Low-level, long-term exposure to toxins such as heavy metals (e.g. lead, mercury, PSP, and cadmium), pesticides, industrial compounds, and pollutants is associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), fibromyalgia (FM), neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and atherosclerosis as well as many types of cancers. Common signs and symptoms of environmental toxicity include acne, rashes, headaches, aches and pains, fatigue, muscle weakness, tinnitus, fertility problems, memory loss, and chronic
immune system depression.
Common Clinical Symptoms and Conditions Associated with Environmental Toxicity:
- Headaches • Mineral Imbalances• Fertility Problems • Depression• Multiple Chemical Sensitivities • Non-Responsive or Recurrent Yeast Infections• Learning Disorders • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome• Fibromyalgia • Contact Dermatitis• Broad Mood Swings • Unusual responses to Medications or Supplements• Memory Loss • Parkinson’s Disease• Tinnitus • Muscle Weakness• Worsening of Symptoms After Anesthesia or Pregnancy • Cancer• Fatigue • Panic Attacks• Abnormal Pregnancy Outcomes • Chronic Immune System• History of increasing sensitivity to exogenous exposures, odors, or medications.
Toxins may remain in the body for many years, therefore we are exposed to much higher toxin doses than present environmental concentrations suggest. Research suggests that we all maintain toxin contamination within our bodies on a regular basis due to this lifetime of exposure.
How does the body remove toxic substances? An individual’s ability to remove or detoxify toxins is a primary factor in susceptibility to toxin-related conditions. In order to remove (excrete) the multitude of diverse toxins, the body has a complex system that converts them
into non-toxic molecules for removal. This complex system occurs in two phases- Phase I and Phase II, that convert (biotransform) a toxic molecule into a non-toxic molecule that can be easily excreted. The majority of detoxification occurs in the liver, however all tissues have some ability to detoxify, including the intestines, skin and lungs.
In Phase I, a functional group is added to the toxic molecule, producing an intermediate that needs to be further transformed. Phase II detoxification involves a process called conjugation in which various enzymes in the liver attach protective compounds to the intermediate, making it less harmful and more readily excretable. Because the products of Phase I can be highly reactive and more harmful than the original compound, achieving and maintaining a balance between Phase I and Phase II processes is critical. Furthermore, a significant side effect of all this metabolic activity is the production of free radicals as the toxins is transformed, resulting in oxidative stress. Nutrients that help protect us from oxidative stress include vitamins
C and E, zinc, selenium and copper.
Achieving Balanced Detoxification Optimal detoxification requires that both Phase I and Phase II pathways function correctly and in balance with each other. Bifunctional modulators are phytonutrients that support balanced detoxification by modulating Phase I and promoting Phase II. This minimizes damage by reactive intermediates and free radicals. Fruits and vegetables contain many bifunctional modulators, which is one reason these foods are associated with reduced susceptibilities to cancer and degenerative diseases.
Naturopathic Approach to Detoxification
A naturopathic approach to Detoxification starts with recognizing that detoxification is an energy-requiring process that puts a metabolic burden on the body. Therefore, water or juice fasts are not recommended because they deplete the body of the essential nutrients required for healthy detoxification. These fasts have many adverse health effects, including decreased energy production, breakdown of lean tissue instead of fat, increased oxidative stress, and unbalanced detoxification. Rather than decreasing nutrient support, a focused, high-impact, low allergy potential source of micro and macronutrients should be provided. This is done through the prescription of a modified elimination diet – which eliminated potential food immune reactions and foods that are inflammatory. Medical foods designed specifically to support both phase I and II detoxification are also used to give your main detoxification organs (liver and kidneys) all the nutritional support they need to do their best work.