Dr. Sasha Fluss, ND at NatureMed Clinic in Boulder/Denver
As we come out of the holiday season filled with indulging and rich foods many people are interested in a Detox as we move into spring and warmer weather.
What is Detox?
Detoxification is all about optimizing your “emunctory organs”. E-munc-tory-what’s? Your emunctory organs are your excretory organs, the areas of your body that are used to excrete waste products and toxins. These include:
Gastrointestinal tract: toxins and wastes are removed through your GI tract. Having healthy, regular easy to pass bowel movements is essential to ensure good elimination. Once a day is great up to after every meal for optimal elimination. While there may be multiple reasons for your constipation, in general, ensuring adequate hydration and fiber intake (such as that found in fruits and veggies, legumes and whole grains) is key.
Liver: The liver is our main detoxification organ. It utilizes a series of enzyme pathways known as Phase 1 and Phase 2 to break down toxins and then make them soluble so that they can be eliminated by the body. Medication, alcohol, hormones and all chemicals involved in metabolic pathways in your body.
Kidneys: Your kidneys are also a main excretory organ. The best way to ensure adequate elimination through the kidneys is to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Skin: We even excrete toxins through our skin. Common skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne can sometimes improve with a good detox as they can be symptoms of toxicity. Daily exercise, and saunas are a great ways to increase elimination through your skin.
Lungs: This is a commonly overlooked emunctory organ. Deep breathing and exercise are great ways to decrease stress and also eliminate through the lungs.
So How does the body Detox?
The Liver uses 2 “Phases” to detox, called Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 consists of a series of enzymes and chemical reactions to render toxic substances less toxic via the help of amino acids and antioxidants such as glutathione and NAC. Phase 2 takes these less toxic substances and makes them water soluble so that they can be excreted from the body.
Why do we Detox?
We live in a toxic world. More and more research is coming out on how these toxins are affecting our internal environment. Toxins from our food, the air, household products, cosmetics, building materials and even receipt paper is being connected with increased risks of cancer, hormonal disturbances, autoimmune conditions and more. Conditions associated with toxicity include:
- Heart disease
- Menstrual problems
- Chronic headaches
- Hypersensitivity to drugs, alcohol, perfumes etc.
- Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
- Weight gain
- Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hormonal imbalance
And the list goes on….
Often when a patient comes in with symptoms such as these their detox pathways must be looked at.
A simple self check to see how your Phase 1 and Phase 2 Liver Detox is working:
Do you drink 1 cup of coffee and feel wired for the rest of the day yet cant fall asleep at night? This may be due to a sluggish Phase 1
Are you able to consume large amounts of caffeine even late in the afternoon and still sleep? This may be die to an overactive Phase 1
Do smells and strong foods such as garlic make you feel sick? Are you currently a cigarette smoker or have you been in the past? This may be due to an under functioning Phase 2
How to Detox
It is important to make sure that your emunctory organs are functioning optimally before starting an aggressive detox. Ensuring good gut health is key. That means taking care of constipation, making sure you are replete in good micro flora and that you are digesting your foods properly. If you are detoxing and unable to eliminate through the bowels unwanted side effects from cleansing can occur such as headaches, cold and flu symptoms, skin condition flare ups, irritability etc.
A detox usually involves something to help move the bowels while cleansing. An eating plan and supplements to support the liver through the protocol.
1. Help move the bowels with hot water with lemon in the morning. Gentle laxative herbs may also be added to your protocol to help stimulate the removal of toxins.
2. Diet: Depending on your symptoms and condition different dietary recommendations may be given while cleanings whether that be a strict juice/smoothie diet while cleaning or an anti-inflammatory “clean” diet that removes common food intolerances, sugars and additives. Food is medicine!
3. EDTA and DMSA: these may be added into your detox plan if heavy metal toxicity is a suspected issue. These substances draw heavy metals out of bones and tissues so that they can be eliminated out of the body.
Supplements to support the Liver:
- Alpha Lipoic Acid: a major antioxidant for hepatocytes (the cells of the liver). This is very useful to add into a protocol for cleansing.
- N-acetyl cysteine: is the precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is a major antioxidant in liver detox and metabolism. It is not well absorbed orally and therefore the precursor NAC is often used. Glutathione can actually be given intravenously to patients who have Tylenol overdose induced liver toxicity to restore hepatocyte function.
- Protein: both phases of liver detoxification require amino acids to function properly. Therefore adequate protein during detox is paramount to keep the liver functioning optimally.
- Micro minerals and co-factors such as Selenium and chromium also support the 2 phases of liver detox and keep the liver functioning optimally.
*There are some exceptions to Detox such as anorexia, extreme fatigue, during times of acute illness, prior to or just after surgery, pregnant/lactating women and certain cardiovascular conditions. Check with your Doctor to make sure it is the right time for a Detox and to create a protocol specific to You.
Healthy Detox Smoothie
This smoothie is great to add into your detox routine and surprisingly yummy! Make sure when you are juicing or blending to always choose organic ingredients. This is especially important when blending as you are taking in concentrated fruits and veggies.
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup chopped of parsley
handful chopped cilantro or mint
½ inch ginger
2 medium stalks celery
½ inch ginger chopped
1 ¼ cups chopped kale
Mix all ingredients in blender. Add Coconut water until smoothie reaches desired consistency. Enjoy fresh or make in the morning and keep in the fridge to enjoy during the day.
Blueberries: Full of potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components blueberries have been indicated in the research to be useful in Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and memory. Blueberries are a great addition to smoothies to improve taste and have a low glycemic index so they wont elevate blood sugar levels.
Parsley, Cilantro and Mint: all of these herbs are great at helping with detoxification by supporting detox pathways in the liver.
Ginger: An excellent warming spice. Add to smoothies in the winter to help warm the body (especially important after drinking a cold juice), great for nausea and to stimulate circulation.
Celery: a great detox food; celery helps promote detox pathways in your liver.
Kale: packed full of nutrients and micronutrients. Having kale in a smoothie is a great way to increase your intake of veggies in a day.