|Detoxification for better health
TOXIC substances are everywhere, in
the air we breathe, the food we cat
and the water we drink. Even our
body and the bacteria in the intestines
produce toxins. Types of toxic substances
include heavy metals ( lead, mercury,
cadmium, arsenic, nickel and aluminum ),
chemicals, drugs. alcohol, solvents,
pesticides, herbicides, food additives and
Impaired liver detoxification pathways
cause chronic symptoms and diseases.
The process of detoxification by the liver
occurs in two phases; Phase I and Phase
II. Phase I is controlled by the cytochrome
P450 enzyme system. It is responsible for
the degradation of toxic molecules ( drugs,
hormones, chemicals ) into smaller but
highly reactive metabolites. These molecules
are then bound to water-soluble carrier
molecules during Phase II detoxification for
transport to the kidneys, where they will be
excreted in the urine.
Liver detoxification is impaired by the
taking of many prescription medicines as
they interfere with the cytochrome P450
enzyme system and excessive consumption
of alcohol. The process is also slowed
by eating grapefruit or drinking its juice
because the 'naringenin' in this fruit inhibits
the passage of chemicals through the
There are certain 'helpers' which need to
be present in the liver for these detoxification
systems to work well. They are:
Phase I: Vitamins B2, B3. B6, B12, folic acid
Phase II: Cysteine, N-acetyl cysteine.
methionine, taurine, inorganic sulphates,
glycine, glutamine, glucoronic acid, glutathione
These nutrients are found in whole-grains,
meats and sulphur-containing vegetables such
as garlic, onions, beans, cabbage, broccoli and
cauliflower. Alternatively, you may want to
supplement your diet with these nutrients if
you suspect nutritional deficiencies.
Other factors which weaken the
detoxification capacity are allergies and food
intolerances. candidiasis, genetic disorders, a
'leaky gut', microbial and chemical toxins.
Herbs for liver support
Milk thistle is traditionally used for liver
disorders. This herb contains silymarin, which
is an anti-oxidant to help prevent free radical
damage on the liver due to toxins. Silymarin
also increases the glutathione content of
the liver by 35 per cent in healthy subjects
and by over 50 per cent in experimental
rats. It increases the level of the important
antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase
in cell cultures. Glutathione is responsible
for detoxifying a wide range of chemicals.
Increasing the glutathione content of the liver
means the liver has an increased capacity for
Perhaps the most interesting effect of milk
thistle components on the liver is its ability to
stimulate protein synthesis. This results in an
increase in the production of new liver cells to
replace the damaged old ones.
Dandelion is a type of bitter herb which may
aid digestion by stimulating the release of bile
by the liver and gallbladder.
Its gentle effects on the liver, particularly its lipotropic effects, may be put to good use in
the treatment of PMS. Decreased clearance of
oestrogen and other hormones by the liver is
believed to be responsible for these symptoms
in some women. If dandelion can improve the
liver's ability to detoxify these hormones, PMS
symptoms may be improved.
To reduce the absorption of toxic substances,
it is recommended that the diet be rich in fibre, particularly water-soluble fibre such as
that found in vegetables, guar gum, pectin and
oat bran. Fibre has an ability to bind toxins
within the gut and promote their excretion.