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Detoxification Requires Good Nutrition

This is page 1 of a two-part article.

polluting the water.jpgIn a lecture I gave on detoxification as a therapy for chronic illness at an NSP convention in Salt Lake City, I stated that environmental pollution could become the number one health problem of the 21st century.  While in the United Kingdom lecturing for NSP UK a few weeks later, I found a news article supporting my belief.

The article was about the disaster in New Orleans.  It stated that the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina had created a tremendous environmental health hazard.  Hugh Kaufman, an expert in toxic waste with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had told the UK reporter that “toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade.”  The government is not admitting to the severity of the problem, which has been demonstrated by analysis of water samples taken by the EPA.  No one knows how much leakage there has been from the 66 chemical plants in the area, or the toxic chemicals which were in storage tanks in the port of New Orleans.

But that's a rather dramatic example.  A more common example was the toxic reaction I had in the Grand America hotel in Salt Lake City to whatever chemicals they were using in the hotel.  As happens to me in certain hotels from time to time, I couldn't seem to drink enough water and experienced intestinal swelling and a sluggish liver.  I know several other people who have experienced this problem while staying in certain hotels.  Perhaps the reaction was caused by chemicals used in cleaning their sheets and towels, or by outgassing from new construction materials.

These are just a couple of examples of the numerous problems we're developing with toxic chemicals in our environment.  As such, it becomes very important that we support the body in dealing with toxic materials.  I think this is one reason why nutritional supplements are so important for people these days.  If it takes nutrients to break down these chemicals and eliminate them from the system, and then the additional toxins we're exposed to puts an extra burden on the body's nutrient reserves.  So, it isn't just the refined foods we're eating that makes supplementation a good idea; it's also the increased demand for nutrients to detoxify the body.

With that introduction, let's learn about the process the body uses to detoxify itself. For starters, there are two kinds of toxins the body has to eliminate.  First, there are endotoxins, toxins that are produced in the body as a by-product of metabolism.  These toxins can be thought of as the “smoke and ash” of the body's internal metabolic fire. 

Bacteria and other micro-organisms, such as yeast, also produce endotoxins.  In fact, it's these toxins that kill you in diseases like botulism or food poisoning.  These toxins are also the problem in yeast infections.  That's why just trying to kill the microbes isn't enough.  One also has to help the body flush toxins faster in order to overcome any infectious disease.

The second kind of toxins are exotoxins.  These are chemicals that are foreign to the body and are introduced into the system through the skin, lungs or digestive tract.  Exotoxins include drugs, agricultural chemicals like pesticides, many food additives, heavy metals, and so forth.  I believe the excessive amount of exotoxins we are exposed to in modern society is a major cause of many chronic and degenerative illnesses, especially autoimmune disorders.

Because the more dangerous exotoxins are typically lipid (fat) soluble and not water-soluble, they get stored in fat and are released during weight loss.  This is why weight loss must also involve cleansing.

Relationship Between Cleansing and Building

Before going any further, I want to clarify something I've been teaching—namely, that you can't cleanse and build at the same time.  What people fail to realize is that you can use herbs that cleanse and herbs that build at the same time. The problem isn't mixing cleansing and building herbs.  Chinese formulas regularly contain small amounts of herbs that have the opposite action in order to balance the formula.  It's a waste to take equal amounts of herbs with opposing actions (what are you trying to accomplish?), and it misses the key point.

Building involves eating and assimilating nutrients.  Real cleansing involves fasting, or at least semi-fasting.  So, the real reason you can't cleanse and build at the same time is because you can't eat and fast at the same time!   I hope this is sufficiently clear.  I don't know how anyone can do any serious cleansing if they aren't willing to go on some kind of fast or at the very least a mild-food diet.  All the books on cleansing out there rely on fasting, juices or a detox-diet.Lemonade.jpg

Sure, you can get the bowels to move without fasting, and you can even stimulate the kidneys to release more urine without fasting.  What you can't do is cleanse the tissues of the body without fasting, and that's where the toxins wind up getting stored.  I'm not going to go into detail about fasting here, but I really want to make it clear that any serious cleanse I've ever done includes some kind of fasting process, usually juice fasting. 

Even when I've done a colon cleanse, I've noticed that the tissues will start to release toxins and I'll start to feel bloated, stuffy, light-headed, dizzy, etc.  This tells me that I need to stop eating and start flushing the body with water, water with lemon, or fresh juice until my body is able to clear the toxins.  Eating merely slows the eliminative process and further congests the body!

Just as you should stop eating when you're acutely ill, when you start to get congested on a nutritional program, you should stop eating  long enough for the body to clear itself.  That's why it's impossible to build and cleanse at the same time.

Now that I've clarified what I mean in saying that you can't build and cleanse at the same time, I'm going to also clarify that cleansing and building are interrelated.  Building therapies will initiate cleansing in the body because the body uses nutrients for detoxification. 

What we typically call cleansing therapy is a form of stimulation therapy.  Many cleansing herbs have a slight irritating effect on tissues, which causes them to increase the discharge of toxins.  Stimulants don't actually provide energy to the tissues, they simply increase energy output in the tissues.  This burns up nutritional reserves.  That's why constant use of caffeine exhausts the adrenals and why I believe the constant use of stimulant laxatives exhausts the colon.

Many times, I've seen people start on whole food supplements (like Ultimate GreenZone or The Feast) or a healthier diet, only to experience water retention, sinus congestion, fatigue, diarrhea, short bouts of nausea, and so forth.  I firmly believe this is not a negative reaction to the supplement or the diet.  It is a sign that the good nutrition being put into the body is increasing cellular vitality and initiating a detoxification process.  This is a sign to stop the building process (i.e., stop eating and back off on the supplements) and flush the body to eliminate the toxins.  As I learn more about the internal mechanisms of tissue detoxification, I can see that there is some good scientific backing to some of my intuitive and experiential conclusions.

Internal Detoxification

Liver.jpgInternal detoxification is carried on primarily via enzymes.  An enzyme is a protein compound that is able to chemically transform other substances without being altered itself. Enzymes are created by the genes inside cells.  Enzymes are the “work horses” of the body, digesting food, processing it for use, creating energy, manufacturing hormones and neurotransmitters and, of course, detoxifying the tissues.  The enzymes involved in detoxification aren't digestive enzymes (the kind we take as supplements).  Although these detoxification enzymes are found throughout the body, the highest concentration is in the liver, which is why liver health is so important in the chemical-laden world we live in.

What makes some toxins difficult to eliminate is that they are lipid (fat)-soluble substances rather than water-soluble substances.  So, before the body can flush them from the system, it has to convert them to a water-soluble form.

The process of converting toxins into water-soluble compounds involves two steps, Phase 1 Detoxification and Phase 2 Detoxification.  In Phase 1 Detoxification, the body electrically charges the toxin so that it can bind it to a water-soluble substance in Phase 2.  Toxins that already have an electrical charge can by-pass Phase 1 and go directly to Phase 2.

After the toxins have been made water-soluble they are flushed from the body.  Toxins that are smaller in molecular form will be taken to the kidneys where they will be flushed out of the body in the urine.  Larger toxins are taken to the liver where they are excreted into the bile, absorbed by fiber in the intestines, and carried out of the body through the stool.

Of course, if you don't have enough water to flush toxins efficiently from the kidneys or enough fiber to carry them out through the bowel, they can be reabsorbed and cause further irritation.  I believe this is one of the problems that takes place when people start improving their nutrition, but their kidneys and colon aren't working very well.   

There are certain nutrients that are co-factors for Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detoxification.  If people are deficient in any of these nutrients, they will have a hard time processing toxins. This is why nutrient-deficient people can't cleanse effectively.  You can irritate the tissues trying to stimulate cleansing, but the body doesn't have the nutritional reserves to achieve effective cleansing.

Phase 1 Detoxification is carried out by 10 different families of enzymes, which are produced with the aid of 35 different genes.  Reactions produced by these enzymes include: oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration and dehalogenation.

After undergoing Phase 1 transformations, toxins are more water-soluble and become known as intermediary metabolites. There are several problems that can occur here.  First, the Phase 1 Detoxification process can produce super oxide radicals (a form of free radicals) and we all know that free radicals create oxidative stress, which damages tissues and causes inflammation.  Second, some of the intermediary metabolites are reactive oxygen intermediates (free radicals again) and are actually more toxic than the original substance.  This is why the body must be able to move these intermediates into Phase 2 Detoxification as rapidly as possible. 

Which brings us to the third problem that can occur.  The body's Phase 2 Detoxification systems require nutrients to function properly.  So, if there is a problem with Phase 2 Detoxification, these intermediates won't get processed correctly and can do a lot of damage.

Antioxidants can help protect the body from the by-products of Phase 1 Detoxification.  Nutrients that help protect the body from these reactive oxygen intermediates include: carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium, copper, zinc, manganese, co-enzyme Q10, thiols (compounds found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables), silymarin (from milk thistle) and oligomeric proanthocyanidines (Grapine).

So, by way of review, there are two phases to enzyme detoxification, Phase 1 and Phase 2. In Phase 1 Detoxification, the body creates an electrical charge on the toxin.  It does this by adding or removing an electron from the offending substance so that it is electrically charged.  The electrical charge allows the body to bind the toxin to an organic substance in Phase 2.  The toxin can then be taken to the kidneys or liver for removal from the body through the urine or the bile. 

Here is an overview of the process.

Go to page 2 to review these steps in greater detail.