Ask the Diet Doctor: The Deal with Detoxifying Foods

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Q: Are any foods truly "detoxifying"?

A: I've previously written about how you should be very wary of any product that claims to be detoxifying. However, our world is full of chemical and natural toxins (caffeine, for example) that our body needs to deal with in order to maintain optimal function. The good news is there are foods you can eat and things you can do that help support your body in this process.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts contain powerful antioxidants that have been implicated in helping cells fight cancer as well as with the body's detoxification process. [Tweet this!] Two main compounds found in these types of vegetables have detoxification properties:

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1. Calcium D-glucarate. Your liver functions as both your metabolic brain and filter. It identifies compounds such as hormones, environmental toxins, or carcinogens that should not be present (or should not be present at high levels) and sends these compounds down the pathway for excretion from your body (a.k.a. detoxification). One of the ways that your body flags these toxic compounds for removal is by binding them to glucuronic acid. Unfortunately your body also contains an enzyme, beta-glucuronidase, that removes glucoronic acid from toxins flagged for removal. This is where calcium D-glucarate, or glucaric acid, from broccoli comes in. Glucaric acid inhibits beta-glucuronidase from working so when your liver flags a toxin for removal, beta-glucuronidase cannot undo this action. The end result is that more toxins get excreted faster.

2. Indole-3-carbinol can modulate a group of detoxification enzymes called the cytochrome P-450s (CYPs). CYPs play a major detoxification role in your liver with respects to metabolizing drugs, estrogens, and environmental toxins. Indole-3-carbinol acts by activating the CYPs to aid in your body’s ability to initiate these processes that remove toxins from cells.

Other Ways to Detoxify
You may have heard that drinking lots of water helps detox the body. This is true, but water serves more of a permissive role in the detoxification process. Being properly hydrated allows your body to effectively carry out its own detoxification processes whether it is in the liver, kidneys, or other areas in your body. Detoxification aside, staying properly hydrated makes every system in your body function more optimally. [Tweet this!]

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Although this is not something you can eat or drink, consider losing weight if you are truly looking to reduce the amount of toxins in your body. While your body does a good job of clearing environmental toxins like BPA, evidence shows that some of these compounds are fat-soluble and can be stored in your fat tissue. Burning stored fat will liberate these toxins, allowing your system to then use its innate detoxifying processes to clear them from your body. (BPA, for example, is readily excreted through urine.) The impact of these different kinds of environmental toxins stored in your fat tissue is a vast area we don't know much about, but in my opinion, even if they are dormant, you are better off without them in your body.

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