Detoxification 12 August 2009
Detoxification is the process by which toxins in the body are neutralised and excreted. In today’s toxic world, it is a crucial process to ensure good health. It involves 2 main processes- biotransformation and excretion.
Toxins are generally fat soluble. The body protects itself from the toxins by storing them in fat. There are 4 phases to removal of these fat soluble toxins:
- Phase 0- the toxins are mobilized from the fat stores and transported to the liver. This is done by consuming a diet high in healthy protein and fat. Exercise is mandatory to then move the toxins through the lymph to the liver.
- Phase 1- Conversion of the fat soluble toxins into metabolites, preparing them for conversion into water soluble toxins. This process is done by the cytochrome P450 system in the liver which inserts an oxygen molecule (hydroxylation). Protein and fat are again crucial for proper functioning of the CyP450 enzyme system. Individuals on low protein/fat diets frequently have inefficient CyP450 systems. This is why eggs are such an important part of a detoxification process. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli also stimulate the CyP450 enzymes. The more the simple carbohydrate intake rises (especially sugar and cereals), the less efficient the CyP450 becomes. Vitamin C is also important because it controls the hydroxylation process. Unfortunately the metabolites are free radicals and as such are temporarily more dangerous than the original toxins (until they enter phase 2). A diet rich in antioxidants to counteract the free radicals is therefore important. Highly processed diets are a major cause of ill health because as well as causing down regulation of the CyP450 system because of insufficient healthy fat and protein, they also don’t provide antioxidants or the conjugating agents required for phase 2.
- Phase 2- the metabolites are conjugated by the liver into water soluble compounds. This process is done by amino acids such as glutathione, glycine and glucuronic acid as well as methy groups for methylation. A high fat/protein diet that accelerates phase 0 and 1 will worsen health if phase 2 is not working efficiently because there will be a “bottle neck” of dangerous free radicals created. This is why high fat diest are frequently associated with an increased risk of cancer (this also occurs because they are usually high in unhealthy fat, not healthy fat). Fasting will create a similar effect as body fat stores are mobilised.
- Phase 3- the compounds are removed from liver cells into the blood and lymph. This process is largely done by glutathione.
The water soluble toxins are now excreted from the blood and lymph via:
It is important to maintain the health of these organs so that this process works efficiently. Constipation, for example, is a significant detriment to effective detoxification and allows for reabsorption of the toxins. This is why fiber and foods such as avocados and brown rice are so important in a detoxification process. Avocados and brown rice contain isosterols which prevent reabsorption of toxins excreted in the bile. Understanding this model also allows us to see how many skin diseases are caused by ineffective detoxification.