By Dr. Jennifer Pearlman
‘Tis the season of holiday indulgence, decadent dining and festive feasting all of which may threaten to uproot even the best intentions around diet and lifestyle. But the holidays do not necessitate throwing in the proverbial towel. By sticking to these science based detox tips, you can successfully navigate the holiday season while staying safely onboard the health wagon.
By ramping up your body’s internal detoxification system, you can kick start your metabolism to manage the seasonal indulgence. Our body has evolved complex metabolic processes to inactivate toxins and chemicals to which we are exposed, both knowingly through our diet and unknowingly as environmental exposures in addition to the chemicals formed as intermediates and byproducts of our metabolic activity.
Augmenting our innate detoxification and elimination functions through a targeted lifestyle based approach can enhance our ability to navigate toxic exposures and optimise our metabolism and health. To understand how to optimize our detox system -it is important to first understand they steps involved.
Detoxification involves three steps -two phases of detoxification that occur in the liver with the transformation and inactivation of substrates to a form that can be eliminated in a final step in urine by the kidneys or in feces by the gut. Phase one reactions involve paired reduction-oxidation reactions to increase water solubility of substrates to allow inactivation by conjugation. Phase two detoxification involves conjugating reactions in which intermediates are combined with substrates to further transform, inactivate and eventually eliminate. Two important conjugation reactions involve methylation and glutathionization. Glutathione is one of the most potent anti-oxidants and plays a critical role in detoxification and metabolism of drugs, hormones, neurotransmitters and environmental toxins. Genetic variations and nutritional deficiencies may render some individuals to be impaired in one or more steps of their detox system, increasing the risk of disease, toxicity and metabolic or hormonal imbalance.
Simple lab testing can uncover blocks to detox function, including impaired liver or kidney function, glutathione depletion and markers of oxidative stress.
With an understanding of the detoxification process and targeted testing to map out your own unique footprint in genetic susceptibilities and nutritional or lifestyle risks, it is possible to formulate a science based and precise “Detox Diet.” Here are my top six recommendations:
- Take A Break:
During a prolonged fast, the body shifts to a more energy efficient mode of ketosis in which stored fat becomes the preferential and more energy efficient fuel. Throughout our lifetime our cumulative environmental toxin exposures accumulate in our body fat stores. In a fasted state, the breakdown of body fat and release of stored energy may also trigger a deep whole body cleanse. With a prolonged or even an intermittent fast, the detox apparatus can be reset with a metabolic boost.
- Approach Abstinence
Alcohol is one of the most pervasive liver “toxins” and consumption often ramps up during the holidays. Research suggests that even moderate consumption (within the conventionally recommended limit) can increase health risks such as heart disease, cancer and death. Taking drink holidays throughout the season can allow a avoiding alcohol consumption on consecutive days and limiting the weekly intake to fewer than 4 glasses of wine or a bottle. A large nutritional study conducted on over 180,000 Europeans who drank modestly and regularly suggests that drinking within recommended limits can still increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and death < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24415611>. Less is more. Sobriety is a good first step to Detox.
- Stay Clear of Chemicals:
Chemical toxins are The diet presents an important source of potential toxic exposure. From dioxin containing pesticides in our produce to a vast array of food additives including stabilizers, preservatives, chemical flavours and colorants used in processed foods; chemical contamination is rampant. By mindfully selecting organic produce and curtailing our consumption of packaged and processed foods, we can cut down on the toxic burden.
- Eat Colourfully:
A plant based diet that spans the colour wheel of phytonutrients provides essential anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals required as co-factors in Phase I and II of detoxification. Micro-nutrient deficiencies resulting from inadequate intake or malabsorption can impede detoxification.
- Crucifers are King:
Cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli reign as the kings of detoxifying foods as they are rich in glucosinolates; phytochemicals that induce Phase II of detoxification and inactivate carcinogenic chemicals. Cruciferous consumption (unlike total fruit and vegetable consumption) has been associated with reduced risk of lung, colon and breast cancer <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737735/>. The effect is dependent on variations within human genetics and the presence of gut flora that convert glucosinolates to protective compounds known as isothiocyanates and indoles (i.e. sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C)). These phytochemicals increase urinary excretion of estrogen and may help to prevent both breast and endometrial cancer.
- Ferment to Prevent:
The microbiome describes the collection of micro-organisms that are housed within the human body, largely in the gut, and play a critical role in our immune function, metabolism, and detoxification. Referred to as the “Second Genome”, the microbiota contains 10-fold the genetic material of our human DNA. Gut flora play a role in the absorption and activation of vitamins and induce Phase II and III of detoxification. Fermented foods offer a naturally occurring symbiotic combination of food substance and probiotics. As an alternative or adjunct to a probiotic supplement, consuming fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and kombucha may be beneficial in restoring optimal balance to the gut ecosystem.
- Get Going:
Dehydration and constipation impede the body’s ability to eliminate the waste products of detoxification. Adequate intake of water and soluble fibres ensures final excretion of toxins in the urine and stool. Good sources of dietary fibre include fruits, vegetables, seeds (chia, flax) and whole grains. Regular aerobic exercise further helps to keep the bowels moving and lymphatics draining. So get moving to get elimination going.
These steps to a science-based Holiday Detox can help you navigate the holiday festivities and get your New Year off to a clean and healthy start!
Dr. Jennifer Pearlman, MD CCFP NCMP FAARM ABAARM
Women’s Health, Hormone and Beauty Expert focused on aging well from the inside out.