Our bodies are exposed to toxins everyday including heavy metals, pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals and bacterial endotoxins (endotoxins result from poor digestion and leaky gut and lead to inflammation). In some cases, toxins are not eliminated efficiently and can accumulate in tissues and organs. If your detoxification pathways are not as strong as they should be, you can even become toxic from food, drink, bodycare products, and environmental allergens, for example. The accumulations of toxins disrupts healthy cell function and increases the risk for disease. Improper removal of toxins over time can lead to:
- cardiovascular disease
- neurological and cognitive issues
- immune system dysfunction
- chemical intolerance
- reproductive and developmental concerns
At Human Nature, we offer consultations and classes in the use of detoxification or cleansing protocols to support the body's natural ability to detoxify and stay ahead of the toxic burden. Reducing the build-up of toxins internally is key to optimal health and longevity.
When toxins enter our cells, the body has three steps or "phases" of detoxification. These steps need to work simultaneously in order for the detoxification to work effectively. Proper nutrition helps ensure that each step is supported. This is one of the reasons why we put a large emphasis on what you are eating. You not only need to eat whole foods, you need to be eating the right way for your body.
The three phases of detoxification are: Activation, Neutralization, and Elimination.
Activation, or Phase 1, is when special enzymes form a reactive site to a toxin so that the body can better eliminate it. Special nutrients in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cabbage) and black radishes combine with an enzyme called myrosinase (high in foods like broccoli sprouts, mustard seeds, and horseradish) to get the toxin ready for the next step, Phase 2. In many cases, Phase 1 turns the toxin into something temporarily even more toxic so that it can be used in the next phase. Therefore, it is very important that Phase 2 be ready and well-supported. Certain medicines and foods tend to up-regulate Phase 1 without supporting Phase 2 and this is where some people can experience side effects from alcohol, chemicals, caffeine, sleeping pills, pesticides, prescription medications, etc.
Neutralization, or Phase 2, is the process of putting a protective compound (called conjugation) with the toxin so that it becomes less toxic and water-soluble in order to be eliminated. Amino acids like glycine (found in high protein foods like meat, fish, legumes), anti-oxidants like glutathione , and substances that provide energy like creatine (found in meats) help to neutralize the toxin and get it ready for the next phase, elimination. Sulfur-rich foods are very important as well: onions, eggs, meats, garlic, cruciferous vegetables. Phase 2 tends to be sluggish for some people. It's very important that Phase 2 be working since Phase 1 metabolites can be dangerous and need to be moved out! For example, you might activate Phase 1 with your morning coffee and your evening wine. If you have sluggish Phase 2, you'll have symptoms of toxicity later such as brain fog, insomnia, or hot flashes.
Elimination, or Phase 3, is the final step in detoxification. This is where toxins are moved out of the body primarily through urine, feces or sweat. Generally, having plenty of fats and alkaline-forming foods in the diet, as well as fiber, helps ensure the elimination phase is effective. Being properly hydrated is also important. A good supply of magnesium in the diet, food-based or chelated supplement like this one, is also important for elimination.
If there is a "bottleneck" in the system of toxin removal, then a person could be living with unnecessary symptoms and baggage. In order to resolve chronic health issues, it's important to make sure you receive enough support for daily detoxification. It can also be very helpful for people to undergo special periods of cleansing or detoxification to get a jumpstart on health. No cleanse is effective unless the digestive system is working effectively so proper foods play a huge role in laying the groundwork for effective detoxification.