While most people think about a spring or fall detox, I believe that detoxification efforts should happen year round. Summer is a particularly important time of the year for the liver to get extra attention. The warmer weather usually means get-togethers filled with barbeques, beer, wine, cocktails and the occasional soda pop. The primary role of the liver is to process everything that the body comes into contact with and facilitate the exit of toxins out of the body.
What is detoxification?
Detoxification is simply the process of removing toxic substances from the body through very intricate systems. Our detox pathways work 24/7, 365 days a year regardless of our awareness. The idea that one can do a cleanse for a few days or weeks and improve detoxification is one that I believe is outdated and worth reviewing.
Why only improve the body's ability to detox once or twice a year when it can be supported regularly without unnecessary restrictive diets and self-deprivation.
Detoxification occurs in 3 phases in the human body. Phase I involves turning toxic substances into water-soluble intermediates. In Phase II the intermediaries from Phase I are turned into non-toxic water-soluble substances. The elimination of deactivated toxins from the body occurs in Phase III . As humans, we eliminate through our bowels, bladder and skin.
Do We Really Need To Detoxify?
Detoxification naturally happens in our bodies regardless of our intentions. It is automatic like our lungs expanding and contracting and our heart beating. However, there are individual genetic variants that determine how functional our detoxification pathways are. These genetic variants affect how we break down everything we breathe, eat, drink and touch.
A 2020 study discovered that there were over 350 000 man-made chemicals and mixtures of chemicals registered globally for commercial production and use. These chemicals are everywhere. They are present in our food, food packages, drinking water, furniture, toys, tools, personal care products and medicines. They have been shown to bioaccumulate in the body over time and cause a myriad of health issues.
Signs Your Liver Detoxification Pathways Need Support
- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities/Increasing sensitivity to odours
- Chronic Immune System Depression
- Fertility Issues
- Joint Pain/ Muscle weakness
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia
- Memory Loss
- Contact dermatitis
- Mood swings
- Non-responsive or recurrent yeast infections
- Panic attacks
An effective liver detoxification program should be balanced in addressing all 3 phases of detoxification. Excessive activation of Phase I without supporting Phase II can do more harm than good in some individuals depending on their genetic variants. If you have ever done a cleanse and felt unwell, there is a good chance there was an imbalance between Phase I and Phase II detoxification.
Phytonutrients That Support Phase II Detoxification Pathways
Glucosinolates - present in cruciferous vegetables (kale, watercress, broccoli)
Catechins - present in green tea and grape
Ellagic acid - present in pomegranate and several berries
Isomalto-Oligosaccharides - present in citrus pectin and apple fiber
Methionine and Cysteine - present in high quality protein sources
Chlorogenic acid - present in artichoke
Xanthohumol - present in hops flowers
Optimizing and supporting liver detoxification pathways does not have to occur once in a while. Decreasing our exposure to toxic substances and improving our liver detoxification pathways are fantastic ways to improve our health year round. This summer, make a broccoli salad with pomegranate seeds to go with that barbeque chicken.