Human body is equipped with ways to defend itself from most of harmful environmental insults and the effects of occasional indulgence, howbeit at times organs responsible for detoxification get overwhelmed, particularly in the phase of modern stressors (pollution, preservatives etc).
Adopting a healthy lifestyle including regular exercise, balanced diet, and adequate sleep can do wonders; however, a little extra help in form of indulgence of various detox foods doesn’t hurt either.
Metabolic Detoxification phases
Metabolic Detoxification is a process of warding off unwanted lipid-soluble toxins or other endogenous compounds (excess hormones) from the body. The process of detox occurs throughout the body, but liver is the major detoxifying organ.
The process of detoxification follows 3 phases, which ultimately convert lipid-soluble toxin into water soluble inert compound, which can be easily excreted out of the body
Phase 1: Enzymes convert toxin into another compound which can be metabolised by phase 2 enzymes. These reactions are mainly performed by the group of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (CYP).
Phase 2: In these reactions toxins gets conjugated (attached) with other water soluble molecules for increasing its water solubility. Different enzymes catalyse different reactions
- UDP-glucuronlytransferases (UGTs) catalyse metabolism of most of the clinical drugs and many environmental toxins
- Glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) catalyse reactions which conjugates antioxidant glutathione with toxins.
- Sulfotransferases (SULTs) important for controlling sex hormone level in body and catalyse sulfonation reactions.
Phase 3: Different phase 3 proteins help in transportation of conjugated toxin from the cells into bile or urine for excretion.
Factors affecting proper Detox functioning…
Given the array of enzymes and proteins working for Detoxification, it is no surprise that a large number of nutritional factors can affect proper functioning of this critical system.
Variety of macro and micronutrients can influence phase 1 and 2 reactions… High protein diets stimulates function of CYPs (cytochrome P450), albeit opposite effects are seen with high carbohydrate diet therefore most of detox diets advice for low carbohydrate and high protein consumption.
Several micronutrients including vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E, Folate, iron, calcium, copper, zinc are required for optimal functioning of phase 1 enzymes and helps in metabolism of many drugs.
Phase 2 enzymes also require diverse set of essential nutrients like vitamin B-complex as cofactors…
- GST conjugation is dependent on Sulphur rich foods (garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower).
- Methylation reactions are dependent on Folate and Vitamin B12 dependent enzymatic reactions.
- Several phase 2 reactions require ATP in some manner, which is dependent on M Magnesium intake.
Some of the Foods, Fruits and Herbs recommended for Metabolic Detoxification
1. Flavonoids such as naringenin (in grapefruit) inhibits CYPs and stimulates phase2 enzymes therefore it is generally avoided while taking prescription drugs.
2. Green tea extracts and quercentin (radish leaves, dill, cilantro) derivatives are an exception to other flavonoids as they can stimulate CYP activity and are powerful antioxidants.
3. Phytochemicals like lycopene (tomatoes), apple polyphenols (apples), ginko biloba, capsaicin (pepper) has been shown to improve action of phase 2 enzymes, they also possess chemopreventive and antioxidant abilities.
4. Sulforaphane (broccoli) is well studied for detoxification and cancer prevention properties.
5. Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage) stimulates phase 2 reactions.
6. D limonene (citrus fruits) induces phase 1 and 2 reactions and exhibits anticancer properties as well.
7. Calcium D-glucarate (apple, lettuce, alfalfa) prevents deconjugation of toxins.
8. Chlorophyll (green leafy vegetables) binds and traps toxins and certain carcinogens in the gut and helps in its excretion.
9. Probiotics: Certain probiotics can trap and metabolise xenobiotics like heavy metals.
10. Dietary fibre has been shown to stimulate production of GST, and also has some anticancer properties.
11. Milk thistle contains silymarin which has antioxidant properties. It can reduce oxidative stress on liver associated with toxin metabolism and is highly recommended to cure liver diseases.
12. Artichoke has been used for centuries in alternate medicine for protection of liver. It stimulates bile flow (choleresis). It contains several antioxidants which can prevent liver from oxidative stress. Other choleretic agents are garlic, cumin, ginger, carom seeds, curry and mustard leaves.
13. Seaweed: with large amount of nutrients present in seaweed, it possesses very few calories. It helps to detoxify our bodies from strontium (a radioactive chemical) founded by a study from McGill university
14. Onions are packed with anti carcinogenic properties. In particular, yellow onion has been found to protect us from liver and colon cancers.
It is worth mentioning that no single food item penned above is alone responsible for deep cleansing your body. For this you have to focus on broadening of your intake, on as many food items as you can rationally accommodate. Some of them are hard to incorporate because of their unavailability near your place or you are unable to envisage them in your diet.
While you are trying to detox just avoid alcohol, caffeine, sweets, candies, chocolates and overeating as these can have detrimental effects on your liver and can undo all of your hard work.
So do your utmost to come up with the detox plan that is expedient for you and that you feel good about.