What is Detoxification?

Detoxification is the process of removing a toxic substance from the body by supporting the body’s natural detox pathways.

 

What is a toxin?

A toxin is a harmful agent found in the environment or a compound produced through biological processes.

 

Where do toxins come from?

  • Exogenous Toxins: The global industrialization over the past century has led to an exponential increase in the production of environmental and biological toxins, such as xenobiotics (i.e., any chemical compound that is foreign to a given biological system). For humans and animals, this includes drugs, drug metabolites, and environmental pollutants, all of which are foreign compounds to the human body. In regards to the environment, xenobiotics include synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and industrial pollutants not normally found in nature.
    • A study by the Environmental working group found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Some of these chemicals were pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
    • Of the total 287 chemicals that were detected in the umbilical cord blood of this test group, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects [1].

 

  • Endogenous Toxins: The human body naturally produces toxic byproducts through metabolic processes (e.g., CO2, bilirubin, lactic acid, nitrogenous waste, and hormone metabolites). These byproducts are normally eliminated from the body through different functional systems (e.g., integumentary system, respiratory system, lymphatic system, urinary system, and digestive system). However, when these functional systems are not functioning properly within the body, there can be a bioaccumulation of these toxic byproducts within cell tissues [2].
    • An unhealthy gut is a major source of abnormal endogenous toxins. A diet that is mostly comprised of refined food and large amounts of sugar can lead to a state called intestinal dysbiosis (i.e., an imbalance of unhealthy microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract which produce a steady stream of endogenous toxins). These toxins include many types of aldehydes, alcohols, phenols, indols, etc. Although some of these toxins are eliminated as gas, many are able to permeate through the intestinal walls and into the blood stream, thus making their way into cellular tissues [3,4,5].

 

How are toxins eliminated from the body?

  • The human body naturally contains its own detoxification systems. The liver, lungs, skin, kidneys, spleen, thymus and colon function to remove the harmful byproducts produced by our own metabolism. That said, optimal nutrition is paramount in order for your body’s detoxification system to be functioning at its best.
  • According to a number of studies, certain toxic elements are preferentially excreted through sweat. These toxins include both internally produced waste byproducts as well as environmental toxins such as heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead), BPA (i.e., bisphenol A), Phthalates, and select PCBs (i.e., polychlorinated biphenyls) [6,7,8,9,10].
  • A Broccoli sprout derived beverage was found to be able to detox certain airborne pollutants in China as well as protect the liver from various xenobiotic substances [11,12].

 

References

[1]          “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns.” Environmental Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Dec. 2015.

[2]           La Merrill, M. et al. (2012). Toxicological Function of Adipose Tissue: Focus on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Environ. Health Perspect. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(2), 162-169.   

[3]          Brown, K., Decoffe, D., Molcan, E., & Gibson, D. L. (2012). Diet-Induced Dysbiosis of the Intestinal Microbiota and the Effects on Immunity and Disease. Nutrients, 4(12), 1095-1119.

[4]          Agus, A. et al. (2016). Western diet induces a shift in microbiota composition enhancing susceptibility to Adherent-Invasive E. coli infection and intestinal inflammation. Sci. Rep. Scientific Reports, 6, 19032.

[5]          Cho, I., & Blaser, M. J. (2012). The human microbiome: At the interface of health and disease. Nat Rev Genet Nature Reviews Genetics.

[6]          Genuis, S. J., Birkholz, D., Rodushkin, I., & Beesoon, S. (2010). Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study: Monitoring and Elimination of Bioaccumulated Toxic Elements. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 61(2), 344-357.

[7]          Sears, M. E., Kerr, K. J., & Bray, R. I. (2012). Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 1-10.

[8]          Genuis, S. J., Beesoon, S., Lobo, R. A., & Birkholz, D. (2012). Human Elimination of Phthalate Compounds: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study. The Scientific World Journal, 2012, 1-10.

[9]        Genuis, S. J., Beesoon, S., Birkholz, D., & Lobo, R. A. (2012). Human Excretion of Bisphenol A: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 1-10.

[10]         Genuis, S. J., Beesoon, S., & Birkholz, D. (2013). Biomonitoring and Elimination of Perfluorinated Compounds and Polychlorinated Biphenyls through Perspiration: Blood, Urine, and Sweat Study. ISRN Toxicology, 2013, 1-7. 

[11]         Egner, P. A. et al. (2014). Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prevention Research, 7(8), 813-823.

[12]         Yoshida, Kazutaka. et al. (2015). Broccoli Sprout Extract Induces Detoxification-related Gene Expression and Attenuates Acute Liver Injury. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG. Baishideng Publishing Group Inc.