Lose Weight with Liver Detox
If you have never heard of the functional medicine approach to liver detoxification, it is not vastly different than what we all understand from an alcoholic’s perspective of cleaning up the liver during recovery. New insights to obesity suggest that the fatty deposits that we are putting on ourselves are attributable to the toxins (many fat soluble) that we are ingesting. The body is so overburdened by toxicity that it compensates and throws this chemical debris into a storage bin (adipose tissue) on the outside of our bodies, in our organs (liver is one of them), and in the vacuoles of our cells. What constitutes a toxin? Obviously, a toxin is an entity that does not contribute to biological or cellular functions in Ifthe body. In fact, it gets in the way of bodily functions and impedes them or damages them. There are four types of toxins to the human body that include biological, chemical, physical, and radiation. Biological toxins include an array of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and living pathogens that can directly harm us or indirectly produce substances that can impede our function. The chemical toxins are too numerous to count in our American way of life but include our pesticides, food additives, heavy metals, industrial solvents, alcohol, and many medications. An example of a physical toxin would include a substance that of itself is not harmful unless it is physically obstructing the tissue’s ability to function. Common examples are the coal dust or asbestos particulates that, when inhaled, obstruct the lung’s ability to exchange oxygen. The radiation style of toxicity comes from wavelengths of energy as alpha, beta, gamma, x-ray, and neutron rays.
How does our body detoxify those harmful substances assaulting us daily? The answer is in the liver. The liver, together with the gastrointestinal tract, is the organ responsible for removing these toxins through a process called biotransformation. Thankfully, we have been built and programmed to be able to breakdown these toxins, or else we would have no longevity. We also are seeing a dramatic increase in obesity and inflammation because our livers are so overburdened with the task of detoxification. If the detoxification pathways in the liver are overwhelmed, there is no other choice but to “throw” this caustic debris into our garbage cans (the vacuoles and fat tissue). In this way the liver is trying to protect itself. The liver has two phases of detoxification. The whole point of detoxification is to take a harmful element and manipulate it to become a non-harmful material. In fact, we are banking on an intact liver or else some of the fat-soluble poisons would stay in the brain and other fatty organs in the body. Phase one will bring in the fat-soluble entity and use the cytochrome p450 system to create an intermediate metabolite. These metabolites may be even more harmful than the initial substrate. Phase two uses a variety of pathways using sulfation, glucuronidation, glutathione conjugation, amino acid conjugation, acetylation, or methylation to make these metabolites water soluble and excretable into the GI tract. The biochemistry can get quite complicated but suffice to know that the liver is so wonderfully engineered for biotransformation, and we can capitalize on this engineering to heal ourselves.
My decision-making strategy to determine when “detox” is needed revolves around some common needs a patient brings to me. Some patients may absolutely know when they have had a toxic burden and need to eliminate it. This may include a patient with alcoholism, medication overuse, or an environmental exposure. One of the most common patients who needs liver detoxification is the obese patient trying to lose weight. If I cannot liberate the debris from the inner clockwork of the cell or of the fatty tissue, the battle is completely uphill or unsuccessful altogether. This is a mandatory first step in weight loss if it has never been done. I also see a lot of mitochondrial dysfunction, and if the vacuoles are overflowing with garbage, the mitochondria and cellular mechanisms get "clogged" and won't work. There are very many stressed patients who desperately need an intact phase one liver pathway for hormone and neurotransmitter health. Especially if medication is needed, the detoxification system cannot be burdened with other environmental toxins in addition to a medication being used to treat disease. Just as our house can use a spring cleaning, our bodies can use the same on a yearly or every 6-month basis. There are those aggressive patients who will schedule their detoxification regularly to stave off any of the build up from the previous months.
How do we go about liver detoxification? There are some distinguished nutraceutical companies that have straightforward programs that produce significant results. Inherent in most supplemental programs is the notion that food is at the foundation. No toxic food sources can be ingested when we are trying to slow the body’s requirements and give the liver all the energy needed to get to work. There are also some food-only programs that will use the juicing, detoxifying foods, and fruit cleansing to rev up the liver enzymes to get to work. In phase one of detoxification the body has a high need of vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, glutathione, and flavonoids. Supplemental programs are built with large amounts of these key factors to optimize this process. Phase two in the liver detoxification requires those same substrates as well as methionine, cysteine, magnesium, vitamin C glycine, taurine, glutamine, and choline. This is a large mouthful to say that it can be difficult to get all these substances in a food-only approach and investing in a superb nutraceutical approach may give more successful outcomes. Medical grade supplements will have at lease choline, dandelion, inositol, milk thistle, turmeric, garlic, chicory, green tea, and N-acetylcysteine plus the substrates needed for both phases of detoxification. A typical duration of a program is two weeks that usually starts off with a day or two of fasting. An extended program may be needed depending upon the severity of the conditions being treated. Extended programs also have the added benefit of “drying out” such that the cravings for the food or drug of choice are virtually gone.
There are certainly detoxifying foods that we can eat on a regular basis to keep a healthy flow of bile and liver support in between. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), lemon, green tea, apples, chlorella (algae), blueberries, turmeric, dandelion and bitter greens, cilantro, and ginger are just a few. Keep in mind that when debris is being manufactured during the detoxification process, there can be some difficult symptoms to tolerate. They are short-lived, so riding out the discomfort is strongly encouraged. Beware of gastric complaints such as oily, sticky bowel movements and many of them! The skin also tried to detoxify, so if the gut has a high volume of metabolites coming through, or if the gut is already leaky, skin rash may appear. The joints may also be painful for a short time. Intensive hydration will also be the key to help alleviate some of these symptoms to literally water down the concentration and aid is expulsion of the contents. Keep in mind that his body is running a marathon internally and a lot of chemical processes are going on in conjunction with the gastric system. Saunas and steam may enhance the ability to detoxify as well as some simple meditation techniques to distract from some minor discomforts. Given the energetic composition of our bodies there is no surprise that evidence is suggesting that infrared technology has benefit in the detoxification process.
We surely needed to say a word about fasting. This is yet another of our body’s way to kick in our chemical engineering to burn fat and break down cholesterol into beneficial bile acids. During a fasting state, the liver shuts down glucose production which reduces blood glucose levels. This glucose is used to repair damaged cells and make new DNA, which can help prevent chronic inflammation. In our fasting state liver enzymes are activated and help in the creation of brown fat which burns more calories for us. We are seeing so much more fatty liver disease which is a heavily burdened liver. The hazardous waste in the liver leads to so many other health catastrophes including diabetes and liver failure. Fasting studies are showing that we can rev up other enzymes in the liver to reverse this condition. Fasting can improve exercise performance and increase longevity, so imploring it for a liver detoxification program will have further benefits over time. There are many debates about how often and how long one should fast for maximum health benefits. There is no consensus and may never be since individualized approaches to this work best.
Make sure you see your functional physician to determine how liver detoxification will help your weight loss and your health advance on the right track.