So ‘detoxing’ is coming in for a well earned analysis - high time. But it’s a shame that the debate gets reduced to marketing fads vs science. Swallowed up and lost in this one dimensional scrutiny are the more interesting facts regarding detoxification as we know them based on what we learnt in biochemistry and nutritional medicine (part of our naturopathic training) and what we have experienced ourselves and through our clients.
Yes it is true that the liver and the kidneys will be doing their relentless, specific job of detoxifying us all the time whether we are clean living or not. But unless we understand how the liver works we miss all the subtleties of how we can actively assist this amazing organ to do it’s job more effectively.
What is often not mentioned is that we live in a very imperfect world. We have more toxins being consumed and inhaled and absorbed than ever before. This includes heavy metals, parasites, ‘stealth pathogens’, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, herbicides....the list could go on and on (see diagram). The liver has to detoxify these and make them excretable along with all the other chemicals we actively consume (and sometimes in large amounts) - alcohol, drugs, preservatives, addititives etc.
We are also not all the same; genetics play a massive part in how we detoxify. This is what we call functional pathology - different from a disease state pathology. For instance who do you know who feels better when they don’t have the sulphur preservatives, coffee and/or alcohol? We see clients improve when we assist them with some extra liver metabolites and herbs given to support some of their under-functioning pathways.
If you experience discomfort in your gut regularly (bloating, pain, constipation etc) or have food intolerances and/or allergies this leads to a ‘leaky’ gut whereby toxins being produced get into the circulation and results in the liver having even more to do as it breaks down these harmful by-products for excretion via the bowel or kidneys. This is why we give so much liver and kidney support in most of our prescriptions.
Even a simple liver function test that your GP orders every year can give us clues as to how well things might be functioning. It’s not all about being in the range but about where you are in the range and the relationship to other markers. As naturopaths we like to have a more subjective analysis on how an individual experiences their symptoms and using a DETOX QUESTIONNAIRE (click on link) is very helpful.
So healing a damaged gut by addressing the extra toxins being produced can go a long way to improving the function of your liver - making it more efficient. This is often experienced by clients as having more energy, clearer skin, better bowel movements and sweeter breath...who wouldn’t want that?
The diagrams presented here are part of what we are addressing when we talk about ‘detoxification’ and yes we do get tired of the fads out there too and the general Hollywood-style vacuity around the subject. Let’s get back to fact based common-sense and good old naturopathic principles when we talk about detoxification.
Yours in very good health
Karen and Patrick