The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), of which I am a Registered Nutritional Therapist, have released the above infographic/poster about detoxification. Perfect timing, as many people think January is the month for detox. But, hang on a minute. We need more than a blitz of detox in January. As the poster suggests, we should be focusing on detoxifying every single day.
Detoxification happens all the time in our body, every second, in all our cells. It isn’t just something you “do” for 3 or 5 days at the beginning of each year by just drinking juice or something and then forget about it. It is constant. And so we need to make sure we are supporting our body to optimize our detox.
This means looking at:
- What toxins are in our life, (and don’t forget those emotional toxins too!)?
- How can we reduce this toxin exposure?
- What capacity does our body have for detoxification regarding our genes and polymorphisms?
- How can we support our body nutritionally to optimize and balance detoxification?
- How is our detoxification affecting our health?
The BANT Detox 4 life infographic illustrates these points.
The infographic lists sources of toxins in our lives – including heavy metals, chemicals, toxins creating during cooking, pollution, etc.
It also considers some that you may not have thought about, such as by-products of metabolism – which can also include metabolites of your microbiota – the micro-organisms in your gut.
And what about “adiposity”? What does that have to do with toxins? Well, a lot of the toxins are stored in the fat in our body. So if you have higher levels of fat (adiposity), you have good storage places for toxins, and thus, while the fat persists, you don’t get rid of the toxins. They just stay in the body.
In the infographic, there is no mention of our emotions being “toxins,” but this needs consideration too. Worry, fear, anger, loss, shame can all be toxic and need to be considered in our toxic load, including how to reduce that load.
Polymorphisms and our genotype
The infographic then illustrates that we can differ in our capacity for detoxification based on individual gene polymorphisms or SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). There are many different SNPs involved with detoxification such as SNPs in the cytochrome P450 genes which are involved in the first phase of detoxification, to those involved in the second phase of detox, such as glutathione GSTM1 SNP or superoxide dismutase SOD1 SNPs. Having these SNPs means that the phases of detoxification can be speeded up or slowed down – and what is really important in detoxification is that the speed of the two phases is balanced.
Depending on our genotype, our phases of detoxification may be out of balance with one too quick and one too slow – which can lead to increased toxicity.
Knowing our polymorphisms is key, as it helps determine the extent of support our body may need to detoxify efficiently. It can also provide an indication of our risk of certain diseases, such as the collection of detoxification polymorphisms associated with breast cancer.
There are many nutritional modulators that can affect detoxification. They act in different ways and at different stages of detoxification. As I mentioned earlier, SNPs can change the speed of detox phases so some nutrients can be seen to increase or slow down Phase I and similarly, other nutrients can speed up or slow down phase II. Using a combination of these can balance out the speed of the phases, so the highly toxic intermediates are quickly detoxified and removed from the body. Nutrition to the rescue!
The diagram below takes this one step further, illustrating detox in the liver and the factors required. Yes, on first glance it might look complex (and it is!) but take a look at the green boxes. Here you can see that for the phase I of detox, you need lots of nutrients such as B vitamins. To protect from the potential high toxicity of the intermediary metabolites, you then need certain different minerals and vitamins such as Vit A, C and E, and zinc, etc. This is the dangerous intermediary that is formed if the speed of the two phases is out of balance. And for phase II, you need amino acids from proteins.
So often people don’t realize that we need so many nutrients for detoxification. Think of all those detox fasts you hear about that are just juice fasts. Where do they get the necessary protein for phase II detoxification? Not enough protein in juice. We don’t want detox stuck at that dangerous intermediary phase. This is why focusing on detox every day is so important, ensuring good nutrient intake in our diet.
While our genotype is the genetic makeup of a cell and individual i.e. all our genes, our phenotype is the observable effect of those genes on our body and behavior. The phenotype is the effect of the combination of our genes.
The BANT infographic shows that our detoxification is directly linked to our phenotype, i.e. our health. Depending on how we detox, affects where on the spectrum of health and disease we are.
Detoxification is an area I work with for all my clients. Don’t ignore it.
The take home message is that we need to make sure we have the nutrients to support detoxification, particular for our particular polymorphisms, so we can keep up that constant detoxification and keep a healthy phenotype. At the same time, we need to reduce our toxic load.
Scroll back up and re-look at the infographic and see if you understand it. Let me know if you have any questions.