The liver is the primary detoxification organ; it filters blood coming directly from the intestines and prepares toxins for excretion from the body. Significant amounts of detoxification also occur in the intestine, kidney, lungs, and brain, with phase I, II, and III reactions occurring throughout the rest of the body to a lesser degree. Metabolic detoxification reactions, therefore, are not only important for protection from the environment but central to homeostatic balance in the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Detoxification (“detox”) has broad connotations ranging from the spiritual to the scientific, and has been used to describe practices and protocols that embrace both complementary (fasting, colonic cleaning) and conventional (chelation or antitoxin therapy) schools of medical thought - as well as some that push the boundaries of scientific plausibility (such as ionic foot detoxification).
In the context of human biochemistry and in Health Renewal, detoxification can be described with much more precision; here it refers to a specific metabolic pathway, active throughout the human body, that processes unwanted chemicals for elimination. This pathway (which will be referred to as metabolic detoxification) involves a series of enzymatic reactions that neutralise and solubilize toxins and transport them to secretory organs (like the liver or kidneys) so that they can be excreted from the body.
Excess hormones, vitamins, inflammatory molecules, and signalling compounds, amongst others, are typically eliminated from the body by the same enzymatic detoxification systems that protect the body from environmental toxins, or clear prescription drugs from circulation. Metabolic detoxification reactions, therefore, are not only important for protection from the environment but central to homeostatic balance in the body.
Toxins are poisonous compounds produced by living organisms. Man-made chemical compounds with toxic potential are more properly called toxicants. Toxins and toxicants can exert their detrimental effects on health in a number of ways. Some cause DNA damage which can lead to cancer, others can disrupt specific metabolic pathways, which can lead to dysfunction of particular biological systems such as the nervous system, liver, or kidneys.
The diet is a major source of toxic exposure. Toxins can find their way into the diet by several routes.
The method of food preparation has the potential for converting naturally occurring food constituents into toxins. For instance, high temperatures can convert nitrogen-containing compounds in meats and cereal products into the potent mutagens benzopyrene and acrylamide, respectively.
Pesticides and chemical man-made toxins can enter the body through a diet due to incorrect cleaning and washing of the food.
Outside of the diet, respiratory exposure to volatile organic compounds is a common risk which has been associated with several adverse health effects, including kidney damage, immunological problems, hormonal imbalances, blood disorders, and increased rates of asthma and bronchitis.
One of the greatest sources of non-dietary toxicant exposure is the air in the home. Building materials, such as floor and wall coverings, particle board, adhesives, and paints can release several toxicants that can be detected in humans.
Newly built or remodelled buildings can have substantial amounts of chemicals. Carpets is an especially big offender, potentially releasing several neurotoxins.
While it is not possible to completely eliminate toxin/toxicant exposure from all sources, there are ways to minimise it:
- Limit the introduction of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the home by using VOC-free cleaning products, low-VOC paints, and choose throw rugs instead of new carpeting;
- Store food in bisphenol A (BPA)-free or phthalate-free containers, and avoid reheating foods in plastic containers;
- Look for organically produced food, which is grown without pesticides, and will contain less residue than conventionally produced fruits and vegetables (although be aware that organic produce isn’t necessarily “pesticide free”).
- Wash your fruits or vegetables thoroughly which can decrease some pesticide residue, although it is not effective against all pesticide types, and peel the skins off of food which may help to further lower pesticide levels;
- Limit intake of processed foods. Even ones that are free of synthetic preservatives may contain detectable amounts of toxic compounds that were introduced by chemical transformation during processing.
- Although the risk of acute toxicity from undercooking meat such as food poisoning is likely a greater risk than toxin exposure from overcooking it, there are ways to reduce toxin production during meat preparation.
- Avoid direct exposure of meat to open flame or hot metal surfaces.
- Cook meat at or below 250◦ F via stewing, braising, crockpot cooking as slow food preparation methods that utilise liquid;
- Turn meat often during cooking, avoid prolonged cooking time at high temperatures, and refrain from consuming charred portions.
The liver is the primary detoxification organ; it filters blood coming directly from the intestines and prepares toxins for excretion from the body. Significant amounts of detoxification also occur in the intestine, kidney, lungs, and brain, with phase I, II, and III reactions occurring throughout the rest of the body to a lesser degree.
These three steps or phases of removing undesirable or harmful lipid-soluble compounds are performed by three sets of cellular proteins or enzymes, called the phase I (transformation) and phase II (conjugation) enzymes, and the phase III (transport) proteins.