If you feel sluggish and achy, have trouble concentrating or feel like you are living your life in a fog, you will likely benefit from a program of detoxification. The symptoms are related to your lymphatic system becoming toxic with acidifying leftovers from an unwise lifestyle. Many factors influence toxicity levels and detoxification capacity, including diet, lifestyle habits, age, sex, disease and genetic variations from person to person. You may have certain genetic predisposition that limits your ability to get rid of toxins, and you could be headed toward disaster such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or ALS. About 25% of us are unable to detoxify heavy metals effectively, leading to catastrophic problems that include chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autism, ADHD, and more.
We all have different capacities for detoxification that determine our risk and susceptibility to disease from exposure to toxins. Take that into account – do not expect to be able to do everything your cousin can get away with, and even he will eventually reach his limit. Trying to keep track of all these toxins is difficult, and limiting exposure is important, but boosting your own elimination and detoxification system is a critical step you can take toward good health. We address improving elimination through gut, urine, liver and skin. While there are some individual biochemical and genetic differences among people, there are some basic principles that encourage mobilization of toxins, maximize their excretion and minimize their redistribution to other sites in the body.
Healthy detoxification depends on plenty of water, clean air, the right food, exercise, adequate sweating, complex nutrients, minerals, saunas or steam baths, stress management and emotional release. People with high metal load may have to resort to heavy metal chelation treatments with medications like DMPS or DMSA that remove mercury, arsenic and lead. Since the industrial revolution we have introduced many complex substances that we are genetically not prepared for. Our present industrialized environment is teeming with four million synthetic compounds, heavy metals, adding to the load from our own internally generated waste from metabolism and digestion. Many of us have exceeded our coping capacity.
The consequences of toxicity are staggering – we are feeling sick and tired, and we are developing severe debilitating degenerative diseases, on top of ever increasing risks for birth defects. Your lymphatic system is like a septic tank connected to every cell in your body. When it overflows from all the stressors – physical, environmental, and emotional, you get sick. Everyone of us has chemical toxins stored in our bodies, and approximately one in every four people also store heavy metals. The job of taking care of these toxins is very metabolically expensive, requiring plenty of nutrients and cofactors that help to get rid of those toxins. It is important that you reduce your exposure to these toxins – if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
Toxins are classified as chemical toxins, heavy metals, microbial compounds (from bacteria, yeast or other organisms), and waste products of normal metabolism. The heavy metals that cause the most damage are lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel and aluminum. The chemical culprits include toxic chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), solvents (cleaning materials, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene), drugs, alcohol, pesticides, herbicides and food additives. Bacteria and yeast in the gut produce waste products, metabolic products and cellular debris that can interfere with many body functions and lead to increased inflammation and even autoimmune diseases. These include endotoxins, toxic amines, toxic derivatives of bile and various carcinogenic substances such as putrescine and cadaverine that are festering in your colon.
Lastly, we must get rid of the byproducts of normal protein metabolism including urea and ammonia. Our eliminative organs – skin, liver, kidneys, intestines and lungs help us detoxify. They require good quality water and lecithin, plus specific nutrients and phytochemicals for proper functioning. If they are not able to keep up with the inflow of toxins, our waste backs up, making us sick. There are genetic differences in how we handle toxins. A recent report in the Journal of the American medical Association [Maternal cigarette smoking, metabolic gene polymorphism, and infant birth weight. JAMA.2002;287:195-202], found that women who have trouble detoxifying the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke – like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), arylmines, and N-nitrosamines – tend to have infants with very low birth weights.
These gene-environment interactions determine the risk of getting cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and more. The good news is we can support our detoxification systems to help us cope. Our functional capacity to metabolize and excrete toxins varies from person to person and determines the rate and amount of accumulation of toxins in our systems. The total load – all the exposures and influences that tax our physiology – needs to be considered when creating optimal health. Even low-level toxins profoundly effect the proper functioning of our cells and biological systems. Chemicals are often studied for their toxic effects independent of how they react in the presence of other chemicals.
But when acting in concert – which is what commonly occurs in our bodies – their toxicity increases dramatically. For example, in one rat study scientists administered lead and mercury in relatively low doses of LD1 (LD50 is the “lethal dose” 50% of the time and LD1 is the lethal dose 1% of the time). Receiving a dose of LD1 of mercury and LD1 of lead together resulted in a LD100, an effect 100 times more toxic and lethal than each given alone. For example, in Parkinson’s disease, the enzymes needed for proper detoxification of certain environmental chemicals function less than optimally, making any toxic exposure to those chemicals a significant danger. As one example among many, exposure to the common home gardening chemical, rotenone, is associated with a higher risk of Parkinson’s.
The same liver detoxification enzyme (CYP2D6) is responsible for metabolizing Prozac and other SSRI (serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) antidepressants. What will happen in 30 years to the millions of people who will be taking Prozac, with a million new prescriptions being written every week? An epidemic of Parkinson’s? Women who have a sluggish enzyme for glutathione S-transferase (GST) (a very common genetic variation) have an increased risk of giving birth to children with low birth weight or cleft lip or palate. But simply eating Brussels sprouts or drinking green tea can boost this detoxifying enzyme, perhaps even preventing adverse reproductive effects. We now know that the way we process hormones plays a big role in our cancer risk.
The toxic metabolites of estrogen do the most damage. Toxins, folate status, insulin and even compounds in our food such as cruciferous vegetables influence specific detoxification pathways that regulate the removal of excess estrogen. You can correct these problems natural substances that can support your body’s own healing systems. The examples include fish oil to prevent heart attacks or reduce inflammation, or probiotics that put healthy bacteria back into the gut and improve its function. The first step is to reduce your exposure to toxins and optimize digestion. Consider using activated liquid zeolite, because of its unmatched ability to absorb electropositive (damaging) toxins. Eating organic raw foods will help, and food combining diet will speed up the process even more.