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Occasionally a doctor or a nutritionist will write an article and express the opinion that people do not need to use special diets or nutritional supplements to encourage the removal of toxins from the body. Their view is that the body has a perfectly designed detoxification system using the liver and our skin to remove any toxins. In theory that may be correct, but in practice it is "dead" wrong, with pun intended. Here are some questions for the misinformed:
- Has the volume of toxins increased in the past several decades: plastic containers, pesticides, industrial pollution, pharmaceutical waste, radiation exposure, food processing and cooking, vehicle emissions and much more?
- Has the diet of the average person improved or declined over the past seventy years? The CDC says over 95% of the population has serious nutritional deficiencies, and the National Cancer Institute puts that number at 100%. Without the proper nutrients in the body can the detoxification system work properly?
- Does the average person get more physical activity now than in the past? Every study says that a vast majority of people do not get enough physical activity, and we know that exercise is crucial for the removal of toxins from the body. Movement is required for the lymph glands to release stored toxins for processing. Sweating is necessary to move toxins out of the body.
- People do not eat enough detoxifying foods, which are mostly vegetables. Every study of human behavior in North America confirms that a vast majority of people do not eat enough vegetables.
- And,finally, why do hundreds of peer reviewed studies clearly show that detoxification programs actually work very well to remove specific toxins, reduce toxins in the blood and urine markers, reduce symptoms and improve overall health?
The science is in. The misinformed need to read more, and the average person needs to take a careful look at their lifestyle and behavior in order to improve their deteriorating health. Over 70% of adults now have a chronic illness and in 1960 that figure was only 10%. Why you ask? Respected scientists and doctors like Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Jeffrey Bland all agree that toxins are one of the main reasons for our deteriorating health, along with poor nutrition and inadequate exercise.
- Detox Box by Dr. Mark Hyman- March 20016
- The Disease Delusion by Dr. Jeffery Bland- May 2014
- The Toxin Solution by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno- February 2017
For some naysayers and reluctant layman this overview may not be sufficient to sway their thinking, or encourage them to consider making serious changes to improve their health. Therefore, it may be helpful to provide an explanation of how our detoxification system works.
The Liver as Master Detoxifier
It is true that the liver plays the dominate role in our detoxification system, but there are other supporting players including the kidneys, the lymph glands, the blood brain barrier, the lungs, the skin, the gall bladder, the fat cells and the intestines. Their roles are as follows:
- The liver- All toxins are sent to the liver eventually where there are two stages of detoxification to break down the toxins and remove them as part of the feces removal process. The liver also performs many other functions.
- The kidneys- The kidneys process 200 quarts of blood and filter out 2 quarts of water and waste. The kidneys also perform many other functions.
- The lungs- The lungs filter the air we breathe and removes toxins from the blood per circulation to the kidneys and the liver. The lungs also remove the carbon dioxide produced as part of the energy production process when oxygen and glucose produce energy in the mitochondria of our cells.
- The lymph glands- There are over 1000 lymph glands in the body that gather toxins for storage until they can be sent via gravity to the liver for processing.
- The blood brain barrier- Because the brain is so vital to our health, it has a special filtering system of its own to keep out potentially dangerous chemicals. This is a rejection type system that forces toxins to return to the kidneys via our blood.
- The gall bladder- The gall bladder makes bile that is used as an additive to the waste coming out to the liver to help carry it to the intestines.
- The fat cells- Fat cells often are used to encapsulate toxins in order to protect them from doing damage to our bodies. When someone is losing weight, these fat cells shrink causing the release of these toxins in the blood stream.
- The intestines- The intestines are responsible for waste removal, for the most part. The bacteria and enzymes present also play a role in the digestion of foods and removal of toxins into the blood for processing.
How does this "perfect" detoxification process fail?
As was mentioned earlier the system can begin to fail when there are simply too many toxins and not enough nutrients to help the system to work the way that it should. Here are some of the toxins that can begin to overwhelm this system:
- Air pollution from cars, factories, airplanes, building materials, household chemicals, earth processes (radon, mold, bacteria, viruses, etc.), tobacco smoke, burning fossil fuels and animal feces.
- Water pollution from factories, human waste, animal waste, pesticides, prescription medication in sewage systems, chlorine in water and pools, fluoride in water systems, mining waste, marine dumping, radiation waste, landfill leakage and oil leaks.
- Many of these pollutants also end up in the soil where they are passed on in our food.
Most of these toxins become free radicals in our body
- Each cell in our body gets 10,000 free radical hits per day.
- The body has 50-100 trillion cells.
- The body gets 7 trillion free radical hits per second.
- In order to neutralize this free radical damage the body needs 10,000-12,000 mg of antioxidants per day and only gets 5000-6000 mg. from a really good diet.
- Measured as ORAC units (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity), the body needs 3,000-5,000 units, but only gets about 1200-1500 units.
As was explained earlier, cells go through 5 stages of deterioration; (stressed, weakened, dysfunctional, mutated, diseased). Therefore, this deterioration happens over many years due to high levels of free radicals and low levels of nutrients.
How these toxins are processed
In some cases, these toxins are very quickly neutralized in our bodies when toxins become free radicals that are lacking a paired electron. Those becoming a free radical, in search of an electron in our body, can cause damage when they steal an electron from one of our healthy cells. This can be avoided if we have some vitamin C circulating in our body, which has an extra electron that it can give to the free radical, thus avoiding the previously mentioned cellular damage. This is how we can help to avoid damage to our arteries, and even cancer. When there are too many toxins in the body they are sent to the liver to begin a two-stage detoxification process.
Stage 1 liver detoxification
- The overload of toxins may contain some more complex molecules that need to be broken down using the bodies cytochrome P450 and CYP system. These are special enzymes involved in the synthesis and metabolism of drugs and other toxins with complex molecular structures.
- Every toxin is reduced to one reactive oxygen species (ROS), which must be neutralized by an antioxidant.
- This ROS molecule then receives some bile from the gall bladder and some fiber from the liver before being sent to the intestines for removal from the body as feces.
- In an ideal situation these toxins are successfully eliminated by the body in regular bowel movements.
- In some cases this processing is flawed and can cause toxins to stay in the body.
- Quality proteins (amino acids) are needed in order to make P450 and CYP enzymes to break down the complex toxins. If they are lacking this processing fails.
- If the body's metabolism is too fast this process is incomplete and fails.
- If the body's metabolism is too slow (constipation) the toxins can be reabsorbed.
- If the intestines are not working properly there can be gaps that allow toxins to escape into the blood stream and be returned to our organs and other tissues.
- The recirculated toxins can begin to cause damage to the liver, the brain and other parts of the body. This is especially true if the toxins accumulate in the liver and become a burden due to the liver's inability to process them in stage 2 of the detoxification process.
- Stage 1 detoxification may also be flawed if it is over stimulated or inhibited in some way. Two substances that can cause this over activation are caffeine and alcohol. Inhibitors can include low protein diets (vegans and vegetarians), high carbohydrate diets, antihistamines, food dyes, aspirin, paint fumes, cigarette smoke, enzyme deficiencies and nutrient deficiencies.
- By the same token, there are several substances that can enhance stage 1 detoxification, and they include milk thistle, beet greens, chlorella, chlorophyll, garlic, artichokes and vitamin C.
Stage 2 liver detoxification
This stage of liver detoxification has six distinct pathways, all of which are determined and guided by genetics and nutritional behavior. There are three primary factors to consider in the utilization of this stage for the elimination of toxins in the body:
- The primary pathway of the six pathways available is the glutathione pathway, which handles about 60% of the toxins that are excreted using bile and fiber as part of the process. This includes the toxins known as carcinogens, which are the molecules posing the greatest risk for cancer.
- Methylation plays a key role in all six pathways because it is necessary to convert amino acids into enzymes and nutrients in all six of the pathways. Methylation is accomplished when amino acids are broken down by adding vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate.
- There are two antioxidants made naturally in the body from specific nutrients, and they are glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Glutathione is made in the liver by combining nutrients such as N-acetylecysteine (NAC), alpha lipoic acid and glycine. Glutathione is the body's most powerful antioxidant. However, as the body ages it is programmed to make less enzymes, probiotics and antioxidants. This means that supplementing with certain key nutrients becomes necessary as we age. Here are a few of the most scientifically proven nutrients that can help with this detoxification process:
- NAC, alpha lipoic acid and glycine to make glutathione
- Vitamin C to neutralize circulating free radicals
- Vitamin D3 to control genetic predispositions to disease
- Fish oils to control inflammation, reduce pain and keep cells healthy
- Modified citrus pectin to remove heavy metals and stop cancer cell growth
- Co Enzyme Q10 to protect the cell nucleus from damage and keep cellular energy levels high for the functioning of all cells in the liver, and elsewhere
The role of detoxification in disease development
Dr. Bruce Ames is one of the pre-eminent nutritional biochemists in the world, and he provides an excellent explanation about how poor nutrient leads to ineffective detoxification and the development of chronic illness, including cancer. It is called The Ames Theory and is based on the priorities by which nutrients are used in the body after they are consumed.
- Immediate needs- When nutrients are consumed, the first priority for use is for reproductive purposes and controlling invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
- Intermediate needs- The next priority for our cells is the production of energy, cell maintenance, and the production of biochemicals such as hormones and neurotransmitters.
- Long-term needs- The remaining nutrients are used for protection against chronic illness, the protection of the DNA in the nucleus of our cells, and the aging process.
This nutrient priority process perfectly explains the health crisis we are experiencing at this very moment in the United States. Consider the following facts, some of which have already been shared:
- A study by the National Cancer Institute of over 16,000 people aged 2 to 80 could not find one person have a truly healthy diet. In fact, a vast majority were deficient in 11 out of 14 nutritional categories.
- The percentage of people with a chronic illness has grown from 10% in 1960 to over 70% today, with many people having 2 or more chronic illnesses.
- The cost of health care is increasing so fast that a prominent economist has estimated that it will consume 100% of our GNP by the year 2065.
- The current health care system is focused on the treatment of symptoms of illness with prescription medications and surgery.
- Over 80% of all chronic illness is preventable, but the current system only spends 5% of all health care spending on prevention.
- Doctors get less than 10 hours of education on nutrition in their medical training.
- The pharmaceutical industry spends more on lobbying congress than any other lobby group, over $1.7 billion a year.
- The insurance industry is the second biggest lobby group spending nearly $200 million a year.
People often say we do not have a health care system, we have a sick care system, and it is not sustainable. Clearly people are not eating as well as they should, doctors are not educating people about nutrition as well as they should, and the health care industry is not doing what they should be doing to help people to become healthier to reduce the cost of health care. And, to the point of this article, it does more harm than good for doctors and nutritionists to continue to say that detoxification programs are not necessary. Clearly they are.
Do detoxification programs really work?
There are several clinical studies confirming the benefits of detoxification programs for human patients. One of the earliest studies was conducted by Metagenics in the 1990's to evaluate their new detoxification medical food product. Metagenics employs over 120 scientists for the purpose of testing their medical foods and nutritional supplements to determine if they are able to improve cellular function as they are designed to do. In this case, the following steps were used to ensure that the study produced valid results.
- The study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a medical food supplement detoxification product compared to a hypoallergenic, calorie restricted diet in the management of symptoms in chronically ill patients.
- In order to create a comparable set of patients, hundreds of chronically ill patients were evaluated using a 100-point symptom-based Metabolic Screening Survey. Only patients scoring in the range of 72-74 were selected to participate. See Appendix I.
- One hundred and six patients were selected, with 84 placed in the experimental group and 22 patients in the control group.
- During the ten-week study period both groups ate the same hypoallergenic diet, with the experimental group also consuming the medical food detoxification product. The control group consumed a powder with no nutritional value.
- After the ten weeks, the symptoms survey was reapplied. The experimental group realized a 52% reduction in symptoms while the control group realized a 22% reduction.
- Lab tests were also conducted during the study, with the experimental group experiencing a normalization of hepatic phase 1 cytochrome P450 activity and phase 2 glycine conjugation detoxification function. The control group did not experience similar biochemical lab result improvements.
- These results suggest that many chronically ill patients may be ill due to the metabolic impact of toxin accumulation from both exogenous (external) and endogenous (internal) sources.
- There were also twenty one scientific footnotes in the study explaining the impact of the various medical food components on the liver and other detoxification pathways in the body.
Additional detoxification studies can be found in the following sources:
- GreenMedInfo- 192 scientific abstracts on a variety of detoxification nutrients
- Toxin Toxout (book) by Lourie and Smith- 282 scientific references
- The Disease Delusion (book) by Jeffrey Bland- 16 detoxification references
- The Toxin Solution (book) by Joseph Pizzorno
The question about whether the human body needs some help with detoxification should be resolved now. The next question is how to accomplish this detoxification in a safe, effective and scientifically proven manner.
Some guidelines for evidence-based detoxification
The are some specific steps necessary to develop a truly personalized detoxification program. Each step will help to guide anyone to higher level of optimum health.
- Detoxification needs assessment-
- Find a qualified health practitioner to conduct an Electodermal Screening (EDS) assessment. This proven physiological assessment tool will determine if your key organs are functioning properly (liver, kidneys. Intestines, gall bladder, lungs).
- Ask your doctor to request blood and urine tests to determine if you are experiencing any accumulated DNA damage in your cells.
Damage to cellular DNA caused by toxins- Toxins such as chemicals in the air, water or food, as well as various forms of radiation, can accumulate in the body. This accumulated level of toxins can lead to SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and damage to the DNA in the nucleus of our cells. The urine test 8-OHgD can measure the extent of this damage, thus providing an early warning of disease including cancer. Other tests can then be used to locate the specific location of the most serious DNA damaged cells.
Phenotypic aging measures and Gompertz coefficients.
C-reactive protein (log)
Mean cell volume
Red cell distribution width
White blood cell count
DNAm PhenoAge = intercept+CpG1 × β1 + CpG2 × β2 + …CpG513 × β513
- Ask your doctor to add a test of heavy metals in order to determine if specific toxins are accumulating in your body such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium and aluminum.
- Include an overall blood test CBC to ensure a comprehensive assessment.
- Toxin source identification- If specific toxins have been identified, try to determine the source of them in our home, your community or your place of work. Try to determine which sources you have control over and take the necessary actions to remove them, such as changing the products you consume, the water you drink, the food you eat or the air you breathe. Buying chemical-free products, organic foods, air filters and pure, tested spring water will be a great help.
- Symptoms for toxin exposure- Another method of determining your level of toxin exposure is to perform an assessment of existing metabolic symptoms. There are two good tools to conduct this type of assessment.
- The Metagenics " Screening Questionnaire" provides a 100-point evaluation pool that can be used as the beginning of your detoxification program and then again after it has been completed. Use Appendix I.
- Dr. Pizzorno's Symptoms by Toxins and Symptoms Tracking Tool are two separate assessment tools that can measure which toxins affect different parts of the body, as well as how toxins are impacting overall symptom expression. Find these in his book The Toxin Solution.
- Best foods for detoxification in the liver-- Start with the Mediterranean Diet with an emphasis on plant-based organic foods. Add these special foods recommended by Dr. Bland:
- Green tea, which contains catechins
- Turmeric, which contains curcumin
- Soy, which contains genestein (caution due to possible breast cancer concern)
- Cruciferous vegetables, which contain glucosinolates
- Red grapes, which contain resveratrol
- Watercress and pomegranate, which contain ellagic acid
- Hops, which contains humulones
- Nutritional supplements in three specific categories
- Stage 1 detoxification supplements
- Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and folic acid
- Stage 2 detoxification supplements
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid
- N-acetylcysteine, glycine and glutathione
- Glucuronic acid
- Toxin elimination supplements and foods
- Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, garlic and onions
- Vitamins A, C and E
- Selenium, copper, zinc and manganese
- Coenzymes Q10
- Turmeric, green tea and silymarin
Summarizing the need for detoxification
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno is the founder of Bastyr University, the editor of the Integrative Medicine Clinicians Journal, advisor to two presidents for Integrative Medicine, and the author of The Toxin Solution. His earlier book, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine has sold over 3 million copies. Dr. Pizzorno summarizes detoxification in this way:
"The more research I read, the more convinced I am that toxicity from exogenous, endogenous and toxins of choice are now the primary cause of most chronic illness in industrialized countries. "
Dr. Pizzorno goes on to say that this chronic illness is caused by specific damage in the body in the following well documented ways:
- Toxins poison enzymes, so they do not work properly.
- Toxins displace structural minerals, resulting in weaker bones.
- Toxins damage organs, such as the liver, the kidneys and the intestines.
- Toxins damage DNA, increasing degeneration and rapid aging.
- Toxins modify gene expression, by disrupting the on and off switches that make up over 80% of genetic material.
- Toxins damage cell membranes, which are the point of entry and exit for everything going in or out of the cell.
- Toxins interfere with hormones, causing imbalances.
- Toxins impair our detoxification effects.
The bottom line is that toxins eventually cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and every other chronic illness, along with other factors such as poor nutrition, stress, poor sleep and more.
How to avoid toxins- A basic list
- Avoid processed foods or non-organic foods.
- Avoid conventionally raised meat or dairy (grass fed chemical free is better).
- Avoid farm-raised fish or large fish (they contain more mercury).
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup or added sugar of any kind.
- Avoid health and beauty products containing chemicals.
- Does your house contain lead pipes or copper plumbing?
- Do you utilize chemical free products at home as much as possible?
- Do you live near a nuclear plant, a fracking well or homes burning coal?
- Do you still have mercury fillings?
- Has your home water and air been tested for toxins?
How to determine if you have toxins in your body
- Take the symptoms test (Appendix I)
- Include the following tests in your next blood test
- Damage to cellular DNA caused by toxins- Toxins such as chemicals in the air, water or food, as well as various forms of radiation, can accumulate in the body. This accumulated level of toxins can lead to SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms) and damage to the DNA in the nucleus of our cells. The urine test 8-OHgD can measure the extent of this damage, thus providing an early warning of disease including cancer. Other tests can then be used to locate the specific location of the most serious DNA damaged cells.
- Heavy metals test
- Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase test (GGT)- Oxidative stress
- Galectin 3- measures heavy metal damage
Note: An average of 91 to 148 toxins were found in recent blood tests. The most dominant toxins were PCB's, organochlorine pesticides, brominated flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals. Use the basic cancer blood panel from www.drcharlesbens.com.
Strategies to help reduce toxins
- Quit smoking - Use the Healthy Smoker book at www.drcharlesbens.com
- Avoid tap water - Use spring or filtered water.
- Eat organic food whenever possible.
- Reduce radiation exposure from X-rays, television, microwaves, cell phones, computers, etc. See radiation article at TotalHealthMagazine-Dr.Charles Bens.
- Use quality air filters in your house and at work.
- Get your mercury fillings replaced safely.
- Hang dry cleaned clothes outside for a day.
- Wash new clothes before wearing them.
- Wear natural fiber clothing (cotton and wool).
- Avoid prescription drugs and find safer herbal supplement alternatives.
- Reduce as many chemicals as you can in your house and find natural alternatives.
- Eat cleansing foods like asparagus, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, watermelon, garlic, olive oil, parsnips, carrots, brussel sprouts, fruits and dark green vegetables.
- Use herbs to cleanse your liver and body, such as milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric and cordyceps.
- Use supplements such as lecithin, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, calcium D-glucarate, beta carotene and quercetin. Use the highest quality Ultra Potent C Powder at www.drcharlesbens.com
- Especially consume modified citrus pectin to remove lead and pesticides-PectaSol-C from www.drcharlesbens.com
- Drink detox teas, which includes green tea.
- Consume products from the sea such as spirulina, chlorella and blue green algae (heavy metal detox).
- Use homeopathics like Newton's Detox #1.
- Use combination formulas like Clear Change from Metagenics - www.drcharlesbens.com
- Exercise to help drain your lymph nodes.
- Get a sauna or a massage to help move toxins out.
- Reduce toxic foods such as meat, dairy, high sugar foods, processed food and all junk food.
- Avoid swimming pools that use chlorine.
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