Daily Toxins Pose Health Risk
We are constantly being exposed to potentially dangerous toxins through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Thankfully, our liver works to neutralize harmful chemicals, viruses, and bacteria. It’s also first to process the nutrients delivered by the bloodstream. As the largest organ in the body, it filters two quarts of blood every minute and secretes a quart of bile each day. Bile is necessary for absorbing fat-soluble substances, including certain vitamins. It also helps eliminate toxic chemicals. Bile is then mixed with dietary fiber and voided through daily bowel movements.
An optimally functioning detoxification system is necessary for providing good health and preventing disease. Many diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other chronic age-related conditions, are linked to a weakened detoxification system. A poor detox system also contributes to allergic disorders, asthma, hives, psoriasis, and eczema. It’s associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, and systemic candidiasis.
Two Phases of Detox
Phase I detoxification enzymes are collectively known as cytochrome P450. The cytochrome P450 system is made up of 50-100 enzymes that attempt to neutralize toxic chemicals by transforming them into a less toxic form. Each enzyme is specially suited to certain types of toxins. Chemicals that can’t be neutralized are changed into an intermediate form. As the phase I enzymes neutralize toxins, they spin off free radicals. If there aren’t enough antioxidants to counter these free radicals, the liver may be compromised. Phase I detoxification is inhibited by antihistamines, NSAIDs, azole drugs (antifungals), tranquilizers such as Valium and Klonopin, and antidepressants such as Prozac and Celexa. Phase I is responsible for neutralizing most over-the-counter and prescription drugs, caffeine, hormones, yellow dyes, insecticides, alcohol, and histamines.
Phase II detoxification enzymes go to work on the toxins that the phase I enzymes turned into intermediate form. They do this by attaching minute chemicals to the structures. This process is called conjugation, and it neutralizes the toxins, making them more likely to be excreted through urination or defecation. Unfortunately, many of these intermediate forms are more toxic and potentially more damaging than in their original state. So an inadequate phase II detoxification system can cause all sorts of chronic illnesses.
A person suffering from poorly functioning phase II and overactive phase I detoxification is known as a pathological detoxifier. These individuals fill up doctors’ offices on a regular basis, because they suffer from a variety of ailments that seem to never go away. One illness is replaced by another as the patient tries one prescription after another. Neither the doctor nor the patient realize that a compromised detoxification system is being further aggravated by toxic prescription medications. Phase II is responsible for neutralizing acetaminophen, nicotine, and insecticides. It is comprised of the following conjugation processes:
- Glutathione conjugation requires vitamin B6 and the tripeptide (made from three amino acids) glutathione.
- Amino-acid conjugation requires the amino acid glycine. Low-protein diets and deficient digestive enzymes inhibit this process. Individuals with hypothyroidism, arthritis, hepatitis, and chemical sensitivities may suffer from poor amino-acid conjugation.
- Methylation requires S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe). SAMe is synthesized from the amino acid methionine and dependent on folic acid, choline, and vitamin B12. Methylation detoxifies estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormones, acetaminophen, and coumarin.
- Sulfation requires the amino acids cysteine and methionine and the mineral molybdenum. Sulfation is involved in processing steroids, thyroid hormones, food additives, certain drugs, and neurotransmitters. Individuals who can’t take certain antidepressants or have reactions to certain sulfur-containing foods may benefit from taking extra molybdenum, taurine, cysteine, and methionine. (All these are included in our CFS/Fibromyalgia formula.)
- Acetylation requires acetyl-CoA and is inhibited by a deficiency in vitamin C, B2, or B5. This pathway is responsible for eliminating sulfa drugs, so individuals with sulfa allergies may benefit from extra vitamin C, B2, or B5.
- Glucuronidation requires glucoronic acid and detoxifies acetaminophen, morphine, benzoates, aspirin, and vanilla. Aspirin inhibits this process. Signs of deficiency include yellowish pigment in the eyes or skin not caused by hepatitis.
- Sulfoxidation requires molybdenum and detoxifies sulfites and garlic. You may be deficient in this enzyme if you have allergic reactions to sulfite foods or garlic, asthmatic reactions after eating, or a strong urine odor after eating asparagus. Individuals with a sluggish sulfoxidation pathway may benefit from taking additional molybdenum.
Fish oils, SAMe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage all stimulate phase I and phase II reactions. Choline, betaine, methionine, vitamin B6, folic acid, and vitamin B12 (altogether known as lipotrophic factors) stimulate bile production and its flow to and from the liver. Lipotrophic factors also increase SAMe and glutathione, which in turn spare the liver of free-radical damage.
Here’s What You Can Do …
- Avoid foods containing artificial dyes and preservatives. If the ingredients list is hard to pronounce, it’s probably even harder on your body. Organic meats are becoming more available at grocery stores around the country.
- Consume whole, live foods. Fruits, vegetables, and whole, unprocessed grains (unless you are gluten sensitive) are the healthiest foods to eat. These foods are loaded with antioxidant, cancer-fighting, and immune-boosting phytonutrients. They are easy on the digestive system and allow the body to generate more energy to fight diseases and build immunity.
- Severely reduce or eliminate alcohol, nicotine, allergic foods, and preservative-rich foods.
- Supplement with antioxidants to combat free radicals. Include vitamins A, E, and C; the mineral selenium; and pycnogenol.
- Enjoy foods from the Brassica family: broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. They contain phytochemicals that stimulate phase I and phase II detoxification pathways. building blocks instead: cysteine, methionine, and glycine.
- Supplement with silybum marianum (milk thistle). The silymarin complex, particularly the silibinin component of milk thistle, protects the liver from free radical damage. It prevents certain toxins from entering liver cells and stimulates regeneration of damaged liver cells. Medical use of milk thistle can be traced back more than 2000 years. Over 30 years ago, intensive research on the liver-protecting properties of milk thistle began in Germany. Extensive research also may have led to the approval of a standardized milk thistle extract in Germany for the treatment of alcohol-induced liver disease and other diseases of the liver. Milk thistle extract protects liver cells, both directly and indirectly. It is able to regenerate liver cells that have been injured, prevent fibrosis or fatty liver, bind to the outside of cells and block entrance of certain toxins, and even neutralize toxins that have already penetrated the liver. Milk thistle treatment can be effective even several hours after initial poisoning occurs, such as in the case of poisoning by death cap mushrooms. And there are no side effects. Silymarin may also prevent the damage caused by certain drugs such as acetaminophen, antidepressants, and antipsychotic, cholesterol-lowering, and anticonvulsive drugs. One study showed that increasing the antioxidants in patients receiving psychotropic drugs reduced the production of potentially damaging free radicals in the liver. Silymarin has been shown in animal studies to raise the glutathione levels in liver cells by as much as 50 percent. It also increases the activity of another antioxidant known as supraoxide dismutase (SOD).
- Milk thistle may someday be the main treatment for hepatitis, a chronic viral infection of the liver that can lead to liver damage, and in some cases, liver failure. During a six-month treatment period in patients with chronic alcoholic hepatitis, liver function test results normalized and liver enzymes improved over controls using placebo. The normal dose is 420mg in three divided doses (80 percent silymarin content) daily.
- Supplement with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This powerful antioxidant compound helps recycle glutathione. It is both fat and water soluble, so it works in both mediums. Manufactured by the body in small amounts, it needs to also be obtained through the diet. It can help prevent and repair damage to liver cells and is being studied for its regenerative properties in neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. To increase liver detoxification and boost cellular energy, take between 200-400mg of ALA daily. I recommend Essential Therapeutics Liver Detox Formula, which contains both ALA and milk thistle, as well as methionine, n-acetyl-l-cysteine, L-cysteine, and taurine.
I recommend that my patients take the Essential Therapeutics Liver Detox Formula.
Vitamin D Deficiency Routinely Found in Elderly
Insufficient levels of vitamin D put the elderly at increased risk of dying from heart disease, U.S. researchers found.
“It’s likely that more than one-third of older adults now have vitamin D levels associated with higher risks of death, and few have levels associated with optimum survival,” lead author Dr. Adit Ginde of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine’s Division of Emergency Medicine said in a statement. “Given the aging population and the simplicity of increasing a person’s level of vitamin D, a small improvement in death rates could have a substantial impact on public health.”
Researchers at the University of Colorado and Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed vitamin D in blood samples of more than 3,400 participants, who were selected to be representative of the 24 million older U.S. adults.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said those with low vitamin D levels were three times more likely than those with optimal vitamin D status to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause.
An inexpensive blood test known as 25-hydroxyvitamin-D can show if you’re deficient in vitamin D. I recommend children, adults, and especially the elderly have their vitamin D levels checked every couple of years.
Adults should take 1,000-2,000 I.U.s of vitamin D each day.