The liver is the largest gland in the body and provides a number of essential functions, these include;
- Carbohydrate metabolism. The liver helps to maintain blood glucose levels. When levels are high the liver converts the excess glucose into glycogen for storage. When levels of glucose drops glycogen is converted back into glucose.
- Stores the fat soluble vitamins; A, K, E, and D and water soluble B12, along with iron and copper.
- Glucose in excess is converted into triglycerides and stored within adipose tissue.
- Stored fat can be converted back into a form which can be used to provide energy.
- Synthesis of plasma proteins.
- Produces heat.
- Helps form bile which is later used to facilitate the breakdown of fats, and removal of excess cholesterol.
- Removes potentially toxic elements from the body; nitrogen from protein during its breakdown and conversion, Uric acid from nucleic acids, which are then excreted by the body. It also inactivates hormones and helps the body excrete excess through the faeces.
Detoxification is an important process for keeping the body healthy.
Toxic overload can result in a number of symptoms, including; headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, indigestion, tremors, constipation, anaemia, pallor, dizziness and poor concentration. Impaired ability to think and concentrate. It has also been implicated in a number of major conditions, for example; cancer, hormonal dysfunction, immune disorders, allergies, and autoimmune conditions.
The combination of toxins is more damaging than just the individual toxin. In Chronic fatigue syndrome there is a relationship with toxic load, similarly with chronic degenerative diseases, for example; Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lupus erythematosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. There's also a relationship between toxic load and related hormonal conditions. As toxins build up in the liver and adipose tissue they will affect hormonal activity.
Liver detoxification occurs in 2 phases.
Phase 1 Detoxification
Phase 1 requires antioxidant support. Many toxins are neutralised. However some need to be converted. At which point they will initially become more toxic.
During phase 1, Cytochrome P450 enzymes do one of three things: neutralise, make water-soluble, or convert to a more active form. However the metabolic activity creates free radicals. The most effective antioxidant is Glutathione GSH. If there are a high level of toxins then GSH could be used up and no longer available for phase 2.
Nutrients needed for phase 1 detoxification include; Vitamin B rich foods, copper and magnesium, which are required for energy. Zinc and vitamins C is needed as antioxidants, citrus foods, except grapefruit (grapefruit slows down phase 1 but speeds up phase 2).
The brassica family; cabbage, Broccoli, and Brussels sprouts stimulate phase 1 and phase 2, due to them having Indole-3-Carbinol. They also stimulate detoxifying enzymes in the gut.
Foods that inhibit P450 activity are Naringenin in grapefruit juice and Curcumin - Turmeric (inhibits phase 1 but stimulates phase 2).
Phase 2 detoxification has a number of different pathways which help to neutralise the byproducts of phase 1 and also detoxify the remaining toxins. This is done by making the toxins water soluble. This process is known as conjugation. Conjugation is a protective compound which attaches to toxins to neutralise them.
There are different conjugation pathways;
1. Glutathione conjugation: Converts fat soluble toxins to water soluble so that they can be more easily excreted. Glutathione rich foods are; asparagus, avocado and walnuts, brassica family, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
Inhibitors are; selenium deficiency, B2 deficiency, glutathione deficiency, zinc deficiency.
2. Amino acid conjugation; Glycine is the most commonly used which can be depleted in a low protein diet.
3. Methylation conjugation; Methionine is converted to s-adeno-sylmethionine (SAM). Nutrients required, choline, vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin B6.
4. Sulfation conjugation; Increases water solubility, and it is the main way of eliminating steroid hormones, thyroid hormones, and neurotransmitters. Requires methionine and cysteine. Also requires molybdenum, and B6. Red peppers, garlic, onions, Broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are a good source of sulphur.
5. Acetylation conjugation; Acetyl CoA eliminates sulphur drugs, Dependent upon B1 Thiamin, pantothenic acid B5, vitamins C and B2.
6. Glucuronidation conjugation. Many commonly prescribed drugs are detoxified through this system. Sulphur rich foods help the pathway also Citrus fruits except grapefruit.
Signs and symptoms of poor detoxification within different systems;
- Bowel: halitosis, bitter taste, bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, intolerance to fatty foods, swollen liver, gallbladder problems.
- Immune: stress, infertility, PMS, overweight, depression.
- Nervous system: headaches, poor memory and concentration,
Fasting does not always mean restricting all food intake but can be important in reducing Xenobiotic overload, thereby helping in supporting liver detoxification. It is beneficial to support fasting: with multivitamins, lipotropic compounds which help to promote the flow of fat and bile to and from the liver, Vitamins C as an antioxidant support, and fibre which helps to eliminate toxic substances through the faeces.
Fresh fruit offers a great deal of antioxidant support and vegetables the necessary fibre required. It is important to stay hydrated. Generally fruit juices at the beginning of the fast act as cleansers and Vegetable juices to build up again.
Fasting can be a beneficial part of a weekly routine and need not last for lengthy periods for it to be beneficial. While fasting it is also important to rest.
Some detoxification occurs in the intestinal mucosal wall. The gastrointestinal lining is the first point of contact for the majority of xenobiotics. Gut microflora play a significant role.
To support the detoxification system remove all foods and beverages likely to contain toxins, and food allergens. Eliminate or reduce environmental toxins. Good nutrition and in particular the cofactors needed for the enzymes involved in the detoxification process. Stay hydrated and the use of Saunas can also be beneficial to help in the elimination of toxins.
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