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Can Foods Help You Detox?

No time to go to a spa for a 30-day detox?? No need, just make some specific changes to your diet as a good start.

Finally, some good news about detoxification.  By making changes to your diet, you can be proactive against becoming toxic and retaining toxins.

We come into contact with toxins in two major ways: toxins on the outside of us (exogenous e.g. environmental) and toxins on the inside of us (e.g. endogenous or those that are produced from normal metabolism as well as from chronic infections and hormone regulation). When we are exposed to toxins or when we produce toxins internally a series of steps are initiated to help eliminate these exposures. We can excrete toxins through:

Sweat

Urine

Feces

Breath

Liver

Detoxification in the liver is comprised of two main phases : phase I and phase II detoxification. Each phase requires different enzymes and biochemical steps to excrete a toxin. These processes are very complex but a basic understanding will help comprehend what your body is doing for you.  Phase I is called the Cytochrome P450 system and it involves numerous enzymes that each have a different task of detoxifying hormones, medications, pesticides and more.  Phase I takes a toxicant and makes it initially more toxic.

Phase II is the livers clearance of the by products of Phase I detoxification.  Both phases required specific nutrients for optimal function. Without good nutrition, your ability to detoxify is reduced.

Nutritional support for  Detox includes: 

Antioxidants are required to quench the free radicals that are produced by phase I detoxification. One Phytnutrient such as quercitin induces (start up) phase II reactions and can be found in:   apples, onions, cherries, kale, beans, broccoli.

Protein intake supports detoxification in numerous ways : it produces enzyme carriers for toxins to be swept out of the body, it forms cellular structures such as cell membranes, forms blood cells and tissue components to name just a few. Protein intake should be approximately your weight divided by 2.2 ( so your weight is in kilograms) which should be the amount in grams of protein you should consume daily.  Add more if you exercise strenuously.  Clean sources of protein are important such as grass fed beef, organic poultry, wild caught salmon, free range eggs, nuts, hemp, and moderate soy consumption.  If you are vegetarian this becomes more challenging and you will need to focus on protein intake in creative ways.

Carbohydrates such as sugar cause a significant decrease in Phase I reactions thereby reducing your ability to detoxify. This is one more reason that eating a high carb diet is not a good idea– a toxicant comes into your body and phase I cannot begin the process of excretion because of your diet.  A high sugar diet has been implicated in a slower transit time for stool to pass through the gut, increasing your exposure to toxins that have been eliminated. This can increase your reabsorption of the toxins. High sucrose or sugar diet also reduces many of the enzymes and compounds required for effective liver detoxification.  Higher sugar diets correlate with low magnesium which also impairs phase I detoxification.

Dietary Fiber might sound like a boring addition to your diet but heres a few reasons to make sure you have your 35 grams per day:  Certain types of dietary fibers markedly enhance both phase I and II detoxification systems in the liver. (Roland N J Nutr 1994 124:1581-7 (rats).)  Higher fiber diets equal higher fecal toxin excretion which results in increased recirculation of toxins from the gut back into the bloodstream.  Dietary Fiber can be found in two forms:

                • Soluble: legumes, rice, corn meal, oat bran, fruits (berries, banana, plum, pear, apple), vegetables (broccoli, squash, beet, potatoes, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke), psyllium seed

                • Insoluble: whole grains, vegetables (green bean, cauliflower, celery, peppers, leek, greens, onion, cabbage, tomato, zucchini), fruit (banana, cherry, melon, peach, avocado) nuts, flax seeds, beans, lentil.

                • ““Functional fibers”: gums, beta glucans, chitin, cellulose, inulin, fructooligosaccharides, lignin, pectin, psyllium, resistant starches.

Dietary fats actually HELP you with both phases of liver detoxification… let me repeat this: Fats are your friends as they help induce Phase I and Phase II detoxification in the liver. Animals studied on fat free diets had drastic reductions in their phase I and Phase II detoxification enzymes. So do not be afraid that your waistline will grow, trust that your body will use these fats to support detoxification. (More on weight loss and toxicity in a future blog). Healthy examples of fats include: Fish oils, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, eggs, avocados.

So while you may want to go to a spa and detox for an extended period of time, start at home before you go and get your diet in fine shape before you do that. It is a process and you do not need to implement every suggestion above by the end of this week. Work at it as you shop, read menus, and select ingredients for your meals and know that your liver will be thanking you!!!