Detox Diet, Cleanses and Detoxification Teas are the some of the more egregious forms of snake oil in the world of health, fitness, and nutrition today. They are promoted through a big myth that your body is overrun by toxins and that is the reason for health and energy woes.
What this wellness fairy tale leaves out is the fact that your body already has very strong detoxification pathways and processes in place. One of your liver’s main jobs, aside from being your metabolic brain, is detoxification and metabolism of drugs, toxins, etc.
However, one can actively support the body’s efforts, fortifying its detoxification reserves and pathways. This can be very valuable as oftentimes the stressors of modern life (psychological/physical stress, insufficient sleep, less than ideal diet, etc.) can overwhelm/weaken the body’s innate processes. Here are 3 compounds that can come the rescue to help your body out.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is a sulfur-containing amino acid derivative of cysteine. In the body it acts as a precursor to glutathione, the primary antioxidant in the liver. The liver metabolizes toxins in the body in two phases. During Phase 1, NAC works to neutralize the free radical compounds that are produced. In Phase 2, NAC modifies the byproducts of the detoxification process so that they can be excreted by the body through your kidneys. NAC also plays a role in the movement of mercury out of the brain and various cells.
NAC is a one of the unique dietary supplements that is also used regularly in medicine to treat acetaminophen overdose/toxicity and alcohol-induced liver damage.
D-Glucarate is naturally occurring in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. In the body, D-Glucarate is eventually converted to D-glucaro-1,4-lactone (DG14L). It is a compound that inhibits a specific enzyme in the liver leading to enhanced elimination (via glucuronidation) of certain toxins and hormones by the liver. The toxins and hormones specifically targeted by this DG14L include:
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) – PAHs are environmental toxins that originate from fossil fuels and the burning of wood or tobacco.
- Nitrosamines – These are pro-carcinogenic compounds often found in cured and/or grilled meats.
- Estrogen and Phyto/Xeno-estrogens – Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds (i.e. soy isoflavones) that mimic the hormone estrogen while xenoestrogens are chemical derived compounds (i.e. bis-phenol A aka BPA) with similar action.
As with NAC, the byproduct of DG14L’s action is easily excreted by the body via the kidneys.
Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, is the collection of numerous antioxidants and bioactivities. It has long been used in traditional medicinal practices across the globe. Known for its ability to support healthy liver function, milk thistle extract is thought to work via antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways while also potentially having some positive effects on the immune system. A systemic review of clinical trials involving milk thistle concluded that it leads to improvements in markers of liver health that might not be independently clinically significant. So, milk thistle is likely best used in combination with other compounds that promote liver health, and not necessarily used as a standalone supplement.
To sum it all up? The human body doesn’t need a magical detox program to support good health. Foundational wellness practices such as regular physical activity and quality sleep have both been shown to improve liver function. The additional of supportive herbs and nutrients can further support healthy liver function while optimizing detoxification pathways. Looking for NAC, D-Glucarate and Milk Thistle? All 3 can be found in the VitaHustle Multivitamin for Men and Women.