(Should we “spring –clean” our bodies without a doctor’s supervision?)
As the winter fades away, spring brings an urge for revival and cleansing and so numerous people undertake self-detoxification tools such as juicing, prolonged fasting, water fasting, colonic irrigation, etc. Many of these detoxification methods are medically controversial and may not be as beneficial as what is claimed. In addition, they can even be harmful to some individuals and may simply have no effects on detoxification.
We live in an incredibly toxic environment in which toxicity could potentially become the lead cause of 3rd-millennium morbidity and mortality for the vast majority of the world population. One of the most recent findings identified 287 toxins in the umbilical cord of newborn babies of which 180 are known carcinogenic, and 207 are toxic to the brain. All of this toxicity even before their first breath!
Many individuals experience vague and non-specific symptoms of toxic overload which often remain undiagnosed for years. Some symptoms include fatigue, malaise and recurrent headaches, muscle and joint pain, myalgia, brain fog, chemical sensitivities, chronic bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, adverse and paradoxical reaction to common medications, cognitive difficulties, paresthesia(tingling), sleep disturbances etc. However, some people develop diseases known to be initiated or contributed by environmental toxicity -detoxification capacity mismatch. These include diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Fibromyalgia, Obesity, Diabetes and Insulin Resistance, Mood disorders, Tremors, Chronic neurological illnesses like Parkinson’s, Asthma, various Allergies, Autoimmune conditions, certain cancers, Infertility, Hormonal imbalances and Breast cancer.
How does Detoxification work?
We are exposed to two types of toxins. Endogenous toxins are produced though our own body’s metabolism and exogenous ones are linked to environmental pollutants. Our body is designed to get rid of these toxins through the skin, kidneys, intestines, lungs and liver. The liver plays an important role in the detoxification of fat-soluble toxins that are easily absorbed but need to be transformed into water-soluble components in order for them to be excreted out of the body. Besides, 90% of endogenous toxins which come from a normal metabolism also need to pass through the liver. These biotransformation and detoxification have their own energy and nutrient requirements. To put it more simply: it is a little room where all the garbage goes before it gets taken out!
There are two major pathways of liver detoxification (Phase I and II) that are responsible for transforming fat soluble into water-soluble toxins creating intermediary products which can be more harmful than the initial toxin entering a liver. That’s why these two Phases need to be synchronized. Unfortunately, there is a great variation in the genetic makeup of these phases which often influence the livers capacity to detoxify sufficiently. In addition, these genes which code for Phase I especially are highly inducible by different nutrients, medications, and toxins and can easily manipulate liver detoxification in a positive or negative way. This is one of the reasons why self-prescribed juicing or supplementation can be dangerous. One can increase phase I liver detoxification without knowing that Phase II could be inadequate and thus can end up with a lot of harmful intermediate products.
As we are all biochemically and genetically unique, we all detoxify differently, and that is why under the same environmental toxicity burden one person will develop symptoms or diseases and another may not. Thus we can not all have the same “juice “ for liver detoxification! There are very sophisticated tools available that can identify individual liver detoxification capacities such as genetic testing and supportive blood tests and are used for prescribing personalized liver detoxification. Self-detoxifying for people who already have symptoms or diseases mentioned above is not recommended and it can be dangerous.
The importance of nutrients for Liver Detoxification
Liver Detoxification is supported with certain nutrients that are essential for sufficient bio-transformation. Some of these cofactors are missing in a modern diet, due to overfeeding with junk or processed foods. Studies showed that many individuals are actually malnourished because they fail to include whole foods in their everyday diet. Insufficient nutrients in a diet, even in individual that has good detoxification genes, can lead to toxic overload. Often some of the microelements necessary for sufficient liver detoxification are replaced by heavy metals from the environment which worsen the situation. One of them is mercury which can be found in metal amalgams, some fish, and water. Another heavy metal is one which we can hardly escape, and that is lead which is commonly found in lipstick (Studies show that majority of branded lipsticks contain a detectable amount of lead!)
Persons who are doing prolonged juicing often experience brain fog, headaches, and tiredness as they fail to support phase II liver detoxification with adequate protein intake necessary to carry out this phase. They see it as a positive effect of detoxification, but it is actually a clear sign of insufficient detoxification. In the long run, it can be damaging. In fact, using juice with non-organic vegetables full of pesticides can worsen the situation by adding an extra toxic burden. In contrast to what most people think, spinach and kale (if not Organic) were labeled as one of the 12 most toxic vegetables.
The other ten are (including Fruits): Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Domestic Blueberries, Nectarines, Sweet Bell, Peppers, Collard Greens, Cherries, Potatoes, Grapes, and Lettuce. They are known as The Dirty Dozen as they could contain about 50 pesticides per serving. Medical detoxification prescribed by doctors recommends organic fruit and vegetables, supportive nutrients, and adequate amino-acid intake and never isolated juicing. In fact, by identifying personal detoxification genes we can more precisely order personalized detoxification. A good example is the presence of the MTHFR gene mutation which does not allow folic acid conversion into a usable form which often leads to high homocysteine and cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, etc. where personalized detoxification support is necessary.
The simple take home understanding: if there is a symptom of generalized toxicity or diseases, liver detoxification needs precision and supervision by a physician.
If there is an aim to live a healthier less toxic lifestyle detoxification should be an ongoing process and not an isolated event: decrease the input of environmental toxins, eat organic well-balanced diet and employ regular non-harmful detoxification methods like sauna or infrared sauna.