article related to digestive health.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology