I’ve been thinking a lot about this in recent months. I have been wondering chiefly if my own detox mechanisms have gone awry, both sparking an immune dysregulation and therefore a hypersensitivity to foods/chemicals problem and being the cause of why I’m not healing as fast as I might.
Might my detox pathways be overwhelmed by some kind of toxin? Might I be genetically unable to clear those or a build up of toxins from my body, leaving them to cause neuroinflammation and a hypersensitive body? Might the mercury and possibly other toxins (like moulds, yeasts, bacterial infection) have caused a blockage in the NRF2 cellular detox activity? It turns out this is very likely, and it has a direct impact on hypersensitivity levels – which I will come back to in more depth when I have completed the research on that specifically.
So, I tested my mercury levels in hair. High. Now I need to know if that mercury is from fish or amalgams and I’ve listed this Mercury Tri-Test to help us find that out (look at the heavy metals section half way down in the Overview).
I tested my detox genes. Ah. Problem. No glutathione genes, so an inability to make the glutathione transferase enzyme needed to clear stuff out of my body. That explains a few things. I suspect there may be other issues on the acetylation and sulphation pathways (more on these below), so of course I set off to find a way to test that too. And now we have a new test to do that: the LGx Detoxification Gene Test, more on which below 🙂
First, let’s have a bit of a treatise on detoxification and what it is exactly.
What actually is detox?
Detox has become such as overused word in recent years. But, far from being a vague term, detoxification actually refers to specific metabolic processes in the body, especially the liver, responsible for the breakdown and output of waste, if you like.
If I had to choose one thing to do with a patient, it would always be a proper biochemical detox. Why? Because it is the foundational step in almost all cases.
Quite simply, if you don’t have the right nutrients in the right place at the right time for those processes to work, the body can become toxic and sluggish to say the least. You have to be able to achieve what’s called ‘conjugation’ of some pretty nasty compounds that both come into the body from the environment and food and that we make ourselves inside. Our bodies should be able to do that easily, but sometimes a person is genetically-weaker and/or exposed to more than the body can handle. We do live in a far more stressful, poor-diet, toxin-full world than we did when these body systems evolved! Sometimes we need a bit of help.
I think the best thing a body can have in the vast majority of cases is a good gut and liver MOT. Health starts in the gut, as we are always told, and the gut and rest of the elimination systems work hand-in-hand, so it makes sense to clear the decks a bit and get a good foundation to build on. We do that by ensuring the whole detoxification system in the body – the skin, kidneys, bile, liver, gut, lymphatics etc – is working optimally.
I often advise that people do a good detox once a year; it really pays dividends for current and future health.
There are actually three main detox stages.
Phase 1 is Biotransformation. This is where groups of enzymes, mainly the CYP450 family, transform a toxin (pesticides, excess oestrogens, bowel toxins, cosmetic chemicals, air toxins, alcohol, heavy metals, moulds and more) into a different form so that the body can either eliminate it in that form or pass it to phase two.
Phase 2 is Conjugation. This simply means the body attaches another molecule to the biotransformed toxin so that the body can better eliminate it. There are six main pathways through phase two, namely: acetylation, glucuronidation, sulphation, glutathione, methylation and amino acid conjugation. They each process different types of toxin so it is important that they are all working. Each can be inhibited or speeded up by various dietary and lifestyle factors. This is the keystone of good detox biochemically-speaking.
Sometimes a person can make loads of biotransformed toxins in phase 1 – many of which are even more toxic in this interim stage – but then have a slow phase 2 capacity. They are termed a pathological detoxifier (a fast phase 1 person) and have more of these transformed toxins hanging around in the body doing damage so it is important to slow phase 1 down and increase phase 2, which can be done quite simply.
Finally, Phase 3 is Elimination or Transport. This is where the body uses complex transport mechanisms to eliminate the toxins from the body, using mainly the kidneys, the gut and skin.
All of these processes are dependent on the genes that control them working well and having the right nutrients in the right place at the right time. For example, many people have problems with methylation and glutathione genes and those can mean that people are genetically weaker on those detox mechanisms. The same goes for sulphation and acetylation – often people with multiple sensitivities have issues with those two pathways especially. You can often get a clue what might be weak from the type of things people are sensitive to: chemical sensitivity or people reacting to smells can be acetylation whereas a person with migraines might be having a sulphation problem and someone with high mercury, LPSs (bacterial toxins) or mould toxins is likely to have a glutathione issue as those block the gene expression..
True detox is ensuring this complex process is able to happen efficiently.
Generally-speaking, it takes around 6-12 weeks to detox a person effectively so don’t take any notice of 3 day detoxes, for example. It’s quite simple to get the stuff to come out of tissues, cells and organs, but not so simple to get the body to break them down and actually eliminate them. In reality, a lot of people detoxing feel rough as the stuff hits the blood stream, it recirculates a bit and then pretty much goes back where it was hiding UNLESS you can achieve Phase 2 and Phase 3 detoxification processes properly.
To read and understand more about this fascinating issue, download the Detoxification Factsheet. And see the Detox page in the A-Z, which this post is based on but I will no doubt keep the factsheet there up to date as time goes by.
With this test, you give a first morning urine sample and then the lab looks for two markers which, together, give an assessment of your liver status and your capability of breaking toxins down. It’s a fascinating and unique way to check your status. Have a read about the Hepatic Detoxification Test here.
Many people, as we’ve said, have genetic weaknesses on certain detox pathways and this can explain a lot. For example, poor acetylators are often multiple-chemical-sensitive, poor methylators or those with absent glutathione genes are just vulnerable to toxic overload generally amongst many other things as those two are really important processes for the body, people with poor CYP450 pathways will make things more toxic and those with poor NAT transport genes will not be able to eliminate toxins as well as they might. Happily, once you are aware of any genetic predisposition or weakness, you can take steps to offset it.
You can look at the specific detox genes for all three phases using the new LGx Detoxification Gene test and this can help you target treatment. This is a simple mouth swab and I’ve put a sample report on the shop page for you so you can see what you get. I chose this one specifically because I like the practical info it gives as well as the results.
For the methylation genes, the LGx Methylation Gene test can be done separately, or you can have it at the same time as the LGx Detox Test above as an add-on for a big discount. You can test methylation in two different ways actually: genetically and functionally. You need to do both to get an accurate picture, in my view, or do the functional test. You can read more about functional testing here.
For a really thorough look at your detox ability, I would check functionally using the Hepatic Detox Profile and the DD Methylation profile, plus genetically using the LGx Detox Gene test.
All of the Detox and Methylation tests are here, and do read the Overview about half way down the page.
OK, once we know what the issue is, what do we do about it?