“Detoxification”- What Is It?


As you know, we are big proponents of detoxification. You should be too and I will explain why. Our bodies are constantly subduing harmful chemicals to keep us alive.  Without detoxification we would become very ill and our bodies would shut down. It is in our best interest to optimize this process much like it is in our favor to walk more and sit less.  The unfortunate thing about “detoxification” is that it has become a profitable and trendy…scam. Multilevel marketing has brought about all sorts of different “detox” products and cure-alls that are complete and total garbage. These often increase your toxic load and do nothing to reduce it.
It is impossible to know what is actually in most products when you consider the regulations surrounding supplements. Reading the label will tell you just as much as not reading the label because the labels are often fraudulent ingredient lists. (Reference these for examples: FDA Crack down and False Ingredients, some even toxic) I am proud of our patients because they are informed. They often ask questions and that is very good because knowledge is power. One question that has been brought up more than once was (usually from bodybuilders), “I need to detox, what do you think about using lime juice in the mornings before breakfast?”.  I would like to thank the social media for once again, misinforming people.  Without a significant amount of biochemistry and physiology as a background, how could someone know whether or not that is effective? They couldn’t! Remember, just because a doctor, personal trainer, or nutritionist says something online…does not make it true. You must dig and research to make your own conclusions.

Lime juice (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, etc.)  is one step in maintaining proper detoxification once the “system” is up and running optimally. These processes work in concert together and must take place at the same rate to prevent backlog and cofactor (nutrient) depletion. Lime juice will aid in phase three of the detoxification process in which the urine is alkalized. This is an essential part of detoxification because this is how a lot of the toxins are actually eliminated from the body. However, this step is only relevant to toxins that are currently in the blood and that have been successfully broken down through phases 1 and 2 in the liver. The problem is that most of the time we are not able to successfully detoxify our current toxic burden in the blood…not accounting for the total toxic load already stored in the body. No amount of lime juice is going to effectively reduce the body’s toxic load. In order to remove stored toxins from the body, increase detoxification capabilities of current toxic burden and reduce new toxic burden we must supply the liver with ample calories and nutrients. Every drug, artificial chemical, pesticide and hormone, is broken down (metabolized) by enzyme pathways inside the liver cells.

Many of the chemicals that enter the body have an affinity for lipids, meaning they dissolve in a fatty & oily solution. This is one reason why we have a difficult time detoxifying; instead of being excreted in the urine or feces, these toxins are often stored in fatty areas of our body. Consider this: every cell in the body is composed of fat, including our brains.  Toxins are often stored (in fat cells) for damage control if the body cannot eliminate them properly. Anytime someone burns fat as energy, like in exercise and weight loss, these dangerous chemicals are released into the blood and circulate through the body. This leads to free radical damage causing headaches, poor memory, stomach pain, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, stubborn weight loss, and many physiological symptoms that you may not feel. The body’s metabolic cleanser is the liver.  From my experience, none of us consistently detoxify efficiently enough to contend with the constant bombardment. If we did, then we would not feel so vibrant after we do our biannual detoxification program in the office.

The liver is a very calorie dependent organ due to its extreme amount of activity. It requires a significant amount of amino acids to perform its hundreds of functions every minute of our lives. The liver is the body’s chief cleanser and is involved with hundreds of processes daily. Detoxification of the blood is one of many functions that we take for granted because most of us don’t understand it. Let’s discuss what is actually happening.DetoxProcess

There are two phases of detoxification that occur in the liver, the first phase is actually called “detoxification”. This is when the liver uses cytochrome P450 enzymes (there are over 500 known cytochrome P450 enzymes) to break down the toxin at the atomic level. This will create free radicals in the liver. Free radicals are atoms that are unstable and destroy other atoms around them. Imagine a pinball violently bouncing around in a pinball machine, this is what free radicals do in the body, except they cause damage to everything they touch! The way our bodies mitigate this damage is through the sacrifice of antioxidants. When a free radical comes in contact with another atom (component of a cell membrane) it will steal part of that cell and leave it damaged…this is called oxidization. Think about what happens when an apple is cut in half and it oxidizes…you can see the damage as it turns brown. So antioxidants step in here and are attacked by the free radicals instead of our delicate cells. If you don’t want your apple to turn brown (oxidize), squeeze some lemon juice (antioxidants) on the cut surface to prevent oxidation.


 This is why we need an abundance of fruit and vegetables supplying these nutrients. We supplement with antioxidants in our program to supply the body with more than enough antioxidants, that is the only way to sure that the body can keep up with the “system” as it cranks out broken down toxins. In addition to taming free radicals, antioxidants also help create a balanced pH in the body. This is not only beneficial to detoxification but also prevent disease like cancer.

      Some less dangerous chemicals can actually be converted into carcinogens here at this stage between phase one and phase two detoxification. It is of upmost importance to have more than enough nutrients available to supply the liver with ample nutrients to continue up to and through phase two detoxification. In fact, people that are exposed routinely to toxins (medications, alcohol, caffeine, fumes, pesticides) can over stimulate the cytochrome P450 activity and create so many free radicals that the body cannot tame them and “induction” damage occurs.  Again, we must modify the diet and supplement with ample amounts of specifically targeted components that lime juice cannot supply. Some of these include amino acids, NADH, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, iron, and indoles found in cruciferous vegetables. Diet is crucial to protecting our health. Have you ever heard that people taking certain medications should not eat grapefruit? The reason for this is that a chemical in grapefruit juice can interfere with chytochrome P450 enzymatic activity, which makes toxins (medication) more toxic or potent.

      The second phase of detoxification is called “conjugation” and is simply when the liver adds a molecule to the toxin (drugs and hormones included) to make it water soluble. These various molecules, either sulfur-based or an amino acid, help pull the toxin into the urine for excretion from the body. To further illustrate the shortcomings of attempting to use a single fruit juice to increase detoxification, the nutrients cysteine, taurine, glycine, glutamine, choline, inositol and increased glutathione production are also required for successful phase two detoxification.

If everything goes well in phase two then phase three takes place and the toxin will hopefully be excreted in the feces or urine. This depends on bile production, fiber intake, pH, and frequency of bowel movements. You cannot defecate once every other day (or even once a day) and properly maintain an effective rate of detoxification. Lime juice will help only with pH, here. I hope you are starting to see the limitations in using only one fruit to aid in detoxification.  This does not take into account kidney detoxification and the importance of water intake combined with specific nutrients for that as well. We have only addressed the liver. You should not be constipated or have diarrhea while detoxifying. Our program helps balance blood sugar, heal the gut, heal the liver and increase your feeling of vitality. It is not a cure for anything, it is simply proper detoxification. Please be very careful where your information comes from. This is a simple explanation not meant to bore the reader with biochemical reactions, however it is important to understand the role certain nutrients have in the detoxification process and why we use them on the program.

Humulus hops are used to increase methylamine kinase production which helps facilitate mobilization of metals from the fat cells of the body and into the blood where the liver can bind them and excrete them.  Silymarin is used to nourish the liver and heal hepatocytes. Watercress and Ellagic acid, vitamin B1, B6, B9 and B12 are used with amino acids for a few things like increasing Cytochrome P450 enzyme production. Vitamin A, Chromium, and Methionine help mobilize toxins like dioxins and phalates into the blood. This list could go on for pages, but the take-home idea is that detoxification happens continually in the body. It is a very necessary and complex process that is often hindered due to less than perfect diets and environments. We have the decision to either help support the process or to further hindering it.  I encourage you to drink lime juice, in moderation, it can only help you. However, please don’t fool yourself either…it does not replace an actual detoxification program done under doctor supervision in a clinical setting.