What Is Metabolic Detoxification?
Each year, more than 4 billion pounds of chemical compounds are released into the environment. A growing body of literature suggests an association between toxicant exposure and the etiology of a number of chronic conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), fibromyalgia (FM), and atherosclerosis. Symptoms including unremitting and debilitating fatigue, myalgias, arthralgias, and cognitive dysfunction are common amongst these syndromes. Associations between environmental toxicant exposure and the development of many other chronic degenerative diseases have been reported as well.
Although the body is designed to naturally process and excrete these elements, an abundance of environmental agents combined with poor diet and nutrition can lead to an overburdened system. Metabolic detoxification helps by providing advanced, targeted nutrition to support the elimination of unwanted chemicals from your system.
Common Classes of Toxins:
The word "toxin" itself does not describe a specific class of compounds, but rather something that can cause harm to the body. More specifically, a toxin or toxic substance is a chemical or mixture that may injure or present an unreasonable risk of injury to the health of an exposed organism.
The National Cancer Institute defines ‘toxin' as a poisonous compound made by bacteria, plants, or animals; it defines ‘toxicant' as a poison made by humans or that is put into the environment by human activities. Each toxic substance has a defined toxic dose or toxic concentration at which it produces its toxic effect.
Exposure to environmental toxicants can occur from air pollution, food supply, and drinking water, in addition to skin contact.
Industrial chemicals and combustion pollutants. This is one of the largest categories of toxicants. Virtually everyone is exposed to halogenated hydrocarbons, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), at some level during an average day.
Pesticides. Many of the industrial chemicals are developed for their toxic effects on certain organisms and then sold as pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides. Most pesticides are in some way toxic to humans.
Endocrine disruptors. Common endocrine disruptors include phthalates found in plastics, PCBs, bisphenol A (BPA), some pesticides, synthetic steroids in meat, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Biologists have long noted problems with sterility and malformation of sex organs in many animal species that have been linked to the presence of these contaminants in the environment.
Toxic metals. Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and other toxic metals are ubiquitous in the environment and often have delayed effects because they accumulate in the body. For example, lead can be sequestered in bones, replacing calcium, where it has a half-life of 62 years. Lead toxicity includes DNA damage, depressed immune system function, anemia, hypertension, kidney disease, and increased tooth decay.
Food additives, preservatives, and drugs. The greatest toxin exposure by far is through oral intake of foods, drugs, and water containing toxic substances that can be absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
What Happens to the Body During Detox?
Nobody likes uninvited guests. This includes toxins and pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides from the air, water, and soil that bombard our bodies every day. Over time, these “guests” can build up and can contribute to mild issues such as brain fog, tiredness, aches, and skin complaints.1,2 This is when it is important to understand the three phases of your body’s natural detoxification processes.
Here’s what that looks like:
Phase I: Reaction
In the first phase of metabolic detoxification, your body reacts to toxins by using enzymes (known as P450 enzymes)3 that act to turn the toxins into free radicals. This is a good thing: Free radicals are a natural occurrence that, when balanced, should not be an issue; it is when free radicals become imbalanced that they are considered an issue. Through this conversion process, toxins become water-soluble molecules that are easier for your body to get rid of via the kidneys (and eventually through the urine).3
Phase II: Neutralization
Welcome to the activation phase of detox! After Phase I, some toxins are rendered as more reactive than before. In Phase II, these products are attached to other water-soluble substances to increase their solubility and make them easier to eliminate through urine or bile.3 This process is called a conjugation reaction, and requires cofactors (metal ions or coenzymes) to make it happen.3
Phase III: Transportation
Like a ferry that brings cars and people from point A to point B, the transporters of Phase III help ensure the water-soluble compounds created in Phases I and II are excreted from your cells. Before this occurs, Phase III neutralizes the compounds and binds them with dietary fiber. From here, it’s literally a flush when the toxins are excreted.3
What are Your Next Steps?
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from a build up of toxins, there are a few steps you can take on your own.
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily
Enjoy the sauna or hot epsom salt baths routinely
Completely avoid alcohol
Completely avoid sugar or simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, baked goods, etc)
Avoid use of plastic containers for food storage
Use clean skin care products, check out the this website for recommendations
Use clean household products, check out this website for recommendations
You can consider doing a 10 day or 28 day home detox - Gina’s pick for Metabolic Detox can be found here: https://justgina.nutridyn.com
Goldman RH et al. The occupational and environmental health history. 1981 Dec 18;246(24):2831-6. Nelson et al. 2011.
Liska D. The Detoxification Enzyme Systems. Altern Med Rev.1998 Jun;3(3):187-98.
Infographic: The 3 Phases of Detoxification. Metagenics Institute. Available at: https://www.metagenicsinstitute.com/ce-education/clinical-tools/3-phases-detoxification. Accessed August 30, 2018.
Why Metabolic Detox Is Not Just a Fad by Deanna Minich, PhD
The Savvy Health-Seeker’s Introduction to Detox Thomas Sult, M.D.
Gina Ditta-Donahue is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Anti-Aging Medicine provider. She is the author of "Josh's Smiley Faces: A Story About Anger," a children's book aimed at helping young children and their parents navigate anger management and build adaptive life skills. She is also co-owner of Elevate Functional Medicine.