So, it's important to support the body's inherent detoxification capabilities by implementing a consistent strategy of expelling toxins from cells and intercepting them before they can wreak havoc.
The Body's Natural Detoxification Process
The body's detoxification process has a series of phases that must work in unison to eliminate harmful substances.The liver is the central detoxification organ and detoxifies in three phases:
- Phase I: Toxins are removed from cells and organs. Enzymes then transform them into less-harmful compounds.
- Phase II: Chemicals bind to toxins, prepping them for elimination. The glutathione pathway is essential for detoxifying heavy metals in this phase.
- Phase III: Processed toxins are transported from the blood to the liver, then to bile, and are removed from the body through urine, feces, or sweat.
An Expert's Guide to Complete Detoxification
“Most people have big stores of toxins in their bodies and need to not only do a formal detox to clear them out, but incorporate detoxification into their lifestyle,” Christopher Shade told me in a recent interview on Discovering True Health, a YouTube channel and podcast dedicated to health and wellness.Mr. Shade holds a doctorate in environmental sciences and bioanalytical chemistry and is the founder of Quicksilver Scientific, an advanced nutritional systems manufacturer with a focus on detoxification.
“Accordingly, it is imperative that health providers understand the fundamentals of detoxification physiology and biochemistry to secure functioning of the organs of elimination,” the study states.
'Push and Catch'Effective detox hinges on a simple insight: We push toxins out of cells, then catch and bind them before they cause damage, Mr. Shade said.
“I call this ‘push and catch,’” he said.
Proper detoxification requires supporting all phases while moving toxins in the right direction—from cells to tissues to total elimination.
The “push” phase stimulates cells to release toxins for liver processing and bile secretion into the gastrointestinal tract.
The “catch” phase follows within 30 minutes, using binders to eliminate toxins.
Without this binder step, toxins dumped into the intestines can be reabsorbed, causing detox side effects, Mr. Shade said.
There are several core concepts to Mr. Shade's detoxification strategy.
The liver relies on many enzymes and molecules to detoxify, but one of the most important when it comes to detoxification is glutathione.
Mr. Shade stresses that glutathione can become chronically depleted by toxins and lost during the removal and elimination of mercury and other toxins from the cell. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that our bodies have sufficient amounts.
Strategies to increase glutathione include:
Decrease the need for glutathione. This means decreasing the toxic load on the body by avoiding man-made chemicals.
Supplement with antioxidants to decrease oxidative stress. A-lipoic acid has been shown to increase mitochondrial glutathione.
Administer glutathione. It can be done orally, topically, intravenously, intranasally, or in nebulized form. Oral administration is controversial, as not all oral supplements are shown to be effective. Liposomes and S-acetyl glutathione have been shown to be the most effective oral methods.
Supplement with nutrients to promote glutathione production. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been shown to increase glutathione levels, although studies vary as to effective dosage levels.
Another strategy, Mr. Shade said, is to encourage our body's natural production of glutathione. This process can be achieved through the Nrf2/ARE pathway, which triggers the production of enzymes and proteins that aid in detoxification, he said.
Certain natural substances such as lipoic acid, selenium, DIM, sulforaphane, lycopene, milk thistle, and EGCG have been found to activate Nrf2, along with lifestyle factors such as relaxation, breathing exercises, and regular exercise, according to Mr. Shade.
BileBile flow is vital for detoxification. After the liver processes toxins, it secretes them into bile to travel to the intestines. But when bile flow stops, toxins get trapped, Mr. Shade said.
Trapped toxins even cause skin problems, Mr. Shade said.
The good news is there are natural alternatives to improve and support bile flow.Bitter botanicals have been used for centuries to treat digestion issues by increasing bile flow and balancing gut flora.
Some of the classic bitter botanicals that offer digestive support include:
Myrrh: Antimicrobial, guards against oxidative damage from lead
Goldenrod: Enhances bile flow, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory
Dandelion: Supports liver, shields from oxidative injury
Binders help the body to decrease its toxin levels by attracting, attaching to, and removing toxins from the body, preventing their reabsorption and promoting efficient removal.Toxins excreted into the intestines can get reabsorbed rather than eliminated if detox pathways are impaired. This disruption, called enterohepatic recirculation, forces endless cycles of liver processing and intestinal reabsorption of the same toxins, putting a significant burden on the whole body as it tries to detoxify itself. This is where binders can help.
"There is no universal binder that has an equal affinity for all toxins,” Mr. Shade said, noting that a combination will offer a broader protection.
Binders to consider include:
Bentonite clay: Bentonite clay is a volcanic ash with a large surface area that contains minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, silica, potassium, and sodium. It’s capable of binding to numerous harmful substances, including mold toxins, heavy metals, and LPS, a pro-inflammatory bacterial byproduct.
Thiol-functionalized silica: Shown to capture heavy metals and has a high affinity for capturing inorganic mercury.
Because binders can effectively absorb chemicals and toxins, it's possible that they may bind to beneficial nutrients, although this hasn't been heavily researched.
Taking binders on an empty stomach such as first thing in the morning or before bed can reduce the chance of binding to essential nutrients, Mr. Shade said.
People on medications should consult with a health care professional as binders may interfere with or reduce absorption of medications.
Prerequisites for Detox
Detoxing is a holistic process, Shade said, emphasizing a holistic detox must address nervous system regulation, inflammation, and gut health.
Nervous System RegulationThe sympathetic "fight-or-flight" nervous state impedes detoxification, while parasympathetic "rest-and-digest" mode supports it.
Calming practices that promote relaxation and stress reduction such as tai chi, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation can help to shift the body's nervous system out of the sympathetic mode and into parasympathetic dominance.
“If you're always stressed out, you're not going to be able to detoxify,” Mr. Shade said.
InflammationChronic inflammation also hinders detoxification and amplifies mercury toxicity, he said. A 2012 study published in Environmental Research examined fish consumption in children and compared the levels of mercury with inflammatory markers. Researchers found that higher mercury levels are linked to certain proteins that indicate inflammation in the body.