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May 9, 2016

The Body’s Amazing Detoxification System

detoxification system85,000/2,000/53 is a far different group of numbers than 24/7/365 and it is a very dangerous group of numbers to your health. Do you know what they represent? These numbers relate to the number of chemicals and toxins introduced into the environment and our bodies. Fortunately, we have a built-in detoxification system to deal with our exposure to an ever-increasing toxic environment.

Here’s what these numbers represent:

  • 85,000 is the number of synthetic chemicals that have been manufactured since World War II and present in our homes and places of employment.
  • 2,000 is the number of new chemicals introduced each year and found in products we use everyday.
  • 53 is the average number of cancer causing (carcinogenic) chemicals we each have in our bodies.

The body has been well-designed to deal with such toxins, but it can get overwhelmed when it gets bombarded with toxins 24/7/365 (see how I clever I am to come back to those numbers). Toxins are everywhere. They hide in the air, the water supply, the food supply, and many man-made products. We even produce toxins ourselves through normal body metabolism. Thus, we need an effective way to get rid of these toxins. We need a detoxification system, which we have built-in.

Before we go further, what exactly is a toxin? A toxin is any chemical or element that is our harmful to our health. To a large degree the state of our health and longevity is directly related to our ability to neutralize toxins.

Detoxification System

We have five main systems of detoxification; the liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and skin. And, we have four methods of eliminating toxins; feces, urine, sweat, and breath. Some toxins can be removed directly as they are. For instance, we eliminate carbon dioxide (metabolic toxin) each time we exhale. Most toxins have to be processed and modified before they can be eliminated. This processing of toxins largely falls onto the liver. This transformation of toxins occurs in the liver in two phases.

Liver Detoxification

Liver takes toxins present in the blood and transforms them. The liver produces bile, which is then stored in the gall bladder and released in response to a meal, to take fat-soluble toxins that have been transformed into water-soluble toxins and transport them to the small intestine where toxins are eliminated through feces. Dietary fiber is important in this elimination process as it picks up the toxins from the bile.  A diet low in fiber will allow some toxins to be reabsorbed. Thus,

the importance of dietary fiber.

Transformation of toxins in the liver occurs in two steps or phases. Phase I involves neutralizing toxins converting them into less harmful chemicals and involves the cytochrome P450 enzyme group and more than 100 enzymes. Phase II is called the conjugation pathway. In this phase the liver adds another substance to the toxin transforming it so that it can be more easily be excreted through watery fluids like urine or bile.

Phase II detoxification uses six forms of conjugation: acetylation, amino acid conjugation, glucuronidation, glutathione conjugation, methylation, and sulfation. Each of these pathways focuses on the transformation of specific toxins. For instance, acetylation removes sulfa drugs. Sulfation removes food additives and toxins from intestinal bacteria. Glutiathione conjugation removes heavy metals.

Phase I Detoxification Nutrients

Detoxification requires certain nutrients. Nutrients critical for phase I detoxification include:

  • NADH
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin C
  • niacin
  • magnesium
  • iron
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • copper
  • cruciferous vegetables

Phase II Detoxification Nutrients

 Nutrients critical for phase II function include:

  • calcium d-glucarate
  • amino acids – L-glutamine, L-lysine, L-carnitine, glycine, taurine, cysteine, methionine
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • cruciferous vegetables
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)

Kidney Detoxification

A great way to rid any toxin is to dilute it.  Drinking water is the best way to dilute toxins in the body. Toxins that have been transformed in the liver are either excreted in the bile (a liquid) or the urine. A simple rule of thumb is consume half your body in the form of liquids each day. Thus, if you weigh 150 pounds you should drink 75 ounces of fluids daily. If you weigh 200 pounds you should consume 100 ounces of fluids daily.

Skin Detoxification

We also remove toxins through the skin in the form of sweat. Exercise helps to mobilize toxins stored in fat tissue by increasing blood flow to fat. Plus, exercise of sufficient intensity to produce sweat eliminates toxins. Saunas have been show to also mobilize toxins in stored in fat into the blood stream for easier elimination. Infrared sauna has been touted as a way to achieve the health benefits of sauna without the need for high temperatures.

Detoxification Program

With all the exposure we have these days to toxins are detoxification systems can get overwhelmed and eventually fail. Our ancestors did not have to worry about their detoxification system from being overly challenged as we do today. Sometimes our bodies need help. And, that’s where a well-designed detoxification program can help eliminate toxins and repair/regenerate our detoxification system comes into play and will be the focus of a future article.

Thought to ponder. The main function of the liver is to process fats and sugar. The more time and space the liver spends on detoxification the less well it can process fats and sugar. Does the toxin overload we are confronted with a contributing factor in the increasing rates of diabetes and obesity?

Also, most medications are also toxins at some level and need to processed by the liver (statin drugs to lower cholesterol are very hard on the liver) just like more traditional toxins and contribute to today’s toxic environment.


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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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