Detoxification, how does it work and how to support it naturally using the SOAR principles
In today’s world, illness has become common and health is a rarity. Many degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, asthma, cancer, chronic liver disease, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and obesity are all considered lifestyle diseases. (Wikipedia.com) Meaning, that diet and lifestyle factors have strong links to causation of these conditions, and thereby treatment and prevention.
Diet and lifestyle factors associated with disease or poor health 1:
As we look at the foundational principles of the SOAR program…Eat well. Move well. Sleep well, Soar on, it is important to notice how this actually addresses each of these lifestyle factors in order to help reduce disease as it relates to detoxification.
There are two common links that the SOAR principles help reduce disease. First, is reducing toxin ingestion by caring about how your food was grown or lived and what is in it. Second, following these principles will facilitate your body’s natural detoxification pathways.
In a world where our toxin and environmental exposure is only partly in our personal control, and mostly inevitable, is it possible to be healthy? With a few simple strategies, I believe that it can be possible, especially with daily consistency for some of the basic strategies.
First, lets talk about what detoxification means. Detoxification is a means to reduce and/or remove toxic compounds from the body. These can be external toxins or even produced by our own body via metabolic pathways. Basically, if you are living then your body will need to detoxify naturally every single day.
There are two phases of the detoxification process that require two different biochemical processes in order to eliminate xenobiotic (a foreign chemical substance not normally produced by that organism) and other chemicals. Phase I is the process of modification of that chemical by enzymatic reactions to prepare it for Phase II. In this phase it will wither oxidize or reduce by losing or gaining an electron. Phase II detoxification is when a chemical group is added (or conjugated) to the now charged chemical in order to make it water-soluble so that it can be excreted through the kidneys or bile. If the xenobiotic is water-soluble already, then it can skip the Phase I step.
The efficiency of these pathways is dependent on vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids from the food we eat. Without adequate calories and protein then the process of clearance of toxins is slowed and symptoms can arise as the process begins breaking down vital tissues to produce the energy it needs.
The body has multiple organs of protection and detoxification. The skin is our primary protective layer. Yet this barrier is porous which can allow toxins in. It can also let toxins out in small amounts via sweat excretion.
The lungs allow toxins in during breath inhalation, yet with the enzymatic functions of the lungs can allow the detoxification to occur through the kidneys. There is also anti-oxidant activity in the alveolar lining as well as immune system to prevent absorption of certain toxins.
The gastrointestinal tract is a primary source of absorption of vitamins and minerals. It is also our first barrier to absorption of chemicals. It is a site of both Phase I and Phase II detoxification and is the second major site of detox in the form of a bowel movement.
The liver is our first line of detoxification allowing for both Phase I and Phase II. It holds the cytochrome P-450 system, which is the first-line of defense for detoxification of foreign material.
The kidneys are excretory organs. Kidneys have the Phase II detoxification system. It provides the excretion of urine. 1
How does the SOAR program help with detoxification and therefore optimize health?
Lets look at each category.
The SOAR program dictates eating adequate amounts of whole, nutrient rich foods that are high in vitamins and minerals that are all important for Phase I and Phase II. Like whole organic fruits and vegetables of many colors as well as whole sources of wild fish and grass fed protein. With the high plant intake, you will also be taking in healthy fiber to assist the digestive tract in elimination of toxins. Especially whole foods like broccoli to help support Phase II detoxification.
Additionally, with the attention focused on quality foods, there will be a decrease in the toxic exposure and burden on the liver. There is also support to suggest that a whole foods nutrient dense type diet (Paleolithic inspired) increases detoxification via Nrf2 (a transcription factor that activates genetic expression, antioxidant activity and detoxification of xenobiotics and toxic metals). 2
Along with whole foods eating, you will be incorporating plenty of clean and fresh water that not only decreases the toxic exposure, but also facilitates the excretion through the kidney of the now water-soluble toxins thanks to Phase I and II. These are all supporting and facilitating our body’s natural detoxification pathways and decrease the burden of chemical exposure that is common with heavily refined and processed foods.
Although fasting, which technically doesn’t qualify as Eat Well, is a technique that can be used to support detoxification by allowing the body to take a break from digestion. Generally this has been proven safe in men and even repair promoting of the musculoskeletal system 3,4. Generally for women, a safer technique is intermittent fasting by narrowing the eating window from 7PM-7AM (or 6PM-9AM or some variable), which allows the fasting to occur during sleeping.
As most already know, exercise is important to reducing the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and even metabolic disorders like diabetes. An article describes the benefits of exercise for a neurodegenerative disease Parkinson’s disease has benefits to reducing oxidative stress, stimulate mitochondria biogenesis and improving effectiveness of antioxidant enzymes which are critical for the detoxification system. Not to mention the increase of neurotransmitters to improve learning and even decrease the neural death 5.
Movement and exercise has also been shown to increase Phase II detoxification in PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls a common environmental pollutant) induced cardiovascular disease. Exercise actually up-regulates the detoxification enzymes. 6 Exercise as simple as Yoga has also been shown to support the detoxification by elevating mood states in females. 7
Beyond that, moving your body helps increase your blood flow, facilitates the lymph movement, sweating, and increases your respiratory rate all of which help movement in body systems that support detoxification.
Sleep is not the absence of activity. It actually is critical to recovery and repair. This may be most critical for repairing any injury related to exposure to toxins. It is important to optimize your sleep to allow the body time to repair. Upon first waking is also when the normal rhythm of detoxification occurs when kidneys and bowels are preparing the release of the toxins.
For the SOAR program, this is purpose and connection. It is the most flexible component. As this relates to detoxification, I qualify that it is important to connect to your body. This doesn’t mean meditation necessarily, but it can mean self-care. With that said, this is where the detoxification techniques like mineral baths, massage or skin brushing 1 would be placed in our simple principles. These techniques use the expression of toxins through the skin. The Dry Skin Brushing or GENTLE massage is to facilitate the lymph drainage to facilitate detoxification. The mineral bath draws the toxins out through the skin. Maybe more important is these techniques allow you to spend some time on supporting your body in a positive way, not punishing. Although there are no research studies to validate these techniques, they have been around for many years. They have minimal risk and allow you independence in supporting your natural detoxification systems.
Additionally, in this segment of self-care, would be to explore the toxic burden present in your cleaning supplies, personal care products and environment. In some cases the toxic exposure must be removed (think lead paint, carbon monoxide, mold, asbestos, or formaldehyde). In the case of personal care products, starting to evaluate the ingredients is a first step. Understanding the purpose of your shampoo to clean your hair does not mean it needs to be of blue color or make your scalp tingle. If you can afford it, replace them all to ones with natural ingredients. If not, don’t fret; the other strategies will help you to manage the toxic burden until it’s time to replace them.
Overall, the four simple principles help support a natural and safe detoxification.
There are many additional detoxification strategies out there, and some have merit and some don’t. In the end, the most effective way to detoxify your body is to support your own body’s system of detoxification holistically while minimizing unnecessary burden.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove unnecessary toxic chemicals from your food including refined food like substances, cleaning products, and even personal care products.
Replace with organic fruits and vegetables and whole protein sources whenever possible. Use natural ingredients to clean your house like vinegar or lemon. Personal hair care products should also have minimal ingredients that you can pronounce, just like your food. Move your body. Get breathing hard and sweaty once in a while. Take a bath. Brush your skin. Sleep often.
Restore a healthy detoxification system naturally and recover your health.
Eat Well. Move Well. Sleep Well. Soar On.
1. Krohn J, Taylor F, eds. Natural detoxification. 2nd ed. Vancouver, BC: Hartley and Marks; 2000.
2. Pall ML, Levine S. Nrf2, a master regulator of detoxification and also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other cytoprotective mechanisms, is raised by health promoting factors. Sheng Li Xue Bao. 2015;67(1):1-18.
3. Lee S, Notterpek L. Dietary restriction supports peripheral nerve health by enhancing endogenous protein quality control mechanisms. Exp Gerontol. 2013;48(10):1085-1090.
4. Lingelbach LB, Mitchell AE, Rucker RB, McDonald RB. Accumulation of advanced glycation endproducts in aging male fischer 344 rats during long-term feeding of various dietary carbohydrates. J Nutr. 2000;130(5):1247-1255.
5. Monteiro-Junior RS, Cevada T, Oliveira BR, et al. We need to move more: Neurobiological hypotheses of physical exercise as a treatment for parkinson's disease. Med Hypotheses. 2015.
6. Murphy MO, Petriello MC, Han SG, et al. Exercise protects against PCB-induced inflammation and associated cardiovascular risk factors. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016;23(3):2201-2211.
7. Zhuang SM, An SH, Zhao Y. Yoga effects on mood and quality of life in chinese women undergoing heroin detoxification: A randomized controlled trial. Nurs Res. 2013;62(4):260-268.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.