Detox ABCs

As harmful toxins from herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, heavy metals, solvents and industrial waste are released into the atmosphere, they eventually build up in our bodies. Once inhaled, they increase our risk of developing numerous forms of cancer, as well as neurologic, allergic, immune and fertility disorders.

Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, DDT, dioxins and PCBs are just a few of the hundreds of pollutants found in the air we breathe. Many of us already take steps to reduce exposure to these chemicals. We use air and water purifiers, eat organic foods and use natural products in our homes and gardens. Some of us also go on special cleansing or detoxification diets, receive colonics and use saunas and other forms of hydrotherapy to reduce toxin buildup.

In addition to those methods, there are also several nutritional supplements that can support our body's natural ability to detoxify and eliminate these unavoidable pollutants.

Glutathione (GSH) is a key antioxidant used by the body to deactivate environmental toxins. Because GSH tends to break down before it can be absorbed in the blood, health care professionals recommend “GSH precursors”—supplements that stimulate natural production of GSH in the body. For oral supplementation, the most effective GSH precursors are N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). Certain botanical supplements, including milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa), have also been shown to raise glutathione levels and to protect the liver from toxin damage.

Walter Crinnion, ND, medical researcher and professor of environmental medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, is a leading authority on environmental detoxification. According to Crinnion, our bodies require several nutrients and antioxidants for detoxification, including GSH precursors and vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6. “Deficiencies in these nutrients can occur as a result of poor nutrition, illness and chronic exposure to toxic chemicals, thus reducing the body's ability to eliminate toxins. Depending on the source of toxic exposure and the organs or systems affected, additional nutrients such as glutamine, glycine, taurine, vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid) and E, selenium and others may be beneficial.”

Crinnion recommends several different nutritional and botanical supplements for detoxification (see chart opposite).

John Furlong, ND, staff physician for metabolism and nutrition at Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory in Asheville, North Carolina, also stresses the importance of taurine, fish oil and dietary protein. He suggests taking about 500 milligrams (mg) of taurine per day. Furlong also recommends supplementing fish oil along with a low-fat, high-protein diet. “Supplementing 3 to 4 grams of fish oil along with a low-fat diet is like giving your body an oil change. The highest quality fish oils have been tested for contaminants and meet the standards set by the European criteria for purity.”

Furlong also recommends 6 to 10 grams per day of high-quality dietary protein such as fish, soy or low-fat organic meats and dairy products. Protein preparations that include whey protein (pure hydrolyzed lactalbumin) are also known to increase GSH levels and support the deactivation of toxins.

Nutritional Detox Supplements
Thiamine (vitamin B1): 200 mg daily

Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 68.5 mg daily

Pyridoxine (vitamin B6): 148 mg daily

Choline: 300 mg daily

Magnesium (magnesium citrate-malate): 500 mg daily

NAC (N-acetylcysteine): 200 mg daily

ALA (alpha-lipoic acid): 100 mg daily

MSM (methylsulfonylmethane): 100 mg daily

Pure ascorbic acid (vitamin C): 1 to 3 grams daily

Botanical Supplements
Milk thistle seed extract (Silybum marianum) bound to phosphatidyl choline: 100 mg daily

Turmeric rhizome extract (Curcuma longa): 100 mg daily

Broccoli extract (0.04 percent sulfurophane): 50 mg daily

Dandelion root extract (Taraxacum officinale): 10 mg daily

Green tea leaf extract (Camellia sinensis): 50 mg daily

If you would like to find a physician experienced in the diagnosis and natural treatment of environmental illness, the following organizations may be of help:

The American Association of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)

The American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA)


By Amber Ackerson, ND

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