Cellular Detoxification: Healing your cells, not cleansing your GI tract

“I’m on a detox diet.”
“I just drank a detox tea.”
“There’s no such thing as detox!”

A lot has been said and written about toxicity and detoxification – much of it of lore, hyperbole, and exaggeration! And yet, there is a plethora of scientific evidence to support both the PRESENCE of toxicity in the human body and the process by which CELLULAR DETOXIFICATION takes place. And, this is a really big deal. Let’s get into it!

How toxic are you?

The first, and most uncomfortable realization is that EVERYONE has accumulated toxins in their body. The question is really not if you have toxins, but rather, how toxic are you?

A significant contributor to the scientific evidence of this point has been done by an American organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Bi-annually, this organization tests the blood of 5,000 random Americans looking for the presence of toxic chemicals. Over the past 6 years, the EWG has gone from testing for 212 chemicals to testing for 287!

Here is the first big point: each time that they go through their procedures, they find the presence of every single toxin for which they have tests. Not every single person has every single toxin; however, most people have a large majority of the toxins.

Here is the second big point: they began testing infants (newborns) and found that the umbilical cord blood of these children matched the toxicity profile of the adults. This is really sad! Newborns begin their life with an already present issue of chemical toxicity. This point is borne out by the comment that toxicity is now a cradle to grave issue.

What can be done about toxicity?

What can be done? Well, there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about the approach to detoxification. I could write for a while on what not to do! For the time being, let’s stick with the best evidence on what should be done.

First, we need to understand that cellular detoxification is NOT the same as cleansing. All kinds of people involve themselves with processes that are about clearing the gastro-intestinal tract thinking that this process is detoxification. It is not. Having a healthy GI tract is very important, but this is not what detoxification means.

The full correct term is Cellular Detoxification. Your body is doing this at this very moment! It is one of the basic and fundamental responsibilities of every one of your 10 trillion cells.

Detoxification is the process by which we provide unique nutrients to the body so that the process of cellular detoxification can be enhanced. In most circumstances this process is applied for anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. I prefer a 10-day detox protocol.

Eating a very good diet (like the Healthy Transformations Anti-Inflammatory Diet) is one of the very best things that you can do to reduce the toxic effect. That is: eating optimal food not only reduces the contribution of toxins to the body, it also contributes to the body’s capacity to clear toxins.

Scientific understanding is becoming more evident every year that a healthy and vibrant microbiome contributes to the detoxification process. The importance of the microbiome (the bugs that populate our gastro-intestinal tract and all other parts of the body) cannot be overstated. By itself, the study of the microbiome is changing the way that science looks at our physiology including how we think and behave. More on the microbiome here.

The ACE process explained

Beyond a healthy diet, the process of cellular detoxification attempts to aid three processes – Activation, Conjugation, and Elimination. Simply put, specific dietary nutrients improve the body’s ability to recognize toxins (Activation), then bind to the toxins and change their make-up (Conjugation), and finally |improve the body’s ability to remove them by way of urination and defecation (Elimination). If any of these processes is impeded, then the effectiveness of detoxification is compromised.

This is another really big point: all kinds of snake-oil detox approaches provide certain nutrients that will aid one of the processes, but not the others. The consequence of this is incomplete detoxification, and perhaps worse than that.

Are you making yourself more toxic?

From a biochemical perspective, the “easiest” part of detox is the Activation step. That is to say that this step is less bio-chemically complex than the others. Activating toxins in the body requires fewer nutrients and is fairly easily accomplished. However, if Activation takes place, and Conjugation or Elimination do not, then what has happened is that you have unintentionally made yourself more toxic! Current science has identified that certain toxins in their Activated state are up to 50 times more toxic than they were before this process. One of the most common misinterpretations about detoxification is that you are supposed to feel really crummy while it is going on. In fact, feeling lousy during detox an indication that the process is not working!

Does detox feel bad?

The very best and most complete detoxification processes go along without a lot of distress. I have had all kinds of patients go through this process expecting the worst, and then breezing through the 10 days with next to nothing to report!

This is where I feel really strongly about the detoxification process – this must be done with the best materials and it always should be supervised by a health professional who is very well versed in the techniques. The fly-by-night detox kits that can be picked up at a corner store carry with them the possibility of real risk. Be careful! Done correctly, detoxification is a pretty straightforward process. Done incorrectly, harm can be introduced to the body.

What is toxic burden?

Why is detoxification so important? There are a bunch or reasons, but the foundational one is that Toxic Burden (the amount of toxins that are being carried around with you) is one of the primary drivers of the inflammatory process. The scientific research shows that low-grade cellular inflammation is the basis behind the great majority of chronic illnesses – including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases – the list goes on. What this tells us, is that the environment in which we live is a significant contributor to the illnesses that we experience. The science supporting this point grows with every passing year.

Participating in a high-quality and supervised Detoxification process one or two times per year is one of the very best things you can do to improve your health!