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Detox

Updated: May 7


In this post, we are initiating the conversation about the concept of detoxification, otherwise known as detox, and how it relates to The Livy Method. To better understand what detoxification is and the relevance of how it impacts the weight-loss process, let’s take a deeper dive into the concept of detoxification and what that actually means.


What is detoxification?


Detoxification, or detox, has become pretty popular in the discussion of health in mainstream media over the years. However, this is not a new concept at all. In fact, people have been trying to relieve their bodies of “toxins” for thousands of years. A toxin is defined “as a substance that is synthesized by a plant species, an animal, or by microorganisms, that is harmful to another organism.” However, toxins can also include chemicals, like pesticides, pollution, plastics, as well by consuming processed food which can include artificial ingredients, colours and preservatives from the foods that we eat.


Some examples of traditional “detox” practices that have existed for centuries include bloodletting, enemas, sweat lodges, fasting and drinking detoxification teas and tonics. Many of these practices were even used as medical treatments up until the early 20th century; however, you still hear about many of these detox practices today. Those promoting these diets and products often imply and claim that by following their specific diet or by using their special products, your body will be rid of “toxins,” thereby improving health and promoting weight loss.


A typical detox diet may involve a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of fruit, vegetables, fruit and/or vegetable juices and water. Sometimes a detox also includes herbs, laxatives, diuretics, teas, supplements and colon cleanses or enemas. These diets claim to help with various health problems including obesity, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, allergies, bloating and chronic fatigue.


However, human research on detox diets is lacking, and the handful of studies that exist are significantly flawed. In fact, popular detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove or the mechanism by which they supposedly eliminate them. There is also little evidence that supports the use of these diets for toxin elimination or sustainable weight loss.


The other concern is the potential for harm. Although some countries have strict regulations of supplements and products that are made available to consumers, many dietary supplements and detox products are not as strictly regulated in other countries. In fact, in the U.S, The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) often finds “detoxifying” weight-loss products containing dangerous drugs and chemicals not advertised on the packaging. These are listed on the FDA website. While some detox teas, for example, may contain natural tea ingredients, like tea leaves, others could contain toxic or allergy-triggering substances, including drugs and medications. The other issue is that with today’s technology, we are able to acquire these products for purchase online with just the click of a button.


With the ease of online shopping, we are able to purchase pretty much any product from any country, so it can really be difficult to know what is in the products we buy.


Check out this link from the FDA showing the list for supplement advisories


Check out this list for Weight Loss and Detox tainted products


For Canadians, check out the Natural Health Products Database


This is the main page for Canadian consumers and those in the industry


Is there anything we can do to facilitate detox?


Now it’s time for the good news. Your body is very well-equipped to eliminate toxins on its own without extra help from special diets or expensive supplements and products. Your body has a very self-sufficient and comprehensive way of eliminating toxins that involve the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin and lungs. However, it is only when these organs are healthy that they can effectively eliminate unwanted substances.


Furthermore, you can enhance your body’s natural detoxification system. In fact, by following The Livy Method, you are setting your body up for success in supporting your body’s own detoxification pathways.


To understand the concept of detox, let’s discuss some of the common misconceptions reviewed by Healthline, how our body naturally detoxifies itself and how, by following The Livy Method, we can enhance and support our body’s own detoxification system.


Can we target the elimination of toxins?


As discussed above, detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they aim to remove. According to Healthline, the mechanisms by which they work are also unclear. In fact, there is little to no evidence that detox diets can remove any toxins from your body.


Furthermore, your body is capable of cleansing itself by utilizing the liver as the primary detoxification organ, and through the elimination of stool, urine, breath and sweat.


The liver initiates this process by transforming the toxic substances to a less harmful form, then ensures that the substance is eliminated from the body by way of the lungs, skin, kidneys and/or digestive system.


However, there are a few chemicals that may not be as easily removed by these processes, which can include persistent organic pollutants (POPs), phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) found in plastics and heavy metals.


These materials tend to accumulate in fat tissue or blood and can take years for your body to eliminate. However, as we have gained an increased awareness about the harm that these compounds cause, many of these materials have been removed or limited in commercial products produced today. That being said, there is little evidence that detox diets help eliminate any of these compounds.


How effective are these diets?


Some people report feeling more focused and energetic during and after detox diets. However, this improvement in well-being may simply be due to the elimination of processed foods, alcohol and other unhealthy substances from their diets. They may also be receiving the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that they were lacking before, thus resulting in feeling better.


Effects on weight loss


Very few scientific studies have investigated how detox diets impact weight loss. While some people may lose a lot of weight quickly, this effect is likely due to the loss of fluid and carbohydrate stores rather than fat. This weight is usually regained fairly quickly once one resumes their previous lifestyle. If a detox diet involves severe calorie restriction, it may allow for weight loss, but will unlikely be sustainable in keeping the weight off in the long term. In fact, this is a major factor in creating an environment that promotes the body to store fat.


Detox diets, short-term fasting, and stress


According to Healthline (Bjarnadottir, A., 2019, January), several varieties of detox diets may have effects similar to those of short-term or intermittent fasting. Short-term fasting may improve various disease markers in some people, including improved leptin and insulin sensitivity. However, these effects do not apply to everyone. Studies in women show that both a 48-hour fast and a 3-week period of reduced calorie intake may increase stress hormone levels. Crash diets can be a stressful experience, as they involve resisting temptations and feeling extreme hunger, ultimately affecting the hormones involved in hunger and satiety as discussed in the science post on hormones. These diets often lead to over indulgence from the deprivation involved and stimulate/increase the hunger hormones and negative feedback loops that these diets perpetuate.


Severe calorie restriction


Several detox diets recommend fasting or severe calorie restriction. Short-term fasting and limited calorie intake can result in fatigue, irritability and other physical symptoms.


Long-term fasting can result in energy, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as electrolyte imbalances, major health consequences and even death.


Furthermore, colon cleansing methods (which are sometimes recommended during detoxes) can cause dehydration, cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting and the flushing out of the important bacterial microbiome that lives in the colon and is crucial to the digestive process.


Overdosing


Some detox diets may pose the risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics and even water. There is a lack of regulation and monitoring in the detox industry, and many detox foods and supplements may not have any scientific basis on how their product is produced or manufactured.


In the worst and most insidious cases, the ingredient labels of detox products may be inaccurate. This can increase your risk of overdosing, potentially resulting in serious, and even fatal, effects.


If you decide that you want to go down the path of a detox because it is something you choose to do, be sure to seek advice from a regulated health care professional or Naturopathic Doctor who can oversee and monitor your health during the process.


So, after all this, how does the body detox?

The Liver

The liver is such an amazing organ and does so much for our bodies. It has an important role in the digestive process and in storing and releasing energy in the form of glucose to the body. Let’s discuss this amazing organ in more detail.


The liver is your body’s largest solid organ. On average, it weighs around 3 pounds in adulthood and is roughly the size of a football. This organ is vital to the body’s metabolic, detoxification and immune system functions. Without a functioning liver, a person cannot survive.


The liver’s position is held most prominently in the right upper region of the abdomen, just below the diaphragm. A portion of the liver is located in the left upper abdomen as well. The liver has two main segments, also called lobes. Each lobe is further divided into eight segments. Each segment has an estimated 1,000 lobules, also called small lobes. Each of the lobules has a small tube, a duct that flows into other ducts that join to become the common hepatic duct. This meets the cystic duct and then becomes the common bile duct.


Compared to the rest of the body, the liver has a significant amount of blood flowing through it, an estimated 13% of the body’s blood is in the liver at any given time.


According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the liver’s major functions are in the metabolic processes of the body, but it is also involved in many life-sustaining processes, which include:

  • Creating immune system factors that can help the body fight against infection or pathogens in the body

  • Producing proteins in conjunction with vitamin K (that is produced largely in the colon) that are important in the blood clotting process, and an important part of healing

  • The liver is also one of the organs that help break down old or damaged blood cells and eliminate them from the body


From a digestive and metabolic standpoint, the liver produces an estimated 800 to 1,000 milliliters (ml) of bile each day. This yellow, brownish or olive green liquid is collected in small ducts and then passed on to the main bile duct which carries the bile to a part of the small intestine called the duodenum. The small intestine uses the bile to further help with the breakdown and absorption of fats. Any extra bile is stored in the gallbladder to be used later.


In the metabolism of carbohydrates, the liver helps to ensure that the level of sugar in your blood (blood glucose) maintains stability. As discussed in the science post on insulin, if your blood sugar levels increase (for example, after a meal), the liver removes sugar from blood supplied by the portal vein and stores it in the form of glycogen. If the blood sugar levels drop or are too low, the liver breaks down glycogen and releases sugar into the blood to be used by the body, as needed.


In addition to glycogen, the liver also stores fat-soluble vitamins and minerals such as copper and iron, and releases them into the blood when needed.


The liver also plays an important role in the metabolism of proteins. The liver cells change the amino acids in the foods we eat so that they can be used to produce energy or make carbohydrates or fats for the body. A substance called ammonia is a by-product of this process, which can be toxic to the body in large amounts. To prevent the ammonia from increasing to “toxic” levels, the liver cells convert the ammonia to a much less toxic substance called urea which is released into the blood. Urea is then transported to the kidneys and passes out of the body through urine.


The liver also controls the synthesis and removal of cholesterol in the body, which has a crucial role in the production of hormones.

Let’s talk about the liver and detoxification

The liver has a primary role in storing and releasing energy, but let’s break down the vital role it plays in helping us eliminate toxins from our body.


The liver begins the process of making toxins less harmful to the body and removing them from the bloodstream by receiving blood with nutrients from the digestive organs via a vein known as the hepatic portal vein. The hepatocytes (cells of the liver) accept and filter this blood. They act as little sorting centers, determining which nutrients should be processed, what should be stored, what should be eliminated via the stool and what should be diverted back to the blood. In fact, as a last resort, the liver will even store toxins to protect the rest of the body.


The liver filters toxins that enter, or are produced by, the body through an area called the sinusoid


channels, which are lined with immune cells called Kupffer cells. These Kupffer cells engulf the “toxin,” digest and excrete it. This process is called phagocytosis.


As many chemicals are relatively “new,” it may take thousands of years from an evolutionary standpoint before our body properly adapts to them. The main takeaway here is that, if the liver cannot figure out what to do with a substance, it may simply store the substance(s), often in fat tissue, in other organs, or in the liver itself. This is potentially damaging to any of the tissues or organs involved in this process.


Check out the following videos for more information on how the liver functions and the detoxification process works.


For a deeper dive on the removal of xenobiotics (substances that are foreign to the body or to an ecological system), check out this informative video

So now, let’s break down detox even further. The detoxification of substances that require elimination or results in storage in the body is thought to take place in three phases.

Phase I


Two of the key phases of detox, Phase I and II, occur in the liver.

The first phase of detoxification occurs mostly in the liver and helps to transform potentially harmful lipid soluble (substances that dissolve in fat) molecules into less harmful substances that will be easier for the body to excrete. This must occur before proceeding to Phase II of detoxification.

In Phase I, a group of enzymes called cytochrome p450 enables the transformation of dangerous substances into less harmful substances through the chemical processes of oxidation (oxidation is a process in which a chemical substance changes because of the addition of oxygen), reduction (when a chemical substance loses oxygen), hydration (when a chemical substance mixes with water), dehalogenation (a process when harmful compounds known as halogens are removed and converted to a more stable product), and hydrolysis (a reaction where water is used to break down a substance further).

These chemical changes require the activity of cytochrome p450 enzymes, as well as a variety of nutrients, to both support the activity of enzymes and neutralize harmful molecules known as free radicals formed as a result of these processes. If free radicals are not neutralized, they can result in inflammation in the body. Many nutrients play a key role in Phase I and the neutralizing of free radicals, including a variety of B vitamins, amino acids, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A and flavonoids.

Genetic issues, liver damage, nutrient deficiencies and certain toxins can all impair the activity of p450 enzymes, reducing the ability of the liver to detoxify. Exposure to certain chemicals increases Phase I activity, leading to a high production of Phase I end products. If these products are not converted by Phase II, they can be harmful to cellular DNA and RNA, and they may be linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s and cancer.

Phase II

In Phase II, the focus is on a process called conjugation. In conjugation, there is the addition of a chemical group to the by-product that was produced in Phase I, making it water soluble and subsequently less harmful. Once the substance becomes water soluble, it can be excreted through the kidneys and intestines in the form of urine and bile.


There are many processes of conjugation. These include glutathionylation, methylation, glucuronidation, sulfation and acetylation. Each of these processes involves the addition of a different substance to a Phase I end-product, requiring specific nutrients, mostly amino acids, which must be obtained from our diet. Without these specific nutrients, Phase II detoxification can be impaired. If Phase II detoxification becomes impaired, an accumulation of Phase I products occurs, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage in the body.


However, if Phase I and Phase II occur effectively, toxins can be eliminated by the kidneys and bowels via urine and stool. Although the liver is thought of as our primary detoxification organ, it requires a large variety of nutrients that must first be absorbed via the digestive system in order to function optimally. Ironically though, the digestive system is also the initial site of exposure to ingested toxins. Due to these factors, it is recognized that there is an additional third phase of detoxification which occurs primarily in the digestive system.


Phase III

Phase III of detoxification refers to a highly-concentrated anti-porter (transport) system of proteins in the body. Many anti-porters are being researched, particularly P-glycoprotein, an anti-porter in the small intestine that moves toxins from cells into the gut. Another important protein, known as blood-brain protein, is located in the kidneys, the blood-brain barrier and the liver. This transport system ensures the movement of harmful compounds out of the cell and into the detoxification organs.


A healthy diet and microbiome are key to the success of Phase III, whereas digestive inflammation leads to its impairment. If Phase III is compromised, an accumulation of toxins within the cell occurs. Errors in P-glycoprotein expression have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and are suspected to play a role in stress management and inflammatory bowel disease.


Due to the importance of these three phases, inefficient detoxification in any of the three phases can be detrimental.


Because of the constant stress placed on our detoxification systems, following The Livy Method, which consistently supports these three phases, can greatly help to also support our detoxification system and help keep us healthy. Let’s talk more about strategies to best support our body in detox.


Limit alcohol

More than 90% of alcohol is metabolized in your liver. Liver enzymes convert alcohol to a substance called acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical. Recognizing acetaldehyde as a toxin, your liver converts it to a harmless substance called acetate, which is later eliminated from your body.


Excessive drinking can severely damage liver function by causing fat buildup, inflammation and scarring. When this happens, your liver cannot function properly and perform its necessary tasks, including filtering waste and other toxins from your body. Therefore, limiting alcohol can keep the liver healthy, thus supporting the body in detox.


Focus on sleep


Ensuring adequate and quality sleep each night can help to support your body’s health and natural detoxification system.


Sleeping allows your brain to reorganize and recharge itself, as well as remove toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day. A waste product that the body produces is a protein called beta-amyloid, which contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. With sleep deprivation, your body does not have time to perform these functions, thus toxins can build up, affecting several aspects of health.


Poor sleep has been linked to health issues such as stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. It is suggested to get at least seven to nine hours of good quality sleep per night, regularly, to promote good health and a healthy detoxification system. This is a foundational recommendation of The Livy Method.


Drink enough water


Water and adequate hydration have a huge impact on how the body functions. Water regulates your body temperature, lubricates joints, aids digestion and nutrient absorption, and detoxifies your body by removing waste products.


Your body’s cells must continuously be repaired to function optimally and break down nutrients for your body to use as energy. However, these processes release waste in the form of urea and carbon dioxide, which cause harm if able to build up in your blood.


Water allows for the transport of these waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing or sweating. By increasing your water intake, your body reduces the secretion of the antidiuretic hormone and increases urination, eliminating more water and waste products. Thus, proper hydration is very important for detoxification of the body and to keep us healthy.


Reduce your Intake of Sugar and Processed Foods


Sugar and processed foods are thought to be one of the root causes of today’s public health crises. The increased consumption of sugary and highly-processed foods has been linked to obesity and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.


These diseases hinder your body’s ability to naturally detoxify itself by harming organs that play an important role in the process, such as your liver and kidneys. For example, the high consumption of sugary beverages can cause fatty liver disease, a condition that negatively impacts liver function as discussed in the science posts on digestion. By following a healthful plan, like The Livy Method, during the weight loss process and in maintenance, and by focusing on the foods that make you feel good, you can keep your body’s detoxification system healthy in the long term.


However, with the onset of a diet and lifestyle change when initiating a program like The Livy Method, many people can experience symptoms from these changes. These changes are described in The Program as detox.


Symptoms of Detox


One of the common reactions to a healthier lifestyle/diet change is the onset of headaches.


Detox headaches are often caused by your body’s reaction to missing an item, such as sugar or caffeine, that was habitually present. This may result in:

  • A reduction in circulating hormones

  • Toxins, such as chemical food additives or drugs leaching into your circulation to be eliminated

  • A release of energy from tension and stress


However, headaches may also be a result of low sodium. Be mindful to add in good salts, like pink Himalayan, Celtic and Sea Salts to your diet throughout the day. The Low Sodium post is a great one to refer to if you have any questions about this.


Along with headaches, other symptoms of detox may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Hunger pangs

  • Rashes/breakouts

  • Diarrhea

These symptoms may be called various names, including healing reactions, cleansing reactions, detox symptoms and healing crises.


Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods


Antioxidants protect your cells against damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Oxidative stress is a condition caused by excessive production of free radicals. Your body naturally produces these molecules in everyday cellular processes, such as digestion. 

However, alcohol, tobacco smoke, a poor diet and exposure to pollutants, can also produce excessive free radicals in the body. By causing damage to your body’s cells, these molecules have been implicated in a number of conditions, such as dementia, heart disease, liver disease, asthma and certain types of cancer.


However, eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help your body fight oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals and other toxins that increase your risk of disease. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Foods like berries, fruits, nuts, cocoa, vegetables, spices and beverages like coffee and green tea, have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants.


Eat more Cruciferous Vegetables, Legumes, Nuts/Seeds, and Leafy Greens


Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are not only high in fibre and dense with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They also help the body engage in and support each phase of the detoxification pathway. They also support the microbiome and organs involved in detoxification. A review in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism notes clinical evidence of the effects from cruciferous vegetables, allium vegetables (such as garlic, onions, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots), apiaceous vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, celery, parsley), grapefruit, fish oil, foods that contain daidzein (found in abundance in legumes, especially in soybeans, but are present in many other vegetables, fruits, nuts, peas, lentils, and seeds), and eating food high in antioxidants have a profoundly positive nutritional impact on the detoxification process (Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M., 2015). The Livy Method recommends eating lots of vegetables, many of which include cruciferous vegetables (there is even a post about them), leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds which will all support your body in detox.


Eat Foods High in Prebiotics and Consider Probiotics


Gut health is important for keeping your detoxification system healthy. Your intestinal cells have a detoxification and excretion system that protects your gut and body from harmful toxins, such as chemicals. Good gut health starts with prebiotics, a type of fibre that feeds the good bacteria in your gut called probiotics. With prebiotics, your good bacteria can produce nutrients called short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for health.


The “good” bacteria in your gut can become unbalanced with “bad’’ bacteria from the use of antibiotics, poor dental hygiene and a diet of poor quality.


Consequently, this unhealthy shift in bacteria can weaken your immune and detoxification system, increasing your risk of disease and inflammation. Eating foods rich in prebiotics can keep your immune and detoxification systems healthy. Good food sources of prebiotics include tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic and oats.


Take a good prebiotic, as well as a probiotic, both of which are recommended supplements of The Livy Method.


Get Active


Regular exercise is associated with a longer life and a reduced risk of many conditions and diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers, which are discussed in other science posts.


While there are several mechanisms behind the health benefits of exercise, reduced inflammation is a key factor. While some inflammation is necessary for recovering from infection or healing wounds, too much of it weakens your body’s systems and promotes disease.


By reducing inflammation, exercise can help your body’s systems, including its detoxification system, function properly and protect against disease.


When Maximizing The Livy Method, incorporating exercise will help the body support the detoxification system.


Can I Sweat out Toxins That are in my Body?


With some forms of exercise, your body works up a sweat that helps to cool your body down. You may have also heard that sitting in a sauna, hot tub, or going to a hot yoga class will help your body sweat out toxins. However, your sweat is 99% water, and the rest of the 1% is composed of: electrolytes and minerals, like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium (it is important to replace them after periods of heavy sweating); small amounts of pheromones, which are chemicals that act like hormones outside of your body; bacteria that grow in the sweat that you release and can cause body odor; and tiny amounts of toxins. Trace amounts of metals and other chemicals can be present in your sweat, but your kidneys and liver do most of the work when it comes to getting rid of toxins in the body. Therefore, what you eat has a bigger impact when it comes to eliminating toxins in the body. That being said, saunas, hot yoga, hot tubs and warm baths can be very relaxing with other health benefits, so they can still have a positive impact on your health. However, if you have health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, issues with blood pressure, or are pregnant, consult with your health care provider before using these types of heat-based therapies.


Other Helpful Detox Tips


Although no current evidence supports the use of detox diets for removing toxins from your body, certain dietary changes and lifestyle practices may help reduce toxin load and support your body’s detoxification system.


  • Eat sulfur-containing foods

Food high in sulfur, such as onions, broccoli and garlic, enhance the excretion of heavy metals like cadmium.


  • Try out chlorella

Chlorella is a type of algae that has many nutritional benefits, and may enhance the elimination of toxins like heavy metals, according to animal studies.


  • Flavor dishes with cilantro

Cilantro enhances the excretion of certain toxins, such as heavy metals like lead, and chemicals, including phthalates and insecticides.


  • Support glutathione

Eating sulfur-rich foods, like eggs, broccoli and garlic helps enhance the function of glutathione, a major antioxidant produced by your body that is heavily involved in detoxification.


  • Avoid the use of plastic and aluminum for heating and storing food

Use stainless steel or glass containers over plastic ones for foods and beverages. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers, and if using plastic containers, opt for ones featuring BPA-free and phthalate-free labels.


  • Switch to natural cleaning products

Choosing natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda (over commercial cleaning agents) can reduce your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.


  • Choose natural body care

Using natural deodorants, makeups, moisturizers, shampoos and other personal care products can also reduce your exposure to chemicals. While promising, many of these effects have only been shown in animal studies. Therefore, studies in humans are needed to confirm these findings.


Hopefully you learned a bit more about the detox process and how focusing on better nutrition, sleeping well, exercising and positive lifestyle changes will not only limit your exposure to chemicals, but help your body process them optimally.











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