Define “Detox”

In the January Challenge, New Ways for Weight Loss, I mentioned eating for enhanced detoxification. While detox diets are trendy, full of hype and tend to conjure up ideas of hokey juice fasts, the physiological process of detoxification is real and crucial to good health. “Diets” don’t work, neither do short-term detox programs, however, living a detoxified lifestyle is effective and necessary. The image above shows the process of detoxification and highlights the nutrients involved.

Detoxification Basics

The liver is responsible for transforming compounds, that our own body produces, such as estrogen, that we are exposed to in our food supply, such as pesticides, and toxins from the environment, such as exhaust, into the form required for elimination. Needless to say our liver is busy, and the more we are exposed to the harder it must work to keep up.

Detoxification occurs in two phases. Phase 1 is termed activation. Activation transforms compounds into unstable molecules, called intermediary metabolites. Phase 2 transforms intermediary metabolites into stable water-soluble compounds that can be excreted through urine, bile and feces. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients play essential roles by activating and transforming molecules for elimination from the body.

Detox Problems

If phase 2 of liver detoxification is slowed by low nutrient availability, unstable compounds increase, resulting in increased oxidative stress and inflammation. If phase 1 is not functioning properly, either due to low nutrient availability or related to high toxin exposure, toxins are not neutralized and continue to circulate and are ultimately deposited in bone, soft tissues or fat stores.

One factor in the acquisition of body fat is related to the bioaccumulation of toxins stored in fat as the body attempts to protect itself from compounds that are not properly detoxified in the liver. Additionally, release of toxins from fat stores during weight loss has been shown to reduce resting metabolic weight, contributing to weight loss resistance. A new way of looking at weight loss is through the lens of liver health; when liver detoxification is supported through smart food choices, bioaccumulation of toxins is reduced and elimination is improved, thereby reducing the need for body fat to store toxins.

Detoxified Living

Take a closer look at this graphic (seen above) from the Cleveland Clinic’s primer on Integrative Medicine. There’s a lot of information contained in this graphic.

A short juice fast or “liver-rest” diet won’t support your liver in the long-term. Actually, fasting impairs function by starving the liver of nutrients it needs to operate properly. To truly support detoxification you must live a lifestyle that is geared towards reducing exposures, enhancing biotransformation and elimination of toxins. There are three steps to optimal liver function: Eat to detoxify, reduce body burden and enhance elimination. Stay tuned for more.

Photo credit:

From: Cleveland Clinic Integrative Medicine: Nutrient and herbal supplements to support detoxification. From the Institute for Functional Medicine: Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash: The Institute for Functional Medicine, 2005, p 278. © 2005 The Institute of Functional Medicine.

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.

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