Detox 101: How to Enhance Your Body’s Detoxification
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Did you know your body is detoxifying all the time? It’s kind of a misnomer to say you are going to “detox” your system; it does this naturally. However, there are ways to up-regulate detoxification and enhance the body’s ability to excrete toxins from its main detoxifying systems.
Detoxification happens in body systems that include the skin, kidneys (urine), gut (stool), and breath. In Detox 101 we will cover phase 1 and phase 2 of detoxification.
What Is Detox?
During phase 1 and phase 2, fat-soluble (FS) toxins, such as Bisphenol A and various chemicals in the environment, are converted into water-soluble toxins. These toxins go through various biochemical processes, such as oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis in phase 1 and sulfation, methylation, and acetylation in phase 2.
Imagine putting a bunch of banana peels, orange rinds, or apple cores down the garbage disposal. You turn on the water, but now the sink is clogged. You run the garbage disposal to grind up the cellulose in the plant matter, liquefying it. Then you turn the water on again, and now all that debris, those “toxins,” are flushed down the drain.
Phase 1 of detoxification is like turning on the disposal to liquefy all that garbage. Phase 2 is like turning on the water to eliminate, or flush, all that debris down the drain.
If we don’t do a good job of liquefying these FS toxins in phase 1, and if we don’t do a good job of excreting them in phase 2, this can turn into a mess.
What would happen if the debris in the disposal hasn’t fully liquefied and we start running the water? The debris will clog the drain, making the mess much worse.
Phase 1 and phase 2 must work together for proper detoxification.
Toxins In Your Fat
Many people may gain stubborn weight that no matter what they do they just can’t lose it. Most toxins are fast soluble so the body has a propensity to shuttle toxins into these fat cells. The body will then be more resistant to burning up this toxin-filled fat until it has the capacity to do so.
In other words, if you have a detoxification system that is not operating at optimal function, excessive weight gain could be a side effect. Once the body’s phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways are supported, the body finally has the ability to tap into these isolated fat cells!
I see this toxin-derived weight gain in my patients from time to time. Also lets not forgot that over 20% of thyroid hormone is activated in the liver. If the liver is under more stress, it makes sense that your thyroid function or thyroid hormones may not be at optimal levels to burn fat.
Your thyroid is one the master glands that controls metabolism. Metabolism is how your body creates energy…ideally from fat. The less metabolic energy you have, the harder it will be to tap into that stubborn fat.
Detox, Protein, and Amino Acids
Protein is vital for detoxification to occur. Some of the main antioxidants that help with detoxification include glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Glutathione is a big one and is made up of three protein-based amino acids: cystine, glutamine, and glycine.
We need amino acids to run our detox pathways. Our body then eliminates these toxins, primarily via the stool and the urine. So it’s very important our gut function is working properly.
Check out the chart above to see all of the amino acids needed to run our detoxification system!
Detox and the Gut
The gallbladder is a small green organ just beneath the liver. After toxins enter the liver, the liver produces bile, and this bile concentrates in the gallbladder. The gallbladder spits bile into the intestinal tract, and the bile is eliminated from the body via the stool.
If the gut’s not working properly because we have dysbiosis or are chronically constipated, autointoxication, a process that slows down the activity in the small and large intestines, will occur. This creates more toxicity that will have to go through the whole detoxification process again.
This additional toxicity occurs because of the slowed activity and a bacteria in our gut called beta-glucoronidase. We conjugate bile, which means our body binds it into a toxin or a hormone so it can be eliminated. If the bacteria in our gut is out of balance, beta-glucoronidase can take those bound-up, or conjugated, toxins and uncleave, or unbind, them. So gut function is really important in detoxifying the body.
We don’t want dysbiosis. We want higher good bacteria and lower bad bacteria. Unfortunately, most people have higher bad bacteria and lower good bacteria.
Detox testing can be done via blood tests or urinary tests.
In conventional medicine we have our typical blood tests—CBC or CMP. Within these we look at the following specific tests:
- ALT: Liver specific
- AST: Heart and skeletal muscle specific
- GGT: Gallbladder and bile duct specific
The ALT tends to be more focused to the liver, but it’s a more general marker.
The AST is also a liver marker, but there are various isoenzymes that can be broken down from this test. AST levels may increase during an acute episode of a heart attack or a hard CrossFit workout. However, if they are chronically high, it’s a good sign there are detoxification issues or liver problems.
The problem with the ALT and AST is chronic elevation in these blood tests doesn’t usually happen until late in the game. Full liver function is 100%; when it drops down to 10–20%, that’s when we’ll see the elevated tests. They are a late-stage indicator in the game of toxicity.
The GGT is a good marker for gallbladder issues, and it will elevate when something is going on in the gallbladder.
When the ALT, AST, or GGT goes above 20 or so, that’s when we will want to take a closer look and find what’s causing the elevation.
Urinary Organic Acid Test
Simple urinary tests can provide an assessment of organic acids in the body. The organic acids test includes the following:
- 2 Methyl hippurate
These tests tend to be a little more significant because they are specific to different nutrients. If we’re looking at acetylation or sulfation, we look at the results of sulfer-based amino acids. Glucorate and 2 methyl hippurate can be more specific to B vitamins.
So organic acids give us really good indicators of what pathways aren’t working properly. Then we can put people on specific supplement programs to help up-regulate pathways that are low or out of balance. The organic acid test above is from my own personal test.
Anytime we are trying to detoxify, we want to stop putting toxins into our body. Eat organic foods, drink plenty of water, sleep well, and manage stress and blood sugar.
To eliminate or minimize stress on the body, make diet and lifestyle changes and address gut stressors and infections. It’s important to address infections because they will throw off the bacteria in the gut. If bacteria in the gut is off, it will create backup in the small and large intestines, which increases toxins and creates that vicious cycle. Diet should consist of the following:
- Foods high in sulfur amino acids, like cruciferous vegetables
- Organic grass-fed meat (https://justinhealth.com/products/organic-grass-fed-meat/)
- Grass-fed whey protein concentrate
Looking at blood can be helpful, but it’s not the best functional indicator. Organic acids testing tends to be the best indicator when looking at the functions of detoxification, and then appropriate actions can be taken based on the results.
If you feel you are having a detox issue, reach out and schedule a consult to learn about your options. If you need more detox help, click here!