We know how important detoxification is for the body – it helps us to stay healthy, energized and keep our mental alertness at the best possible level. But detoxification is only really helpful if we have good elimination too – not only do we want to convert toxins to a less harmful form, we also want to make sure they’re leaving the body. It’s important to understand the difference between detoxification and elimination to make sure both things are being well supported.
Some Background Information on Detoxification
Most toxins that enter the body are fat soluble. They can be stored in fat cells and cell membranes, which are made of fatty acids. The body can sequester these toxins away for years in an effort to protect itself. Liver cells have mechanisms in place to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins, so that they can be excreted from the body in fluids such as bile, urine, sweat etc.
This process can be broken down into phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification:-
Phase 1 –
- Converts a harmful chemical into a less harmful chemical by chemical reactions such as oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis.
- Phase 1 without phase 2 can be harmful – it creates a lot of free radicals which can cause oxidative stress and damage if the rest of the detox pathways are hampered.
Phase 2 –
This is called the conjugation phase. Phase 2 detox adds another substance to the chemical to make it water soluble and ready for elimination.
- Acylation – toxins attached to amino acids.
- Glucuronidation – toxins attached to sugars.
- Glutathione conjugation – toxins attached to glutathione.
- Methylation – toxins attached to methionine.
- Sulfation – toxins attached to sulfur.
- Acetylation – toxins attached to acetyl Co-A.
Various herbs, supplements and therapies can assist with both these processes.
Once the liver has performed its magic and got the toxins converted into less harmful molecules, they are ready to be excreted. There are two main routes for this:-
- In the bile to the intestines, and out in the stool.
- To the kidneys and out through the urine.
We need these two channels to be functioning well so that the toxins can get out. Constipation is a big hindrance to elimination through the bowel, while dehydration hinders elimination by slowing kidney excretion.
Other organs of elimination are skin and lungs, which is why sweating and sauna can be good for detox.
The lymphatic system is also involved in detoxification – the main function of the lymphatic system is to return fluids from the the tissues back into the blood stream. These fluids include immune cells; but also contains cellular waste products and toxins. (In fact, we have twice as much lymph fluid as we do blood.) If the lymphatic system gets stagnant, it will slow down the immune system, also also hamper detoxification.
The whole concept of detox is an important one – but we need to remember that toxins need to get out of the body; so considering the routes of elimination is equally important. If detox is on your radar, especially if you’re struggling with chronic Lyme disease, you might want to check out my online detoxification module – click here to see more about it. But even if you don’t have Lyme, there is so much great information in there that can help you learn more about how to boost your own health.