Author: Amy Jordan, BSc(Hons)HumNut
Detoxing - we’ve all heard of it, we’re all told we should be doing it, but what actually IS it? And how do we go about detoxing anyway?
The good news is, you don’t need a fad diet or tea to help you out with this one. The body has a wonderful detoxification system called the liver, which processes toxins through two pathways, to make them safe and able to be excreted by the body.
Of course, all our body systems need a helping hand every now and again, especially if, like so many of us, we indulge a little too much sometimes! Luckily, there are a few key nutrients, herbs and vegetables that we can add to our diets, or supplement routines, to support the liver and ensure those nasty toxins are being excreted before they do too much damage.
Types of toxin
Toxins can come from a wide variety of sources. There are the obvious ones, like cigarette smoke and alcohol, but toxins can also come from some unexpected sources. Some are even made by our bodies, like the free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are a byproduct of our metabolism. This seems traitorous – why would our bodies make something that harms us? – but the liver is set up to deal with these, and as long as our livers are functioning properly (and we’re not overloading them with work) there is little threat.
Other toxins and sources of toxins are:
- Car exhaust fumes
- Cleaning products
- Heavy metals (e.g. mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminium)
- Pesticides and herbicides (found on non-organic food)
- Food additives
- Household cleaners
- BPA (found in some hard plastics)
- Phthalates and parabens (found in many beauty products – even shampoo)
Many of these are in the air we breathe, food we eat and water we drink – it’s impossible to avoid them entirely unless you live in a sterile bubble (and let’s face it, that doesn’t sound much fun!), so it’s important that our livers are in tip-top shape to deal with them.
Supporting your liver
The most abundant and hardest working antioxidant in the body is glutathione. As well as helping rid the body of toxins, glutathione is also involved in making and repairing DNA, activating enzymes, transporting amino acids around the body and helping the immune system function.1
Milk thistle has been used traditionally for over 2000 years to support the liver. We now have good evidence that this herb is truly effective, due to the extracts silymarin and silybin, for healing and supporting the liver.2
Resveratrol is another antioxidant – you may recognise the name, this is the antioxidant found in chocolate and red wine, among other things. Resveratrol is active against ROS, and prompts the body to make glutathione.3,4
Vitamins B2, B3 and C, alpha-lipoic acid and cysteine are all involved in making more glutathione to support the bodies antioxidant pathways.
Other herbs, vegetables, vitamins and minerals which support the liver, work as antioxidants or support glutathione production include:
- Broccoli sprouts
- Green tea
- Globe artichoke
- Grape skins and seeds
- Vitamin E
- Caffeine (in small amounts, about one cup of coffee)
- Amino acids (glycine, cysteine and taurine)
While this might seem like an overwhelmingly long list, most of these can be found in a healthy diet consisting of plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains and healthy fats. Try to avoid sugar, processed foods, simple carbs (like white bread and pasta) and anything deep fried while detoxing; this will help your body!
For anything on this list that you might not recognise or find in your everyday foods, like chlorella and Theracurmin, ask your healthcare practitioner for a supplement for greater convenience, and for a copy of the BioCeuticals Heal & Seal, Cleanse & Clear Patient Booklet for more information.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about healthy detoxification. Make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner.
To find a practitioner in your area, visit our find-a-practitioner page.
- Glutathione. Natural Medicines Database, 2016. Viewed 17 November 2016, https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=717
- Loguerico C, Festi D. Silybin and the liver: from basic research to clinical practice. World J Gastroenterol 2011;17(18):2288-2301.
- Hsu CY, Chan YP, Chang J. Antioxidant activity of extract from Polygonum cuspidatum. Biol Res 2007;40(1):13-21.
- Kode A, Rajendrasozhan S, Caito S, et al. Resveratrol induces glutathione synthesis by activation of Nrf2 and protects against cigarette smoke-mediated oxidative stress in human lung epithelial cells. Am J Phsiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 2008;294(3):478-488.