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We are in constant contact with harmful organisms and pollutants. They are in our water, in our food, and in the air we breathe and it’s very difficult to get away from them. Over the past few decades the toxin levels have gradually increased with the employment of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture, our changing lifestyles that include excessive smoking and drinking and air pollution from power plants, cars and landfills. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract some toxins, through healthy detoxification. Everyone can benefit from detoxification from when you are feeling below par to if you suffer from complex chronic diseases.
What is a toxin?
Toxins are any substances that are capable of causing disease in the body. They need to be made safe and removed from the body to prevent disease from occurring. Toxins can be derived from both our environment and our own metabolism. The sum total of these substances is referred to as our ‘toxic load’.
When do I need to detox?
Detoxification is commonly viewed as a ‘quick-fix’, notoriously after the Christmas indulgence period. But the idea of ‘detox’ is not new, nor one to be regarded so frivolously. Detoxification has been integral to religious practice for millennia, especially through fasting, and is recognised for its profound health benefits. Another common misconception is that detoxification occurs only in the liver. However it is a whole body process which helps our adaptation to environmental challenges. Healthy detoxification depends upon each body system working efficiently.
Common signs of toxic overload include:
Common toxins include:
What can I do?
First and foremost is to get the basics right. Finding solutions by making a 20% change for an 80% difference by focusing on factors that we can control rather than those which we cannot control.
Some examples include:
Research shows that an organic diet consumption provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to pesticides used in agricultural production.12 Adequate protein from various sources is important to provide a steady supply of amino acids needed to make detoxification enzymes. With animal sources ensure good quality grass-fed meat, which is higher in omega-3 and antioxidant content[xiii]
Glutathione is essential for the production of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which helps to protect cells from oxidative damage.[xxiv] It promotes the elimination of various substances including heavy metals[xxv],[xxvi], paracetamol[xxvii] and pesticides[xxviii].
N-acetyl cysteine is a form of the amino acid cysteine that can support heavy metal detoxification (such as mercury)[xxix] and the production of glutathione. It also protects the liver from chemical exposure and paracetamol toxicity.[xxx]
Indole-3-carbinol is found in brassica vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. This can support detoxification[xxxi] of hormones such as oestrogen, by supporting the enzymes in the liver.
Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin. This stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile (used to eliminate toxins) and it also rejuvenates liver cells that breakdown harmful compounds.[xxxii]
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[v] Zhong J et al. B vitamins attenuate the epigenetic effects of ambient fine particles in a pilot human intervention trial. PNAS. 2017; 114 (13): 3503-3508
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[viii] Mesnage et al. Major Pesticides Are More Toxic to Human Cells Than Their Declared Active Principles. Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014
[ix] Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010; 15 (1): 4-12
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[xi] Lu et al. Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2006; 114(2): 260-263
[xiii] Daley et al. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2000; 9:10
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[xxv] Sears ME. Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification – a review. The Scientific World Journal. 2013; 2013: 219840.
[xxvi] Robitaille S, Mailloux RJ, Chan HM. Methylmercury alters glutathione homeostasis by inhibiting glutaredoxin 1 and enhancing glutathione biosynthesis in cultured human astrocytoma cells. Toxicol Lett. 2016; 256: 1-10
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[xxxi] Wang et al. Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C0 and its Major Derivatives: Their Pharmacokinetics and Important Roles in Hepatic Protection. Curr Drug Metab. 2016; 17(4): 401-9
[xxxii] Biswas SK et al. Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells: mechanism of free radical scavenging activity. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2005; 7 (1-2): 32-41.
[xxxiii] Zhong J et al. B vitamins attenuate the epigenetic effects of ambient fine particles in a pilot human intervention trial. PNAS. 2017; 114 (13): 3503-3508