Garlic and detoxification

The term "detoxification" is used fairly often, these days, when referring to cleansing our bodies from whatever "nasties" have accumulated due to our pollution-choked environment and chemically laced foods. Very often though little attention is given to how the body gets rid of substances it finds harmful to the kidneys, liver and overall health.
Reducing our toxic burden

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that about 500,000 synthetic chemicals are in use today, with 5,000 more added each year. We're exposed to a great number of these chemicals daily--in the air, in our food, in our water, in household and industrial products, etc.

How the body deals with toxins depends on a number of factors, including: age, sex, genetic factors, health of the immune system, nutritional status, presence of other disease, pattern of exposure (frequency and level) and lifestyle factors (diet and exercise).
The detox system

The lungs, skin, gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys are the organs of detoxification, jettisoning foreign chemicals, drugs, byproducts of our own metabolism and excess (or oxidized) hormones, vitamins, minerals, cholesterol and fatty acids. Unfortunately, many chemicals are what is called "lipophilic," such as DDT, meaning that they have a tendency to wind up in our fat tissue and in the fat that is part of our cell membranes-these accumulated toxins are very difficult for us to break down and eliminate.

The detoxification system is made up of two phases: phase I and phase II. These phases are two separate systems the body uses to get rid of unwanted foreign visitors, called "xenobiotics."

In phase I, the body changes nonelectrically-charged (nonpolar), non-water-soluble chemicals into relatively polar chemicals that can then be excreted. In this process, which is a type of biotransformation, our bodies use certain enzymes to get the job done. These enzymes make up two systems: the cytochrome P-450 monooxygenase system (major) and the mixed-function amine oxidase system (minor).

The most popular gathering place for cytochrome P-450 is the liver, although the kidneys and lungs are strong second-place finishers.

In phase I detoxification, how well our body can use its detox enzymes depends on our levels of certain minerals. For example, alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts harmful alcohols (such as ethanol) to more manageable compounds, called aldehydes, needs to have enough zinc to get its job done. In the next step, aldehyde oxidase (which needs adequate iron and molybdenum) changes the aldehyde into an acid that can easily be excreted in our urine.

The following nutrients help the body's phase I detox efforts:

* garlic (due to its sulfur compounds)
* choline
* fatty acids
* lecithin
* milk thistle
* beta-carotene
* thiamin (B-1)
* vitamin C
* copper
* iron
* magnesium
* manganese
* molybdenum
* zinc

In phase II detoxification, chemical groups are tacked on to chemicals to make them water-soluble, so they can be eliminated through the kidneys. The following nutrients (some of which are already listed in nutrients for phase I) assist phase II detox:

* garlic
* d-glucarate
* N-acetyl cysteine
* taurine
* B-complex
* germanium
* magnesium
* manganese
* molybdenum
* selenium
* zinc

Herbs to the rescue

As we've seen, garlic made it onto both lists, meaning that it is extremely helpful to the body in both of its detoxification pathways. Research has well validated the role of garlic extract (aged), powdered garlic, garlic oil and whole garlic in getting rid of bad stuff from our bodies and in protecting us from diseases partly caused by those toxins, including liver disease, kidney disease, cancer disease and lung cancer.

Other anti-detox herbs (including garlic) are helpful for the following conditions:

* Amanita (Death Cap) mushroom poisoning: Picrorhiza kurroa
* dysentery: garlic, slippery elm, bayberry, turmeric
* Giardia infection: garlic, barberry, bayberry, echinacea, turmeric
* worms: garlic, pumpkin seed (oil or seed), black walnut

Nature vs. anti-nature

It's clearly not a surprise that our best route to defend ourselves within (or against) a "toxic" largely synthetic-chemical-drenched "anti-nature" world is via nature, herself, including herbs and nutritionals. The wisdom of nature vs. the follies of "industrial progress"? Perhaps. But it's nice to know that we have a powerful arsenal at our disposal. Remember though: for cases of food or chemical poisoning, overdose and parasitic/bacterial infection, make sure to first contact your physician and your local office of Poison Control.


By James J. Gormley

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