We are exposed to chemicals and toxins from our environment now more than ever these days. Fortunately, our bodies have a natural detoxification system that has evolved to rid those toxins away. The problem arises when our body becomes so overloaded with these harmful chemicals that our detox organs, like the liver and kidneys, can’t keep up. This creates a build-up of dangerous molecules that can have an effect on a range of bodily processes leading to cancer, obesity, dementia, and other chronic diseases.
To help your body’s natural process of detoxifying, it’s vital that your organs, especially your liver, are functioning optimally since the majority of the process occurs there.
The Three Phases of Detoxification
Within your body’s detoxification process, toxins go through three phases to be broken down. Let’s look at these three unique phases to know how to improve them.
Phase One of Detox
This phase begins to process the toxin in the liver. With the help of the cyp P450 enzyme, through various reactions, it’s able to start breaking down your fat-soluble toxins. This often creates free radicals and other more harmful substances. Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B all help this process along with bioflavonoids and glutathione/NAC, by protecting the liver from the dangerous free radicals.
If you don’t have enough protecting chemicals like antioxidants and vitamins, then this process could actually cause harm to the liver and even produce high amounts of reactive molecules that damage DNA. This is a great reason to be sure you are getting enough antioxidants in your diet or through IV therapy to be able to balance the harmful molecules produced in this phase.
Phase Two of Detox
Still processing in the liver, products are further broken down into water-soluble compounds so they are less reactive and dangerous. This makes the toxins easier to excrete from the body. During this phase, having enough amino acids, NAC, MSM, sulfur (from cruciferous vegetables), and calcium D-glucarate can help.
Phase Three of Detox
This phase occurs in your kidneys and bowels through urination and stool. The process of excretion moves the remaining products that are water-soluble out of the cells. This is why having good gut health is vital to ridding harmful chemicals from your body. As it’s the last step needed to get those molecules out of the body, it’s important to drink lots of water to promote urination and excrement.
Consequences of Insufficient Detoxification
If your body cannot detox effectively and efficiently, bigger problems may arise. Not only will this issue keep piling up and make it harder and harder for your organs to deal with the large amounts of toxins, but those toxins can also damage your actual detox organs, making matters even worse.
Reduced toxin excretion means that these chemicals may accumulate somewhere else in the body. They can bind to other organs, influencing normal bodily functions or creating imbalances in the body (such as hormone imbalances).
Some health issues that can arise when your liver isn’t functioning normally are:
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Shortness of breath
- Gastro problems
- Skin issues
- Muscle soreness
Improve Your Detox Capacity
To ensure that your body is working optimally at getting rid of those unwanted toxins, and to avoid any detoxification-related issues, enhancing your body’s ability to detox should be a priority. Here are a couple of ways to do so.
Methylation is known to aid in many health-benefiting reactions, including the detoxification process. Folic acid needs to be converted into the active form of folate (methyl-folate) to help the methylation processes. The MTHFR gene plays a role in this conversion. However, a majority of the population has a mutated version of this gene. This interferes with the amount of methyl folate available, which is concerning because it’s needed by numerous functions in the body including detoxification.
You can get a genetic test performed to see if you have the mutated MTHFR gene. If you do, there are ways you can increase your methylation efficiency including consuming whole foods, avoiding smoking and drinking, getting adequate amounts of exercise, and even supplementing with methyl-B12, methyl-folate, methylcobalamin (Vit B12), Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6 and/or 5-MTHF. However, check with your functional medicine provider before taking any supplements to be safe.
Get Your Sweat On
Using an infrared sauna and participating in regular exercise that promotes sweating can help eliminate toxins from your body. Not all toxins can be eliminated from the skin through sweat, but many chemicals can. In fact, in a couple of studies, a harmful chemical found in plastics, BPA, was found to be excreted in higher amounts from sweat than from urine. This suggests that extra sweating could be a potential practice to eliminate certain toxins from the body.
Support Liver Function
Eat foods that promote healthy liver function like cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, organic berries, garlic, curcumin, dandelion root, artichoke, and beets. These foods may provide phytonutrients and help increase detoxification enzymes.
Avoid Sugar, Processed Foods, & Inflammatory Foods
Stay away from processed food, sugars, and foods that may cause inflammation. These foods can cause inflammation in the body, causing suboptimal detoxification. Diets high in sugar can even contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD, affecting the health and functioning of your liver.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can cause damage to your liver and negatively impact your body’s ability to detox. If you drink on a regular basis, try to cut back and eventually eliminate it from your diet. In order to optimize your body’s full potential, alcohol should be avoided so it doesn’t put extra pressure and work on the liver. We want the liver to have an easier time at detoxing, not adding to the toxic load.
If you are interested in ridding toxins from your body to get your health back on track, get in contact with Dr. Lisa Ballehr. She is a functional medicine doctor located in Mesa, AZ, but offers telehealth services to patients in 12 states. Dr. Ballehr uses a whole person approach to get to the root cause of your health issues. If you are ready to optimize your health, a functional medicine provider, like Dr. Ballehr, is the person you want to work with. Take her FREE online health assessment to get started and she will be in contact with you soon!