Detoxification means purging the harmful toxins, or poisons, from our bodies. This is a process that takes place in the liver. The cleaner the liver, the more effectively we are able to burn fat. Toxins are present in air, water, food, and the general environment. Since toxins are a constant in daily life, regular detoxification is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. The ability to detoxify and eliminate toxins largely determines a person’s health status.
Toxins can be generally divided into four categories:
- Heavy metals
- Toxic chemicals such as solvents, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, food additives, etc.
- Microbial compounds such as unfriendly bacteria, yeast, and others
- Byproducts of protein metabolism
The GOOD news is that through targeted nutrition we can eliminate toxins. Let’s take a brief look at how nutrients help us to detoxify.
There is a two-step enzymatic process by which the liver neutralizes harmful compounds. The first step, Phase I, requires 50-100 enzymes that are collectively known as Cytochrome P450 (see diagram).
These enzymes have many jobs:
- neutralization of toxins
- conversion of chemical toxins into water soluble form so they can be excreted through the kidneys
- conversion of chemical toxins into intermediate metabolites that then have to go on to be processed in the next step, Phase II, of the liver
Every single step of this very complex process involves various nutrients that help accomplish the conversions. These co-factors include amino acids or proteins (such as arginine, glycine, glutamine, etc), anti-oxidants (such as Vita C, E D, etc.) and trace minerals (zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, etc).
That is why we need a nutritionally dense diet year round and, ideally, a formal detoxification program twice a year …think of it as spring cleaning your liver!
You can get an idea of how well your Phase I is functioning by how well you clear, or detoxify, caffeine. Generally, if you are affected by caffeine for many hours after ingesting it, your Phase I activity may be slow. If you can drink caffeine and fall asleep immediately afterwards, your Phase I may be overactive. Neither situation is ideal.
Phase II is the step in which the intermediate metabolites generated by Phase I are converted into water soluble form and excreted through the kidneys. If this is not happening efficiently, people h