Each year, over 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released into the environment by industry and over 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used in North America. This makes it impossible to avoid exposure to toxins at some level. To make matters worse, it has become increasingly difficult to consume adequate amounts of nutritional factors to help detoxify these environmental assaults that find their way into the body. Over time, an accumulation of toxins can reduce energy levels, as well as negatively impact immune, neurological and overall health.
Toxins are poisonous substances capable of causing ill-health, disease and death. How toxic a substance is varies depending on the agent in question and the degree of damage it causes to cellular structures and cellular division. Detoxification is the removal of toxic substances from the body. Detoxification occurs mainly in the liver, which is the organ responsible for the filtration of the blood and the elimination of toxins. Other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and skin are also important when it comes to clearing toxins from the body.
Detoxification has become associated with the term cleanse. This is a term used to describe all sorts of treatments aimed at purifying or purging the body. Many such treatments are unproven and make little sense physiologically and do little to enhance health.
There are water and fat soluble toxins. Fat soluble toxins are the majority and they tend to cause more issues in the body than the water soluble toxins. They include metabolic end-products, carcinogens, environmental pollutants, pesticides, exhaust fumes, toxic pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, cigarette smoke etc.
Detoxification is an extremely complex process. In general, water soluble toxins are excreted by the kidneys. Fat soluble toxins need to be metabolized and transformed into water soluble substances before they can be eliminated. This is the process that the liver looks after. The liver filters the blood and using a variety of enzymes, breaks down and removes the toxin through phase I and phase II detoxification. The liver is also responsible for the production of bile, which is how fat-soluble toxins and cholesterol are excreted. Different reactions are involved in phase I and phase II liver detoxification and include oxidation, reduction, methylation and hydrolysis.
During Phase I, toxins are prepared for elimination via phase II detoxification pathway. Phase I detoxification leads to the production of activated intermediates which are more reactive and can cause more harm than the initial contaminant. It is therefore essential that phase I and Phase II work synergistically. Free radicals are produced during phase I, which means that if antioxidants are not present in sufficient quantities, liver and tissue damage can result. Glutathione is essential for the prevention of free radical damage during phase I.
During phase II another substance is added to the activated intermediates to make them less harmful. The toxin is also modified to make it water soluble which allows for excretion in bile or urine.
Studies have shown that many nutrients are capable of enhancing detoxification in the liver. When detoxification systems are functioning poorly, supplementation with nutrients and supplements that enhance detoxification will help improve health, lifespan and relieve symptoms associated with toxicity.
Prior to detoxification, all channels for drainage must be open. This includes the primary local glands and organs of elimination (e.g. liver, lung, colon etc) as well as the systematic pathways of elimination (e.g. extracellular matrix and lymph etc.). Both of these pathways must be operating in concert with one another to prevent translocation and re-toxification at the deeper levels. Before starting on any detoxification program it is essential that all the drainage pathways be opened and functioning well in order to support the liver in ridding the body of the various toxins. Specialized supplements to facilitate drainage, support the liver and gut and help pull out specific types of toxins (e.g. Recreational drugs, tobacco, radiation, heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, industrial pollutants, beauty salon pollutants, etc.) are available at Heartful Wellness.