In my first post on detox, I cleared up some misconceptions about what the word ‘detox’ really means, and gave some practical pointers of how you can reduce your chemical exposure and reduce the burden on your body’s detoxification systems. This is the Part Two to that article, so if you haven’t done so already, I strongly recommend you read that one first. If you’ve already done so, then read on!
As I talked about in my first post, one of the most important ways your body rids itself of waste products is via the stool. This is why consuming enough fibre is so important to ensure your digestive system works like a well-oiled machine, moving foods and other bodily by-products through smoothly, efficiently and frequently. Fibre is like the grease in the gear - it is needed to keep digestion moving along smoothly and prevent blockages (aka constipation!). The longer our stool sits in the bowel, the more time the body has to reabsorb its contents. This includes things like sodium and cholesterol, which most of us do not need any more of. The longer the stool sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed as well, leading to dried up, shrivelled poos that can be difficult to pass (aka worsening constipation!). This is why I encourage all of my patients to consume a wide variety of fibre rich foods every day, including:
Lentils, beans and other legumes
Fruits and veggies
Wholegrains, such as rolled oats, brown rice and quinoa
Raw nuts and seeds, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds and pecans
Keep in mind fibre is ONLY found in plant foods. There is no fibre in meat, eggs, dairy, chicken or fish. Therefore anytime you eat these foods, it’s crucial you include a big serve of fruits, veggies or legumes on the side, to help pick them up and carry them through the digestive tract.
Nutrients That Love Your Liver
As I mentioned in my first article, the liver is one of the primary sites of detoxification in the body. The liver takes compounds such as hormones, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, airborne fumes and chemical residues in our food, processes them and converts them into substances that can be excreted via our kidneys and stool. This happens for natural substances the body no longer needs (such as our own reproductive hormones) as well as chemicals we are exposed to. Of course, the best way to support this process is to reduce your exposure to exogenous chemicals, by following the tips in Part One. Secondary to that, it’s essential we ensure the liver has the nutrients it requires to complete this detoxification process on a daily basis.
Some of these nutrients include your B-vitamins (specifically B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12), zinc, selenium, vitamin C and amino acids such as methionine, cysteine, glycine, leucine, isoleucine and lysine. This is why eating a nutritionally balanced and varied diet is so important to helping support the liver! In some cases, I may also prescribe some of these nutrients in therapeutic doses, when the liver is needing a little extra love and support. Other compounds we also use in practice include n-acetyl cysteine (a wonderful antioxidant that protects and supports the liver), s-adenosyl methoinine, specific herbal extracts and supplemental amino acids.
Caring For Your Gut Lining
Everything we ingest orally is processed through the digestive system and eventually presented at the intestinal border, where the body decides what to absorb and what to move along for excretion. When the intestinal border is working optimally, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are absorbed into the blood, whilst bacterial by-products, chemical residues and other non-nutrient substances are blocked from entering and instead, are passed down the line to the colon for excretion.
Unfortunately, certain substances and circumstances can compromise the integrity of this intestinal border, impairing nutrient absorption and allowing substances that would normally be excreted to enter the bloodstream. This can add to the body’s chemical burden, increase inflammation, disrupt immune function and place increased demand on the liver. For this reason, it’s so important to look after the integrity of your intestinal lining with adequate nutrients, whilst also avoiding substances which may increase intestinal permeability.
Some of the nutrients needed to support the structure and function of the intestinal lining include zinc, protein, vitamin A, glutamine and quercetin. Some of the factors that can diminish the integrity of the intestinal lining include:
Dysbiosis (having the wrong types or amounts of bacteria in the gut)
Excessive alcohol consumption
Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and celecoxib
Poor nutrition and inadequate protein consumption
Wheat (as it contains a type of protein called gliadin, which increases intestinal permeability)
Disorders affecting the intestinal lining, such as Coeliac disease
High sugar consumption (as this promotes the growth of the wrong types of gut bacteria)
Where necessary, I work with my patients to identify any of the factors that my be disrupting the health of their intestinal lining, and put in place strategies to heal and seal the gut lining.
Lastly, antioxidants are a class of compound that counter oxidative stress in the body. This is important as oxidative stress can damage cellular DNA and is a risk factor for diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress occurs due to normal physiological processes (such as cellular respiration) but also occurs when we are exposed to chemicals such as cigarette smoke, traffic fumes and pollution. This is why antioxidants play a big role in ‘detoxification’ as they reduce of the oxidative burden on the body.
Antioxidants are predominantly found in fresh fruit and vegetables, especially those which have deep red, blue, green and purple pigments, like purple cabbage, cherries, beetroots, red onions, blueberries and dark green leafy vegetables. Certain nutrients also have antioxidant properties including:
Vitamin C (again, found in fruit and veggies)
Vitamin E (found in raw nuts and seeds and green leafies)
Selenium (found in brazil nuts grown in selenium-rich areas)
Zinc (found in beef, eggs, liver, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and cashews)
Beta-carotene, lutein and xeanthin (found in orange and yellow veggies, like carrots, capsicums and sweet potatoes)
Polyphenols (like quercetin in citrus fruits, resveratrol in pinot noir and epigallocatechin gallate in green tea)
The Take Home Message
As you can see, in addition to reducing your exposure to common toxicants, there are a number of steps you can take to support your body’s detoxification processes, without resorting to a detox tea, juice cleanse or other social media fad. If you’d like further information on this topic, why not book in for an appointment and we can tailor a health plan specific to you and your health circumstances!