Detox 101: How Our Bodies Detox
We are in the season of detoxing for most Americans starting off the new year. Before I share with you how to support detox everyday, it is important to first understand how our bodies detox. We need to know how it works so we can understand how to support it better. All too often I hear women jumping into a detox but yet they don’t know how the detox program is actually helping them (or not). Efficient detoxification is one of the key factors of healing your thyroid and hormonal imbalances but that doesn’t mean the detox shake is the solution.
Our bodies detox system
Detoxification is a natural process that our bodies do automatically. Our bodies are amazing! We have a built in system to tidy up and eliminate what we do not need. When we detox, our body is freeing up vital cellular and organ activities. This helps to support our systems functioning efficiently. We need these systems running properly to dispose of toxins we encounter every day. Each day we are exposed to toxins in our food, environment or personal care and household products. The toxins that are wearing on our detox systems can be traced back to having sluggish digestion, irregular bowel movements or impaired liver function. When our bodies aren’t operating how they are designed everything backs up. Even internal mechanisms in our body can create toxins or by-products as they work to eliminate extra hormones. Our bodies work extra hard to keep up with the wear and tear but after a while something has to give. That is often when disease creeps in. Our detox system has two phases - phase one and two. Let’s dive into each of these.
Phase 1 detoxification
In this phase, enzymes come in and break down the fat soluble substances making them water soluble to enter into phase 2. These enzymes also break down large toxic molecules into smaller more manageable pieces to be eliminated easier. Like everything in our body this process needs a healthy source of nutrients to get the job done. Within this initial phase, our bodies thrive on antioxidants like vitamin C and E, B vitamins as well as essential fatty acids. During this phase, free radicals are often made as a by product which the antioxidants in our body will help to clear away.
What are free radicals? The best way to explain this is to think of an apple. When you cut an apple after a short amount of time it will start to turn brown. The browning of the apple is from oxidative stress or free radicals. Antioxidants like vitamin C and E can come in and combat these free radicals and keep the apple from turning brown, or at least dramatically slow down the process. In phase 1 detoxification, these antioxidants are helping the body reduce the amount or escort the free radicals out of the body. Too many free radicals circulating in our system can alter our cells.
Substances that inhibit first phase of detox
Outside factors like birth control, medications, heavy metals, large amounts of sugar, and poor quality fats slow down this phase of detoxification. When the process is running smoothly, some toxins will be eliminated in this stage. A surprising fact, grapefruit actually shuts down phase 1 detoxification. I remember when I was in college, grapefruit was said to “burn fat” and I remember eating one almost daily for breakfast little did I know this was shutting down my detoxification pathway.
Phase 2 Detoxification
In the second phase, tougher toxins are given an additional break down to help them easily be eliminated. These broken down substances will then attach to protein molecules to assist in the removal through the kidneys or feces. This is why amino acids (protein molecules) are important in this process. Especially amino acids including glycine which helps to neutralize toxins and others like taurine, glutamine, and arginine. Often times clients who are protein deficient have difficulty eliminating environmental toxins. Sulfur containing nutrients are of importance in this phase of detoxification especially nutrients like glutathione.Often times this pathway is sluggish because the Standard American Diet lacks the nutrient density to keep it running efficiently.
When natural detox pathways get sluggish
If our bodies are designed to naturally process and eliminate toxins then why do we need a detox? In today’s world there are so many toxins that impact our systems not to mention the majority of us are stressed out and overworked way too often. As humans we are practically surviving on sugary lattes, high carbohydrate meals, and treats to have energy to get through the work day. After all, that large amount of sugar you are consuming is depleting the key nutrients previously mentioned that you need to detox.
Just like digestion, our bodies detox the best when we are in a parasympathetic state also known as rest and digest. The downward spiral of poor detoxification begins with improper digestion clogging up our liver and detox pathways as well as impacting our gut and intestinal health. Being in this stressed out mindset slows down every single system and clogs up our lymphatic system which acts as a pre-filter for the liver. Stress upsets every organ system and harms the liver as well as the central nervous system. It only is a matter of time until we start to show a list full of symptoms.
Signs your detox pathways could use a tune up
persistent fatigue when normal activity makes you exhausted
skin coloring: often is grayish or pale with poor facial tone, often difficult time healing blemishes
eyes: dark circles underneath and swollen eye lids
digestion sluggish could include bloating, heartburn, gas, and changes in stool
Why you shouldn’t jump into a detox
Jumping into a “detox” program that is promising you that you will melt the weight off can actually do more harm then good. As I previously mentioned we need our systems functioning properly first. A nutrient dense diet to support detoxification can play a key role in our health. Most importantly a proper working digestive system to really help get everything going smoothly. Digestion is extremely important because our elimination systems are built into it. We eliminate our toxins throw our stool but if our digestion is sluggish, these toxins can be hanging out in our large intestines. The longer they hang out there, the more likely it is that they will be reabsorbed into your blood system through the lining of your intestinal track.
When digestion is sluggish it puts more stress on detoxification pathways and your liver.
Toxins can become “stuck” between phase 1 and 2 when phase 2 is slowed down. The toxins broken down from phase 1 can sometimes be more dangerous. This can be harmful for your health especially your liver, brain, and immune system.
Speeding up one phase but not the other can also cause a back-up because one is running more efficiently than the other.