Most of us may not realize that we are bombarded daily by toxins from sources outside of our bodies. These toxins can come from our food, medications, water, water bottles, other plastic containers, air pollutants, from contact with our skin from lotions, makeup, household chemicals, pesticides, and personal hygiene products. Radiation from medical devices, our sun, electronic devices, cell phones, computers, and various wireless transmissions are also considered “toxins” to our bodies.. Toxins can also come from internal sources such as our digestive tract, energy production in our cells specifically by an organelle called the mitochondria or “power house” of the cell, tissue regeneration, break down products from our hormones, bacterial by-products from our gut and other compounds.
Even though we may not be exposed to large amounts of any particular toxin at one time, we are exposed to many small amounts on a daily basis. Furthermore, most of these compounds accumulate in our tissues overtime and this is known as bioaccumulation.
The bioaccumulation effect will magnify the potency of these toxic compounds. These compounds usually accumulate first in our fat cells, and may be one of the reasons that lead to fatty tumors like lipomas, cysts and other benign tumors. The body will usually store these toxins in fat cells to minimize the deleterious effect on other tissues. Toxins also accumulate in the fat surrounding nerves called the myelin sheath, in the nerve cells themselves, bone, bone marrow, and connective tissues like muscle, fascia, tendons and ligaments. Often the accumulation in the connective tissue leads to muscle, joint, bone pain and achiness. Additionally, if enough toxins accumulate in our organs it may lead to a specific organ dysfunction like hyper/hypo thyroid, in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, kidney dysfunction, fatty liver degeneration and potentially many other organ problems. Damage to the cell DNA may even lead to cancer.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides a report on about 2500 random individuals and measured about 200 different environmental toxins by measuring the levels of these compounds in the blood and urine of these individuals. There is a recent updated information released August 2014. You may find this under “Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals” on the CDC website, www.CDC.gov. Even our government knows the type of exposure we have to toxins and the recent update added some additional toxic compounds. They consider these compounds as the more “common” types the average individual may be exposed to on a regular basis. They consist of disinfectants, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, phthalates, phytoestrogens, parabens, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PCBs, and many more.
SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH TOXINS
Most everyone may have experienced some acute symptoms of toxin exposure especially to volatile chemicals coming from paints, car exhaust, air pollution, gasoline, paint thinners, adhesives and others. Often we may experience temporary dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coughing, throat soreness or difficulty breathing. Sometimes other signs of exposure to toxins may result in headaches, back pain, increased urination, convulsions, mental confusion, rashes, itchiness, weakness, tiredness or diarrhea. These are more common examples of acute or more immediate symptoms that occur with exposure to various toxins. However, sometimes we are exposed to very small amounts of various toxins that cause no immediate symptoms or minimal or no apparent symptoms. This can be dangerous as the continued chronic exposure allows storage of toxins that eventual leads to cellular changes and/or damage without being directly aware of such damage. So, it is often ignored until months or years later. At this point the thought of toxins contributing to ill health is often not considered. There really are no specific set of symptoms associated with chronic low level exposure to toxins, as toxins can effect all the tissues and all organs in the body. Most frequently, the nervous, endocrine /hormonal and immune system seem to be particularly subject to dysfunction and damage by various toxins.
For proper detoxification to take place it is essential that the organs that are responsible for detoxification are working properly. The main organs of detoxification are the lungs, skin, intestines, lymphatic system, kidneys and especially the liver.
The majority of the toxins we come in contact are either through the air, water, food, skin, or produced internally, and eventually are processed in the liver. This process of detoxification is also known as biotransformation. Essentially, biotransformation in the liver consists of two phases that converts various compounds into less toxic or more easily removed compounds. Those compounds/toxins that are not converted are often stored in various tissues especially adipose or fat cells.
Both phases need to be functioning properly, if not, it may actual lead to compounds that are actually more damaging or more reactive. An example of this is when estrogen is not properly converted to a “safe” form of estrone. The “unsafe” form stimulates the estrogen receptors in the cell excessively and may be a major contributor to breast cancer, uterine fibroids and premenstrual symptoms such as hot flashes.
The first phase of biotransformation is dependent upon certain enzymes called cytochromes. These enzymes are influenced by our genetic makeup, diet, exposure to toxins, medications, and nutritional status. This may explain why some people do not tolerate certain medications or foods very well. Genetic profiling can be a big benefit for a number of patients particularly when it comes to prescribing various medications. I am sure that some of you already have had some genetic testing performed. We do offer some of this testing at our office and it can give us valuable information about your ability to detoxify. Despite some of these genetic changes, you still can be improved with proper diet, lifestyle changes and nutrients.
Phase 2 consists of various pathways in which the compounds from phase 1are further transformed by a process called conjugation. Essentially, the phase 2 compounds are joined together or conjugation with other molecules Some examples are, glucuronidation, acetylation, sulfation, amino acid conjugation, glutathione conjugation and methylation. In a prior newsletter we discussed the importance of methylation. Methylation is not only for detoxification purposes. Again, genetic testing can be done to check for proper methylation.
MORE ON LIVER DETOXIFICATION
There are many drugs that inhibit phase 1 detoxification that are to numerous to name and this may be a reason for some of the symptoms we may experience. Imbalance of the bacteria and other organisms in the intestines also known as dysbiosis can severely hamper phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification. Grapefruit can inhibit phase 1 detoxification. If you are taking a lot of medications or have a poor diet, this will overburden your phase 1 enzymes and therefore, grapefruit should be used sparingly.
Some substances can induce increased phase 1 activity in the liver. This can increase dramatically the level and number of substances that are highly reactive and may not be processed rapidly enough by the phase 2 enzymes. Some of these substances are: alcohol, steroids/hormones, certain drugs, some antibiotics, car exhaust, pesticides, paint fumes, charbroiled meats and other toxins.
Having a diet rich in proteins is essential for proper liver detoxification so strict vegan diets have to be supplied with good sources of proteins. Vegetables in the Brassica family are excellent sources to improve both phase 1 and phase 2. This would consist of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, arugula, collard greens, bok choy, kohlrabi and turnips.
Here are some nutrients that support liver detoxification: Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folic acid, Vitamins A, C, E, flavinoids, indoles, phospholipids, isoflavones, coenzyme Q10, garlic, fish oils, ellagic acid found in many berries, walnuts, pecans, pomegranates, grapes and peaches. Minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium are absolutely essential. There are also several herbs that are also helpful.
HOW TO DETOXIFY PROPERLY
Many people think that for a short time merely taking a “detox tea”, “detox powder”, “detox supplements/herbs”, juicing or fasting is the answer to detoxifying themselves. It is more important to understand that we should have a daily “detoxifying lifestyle” and not something we do just after the holidays. Using some of these products may be fine, others may cause more problems and some may be ineffective for a particular individual.
The first step to properly detoxify is to avoid the toxins. This may be difficult especially if you are not particularly aware of the toxins you may be exposed to. However, by performing certain urine and blood tests this may be made more apparent. Here are some basic suggestions to have a “detoxifying lifestyle”:
- Do not wear shoes indoors as this tracts in a lot of compounds found on the bottom of our shoes.
- Replace air and furnace filters regularly.
- Do not smoke indoors
- Consider replacing carpet with tile or stone flooring
- Let dry-cleaned clothes air out for a few days outside
- Use non-scented laundry detergent/fabric softener
- Consider an air purifier
- Home water filtration. Drink plenty of water
- Make sure you have 1-2 bowel movements per day, minimum
- Eat plenty of organic produce and animal products. Avoid the dirty dozen. Website: www.foodnews.org
- Minimize drugs, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
- Exercise at least 4-5 times per week
- Sweat 3 times per week using a sauna, or detox bath
- Take proper supplements
- Relax deeply several times per week to increase parasympathetic activity and reduce stress hormonal response. Elevated cortisol, which is the main stress hormone, can have very negative effects on liver detoxification.
MORE ON DETOXIFICATION
Massage and lymphatic massage are great for moving toxins or waste byproducts that are “caught” between the muscle and connective tissue/ fascia into the lymphatic or blood circulation. We also sell a hand held device called an Intracell that can be used to loosen the fascia, improve detoxification, decrease soreness and improve muscle and joint motion. Restoring proper motion allows better removal of lodged toxins and muscular waste by products.
The liver removes many of the toxins through a fluid called bile. Which then enters the small intestine There are some compounds that improve the bile flow and are referred to as cholagogues. Some examples are milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, olive oil, and peppermint.
Another important area of detoxification are the intestines. Proper levels of probiotics and fiber is essential for good detoxification and elimination of toxins. Calcium Dglucarate inhibits the recycling of hormones and carcinogenic toxins in the intestines.
Proper levels of calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium are particularly important in reducing heavy metal exposure by lead, cadmium, mercury and others. These levels can be measured by measuring these protective mineral levels and heavy metals in the red blood cell or white blood cell and not just in the plasma that is commonly performed. Heavy metals are deposited in the bone and bone marrow and this is where the red blood cells and many white blood cells are formed. So measuring these levels indicate tissue levels of the minerals and heavy metals.
Heavy metals many times have to be removed by chelation. There are several compounds that can be used such as DMSA, DMPS or DPA. These services may be available by a licensed naturopath in our office soon!
Lastly, ionic foot baths cause a charge change that “loosens” the bound toxins so they can enter the lymph or blood stream. They are then removed by the kidney and/or liver. Soon, a far infrared sauna will be available that also “loosens” toxins from fat cells below the skin. The penetration is much deeper, more effective, and more comfortable than steam saunas.