During your next journey through the health food or vitamin store, you may find yourself entertained by the abundant supply of products on the shelf which advertise their detoxification potential. The supply of these products generally indicates the public’s call for the need to detoxify their system. Lavishly loaded with a variety of substances, some of which the average consumer has never heard of these marketed gems often carry with them a relatively hefty price tag. Are most of them worth the cost? 

While there is movement to improve the healthy choices we humans make, it is not of shocking news to us that a majority of Americans eat and live in a relatively unhealthy environment. As the exposure to “unhealthy” substances increase, so do the possibilities of the unfavorable health consequences on our bodies. How our bodies and behaviors are able to deal with these exposures is a fundamental foundation on the consequences of these exposures. 

As an example, many mutations have the ability to cause cancer and therefore can be referred to as carcinogenic. Many chemicals are not mutagenic in the form in which they enter the body but they are carcinogenic. Direct carcinogens exist in a mutagenic form when entering our system. If they are not rapidly inactivated before they interact with our DNA, they carry the tremendous potential of being carcinogenic. Indirect carcinogens are those chemicals not recognized in their current form as mutagenic when entering the body but are converted to such by the metabolism of the body. 

The liver’s detoxification system converts many inactive mutagens into active mutagens and it is important for these compounds to be excreted appropriately before influencing the DNA. This is accomplished by several enzymes which serve to convert lipophilic chemicals into water soluble forms. If these lipophilic chemicals are not converted rapidly, then their accumulation in body tissues increases leading to potential DNA damage. 

There is a rather archaic description of a detoxification method, in this case referred to as chelation, which essentially denotes a biochemical manner in which minerals or heavy metals are “held” or “bound” and removed from the body. They are intended to inactivate ions so as not to react with other elements. This does not guarantee solubility however, and as you have previously read in this article, solubility is a key factor in how chemicals are excreted efficiently. Chelation also tends to increase the specific weight of a compound making urinary excretion more incomplete which then can potentially “recycle” the chemical. 

The process for converting lipophilic compounds into water soluble ones utilizes compounds known as thiols, or mercaptans, which in Latin means “capturing mercury”. This process breaks the surface tension by saponification of the lipid membrane, which then releases chemicals in their original weight platform for excretion. Thiols are organosulfur compounds and can be found in varying concentrations in asparagus, all brassica-family vegetables and limonene-rich foods. 

Those detoxifying products which lavish the shelves of health food stores can be expensive and in many cases contain ingredients such as fiber which simply increase bowel motility (increase the possibility of a more “appropriate” bowel movement) Increasing fiber in itself is healthy but can be simply accomplished by consuming more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. These detoxification products are not harmful in most cases and can be deemed as awareness for those who tend to ignore good eating habits in order to care for their health. It’s the pocket book’s health that begins to take a toll. There is a vast array of information flooding the mainstream regarding toxic influences on our systems, including this article. Interestingly, the “hotter the topic” the more capital that usually can be made from it in some way or another. First ask yourself, is the information both “reasonable” and responsible and second, is there a “catch”. The second can generally be summarized if the cost suspiciously exceeds a reasonable portion. 

Consuming a diet rich in sulfur containing vegetables as mentioned above (thiols), whole grains which supply adequate amounts of fiber and good fruits generally maintain a very effective way of liberating most toxic chemicals. If extreme exposures or conditions arise where an abundance of chemicals are induced into the body, than specific supplements which enhance the mercaptan process and increase the glutathione pool can be taken. These supplements can usually be purchased at most natural health stores at very reasonable costs These protocols along with a good diet is usually a much more effective and easier way of “cleaning the system” than chelation or extended detoxification programs. It is also generally far less costly.


By Kevin Meehan 


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