It has been explained in my previous articles that to detoxify the body we must achieve cellular elimination first, that is, we must encourage the cells of the liver, kidney and other organs to both detoxify and then eliminate their toxic content, to finally do their job at detoxifying the rest of the body cells – and our body entirely.
I also must stress again that detoxification must always be supervised by a health practitioner. Studies suggest that detoxifying your body by following drastic detox diets, program, retreats, etc. may do more harm than good, including fasting; however, regular detoxification is achievable without changing too much your eating habits as long as you eat the right nutrients, supplied by a balance diet, which must include a large selection of (coloured) nutrient-dense foods (leafy-greens, etc. Think rainbow), while banning all refined and highly-processed foods, and reducing — if applicable — consumption of alcohol (and tobacco). Buying Organic food helps the body further by not adding (containing lesser traces of) pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals found in Fruits, vegetables and (antibiotics in) meat.
Looking at each organs, the liver is the organ ‘operating as a chemical factory. The liver is one of our most important organs, breaking down substances so the body can excrete them, including cholesterol.’ (Extract from article: ‘Detoxification – The truth’)
Let’s now go deeper.
The liver is the largest organ in the body that sits on the right side of the abdomen, protected by the rib cage. It has two large sections, called the right and the left lobes.
The gallbladder sits under the liver, along with parts of the pancreas and intestines. The liver and these organs work together to digest, absorb, and process food.
The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolises drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile, which is released into the small intestine.
The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.1
What are the functions of the liver?
Filtering the Blood
One of the liver’s primary functions is filtering the blood. Almost 2 litres of blood pass through the liver every minute. Filtration of toxins is absolutely critical as the blood from the intestines contains high levels of bacteria, bacterial endotoxins, antigen-antibody complexes, and various other toxic substances, including poisons unwanted yeast or bacteria in your intestines, resulting from gut dysbiosis.
The liver’s second detoxification process involves the synthesis and secretion of bile. Each day the liver manufactures approximately 1 litre of bile, which serves as a carrier in which many toxic substances are sent into the intestines. In the intestines, the bile and its toxic load are absorbed by fibre and excreted. However, a diet low in fibre results in inadequate binding and reabsorption of the toxins. This problem is magnified when bacteria in the intestine modify these toxins to more damaging forms.
Bile is also essential for the digestion of fat.
Maximum Residue Limits
Most countries will have set MRL (Maximum Residue Limits). This is the amount of pesticide residue, heavy metals, hormone residues and natural toxins that the food ( eggs, meat or milk) are allowed to have and still be sold to the public for consumption. These residues enter our body and are filtered by the liver.
It is a fact of life that pesticides, herbicides and hormones are used in food production. Although the regulatory levels set by authorities provide some control over residues – it is not the ‘be all and end all’. The liver is again the organ that metabolises these substances and is responsible for their excretion out of the body.
The liver is the gateway to the body and in this chemical age its detoxification systems are easily overloaded. Thousands of chemicals are added to food and over 700 have been identified in drinking water. Mass-produced fruits and vegetables are sprayed with toxic chemicals, animals (living in inhuman conditions) are injected with potent hormones and antibiotics, and a significant amount of our food is genetically engineered, processed, refined, frozen and cooked. All this can lead to the destruction of delicate vitamins and minerals, which are needed for the detoxification pathways in the liver.
Detoxification processes within the liver generate large amount of free radicals. The liver must synthesise antioxidants to protect its own tissue but also the rest of the body from their damage.
Transported toxins are usually processed by the liver. This large, vital abdominal organ operates as a chemical factory, breaking down substances via a number of reactions so they can be excreted through the digestive system or the kidneys.
The liver’s function can be overwhelmed by lifestyle, impaired by congestion due to stagnation of blood or excessive fats and can atrophy with use of alcohol. Supporting the liver is vital to good health.2
The liver processes toxins through two phases:
This pathway neutralises a toxin by simply converting it into something (chemically) much smaller, which will be handed over to Phase 2, or, alternatively, makes it water-soluble, allowing its excretion by the kidneys or through sweating. This pathway uses various chemical reactions such as oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis.
A significant side effect of Phase 1 detoxification is the production of free radicals as the toxins are broken down (exposing their extremely toxic content to the surrounding tissue) or transformed.
For each molecule of toxin metabolised by Phase 1, one free radical molecule is generated. Without adequate free radical defences, every time the liver neutralises a toxin, it is damaged by the free radicals produced.
Antioxidants, such as reduced glutathione, vitamins C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids and selenium reduce the damage caused by these free radicals. If antioxidants are deficient and toxin exposure is high, toxic chemicals become far more dangerous.
This phase involves the addition of chemical groups (i.e. Glutathione*, Glycine or Taurine) to the toxic compound that make it less toxic to the body tissues and easier to excrete. During Phase 2, the liver spreads small chemical pieces onto the toxin in a process called conjugation – effectively wrapping it up safely. These conjugation reactions include sulphation, glucuronidation, and glutathione conjugation, which are key processes to detoxification. Methylation, acetylation, and amino acid conjugation are the reactions used to prepare toxins for release into the bile.
The conjugation reaction (wrapping effect) neutralises toxins and the intermediate compounds left over from Phase 1. For efficient Phase 2 detoxification and production of bile, the liver cells require sulphur-containing amino acids such as taurine and cysteine, and several other nutrients as explained in more detail below. The right foods will provide these, so read on to find out how to support detoxification with foods, herbs and supplements.3
Detoxification of the Liver
It has been said above and several times in previous articles relating to detoxification that the liver is one of the most important organ in the detoxification process, and that keeping a body in an alkaline state on a daily basis is primordial, allowing the liver to eliminate toxins and waste efficiently.
It has also been said that fasting is not to be advised during a detox period; however, long or short. The body, including the liver, needs essential nutrients to be detoxified efficiently, and fasting creates an even further acidifying of the body by not supplying the vital nutrients that the body desperately requires to detoxify itself and the abundance of free radicals generated by liver function.
"Fasting to detoxify and lose weight is not necessary," says Frank Sacks, a leading epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. ”There is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs and immune system that take care of excreting toxins…” (Kathleen M. Zelman. WebMD Expert Column)
There are many a book available to purchase all over the world and on the internet, giving you advice on how to detoxify the liver, and/or the body as a whole; however, most are not based on facts and are branded dangerous by many health practitioners.
"The overall principle of detox diets along with selling questionable products raises a red flag", says Washington University nutrition director, Connie Diekman. “Detox diets prey on the vulnerability of dieters with fear tactics while gaining financially by selling products that are not necessary and potentially dangerous.” (Kathleen M. Zelman)
She writes further on detox diets: ”There is little, if any, scientific evidence that detoxification is necessary and effective for good health or weight loss. Your body is designed to remove toxins efficiently with organs such as the kidneys, liver, and colon. You don’t need detox diets, pills, or potions to help your body do its job.
Experts agree there is no credible science to substantiate claims that detox diets work or the need for detoxification, lymphatic draining, and frequent bowel cleansing. There are no studies available to document the benefits; instead, most claims are based on testimonials.”
Detoxification of the liver is, therefore, a daily process and not a sudden and drastic change in the diet. If you personally feel that you have been indulging yourself, a bit too much, especially during festive periods, and you feel that your body and mind are somewhat, stagnant, you may wish to assist your liver detoxify your body, it is quite understandable.
Seek medical advice or ask a health practitioner, and set a plan of action together, according to your eating habits. You may have to add more vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, into your diet, so be ready to ‘love’ them – if those are not already part of your daily diet.
Fruit and/or vegetables juice fast is also not recommended; mainstream juicers not only destroy completely most nutrient benefits but they also remove the much needed fibre. Unless, you can invest in a cold press masticating-type of juicer.
When undertaking a fast the following symptoms may be experienced: headaches, bad breath, nausea, coated tongue, dizziness, skin rash, offensive urine. These vary from person to person, and can range from very severe (in some cases), through further poisoning from the release of toxins from the adipose tissue (where the liver stores toxic overload, until it can deal with it at a later stage) into the blood stream, overwhelming the liver’s ability to excrete them from the body, which also damages the liver itself.
It seems that fasting is indeed not the best set of action to take.
Supplementing should be done carefully.
Detox medicines and concoctions available over the counter may be dangerous as explained above, and have to be used with caution. However, the daily consumption of herbal teas can help assist the liver in detoxifying the body.
These stimulate excretion of bile from the intestine, as well as binding these and other intestinal toxins and removing them.
Vitamin C and E, also acting as Antioxidants, improves bile solubility. If your diet does not allow you to top up your daily needs, you can supplement easily and safely. However, it is vital to remember that Iron Supplements, interact with Vitamin E, inhibiting all of its properties.
How to detoxify
and promote liver detoxification on a daily basis
As mentioned in other articles on detoxification, internal detoxification of the body can also be accelerated by external detoxification. Colon hydrotherapy (Colonic Irrigation), enemas, Epsom salt baths, exercise (including yoga) are good to keep the lymphatic system active. The lymphatic system does not contain a pump like the blood with the heart, and that motion is made by moving the body; therefore, it is crucial to exercise.
Without an active lymphatic system, toxins and waste cannot be excreted and white cells cannot work fully.
Mindfulness, meditation, moment of peace and quiet, are essential moments during the day that we need and have to find time for. Stress has harmful consequences on the body – creating free-radicals that damages the cells integrity. To reduce stress and its action, take time during the day to be with yourself, free of any outside distraction and noise.
A quick note.
By following the above diet, on a daily basis, will not only assist your liver and other organs evacuating waste, toxins, heavy metals and other poisons, but it will also keep you from having an acidic body, and, subsequently, keeping you away from many diseases. By having a balanced diet such as given above, you will also find your natural weight. You will have a healthy digestive system; therefore, a healthy body and mind. You will have more energy too, especially if you keep away from fatty food, junk food in general (including ready-made meals), cigarette smoke, overeating red meats, and reducing alcohol consumption. But it is again important to say that without regular exercise, stagnation is inevitable.
* Glutathione is Magnesium-Dependent
Glutathione protects the cells from oxidative-stress-induced apoptosis and glutathione levels are magnesium dependent!.
Glutathione is a very important detoxifying agent, enabling the body to get rid of undesirable toxins and pollutants. It forms a soluble compound with the toxin that can then be excreted through the urine or the gut. The liver and kidneys contain high levels of glutathione as they have the greatest exposure to toxins. The lungs are also rich in glutathione partly for the same reason. Many cancer-producing chemicals, heavy metals, drug metabolites etc. are disposed of in this way.
Magnesium deficiency causes glutathione loss and increases dramatically free-radical production.
- See article Detoxification: Magnesium for more information on magnesium and its importance in liver detoxification.
2 The Liver Doctor (http://www.liverdoctor.com/liver/the-liver-and-detoxification)
3 The Liver & Detoxification, Integrated Neutraceuticals Limited (http://www.inl.asia/resources/articles/249-the-liver-a-detoxification-part-2.html)
Registered Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Iridologist, Lecturer, NLP practitioner and Personal Performance Coach.