I was prompted to write this since last month the majority of new clients came in seeking help with rebuilding their immune system after treatment for estrogen dominant cancers. You wouldn’t think this unusual given today’s cancer rate which according to the National Cancer Institute, for breast cancer alone is 1 out of every 8 women. But what really struck me was that most of these women were under the age of 25. Why them?
After reviewing blood test data, the common denominator appeared to be their inabilities to effectively detoxify (which also led to adrenal stress, thyroid issues, compromised immune system, etc). Now, I am not talking about the need for a juice fast or liver, kidney or bowel cleanse, but the loss of the body to complete the necessary activities required to effectively remove internal and external toxins. For example, over 40% of the population is unable to methylate folates, a B vitamin, which is a major player in methylation, one of the detoxification pathways important for excess estrogen removal. Folates are also necessary for red blood cell and DNA synthesis (which is why they recommend it for pregnant women) and therefore its inability to be utilized effectively may also contribute to cancer. This defect can be genetically passed down. A triple whammy.
The buildup of homocysteine caused by deficiencies in folates, vitamin B12, B6, or other supporting nutrients, may also have overwhelmed their bodies’ master detoxifier, glutathione (or it might have been compromised to begin with due to need by other factor such as hypoxia, oxidative stress, infection, etc). Some folks may have a genetic weakness with required pathway enzymes, but others might simply lack the ability to effectively breakdown foods to provide the required amino acids and vitamins/minerals to make the process work. If you have issues with glutathione, chances are that the other detoxification pathways such as sulfation are not working effectively either, so toxin removal may be compromised.
Finally, these intestinal issues not only affected nutrient absorption, but appeared to have interfered with the glucuronidation detoxification pathway. Gut infections may end up undoing the liver’s hard work by releasing already processed estrogen back into the system requiring the liver to do it all over again. If you keep the liver and immune system occupied with this, how can they effectively protect us against toxins, infections or destroy newly formed cancer cells?
Detoxification issues can effect anyone, not just those with cancer.
Why does the body need to detoxify?
Never before in our history have we been exposed to so many new chemicals and environmental factors. Each time the body detects something foreign, be it a parasite, chemical, or some internally generated toxin, it mounts a defense. Toxins are either removed from the body or sequestered in the fat stores including tissues and cell membranes.
For a wakeup call, check out the Body Burden study performed by the Environmental Working Group which tested the toxic load carried by many famous people. We don’t like to scare folks, but there are all kinds of great resources that document the environmental and food chain toxins. Note, it is not usually just one toxin or chemical, but the unanticipated combination of many which have not undergone testing.
What affects the bodies’ detoxification system?
Factors such as a poor diet, stress, excess body fat, environmental toxins, inflammation, infection, incorrect supplementation that inadvertently block pathways, congested liver, gut issues, smoking, dehydration, gallbladder and/or thyroid issues, etc contribute to the toxic load..
How does the body detoxify?
The liver is the main organ for detoxification. Its job is to convert fat soluble toxins into water soluble ones so they can be removed via the urine or stool. In order to do so, it requires 3 steps. The first, phase 1, makes the toxin water soluble. The second, phase 2, binds the newly formed substance to an appropriate protein enabling it to be eliminated from the body. Many times the intermediate created by phase 1 is far more toxic than the original substance. Therefore if one of the phase 2 pathways is compromised, the converted substance may be released back into the bloodstream and cause more harm than the original. Phase 3 removes toxins from the body. Those with issues with excretion or those that lack the necessary cofactors may end up sending toxins back into the system.
How can we test for detoxification issues?
We always recommend a complete blood analysis analyzed from a functional perspective. From here, we can evaluate for possible liver/kidney dysfunction, gut issues, infection, inflammation, possible B12/folate/B6 deficiency, adrenal/thyroid/gallbladder dysfunction, etc. We believe that it is best to measure homocysteine along with folates and B12 levels to determine if the body is lacking in these important cofactors.
In addition, there are specialized tests such as organic acids to evaluate nutrient and detoxification pathways, folate/B12 utilization, specialized toxin and heavy metal testing, hormone testing, etc. depending on individual need. Genetic testing can help determine your potential genetic weaknesses.
How can we help the body detoxify?
There are many supplements sold to help “clean out” the liver (kidney, gallbladder,etc). These can be effective to refresh a sluggish liver. But we truly believe that the best way to support the liver is by minimizing toxic loads such as food issues, infections, inflammation, etc. as well as evaluating beauty products, cleaning agents, etc.
Next, it is imperative that the body have the required nutrients and cofactors to support phase 1, 2 and 3 pathways. This may require fixing the gut so nutrients can be absorbed, eradicating infections, reducing inflammation, correcting systemic dysfunction, consuming a diet with the appropriate macronutrients and fiber, maintaining hydration, taking appropriate supplementation, etc.. Folate/B12 supplementation may need to be taken in a methylated form for those genetic issues. Also, for some, grapefruit consumption can slow phase 1 and keep toxins in the body longer.
Infrared sauna is a great way to help clear out heavy metals, etc. Many folks use use Caster Oil packs or coffee enemas, etc to stimulate toxin removal.