A huge number of toxins are processed by the digestive system and eliminated as waste products. Due to the digestive system’s role as a major detoxification path, it is critical that it is working effectively before a detox is commenced to ensure that toxins are actually eliminated.
The main digestive organs in the detoxification process are the intestines, liver and gallbladder. There are also a host of nutrients that are obtained from whole foods that are essential for these organs to perform their detoxification roles. For the body to obtain sufficient nutrients from food there must be enough hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach.
Amino acids in particular play an important role in the liver’s detox role and these are obtained from proteins, which are broken down by pepsin in the stomach. Pepsin requires sufficient HCl to be activated and so really our body’s detoxification capacity starts with the stomach. Amino acids are critical in supporting the liver to detoxify and many of these must be obtained from high-quality proteins, namely animal products. Some essential amino acids to detox include glycine, glucuronic acid, glutathione, methionine, cysteine and taurine. Therefore giving up meat for a detox is not the way to go!
Water infused with citrus fruit and mint is an excellent detoxifcation support.
Intestines: The intestines act not only act as a physical barrier to prevent food molecules from entering the blood stream, but they are home to a plethora of bacteria that are also on the body’s remove and eliminate team. However, in many people the intestines are not the solid barrier between the digestive tract and the blood stream as they should be. For a variety of reasons the intestinal wall can become permeable, leaky gut, which means that molecules in the GI tract are able to pass through into the body. The bacterial make-up of the intestines also has a big impact on the integrity of the gut wall and the ability of the intestine to break down pathogens.
Liver: We all know the important role the liver plays in detoxification. It acts as the body’s main “transformation” site and is responsible for filtering, conjugating (breaking down) and eliminating many toxins. Toxins can be either water soluble or fat-soluble and are carried through and excreted by the blood through the kidneys as urine or bile through the intestines as faeces. Toxins that have been neutralised by the liver and then passed through the gallbladder in bile are carried through the intestines to be excreted in our faeces. Adequate bile production of a thin consistency by the liver and the timely release of this bile by the gallbladder are therefore critical for moving fat-soluble toxins.
Gallbladder: As many fats are directly absorbed into the lymphatic system via the small intestine, proper fat digestion is important for ensuring that the lymphatic pathways flow appropriately. The lymphatic system plays a huge role in clearing toxins and inflammation from around the body and if it becomes clogged due to mal-digested fats in the system then this has a knock on effect to the liver. Healthy bile production to emulsify fats in the first place is therefore crucial.
If any one of these three organs is not functioning optimally or we lack the appropriate supporting nutrients, then our detoxification pathways will be impaired and the risk of toxins being reabsorbed in the body is high.
This can lead to severe symptoms as the body’s toxic load is increased and things are not eliminated. If we are speeding up the process of phase I detox, where toxins are mobilised then it is critical that phase II is able to support it.
Digestive dysfunction = detox dysfunction
If digestion, as our body’s main pathway of elimination isn’t functioning properly, then toxic loads will accumulate. As we learned above, once molecules have been through Phase I detoxification pathways they become more toxic and at this point eliminating them from the body is very important. However, when digestion isn’t working properly then these toxins can get reabsorbed into the body.
It doesn’t matter if our diet is perfect; if things are not being eliminated appropriately then everything eventually becomes toxic. If the intestines are permeable and foreign molecules (primarily from mal-digested food) are able to escape into the blood stream, this puts the body on high alert as it thinks it is constantly responding to invaders.
Giving your digestive system a break will improve your whole body’s ability to detox
We can ensure the digestive system works appropriately by consuming nutrient-dense, whole foods in appropriate quantities and at the right time. Fasting is supportive of detoxification because it gives the digestive system a break from constantly breaking down food, secreting acid and enzymes, initiating peristalsis and the many other jobs that are involved in digesting and releasing nutrients. Ensuring you don’t overeat will also support the digestive system in its detoxification role.
To learn more about digestion and each important stage in the process, check out my three part series on digestion. I cover what needs to happen and how to support it.
If you want to learn more about the best, bio-individual way for you to approach detox then working with a nutritional therapist is a great idea. Get in touch with me for more information.