What is a Detox?
Detox is the process of supporting the liver, which is the body’s powerhouse purification organ. The liver does some of the following and more:
- Filters the blood
- Breaks down steroid hormones
- Stores glucose for later use
- Produces bile for excretion and fat digestion
- Makes cholesterol
Supporting the liver in detoxification can range from a simple, one-step process to a multi-action approach. According to NIH, these include:
- Drinking only juices or similar beverages
- Eating only certain foods
- Using dietary supplements or other commercial products
- Using herbs
- Cleansing the colon (lower intestinal tract) with enemas, laxatives, or colon hydrotherapy (also called “colonic irrigation” or “colonics”)
- Reducing environmental exposures
- Using a sauna
Dr. Kevin Conners breaks down his strategy for detoxification in seven phases, beginning at the end–with elimination.
What is detoxification of the liver?
Most people think detox is a process to deal with poisons in your liver so that your liver can get back to doing its job. Dr. Kevin Conners defines detoxification as much more than the work of the liver. Detoxification is the process of removing any unused substance the skin absorbs, enters the lung or passes into the blood during digestion.
With so many pollutants, chemicals, pesticides, flame retardants, fragrances and detergents in products and in the environment today, there are a multitude of toxic sources a typical body encounters.
Americans are exposed to more toxins than some peer countries, including Canada. The European Union has banned over 1,300 different cancer-causing toxins used in skincare products that are legal to use in the United States.
Why liver detoxification is necessary
A typical American in today’s environment is exposed to many toxins, in the air, in food and through products applied to the skin. Some products that can contain toxic chemicals absorbed through the skin that then enter the bloodstream include the following:
- Lotions and creams
- Beauty supplies
According to Dr. Conners, “These can wreak havoc in your body and overwhelm your liver.”
Detoxification And Your Nervous System
To understand detoxification, it’s important to first understand the nervous system. Dr. Conners breaks it down like this:
The nervous system is split into two sides:
1) The voluntary nervous system allows you to intentionally move your limbs or body.
2) The involuntary nervous system, or autonomic nervous system, includes your heartbeat, digestion and elimination systems.
Any organ function that you don’t have to think about is part of your involuntary nervous system. Liver detoxification is part of the involuntary nervous system.
All your organ function that you don’t have to think of is a function of your autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is then separated into two different opposing categories, the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system includes the fight-or-flight-or-flee mechanism.
In the face of a threat, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into action to do the following:
- Increase blood pressure
- Cause smooth muscles outside of arteries to contract to increase blood pressure and shunt blood to the extremities so you can run.
- Eyes dilate
- Bronchial tubes dilate to get oxygen in your tissues as fast as possible
The other side of the nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and relaxation side of the nervous system. It controls the immune function, detoxification pathways, and sexual function.
The problem, says Dr. Conners, is that we live in a society where people are so stimulated with stressors that cause the sympathetic system to dominate. “Our sympathetic nervous system is stressed because of deadlines and lifestyle. We’re in a state of sympathetic dominance,” he says.
This is why detoxification is important. When people exist in a state that’s sympathetic dominant, the immune system and the body’s process of natural detoxification does not function as well.
“This is why we talk with our cancer patients so insistently that they need to deal with their anxiety in life,” says Dr. Conners.
Seven phases of detoxification of the liver
Dr. Conners divides detoxification into seven phases, ending at phase zero. He likes to start by focusing on the last phase, which he considers the most important.
Phase 6 of detoxification: elimination
Without proper elimination, Dr. Conners says the other phases of detoxification are ineffective. “If you’re not eliminating through your kidneys, urine and bowels properly, you’re going to be reabsorbing poisons,” he says.
While most people Dr. Conners works with assume elimination a few times a week or daily is enough, he considers this constipation. “It’s better to go two or three times a day.”
He also recommends paying attention to the amount of time it takes for the food you eat today to end up in your stool. “Ask yourself, if you ate corn today, would you see it in your stool tomorrow?”
A long intestinal transit time could mean that feces is backed up in the colon. “Even if you’re having a daily bowel movement, you are absorbing a lot of the poisons that your liver is trying to get out,” he says.
Dr. Conners recommends considering the following to help with elimination:
- Using magnesium and vitamin C before bed
- Cape aloe to increase peristaltic waves
- Increasing fiber intake with prune juice or fig or plum
- Cascara sagrada
- Coffee enemas
Phase 5: Helpful binding for detoxification
The next phase in detoxification is intestinal binders. Intestinal binders are a kind of a class of nutraceuticals that bind to toxins so that they can be passed through the digestive tract and be eliminated. The binders ensure there is no trace of toxins behind that could be reabsorbed into the body from a leaky gut.
Fiber in your diet would qualify as an intestinal binder. It grabs onto the contents in the digestive tract so that you don’t reabsorb them into the blood.
Some nutraceutical intestinal binders for detoxification include the following:
- Humic and fulvic acid
- Bentonite clays and other different clays
- Activated Charcoal
- Sodium Alginate
Phase 4 and 3: Bile flow and bile excretion for detoxification
Bile is a digestive liquid essential for digesting fats and for eliminating worn-out red blood cells and certain toxins from your body. It’s produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
The purpose of bile is to carry toxins from the liver into the small intestine.
The second purpose of bile is to function as an emulsifier for fat by breaking down fats that you consume. It also carries with it poisons that your liver filters out from the blood.
Following are some ways Dr. Conners suggestions supporting bile flow and bile excretion for detoxification:
- Artichoke Leaf
- Taurine and Glycine
- Hot Packs
- Castor Oil Packs
- Coffee Enemas
- Liver/GB Flushes
Phase 2: Conjugation for detoxification
Phase two of detoxification is conjugation. This is a process where the liver attaches another molecule to the intermediate toxin to render it less harmful. Some examples of conjugation that takes place in this phase include the following:
Sulfation helps your body clear various drugs, excess hormones, food additives and endotoxins from bacteria
Glucuronidation transforms certain drugs, hormones, mold toxins, PCBs, and many other cancer-causing toxins into water soluble products for your body to rid
Glutathione is considered a primary intracellular antioxidant
Amino acid conjugation adds an amino acid, most commonly glycine, to rid toxins
In acetylation, the liver adds a molecule called Acetyl-Co-A to a toxin to help make a more inert substance ready to expel.
Methylation converts toxins from insoluble or fat soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds by adding a methyl (CO3) group
Dr. Conners recommends the following products for those who need more support with phase two of conjugation:
- Look at genetics
- Milk thistle
- Schisandra berry
- Hot Packs/Castor oil
- Coffee enemas
- Parasympathetic Stimulation
Phase 1: The P450s
Phase one detoxification is controlled by the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. There are specific genes, including the P450s and PON1 genes, that are essential to the process of making the enzymes for phase one and phase two liver function.
P450 contributes to the metabolism and elimination of a variety of exogenous and endogenous compounds. This system is composed of a group of more than 50 enzymes delicately constructed under the control of the many cytochrome P450 genes.
A person who has defects on genes in these gene families is predisposed to slower phase-one liver function. They may be more sensitive to toxins and need more support with detoxification.
Phase 0: Cleaning tissue for detoxification
Phase zero, according to Dr. Conners, is the process of pulling toxins out of tissue using chelators. Chelation is a type of chemical detoxification procedure, for removing toxic metals from the body.
According to Dr. Conners, “A chelator is simply a nutrient that tends to grab onto toxins and escorts them back to the blood where they can circulate to the liver and start Phase 1.”
Limit exposure to toxins prevent detoxification
Finally, Dr. Conners recommends limiting exposure to toxins to maximize health. He offers the following ways to prevent having to do detoxification in the first place:
- Decrease exposure to toxins as much as possible
- Fast or time-restricted eating
- Eat organic as much as possible
- Eliminate GMO foods
- Use clean products in the home
- Stop using poisonous personal care products
Personal choice matters especially when so many chemicals used in the United States are banned in the European Union because they’re cancer-causing. “Just making different purchasing choices and lifestyle choices are going to be the most beneficial for people,” says Dr. Conners.
Detoxification is a lifetime commitment to limiting exposure to toxins and then supporting the body in the process of cleansing when necessary. Dr. Conners says, “This is a lifestyle. You have to be working on this constantly.”
Dr. Kevin Conners is the Clinic Director at Conners Clinic, an Alternative Cancer Treatment center. His books, “Stop Fighting Cancer and Start Treating the Cause” and “The 7 Phases of Detoxification,” are available as a free download.