Illness IS Toxicity 1

In a recent edition of the UK television series The Food Hospital, the physician, Dr Pixie McKenna investigated the effectiveness of detoxification products.

Click to watch the report (3 mins).

Turning to the nutritionist and biochemist, Dr George Grimble of Reading University, he advised that all detoxification diets were effectively ‘fad diets’ and contained the two time-honoured elements of self-sacrifice (no coffee, alcohol, etc) and purification.

Selecting one particular product, he identified the key ingredient as being magnesium sulphate and any therapeutic effect this product may have had he attributed to a laxative effect.

They then examined a pig’s intestines and he pointed out the pancreas, gallbladder, and small intestine which he described as a formidable detoxification plant.

His advice was that there was no need to detoxify the body which ‘can look after itself’ and that ‘detoxification couldn’t turn the clock back or rejuvenate’. The report concluded with the admonition ‘not to binge’ from Dr Grimble and Dr McKenna wrapped up the report up by saying that there was little additional benefit to be gained from detoxification products above and beyond a healthy diet.

They offered absolutely no support for their assertions other than their credibility as highly trained medical health professionals. And we were left in no doubt that they were scientists because they were both wearing white coats and standing in a large technological laboratory.

Admittedly this was a short report, but between them they managed to dispatch the whole concept of the importance of diet and detoxification in just 3 short minutes.

I’m puzzled. Dr Grimble is evidently a nutritionist. And whilst some of what he said was true, it was irrelevant to the topic under discussion and some of what he said was downright misleading.

There was so much wrong with this short segment that I didn’t know whether the participants were being deliberately disingenuous, can’t see the elephant in the room or whether they genuinely believed what they were saying.

I respond below point-by-point to this short but nonetheless damning indictment of the value of detoxification.

Issue 1: Digestion not detoxification

Dr Grimble didn’t address detoxification so much as the processes of digestion. He pointed out the pancreas, small intestine and gallbladder, which admittedly all play a role in breaking down the large molecules found in foodstuffs into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used by the body.

The contents of the intestines are technically outside the body but are held in close approximation with the lining of this long tube in order that the body can secrete digestive enzymes onto the foods and also absorb nutrients from the foods consumed.

As such, the intestines are one of the biggest portals for the entry of various toxins, microbes and parasites and therefore 75% of the immune system is to be found in and around the intestines.

Issue 2: No mention of the liver or kidneys?

Surely in a segment examining the processes of detoxification the liver and kidneys deserved a mention?

The kidneys act as the major route of excretion for water soluble toxins by filtering 180 litres of fluids out of the blood each day of which 99% is then recovered under hormonal instructions as to what the body needs to retain and what can be excreted.

As such, the kidneys are very vulnerable to water soluble toxins and, according to the work of Murray Vimy et al at the University of Calgary, kidney function can be decreased by half within one month of placement of an amalgam filling as the body excretes the mercurous and metallic salts via the urine.

The liver too is one of the body’s most under-rated organs, but your health and wellbeing are intimately tied to the health or otherwise of your liver.

The liver performs at least 500 different functions including producing bile which is then released into the small intestine after eating. The bile serves the dual roles of aiding the digestion of fats and also acting as a route of excretion for fat soluble toxins and particulate matter such as yeasts and parasites.

And many of the toxic chemicals to which our bodies are currently exposed are fat-soluble including PCBs, benzopyrenes, chlorinated pesticides, heavy metals, flame retardants and fluoride and these accumulate in the cell and mitochondrial membranes and the fat deposits of the body.

Fibre in the foods consumed should both aid passage of the intestinal contents and also act to absorb bile and the toxins it contains so that they can be eliminated in the stool. However, for most people eating a high-fat, low-fibre Western diet, these fats and toxins are reabsorbed into the body to steadily accumulate over time.

In addition, all substances absorbed from the intestines are routed directly to the liver which then detoxifies any toxins and apportions any nutrients. When the liver is working efficiently, it can clear 99% of the bacteria and other toxins during the first exposure or ‘pass’. However, this ability can decrease dramatically as the liver becomes damaged, leading the body to store the toxins that it cannot detoxify.

The process of detoxification in the liver occurs in two steps. Phase I makes the substances water soluble (and potentially more toxic). And phase II (which is known as conjugation) combines the products of phase I with another molecule which render it harmless and enable it to be excreted from the body in either the bile or urine.

Significant quantities of free radicals are generated during phase I liver detoxification and these can cause damage to the liver cells. If the antioxidants required to mop up these free radicals are lacking or the toxin exposure is high, liver damage will result.

Also, if the nutrients required to process toxins through phase II are lacking then the toxic metabolites of phase I can accumulate and this is thought to be one of the causative factors in tumour formation. People who can process toxins through phase I but then have a sluggish phase II are known as pathological detoxifiers and this can be the root cause of a wide variety of chronic illnesses.

Conditions that have been proven to be linked with a failure to detoxify include inflammatory conditions (Rooney 1990), rheumatoid arthritis (Smith 1985), Parkinson’s disease (Steventon 1990), Alzheimer’s disease (Steventon 1989), cancer (Heerdt et al 1995) and CFS (Racciatti et al 2001).

Inherited differences in the effectiveness of the different detoxification pathways have been shown to account for a five-fold difference between ‘healthy’ people. This may account in large part for the difference between some who seem to have strong constitutions that appear to take a lot of abuse without adverse effects and those who suffer a lifetime of low grade health.

The body requires a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for the processes of liver detoxification including the B vitamins, vitamins C and E, the minerals selenium, copper, magnesium and zinc and a variety of amino acids. If any of these are lacking then the associated detoxification pathway(s) will become sluggish or blocked.

The processes of detoxification also tend to decrease with age for a variety of reasons including the fact that most people accumulate gallstones with age which block bile flow, the activity of the enzymes involved decreases, the blood flow to the liver may be compromised and the fact that decreasing activity is often combined with an increasingly nutritionally deficient diet.

Continued in Illness IS Toxicity 2.

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