I would like to start off this post with the declaration of the fact that I have an issue with the word detox. It has somehow morphed into a idea synonymous with juice cleanse and deprivation and other marketing ploys to make you feel guilty about eating.
I do, however, believe in the natural detoxification abilities of the body, and that your body is pretty good at doing it. When it is overloaded, however (like with anything else, stress, for example), it loses it’s ability to function at its highest capacity. As my physiotherapy textbook notes, the liver is “known to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of agents that are not readily metabolized or excreted.” It’s a sensitive little guy. Things like modern drugs, agrochemicals and other modern environmental pollutants tend to make it a little emo, making it less eager to perform its job. Like liver who shops at Hot Topic and listens to Fall Out Boy. Constant exposure to new industrial agents, particularly if at relatively high levels and when combined with other well-known burdens like alcohol and high fat diets, can lead to functional liver distress.
To get the “detox” capacities of your liver working again, you actually NEED food, just the right kinds of food. Your livers needs to nutrients to act as cofactors, which ensure phase I and phase II detoxification systems work properly.
So what are these? There are two phases of detoxification: phase I and phase II. Phase I involves the addition of oxygen to form a reactive site on the toxic compound and phase II is the process of adding a water-soluble group to reactive site. Once the compound is water soluble, it can then exit the body through excretion.
Phase I detox requires little nutritional support to be fully active. Phase I may increase the amount of xenobiotics in the blood as they are freed from adipose and lean tissue. Phase II detox, however, needs nutrients and cofactors from vitamins and nutrients to turn these xenobiotics water soluble, so that they can then exit the body. Elimination of xenobiotics, in fact, is determined by the conversion of toxic fat-soluble substances to water-soluble chemicals by enzymes in the liver and other tissues that facilitate their elimination. Excessive phase I activity can generate more dangerous toxic complications, like when fasting or other sudden loss of adipose tissue where fat soluble metabolites are stored. This can also happen with a reduction in antioxidant capacity like heavy smoking, exposure to industrial pollutants, or chronically defunct diets. So if phase II nutrients and cofactors are not present after phase I has happened, increasing toxic compounds in the blood, you end up feeling awful.
PS. (Is it cool to do a PS in the middle of a post, rather than the end?) This is why juice cleanses are not only not effective, but can be dangerous. If you are not eating vegetable fibers and other nutrients that kick phase II detox into high gear, you’re essentially just uprooting the toxins that are stored in fat cells, and then giving them no place to go, which means they’re entering the blood stream and making you feel WAY WORSE.
Rather than focusing on a “cleanse” after long periods of treating your body and liver with disrespect – bombarding it with things like processed foods and sugars, the liver filter should be treated with kindness on a regular basis. You should instead employ an “Every Day Detox” mentality, like the Traditional Medicinal tea suggests. Incorrect diet, excessive alcohol intake, adverse reactions to drugs and toxins like pollutants, insecticides, pesticides, and contaminants all affect the liver’s ability to detox properly. Symptoms of poor detoxification include: headache, sneezing, rash, dizziness, incapacitating fatigue, pain, weakness, intestinal symptoms, heart palpitations, panic attacks, migraines, and depression.
Continually imbibing persistent organic pollutants (insecticides, herbicides, drugs, solvents, metals, pesticides, industrial chemicals like PCBs and by-products PCDDs) accumulate in fatty tissue of organisms and are higher for those at the top of the food chain (hint: we humans). These also have neurodevelopmental, thyroid, estrogen, and immune function repercussions. Refined polyunsaturated oils, fake fats, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners also adversely affect detoxification systems.
So what is there to do? Many things, actually. Below are some diet and lifestyle tips on how to “Detox Every Day” (which is really just code for eat well, live well, and supply your body with the nutrients it needs to eliminate some of the xenobiotic toxins we come into contact with every day)
- diet high in antioxidants and foods to support detoxification pathways:
- organic cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, garden cress, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, radish sprouts) enhance phase II pathways, which help clear xenobiotics more efficiently (Hodges & Minich, 2012).
- foods that contain B12, B6 and folate:
- folate: beef liver, peas, beans, nuts, eggs, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, navy beans, black beans, kidney beans, broccoli, turnip greens
- B12: shellfish, beef liver, sardines, grass fed beef, tuna, lamb, salmon, eggs, fish, crab
- B6: wild caught, tuna, banana, salmon, grass-fed beef, chicken breast, cooked spinach, sweet potato, hazelnuts, turkey, garlic
- allum vegetables (onions, leeks, garlic) – enhance and support phase I and II pathways in the GI tract, liver, and kidneys (Cline, 2015). These foods contain sulfur which is crucial for detoxification systems
- citrus foods: these contain monoterpenoids which induce phase II detox glutathione and glucuronidaiton activites
- curcumin: induce glutathione producn and glutathion-S-transferase activity
- fish oil / omega-3 fatty acid supplement (3600-4000 mg daily) – may attenuate damage induced by air pollution (Peter et al., 2015).
- vitamin D3 (4000 IU daily)
- chlorella powder: has the potential to inhibit absorption of heavy metals or pollutants across he intestinal mucosa and thereforee decrease circulation of these toxicants
- magnesium (25ug daily) – glucuronidation requires magnesium and may be inhibited by smoking, fasting and possible high fructose intake
- adequate hydration with clean water to promote elimination of biotransformed molecules
- exercise: accerlate lympathic flow, induce sweating, increase metabolism and detox efficiency
- rest: proper sleep, relaxation, and stress management
- Traditional Medicinals every day detox tea. What I love most about this tea is the fact that it does not contain laxatives like Senna. It is meant as a hepatoprotective agent – helping the liver get its job done with the ingredients: chicory root, dandelion root, schisandra fruit dry extract, schisandra fruit, lyceum fruit dry extract, licorice root, ginger rhizome, star anise fruit, kukicha twig (all organic). For more information, check them out at www.traditionalmedicinals.com
- chicory root / dandelion root: In one study done on rats, results of the serum biomarkers of chicory and its mixture with dandelion treated rats showed “significant reduction indicating the effect of the plants leaves extract in restoring the normal functional ability of the hepatocytes” (Al-Malki & Kamel, 2013).
- schisandra fruit dry extract / schisandra fruit: Schisandra fruit extract SFE might increase the resistance to cardiac cell injury at least partly, together with altering gene expression, especially induction of phase II detoxification enzyme in mice (Choi, Lee, Kim, Kim, Chi, Kwon, & Chun, 2007).
- lyceum fruit extract: Based on these results, it was suggested that the hepatoprotective effects of the LFE might be related to antioxidative activity and expressional regulation of the cytochrome p450 system (Ha, et al., 2005).
- licorice root: Isoliquiritigenin, isolated from Glycyrrhiza uralensis, stimulates detoxification system via Nrf2 activation, which could be a potential protective mechanism of licorice. (Gong et al., 2015).
- ginger rhizome: In 3 different animal groups, pre-treatment with different doses of ginger extract prior to toxin-treatment alleviated its toxic effects on the tested parameters (El-Sharaky, Newairy, Kamel, & Eweda, 2009).
- star anise fruit: Star anise fruit supplementation prevents the development of chemical induced liver cancer by decreasing oxidative stress and preserving the activity of major antioxidant enzymes. (Sing, Sharma, & Goyal, 2014).
- Please note that all of the above herbs enhance the activity of the liver, and do not act as laxative. This is the true point of a liver support / liver detox.
These teas are everywhere, even in Walmart. For a chance to win $250 Walmart gift card, enter below:
**While this tea can help in relation to non serious common conditions, it does not claim to act like a drug to to fix or cure any ailments.
N.B. It is extremely difficult to create a “one size fits all” detox plan, as nutrition should be individualized based on the results of testing. These tips seems to be the most ubiquitous amongst the detox plans I have come across. Supplementation, however, ought to be dosed based on the individual. Contact your physician, dietitian or nutritionist before considering any major detoxification diet plan.
Thank you to Traditional Medicinals for sponsoring this post. I am so grateful to be able to share information I’m learning from my classes and personal research and recommend a product that aligns so well with this information.
Al-Malki, A.L. & Abo-Golayel, M.K. (2013). Hepatoprotective efficacy of chicory alone or combined with dandelion leaves against induced liver damage. Life Science Journal, 10(4), 140-157.
Bone, K. & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy (2nd ed.). Edinburgh, London, New York, Oxford, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Sydney, Toronto: Church Stone Livingstone Elsevier.
Choi, E.H., Lee, N., Kim, H.J., Kim, M.K., Chi, S-G, Kwon, D.Y., & Chun, H.S. (2007). Schisandra fructus extract ameliorate doxorubicin-induduce cytotoxicity in cardiomyocytes: Altered gene expressoin for detoxification enzymes. Genes and Nutrition, 2, 337-345. doi: 10.1007/s12263-007-0073-y
Cline, J.C. (2015). Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 21(3), 54-62.
El-Sharaky, A.S., Newairy, A.A., Kamel, M.A., & Eweda, S.M. (2009). Protective effect of ginger extract against bromobenzene-induced hepatotoxicity in male rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 47, 1584-1590.
Gong, H., Zhang, B.K., Yan, M., Fang, P.F., HD., L, Hu, C.P., Yang, Y., Cao, P. … & Fan, XR. (2015). A protective mechanism of licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis): isoliquiritigenin stimulates detoxification system via Nrf2 activation. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 13(162), 134-139. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2009.04.005
Ha, K-T., Yoon, S-J., Choi, D-Y., Kim, D-W., Kim, J-K., & Kim, C-H. Protective effect of Lycium chinense fruit on carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity (2005). Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96, 529-535. 10.1016/j.jep.2014.12.043
Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015, March). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015(1), 1-23
Peter, S., Holguin, F., Wood, L.G., Clougherty, J.E., Raederstorff, D., Antal, M., Weber, P. & Eggersdorfer, M. (2015). Nutritional solutions to reduce risk of negative health impacts of air pollution, 7(12), 10398-10416. doi: 10.3390/nu7125539
Singh, R., Sharma, J. & Goyal, P.K. Amelioration of chemical induced hepatic carcinogenesis by Averrhoa carambola (star fruit) extract (2014). World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 4(1), 888-902.