Since my last post I have begun work at a Health Food & Vitamin store in the city and am lucky to be using the amazing knowledge I am learning at uni in my job, and helping people to make the best choice when it comes to their health, and supplements. It does however mean that I have almost zero spare time!
One such supplement I get asked about a lot is for liver detoxification. This is a subject of some contention – do we, or do we not need to do a detox? and if so, how?
The liver is an amazing organ, it filters 2 litres of blood per minute and every single thing we eat/smell/touch is detoxified this way. Smell and touch?? Really? Any chemical fume or cream we put on our skin, has constituents that enter the blood stream and need to be filtered, and excreted from the body. This includes – drugs, pesticides, alcohol, food additives, and hormones.
Most toxins in the body are fat soluble and have a high affinity for storage in fatty areas of our body. This is why you sometimes feel ill after exercising, during a fast, or in stressful periods of your life, as these are being released into the blood stream, causing headaches, nausea and fatigue.
Also, because they are fat soluble they need to be converted to a water soluble form for the body to be able to excrete them – this is where liver detoxification comes in.
It happens in 2 phases – the first of which sometimes converts it into a more harmful substance, but a substance that during second phase detoxification, can be attached to another molecule for excretion.
Phase 1 liver detox happens with the assistance of P450 enzymes, and Phase 2 liver detox expands on that and has 6 different pathways.
2.Amino Acid Conjugation
At this point I’m sure this is gobbledegook! Bear with me…
So – A ‘toxin’ enters the liver, cytochrome P450 enzymes are activated and convert it to an intermediate which then follows one of the 6 pathways above, the result is a water soluble compound and it is then excreted.
But how do we assist this? and is a ‘detox’ necessary?
For phase 1 detox to occur we need to have adequate levels of B1, B2, B3, B6, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper and Vitamin C. It is also boosted by cathechins in green tea, cruciferous vegetables, oranges, tangerines and high protein diets. Herbally – St Mary’s Thistle (Milk Thistle) is a wonderful phase 1 herb, and is protective to the liver. Due to the toxins potentially created in this step Vitamins A, C, E and Selenium are important antioxidants to reduce any damage prior to phase 2 taking over.
It is important to note that grapefruit, clove oil, red chilli, calendula and turmeric reduce phase 1. This can be a good, or bad thing depending on how fast it is occurring.
Phase 2 gets trickier as there are more pathways, however I’ll just stick to the important bits.
Glutathionation adds the intermediate toxin to a glutathione molecule (a major antioxidant in the body). This pathway is responsible for the removal of penicillin, styrene, bacterial toxins and heavy metals such as lead and mercury, to name a few. Vitamin C is crucial for glutathione levels, as is selenium.
Amino Acid conjugation adds the intermediate toxin to an amino acid – a protein – typically glycine or taurine. Typically this pathway detoxifies acids – such as bile acids, plant acids and salicylic acids. This pathway needs adequate protein intake.
Methylation adds the intermediate toxin to a methyl group and helps rid the body of morphine, mercury, tin, and adrenalin, noradrenalin, L-dopa, dopamine and histamine. This pathway needs adequate protein, B12 and folate, as well as magnesium.
Sulfation adds the intermediate to a sulfur group and is responsible for eliminating thyroid and steroid hormones, chemicals in fake tan, bacterial toxins and neurotransmitters. If this pathway is not working properly we can see nervous system disorders appearing. To assist sulfation we need adequate protein, sulfur containing foods, MSM, B12 and folate.
Acetylation adds the intermediate to Acetyl CoA and detoxifies caffeine, many prescription drugs, serotonin, and histamine. This again requires your B vitamins, as well as vitamin C.
Glucuronidation adds the intermediate to glucuronic acid, and detoxifies many common drugs, aspirin, vitamins A,D,E & K and menthol. This needs magnesium and is assisted by limonene – found in the skin, or essential oil, of citrus fruits.
Things that can inhibit these pathways are yellow food dye (!), NSAID’s – Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as protein and vitamin deficiencies.
It is very important that both phases are working in balance, as we can either have decrease toxin clearance (if phase 1 too slow) or increase free radical load (if phase 1 too fast). In the case of the former, decreased clearance may lead to an intolerance to caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, and a sensitivity to perfume and other chemicals. Ever had an instant headache from someone’s perfume? this could be why. If phase 1 is too fast and phase 2 is not keeping up we will have a build up of free radicals which could cause significant damage.
So the take away from this is – support your liver with a healthy diet so it can detoxify everything you put in it at the optimum rate, and make sure you have enough antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium to assist with any free radicals created. Foods to look out for are your leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, onion, artichoke, lean protein, and protein containing grains/seeds.
If you feel it is being a bit sluggish, look out for supplements that contain Milk Thistle, make sure you are eating enough protein and drinking enough water, and boost your vitamins..
As you can see from this – going on the lemon detox diet, or a juice fast might give the body a break but do not support any of the pathways, and lack the adequate protein needed for any of this to function properly.
Once liver detoxification is working properly you will be surprised how well you feel, and may find that allergies and intolerances are not as bad, rashes might clear up and you’ll have much more energy :)
Hope that wasn’t too indepth! It is just so fascinating, and not widely known…