Detoxifying Your Body

Reducing or eliminating your health hazards - whether it's environmental toxins, smoking, drugs or alcohol, or excessive weight - will make a significant difference in your health. You can also accelerate the improvement in health by actively detoxing your body, in large part by supporting the functioning of your liver.

The liver works twenty-four hours a day to cleanse your body of substances that can harm you, including the waste products of normal metabolism, food preservatives and additives, solvents in household cleaners, pesticides and herbicides, alcohol, drugs, toxins excreted by microbes in the digestive tract, and heavy metals (e.g., mercury or lead). Your blood continually circulates through the liver, which filters out these harmful molecules and converts them into a form that can be readily excreted.

Studies have linked poor detoxification to several diseases, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's disease, and cancer. The ability of the liver to do its work varies from person to person, and you could find out about the strength of your own detoxification processes through a liver detoxification panel offered by several medical labs. Meanwhile, you can help your liver through lifestyle choices and by taking certain nutrients. You've already learned about several actions that will support the liver: getting good nutrition (particularly cruciferous vegetables) from mainly organic foods, limiting your exposure to toxic chemicals, and taking supplements containing the MSDVs (notably the B vitamins, vitamins E and C, and magnesium, selenium, and molybdenum).

In addition, your body produces a peptide called glutathione, which strongly aids liver detoxification. Vitamin C and selenium support glutathione production. Whey protein also boosts glutathione, and you could try to eat a daily serving of this food (available at health food stores as a protein powder - which could be part of an easy breakfast). Additionally, you could take a precursor to glutathione, N-acetyl-cysteine, with a dose of 500-1000 mg/day, or take glutathione directly, at 100-400 mg/day (although there is some question about how well the body assimilates glutathione in an oral supplement).

Other amino acids, including taurine, methionine, glutamine, and glycine can also be helpful to liver detoxification. Try supplementing any one of these, at 200-500 mg/day; start at a lower dosage if your body is particularly sensitive.

Numerous herbs promote liver detoxification as well. Perhaps the best known is milk thistle, also known as silymarin, which functions as an antioxidant and prevents depletion of glutathione. The standard dosage is 70-210 mg, three times per day.

In some cases, using supplements or herbs to aid detoxification can put the body into a temporary state of discomfort (as toxins are being processed at an accelerated pace). If this happens, reduce the dosages and see if that helps. If the discomfort continues after a day or two, stop taking the supplement or herb. If detoxification has strong side effects, that suggests a need both to detoxify your body and to do so carefully while working with an experienced, licensed health practitioner. Finally (as usual), we don't think you should take supplements or herbs for detoxification if you are pregnant or nursing.


From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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