From the perspective of naturopathic medicine, detoxification is a natural process in the body that involves the elimination of toxins and waste products that accumulate from both external and internal sources. These toxins can come from the environment, such as pollution, chemicals, and pesticides, as well as from within the body, such as from the breakdown of cellular waste and metabolic by-products.
The body's detoxification processes involve several organs, including the liver, kidneys, colon, lungs, and skin. These organs work together to eliminate toxins from the body through various pathways.
Liver: The liver is the body's primary detoxification organ. It filters blood from the digestive tract before it enters the rest of the body and metabolises toxins to make them more water-soluble and easier to excrete.
Kidneys: The kidneys filter waste products and excess fluids from the blood and eliminate them through urine.
Colon: The colon eliminates waste and toxins from the body through bowel movements.
Lungs: The lungs eliminate toxins and waste products through respiration.
Skin: The skin eliminates toxins through sweat.
Naturopathic medicine emphasises the importance of supporting these natural detoxification processes through healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and minimising exposure to toxins in the environment.
Additionally, naturopathic medicine incorporates other detoxification therapies such as nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, and hydrotherapy to support the body's natural detoxification processes and help alleviate symptoms related to toxin build-up.
Impaired or dysfunctional detoxification systems can result in various health risks, including:
Nutritional therapy is relevant to detoxification processes in the body because certain nutrients and dietary components play a vital role in supporting the body's natural detoxification process. The liver is the primary organ responsible for detoxification in the body, and it requires specific nutrients to carry out its functions efficiently.
For example, the liver needs an adequate supply of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to produce enzymes that help break down toxins in the body. These nutrients include methionine, cysteine, glycine, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin C, and magnesium. Antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and glutathione are also crucial for preventing oxidative stress and damage to cells during the detoxification process.
Additionally, dietary fibre is essential for the elimination of toxins through the digestive tract, as it helps promote regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Drinking plenty of water is also crucial for flushing out toxins through the kidneys and supporting the body's natural detoxification process.
Overall, nutritional therapy plays a critical role in supporting the body's natural detoxification process by providing the necessary nutrients to help the liver function efficiently and eliminate toxins from the body.
Increase consumption of antioxidant-rich foods: Eating a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables, can provide the body with essential antioxidants that help protect against oxidative damage caused by toxins.
Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is crucial for proper detoxification as it helps flush toxins out of the body through the kidneys and urinary system. In addition to quenching your thirst, water plays a crucial role in regulating your body temperature, lubricating joints, aiding digestion and nutrient absorption, and removing waste products to detoxify your body. The continuous cellular repair processes and nutrient breakdown release waste products like urea and carbon dioxide, which can be harmful if they accumulate in your blood. Adequate hydration helps to efficiently transport and eliminate these waste products through urination, breathing, or sweating, making proper hydration essential for effective detoxification. [i][ii].
Avoid processed and refined foods: Processed and refined foods often contain additives, preservatives, and other chemicals that can tax the body's detoxification system, leading to a build-up of toxins in the body. For example, high consumption of sugary beverages can cause fatty liver, a condition that negatively impacts liver function[iii]
Include sources of fibre in the diet: Fibre helps promote bowel regularity and the elimination of toxins from the body. Good sources of fibre include whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Consume healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds, can help support the liver's detoxification processes by providing essential nutrients and aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Milk Thistle: Research validates the common use of milk thistle in supporting proper liver and gall bladder health, liver cell regeneration and healthy detoxification processes[iv][v]. Try Terranova Milk Thistle
Dandelion: Dandelion root has traditionally been used for its action on the liver improving the production and delivery of bile. As bile is necessary for the metabolism of fats better bile function will have a positive effect on weight control. Try A. Vogel Dandelion (Taraxacum) Drops.
Broccoli sprouts: Broccoli sprouts can aid in natural detoxification by increasing the excretion of airborne toxins. Participants who consumed the broccoli sprout excreted significantly larger amounts of airborne toxins compared to those who consumed a placebo [vi]. In one of the studies, results showed significant elimination of these harmful chemicals after only 10 days of consuming the broccoli sprout drink[vii]. Try: BioSnacky - Broccoli Seeds (30g) - Grow your own broccoli sprouts!
Spirulina and Chlorella: Algae like spirulina and chlorella are very good for detox. They efficiently detoxify the body and eliminate harmful toxins. Spirulina is also a very nutrient-dense food rich in vital minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, so it's always a good idea to add it to your diet and supplement regime[viii][ix]. Try Sun Chlorella - Sun Chlorella A and Spirulina and Chlorella Capsules by Terranova
Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll has been found to promote optimal liver health by increasing the activity of phase II biotransformation enzymes, which aid in the body's natural elimination of potentially harmful toxins. This can help protect healthy cells and bodily tissues from damage. Animal studies have suggested that chlorophyllin, a derivative of chlorophyll, may reduce the risk of aflatoxin-induced liver damage or liver cancer. This is due to its ability to increase the activity of phase II enzymes, which help to remove toxins from the body[x][xi]. Try Kiki Health Liquid Chlorophyll
N-Aceytl Cysteine (NAC): N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, is a compound that plays a crucial role in the body's detoxification process. It is a precursor to glutathione, which is one of the body's primary antioxidants and detoxifiers. NAC can help reduce the damage caused by toxins by increasing glutathione levels in the body[xii].
Glutathione: Inadequate levels of antioxidants, including glutathione, can worsen liver cell death, potentially resulting in fatty liver disease. Glutathione has been demonstrated to enhance liver health in individuals with alcoholic and non-alcoholic chronic fatty liver disease. A study has reported that glutathione administration was most beneficial for people with fatty liver[xiii].
Cleavers: In ancient herbal medicine, Cleavers was highly praised for its ability to ‘purify the blood’. Today, modern herbalists still recognise this herb's value in treating skin ailments like acne, psoriasis, and boils[xiv]. Cleavers is especially effective in treating lymphatic congestion and inflamed glands. It has been known to aid in the healing of tonsillitis and glandular fever[xv]. Additionally, Cleavers is known to be beneficial for the kidneys. It is used to treat conditions like non-specific cystitis, urethritis, and cloudy urine[xvi]. Try: Viridian Cleavers
Dr. Schulze's Superfood: The ultimate superfood detox star. The 14 botanical foods in Dr Schulze's Original Superfood Plus (four weeks supply) provides high levels of protein as well as high levels of vitamins B6 and B12, which makes it a nutritious food product for busy people wanting good health. Contains a great mix of Spirulina, Blue Green algae, Chlorella, Alfalfa, Barley and Wheat grass.
Cytoplan Cell Active Glutathione: This product from Cytoplan is a powerful antioxidant formula designed to help protect cells from free radicals and delay the signs of ageing. Comprising; N-Acetyl L Carnitine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Gingko Biloba, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Liposomal Glutathione and Resveratrol.
Cytoplan Cytocleanse Formula: A carefully-blended herbal formula, containing herbs and lactobacillus acidophilus designed to support colon health. Includes: Oregon Grape, Probiotics, Lactobacillus, Garlic.
Terranova Dandelion, Artichoke & Cysteine Complex: This blend of liver-supporting nutrients and herbs including dandelion root, which promotes healthy liver function by encouraging bile flow and preventing toxin accumulation, turmeric root with powerful antioxidant properties that enhance the activity of crucial liver enzymes, and artichoke leaf that protects against free radical damage and supports proper liver cell regeneration.
Spirulina and Chlorella Capsules by Terranova: A blend of fresh freeze-dried Spirulina and Chlorella.
The Organic Pharmacy Liver & Kidney Drops: A combination of herbs used to support the liver and kidneys, includes milk thistle and astragalus.
Alka Tea: The popular Alka® Tea is composed with the utmost care from 52 different alkaline herbs to offer you a soothing and tasty cup of tea for every moment of the day.
Pure Encapsulations Liver GI: Liver-G.I. provides a comprehensive blend of phytonutrients and nutritional factors. Featuring NAC and alpha lipoic. With milk thistle and turmeric extracts as well as broccoli sprout extract.
The Beauty Chef Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder: This advanced super-greens formula contains 45 Certified Organic and bio-fermented fruits, vegetables, seeds, roots, algae, grasses, purifying herbs and digestive enzymes to help alkalise and detoxify your body from the inside out.
Epavin (50ml): Contains Milk Thistle and Dandelion, two major herbs for detoxifications, and one of our favourite products to recommend for detoxification purposes. It's a classic combination of herbal tradition that combines many plants to enhance the draining effect and detoxifying, restoring the physiological functions of the liver and assist the digestive process.
One of the main ways you can support detoxification in the body is to limit or cease alcohol intake. Your liver metabolises more than 90% of the alcohol you consume. Overconsumption of alcohol can significantly harm liver function through the accumulation of fat, inflammation, and scarring [xviii]. When the liver is compromised due to alcohol consumption, it cannot perform its essential functions, such as filtering waste and toxins from the body. Therefore, limiting or avoiding alcohol altogether is an effective way to maintain a robust detoxification system.
During sleep, the brain can reorganise and replenish itself, while also eliminating toxic waste by-products that accumulate during waking hours. You should regularly sleep 7 to 9 hours per night to help promote good health[xix] [xx].
Functional testing can help identify issues related to poor detoxification by assessing the function of the body's detoxification pathways through tests for liver enzymes, and nutrient deficiencies, to name a few. The results of these tests can be used to develop targeted nutrition and lifestyle plans to support the body's natural detoxification processes.
NutrEval: This test offers a deep insight into your personal nutritional needs and provides information to create a bespoke and actionable plan together with your Nutritional Therapist. This test looks at many different parameters associated with your personal nutrition profile. Crucially, in the case of detoxification: antioxidant status including glutathione, toxic element profile and toxin and detoxification markers.
Genetic Testing: Gene expression be influenced by environmental factors and have an impact on health. This type of testing can identify genetic variations that affect a person’s ability to detoxify properly and nutritional therapists may recommend dietary and lifestyle modifications accordingly.
Metabolomix Plus and Metabolomix Plus Advanced: This test provides a unique and comprehensive assessment of nutritional status, which is the same as the Metabolomix Plus with added extras. The advanced test is with the addition of finger prick blood sample which can be easily done at home together with the urine sample. This provides additional insight into Essential and Metabolic Fatty Acids and a Nutrient and Toxic Elements Clearance Profile.
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[iii] Asgari-Taee F, Zerafati-Shoae N, Dehghani M, Sadeghi M, Baradaran HR, Jazayeri S. Association of sugar sweetened beverages consumption with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2019 Aug;58(5):1759-1769.
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[vi] Patricia A. Egner, Jian-Guo Chen, Adam T. Zarth, Derek K. Ng, Jin-Bing Wang, Kevin H. Kensler, Lisa P. Jacobson, Alvaro Muñoz, Jamie L. Johnson, John D. Groopman, Jed W. Fahey, Paul Talalay, Jian Zhu, Tao-Yang Chen, Geng-Sun Qian, Steven G. Carmella, Stephen S. Hecht, Thomas W. Kensler; Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 1 August 2014; 7 (8): 813–823
[vii] Thomas W. Kensler, Jian-Guo Chen, Patricia A. Egner, Jed W. Fahey, Lisa P. Jacobson, Katherine K. Stephenson, Lingxiang Ye, Jamie L. Coady, Jin-Bing Wang, Yan Wu, Yan Sun, Qi-Nan Zhang, Bao-Chu Zhang, Yuan-Rong Zhu, Geng-Sun Qian, Stephen G. Carmella, Stephen S. Hecht, Lorie Benning, Stephen J. Gange, John D. Groopman, Paul Talalay; Effects of Glucosinolate-Rich Broccoli Sprouts on Urinary Levels of Aflatoxin-DNA Adducts and Phenanthrene Tetraols in a Randomized Clinical Trial in He Zuo Township, Qidong, People's Republic of China. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1 November 2005; 14 (11): 2605–2613
[viii] Merino JJ, Parmigiani-Izquierdo JM, Toledano Gasca A, Cabaña-Muñoz ME. The Long-Term Algae Extract (Chlorella and Fucus sp) and Aminosulphurate Supplementation Modulate SOD-1 Activity and Decrease Heavy Metals (Hg++, Sn) Levels in Patients with Long-Term Dental Titanium Implants and Amalgam Fillings Restorations. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(4):101. Published 2019 Apr 16. doi:10.3390/antiox8040101
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.