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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 05, 2017

How to Augment and Support Your Natural Detox Capacities

By Mark Sisson
57 Comments

The inscription on the detox board and spinach around. Concept detoxConventional wisdom has decreed that “detox” is a myth. They’re not even sure if toxins even exist, as far as I can tell. On the other side, you’ve got detox gurus prescribing cayenne-maple-lemon tea and glasses full of charcoal water as cures for essentially everything. Where’s the truth lie?

First, detoxification does exist. It’s an established concept, after all, with its very own spot in the dictionary. When we come into contact with toxins—compounds that pose a threat to our healthy homeostasis—we must remove or nullify them. That’s detoxification.

Popular conceptions of how detox works, however, are inaccurate. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are flailing around a false narrative. The conventional side, the skeptics, are attacking a straw-man—that our bodies are passive recipients of toxicity, the damsel tied to the tracks awaiting the oncoming toxin train, and only this special proprietary blend of herbs and spices can sever the bonds. The detox fanatics, meanwhile, overstate their case, with frequent references to “flushing” and “die-off.” They seem to think that detox is about using outside agents to impose order on the body from the top down.

In reality, the body comes equipped with detoxification capabilities. We use the liver, kidneys, and various endogenous antioxidants to remove and/or nullify dangerous compounds that enter the body. And we can improve the functioning of those capacities, either by actively supporting them with necessary precursors or by getting out of their way.

Feel the heat.

Applying heat “just feels good,” they say. Saunas are a placebo, they say. There’s no evidence they actually help you detox anything, they say. It’s an indulgence we’re attempting to justify, they say. And you’re certainly not sweating out any toxins.

But wait…

Exposure to extreme heat increases something called heat shock proteins, or HSPs. HSPs have a range of beneficial hormetic effects on our detoxification capacity. They trigger compensatory adaptations and activate antioxidant defenses in the blood of healthy volunteers. They even increase regeneration of the body’s main detoxifying organ—the liver—after it’s been damaged.

As for that sweating claim, sweat contains contains bioaccumulated toxinsBPA shows up in sweat, for example, even when it doesn’t show up in the blood or urine. Sweat also contains certain phthalate compounds and their metabolites, none of which we want. Sweat also contains arsenic and lead in people exposed to high levels of the metals. Sweating may even improve the function of another important detoxification organ—the kidney—by restoring nitrogen excretion in people with kidney disease. In one study, police officers with chronic illnesses caused by exposure to high levels of meth lab chemicals experienced major improvements after sauna therapy.

Drink coffee.

Coffee is consistently linked to lower rates of type 2 diabetes, which many researchers suggest begins with damage to the liver. More recently, coffee was shown to undo alcohol-related liver damage. And high coffee consumption appears to protect against liver cancer by reducing liver damage. A damaged liver cannot perform its designated functions as well as it should. A damaged liver cannot process, metabolize, and render inert the toxins it’s supposed to be handling.

Moderate coffee consumption also increases serum levels of glutathione, a major player in detoxification.

Make sure you drink it, though. Resist that strange compulsion so many have to shoot it up your colon.

Eat cruciferous vegetables.

We all know crucifers like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are “good for us,” but why? One big reason is that they’re good sources of sulforaphane, a potent activator of a little-known, but extremely important antioxidant called quinone reductase. Quinone reductase protects cells from carcinogenic or toxic insults, and it also helps conduct the activity of glutathione.

Dr. Rhonda Patrick recommends broccoli sprouts, which have up to 100 times the sulforaphane of mature broccoli. A daily broccoli sprout drink was able to quickly and sustainably nullify airborne pollutant-derived oxidative stress in a group of Chinese adults.

Eat collagen.

Glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen, is essential for detoxifying methionine, an amino acid found primarily in muscle meat and eggs. The more meat/eggs you eat, the more collagen you need to replenish.

That means eating collagenous material like cartilage, gristle, and bone broth, or eating dedicated collagen supplements. (I’ve made this a daily priority for myself for quite a while now, and I try to make it easier for others to implement in their diet.)

For heavy metals, try chelating agents.

EDTA, or ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid, is a synthetic amino acid with proven efficacy against heavy metal toxicity. Once administered, EDTA literally dissolves heavy metals in the body. EDTA-bound metals are highly water-soluble, so they’re easy to excrete.

It’s extremely similar to how detox gurus talk about magical detox protocols, except it actually works. One recent study that actually sought out to disprove the chelating effects of EDTA ended up getting a massively positive result. There’s even evidence that EDTA chelation can protect against other diseases, like heart disease.

Support glutathione production.

Glutathione is the master antioxidant. It plays a role in the detoxification of most every toxin that enters your body, from alcohol to BPA to airborne pollutants.

Fortunately, there are many ways to support your glutathione status:

Cytochrome p450 is a class of enzymes that, among other tasks, detoxifies incoming drugs and carcinogens. As with glutathione and the other antioxidants, cytochrome p450 responds to certain dietary components.

Crucifers boost cytochrome p450 activity, while apiaceous vegetables (carrots, parsley, celery) inhibit it. This doesn’t mean that carrots will toxify you. They’re still good to eat. Just don’t eat them in the hope of activating cytochrome p450.

Dietary flavonoids—plant phytochemicals found in foods like chocolate, red wine, tea, berries, and pretty much everything—can also alter cytochrome p450 activity. Some will raise it, some will lower it, but the important thing is that flavonoids in general have a positive effect. Just eat a wide variety of whole foods and you’ll come out ahead.

Support your liver.

The liver is a chemical processing plant. If something’s being detoxified in your body, the liver is probably involved. There are several things you can do to keep the liver healthy:

Support your kidneys.

The kidneys excrete many of the toxins you accumulate.

Protein gets a bad rap when it comes to kidney health, but the real culprit appears to be sugar, particularly fructose. Compared to glucose, it has a far more adverse effect on the kidneys. Metabolic syndrome also usually precedes kidney failure.

If you have bad kidney function already, limit protein intake until it’s back on track. But rest assured that even high protein intakes pose no real threat to healthy kidneys.

Support your gut.

Having good gut health is paramount for detoxification. For one, a leaky gut allows unwanted compounds into circulation to disturb homeostasis. Those are toxins. It may not be the kind of “toxin” most people think of when they hear the word “detox,” but bacterial endotoxin, allergenic proteins, and other irritants that take advantage of a leaky gut wall can do serious damage. To boot, gut bacteria modulate xenobiotic metabolism.

As you can see, there’s nothing magical about detoxification. You’re not introducing some super food that hones in on and eradicates the toxins coursing through your blood. You aren’t physically flushing them out from your colon. There’s no brute force involved. You’re simply supporting and, in some cases, augmenting the natural detoxification pathways human bodies have been using for hundreds of thousands of years.

This also means that detoxification is an ongoing process. It’s not a one-and-done deal. You don’t “do a cleanse” every fortnight and forget about it until the next. You have to maintain and be consistent.

What say you, readers? What do you think of my take on “detox”? As always, I’m sure I’ll have pissed off people from both sides of the argument. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s how good conversation gets started.

More importantly, what are you taking from this post? What will you change—or make sure to maintain—about your lifestyle?

If I missed anything, please let me know. What are some other legitimate ways to augment one’s detoxification ability?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

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57 Comments on "How to Augment and Support Your Natural Detox Capacities"

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Gabriel
2 months 18 days ago

I guess i will start to take collagen, specially because i eat lots of eggs and lean meats. Also, I would add intermittent fasting once in a while to that list, specially longer fasts.

GettingGrokier
GettingGrokier
2 months 18 days ago

Ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid? What the grok is that? And how do I get it?

Dave
Dave
2 months 18 days ago

If found it readily available on Amazon (search for EDTA), but I’d like more info as related to doses. Also if anyone has tried it and their results.

Sarah
Sarah
2 months 18 days ago

Me too. More info please.

Crazylady
Crazylady
2 months 17 days ago

A relative with diabetic retinopathy had IV EDTA chelation therapy for years to keep his eyesight from deteriorating and to counteract other metabolic effects.

Many years ago, plasma purchase centers replenished IV fluids with an EDTA solution.

I’d be interested in doses for oral Tx.

gr8ful4life
gr8ful4life
2 months 15 days ago

For all things heavy metals and detox, check out Dr. Chris Shade PhD, Quicksilver Scientific.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
2 months 17 days ago

It’s also a major component of color film developers!

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 months 17 days ago

Sounded wonderful until I noticed the modifier, “synthetic” right before “amino acid….”

Margaret
Margaret
2 months 18 days ago

What is it about coffee, exactly, and can you get the same effect from other foods? Coffee is out for me because I am so highly sensitive to caffeine.

Shary
Shary
2 months 18 days ago

I stopped drinking coffee years ago because it was causing so many problems. The human body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself and, in most cases, it does a darn good job of it. If it didn’t, we’d all be dead. I doubt that anyone really needs to be employing cockamamie recipes or the many commercial products supposedly designed to assist the process. A healthy diet rich in a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is all that’s necessary to support the body’s natural cleansing abilities.

Phoenix
Phoenix
2 months 17 days ago
As someone with a family full of people who have varying severities of MTHFR polymorphisms (ie gene mutations), I wish that “the human body is perfectly capable of detoxing itself” was actually the case. The MTHFR gene is one of the ones that impacts the methylation cycle – AKA the body’s detoxification pathways. Depending on the number and location of the polymorphism(S) on the gene, it can cause depression, anxiety, CFS, fibromyalgia, multiple miscarriages, DVT, and more. Something like 60% of the population have MTHFR mutations. It’s not exactly rare. And the only treatments for it are personalised dietary, supplemental,… Read more »
His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 months 18 days ago

Probably the polyphenols. Coffee is probably the single largest source of them in the western diet. Any darkly-colored berry and also chocolate and some teas/herbal teas will also have a lot. Of course, chocolate and tea also contain some stimulants.

OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
2 months 17 days ago

How about decaf?

I drink 8-12 cups a day of strong coffee. Most folks don’t know it, but it is a major source of soluble fiber and potassium, too.

Margaret
Margaret
2 months 17 days ago

Even decaf, green tea, and dark chocolate are too much for me. It’s extreme. But my sleep is so much better without it!

Mike S
Mike S
2 months 18 days ago

“Make sure you drink it, though. Resist that strange compulsion so many have to shoot it up your colon”

Well, there goes my weekend…

Peggy
Peggy
2 months 18 days ago

How would you know if you have heavy metals that you should be trying to detox with EDTA? Just curious… is it something that everyone probably has, or something that only those with likely exposure should worry about?

Valerie
Valerie
2 months 18 days ago

My doctor did a hair sample test to determine if I had any issues with heavy metals. I didn’t, so it totally depends on each persons situation I guess.

Janeen
Janeen
2 months 14 days ago
I live in Alaska in an area that has extremely high levels of arsenic in my well water. It was not until the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale found the culprit though, that I knew.. That Center specializes in neurological problems and I already have polio from childhood so we just could not figure out what was going on, as I slowly deteriorated. Post Polio Syndrome is real and mine was triggered by arsenic. I went thru chelation to get rid of the heavy metal fast and now I follow a hybrid lifestyle of Marks Way and The Wahls Protocol and… Read more »
Ricardo
Ricardo
2 months 18 days ago

Great Article, MarK! Congrats

Kelly
2 months 18 days ago
Collagen is the super-food of the Paleo community, but it really messes me up. Bloating and constipation, acne on my neck and hairline, and, the last straw, extended bleeding during my period (from my norm of 7 days to 10-14 days). I tried a couple tablespoons in my coffee for 6 months and the side effects never abated. I cut it out in December and have been fine ever since. Is there any evidence to back up my experience? Bone broth seems to cause the same bloating issue, but I haven’t noticed the others, probably because I don’t have broth… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
2 months 17 days ago

Constipation is a given when I consume it also. 🙁

Stormar
Stormar
2 months 17 days ago

A histamine reaction, perhaps? Collagen and bone broth are both high in histamines.

Sally
Sally
2 months 18 days ago
I’d suggest adding a skin scrubbing routine to the list. Many cultures do it, from the Vikings to the Orient. I found it helped a lot this past decade while I detoxed 911 out of my system. Easy: use a rough wash cloth, a luffa,or a nylon scrubbie with an oil based soap. Scrub everywhere then rinse off. It takes away the dead skin that holds onto toxic sweat & leaves the smooth under layers to regenerate faster. I used to do it daily when I was really sick from the poisons, but now just weekly or more since I’m… Read more »
Joey Lloyd
Joey Lloyd
2 months 18 days ago

Doesn’t you own body create “toxins” from normal processes that also need to be removed? This article seems to stress only those external toxins. So even if you lived in a pure toxin free Eden, if there were such a place, you would still need you body’s detox systems to be working well.

Elizabeth Resnick
2 months 18 days ago
Great info! I see so many people make themselves crazy on these short term detoxes then go right back to eating crap (so they can detox again). I blended collagen into my coffee this am and just ate some broccoli roasted in avocado oil (Primal Kitchen, of course!) I eat liver from time to time and even take liver capsules when I feel the need for more organ meats in my life. Worked up a great sweat this am during my session climbing the stairs. After reading this I feel like I am on the right track!
owen
owen
2 months 18 days ago

I wonder, do the coffee related benefits apply to decaffeinated coffee also?

Sarah
Sarah
2 months 18 days ago

And piggybacking on that, I recently had a functional medicine practitioner remind me in passing that decaf coffee is bad for the body because of what is done to the coffee bean during the decaffeinating process. But we didn’t talk about what was so bad about the process and for the body, because it was in passing. Is decaf really verboten? I hope not.

Velvet Johnson
2 months 17 days ago

I heard that the swiss process is the non-toxic way to go. It’s a water process.

Velvet Johnson
2 months 17 days ago

I wonder the same…

Heather
2 months 18 days ago

Thanks for another really helpful article. I’ll buy your collagen supplement as soon as it’s organic. As I’m sure you know, grass-fed is good, but it doesn’t mean organic.

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 months 11 days ago

Just remember; “organic” doesn’t mean “grass fed” either….

Heather
2 months 11 days ago

Agreed. But given the choice between grass-fed and organic, I’ll choose organic every day of the week. I prefer when things are both, but if I can only have one, organic is my choice. God only knows what these ranchers spray on their grass, or from what kinds of seeds (GMO seems like a strong possibility) it’s grown.

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 months 11 days ago
Sure, but you have to wonder what “organic” even means anymore…Of course, I’d like to think that, at the very least, with “organic,” we are minimizing our exposure to deleterious elements. But along those lines, the label “organic” seems to be more of a line to be blurred more so than it is a veritable commitment by the purveyor. Somehow, “grass fed” seems more sincere to me than “organic” at this point. I could be in error, but I feel that butter like Kerrygold, for instance, because it’s grass fed, will be relatively free from such worrisome factors because the… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 months 18 days ago
There’s good evidence that sweating or using the sauna, is excellent for those with Hashimoto/hypothyroid, due to sluggish liver on one hand and far from optimal natural sweating on the other hand. On the same subject, I have been drinking coffee (espresso and Turkish) for ~50 years; and in fact, I used to drink it late at night without it effecting my sleep. But as of late, even a short espresso (Italian not Starbucks nonsense as I recall from from my past) makes me jumpy, so sadly, I will have to stay clear off or drink it sparingly, which mean… Read more »
David
David
2 months 18 days ago
I had an interesting detox experience about a year ago. I suffer from polymyalgia, a kind of chronic fatigue that leads to muscle cramps/pain and exhaustion.It is supposed to be incurable. All the doctors offer is steroids. So I tried the L Ron Hubbard protocol as recommended by Ben Greenfield. This is not for the fainthearted. 4 hours a day in the sauna for a month, whilst taking large doses of niacin and buckets of supplements. But wow! At the end of the treatment, I was completely symptom free. Sadly, the symptoms began to come back after about 6 weeks.… Read more »
Janeen
Janeen
2 months 14 days ago
seriously consider just adding several different formulas of magnesium to your daily diet spread out over 24 hours. I use 4 different formulas . Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body and most people are deficient in it at times and some of us with neurological and muscle issues are always deficient in it.. I was able to remove 2 RX’s once I started this protocol and its been 3 solid years. When I slack on the magnesium all of my symptoms return along with the strange pain that pain killers don’t touch- that twitching tight… Read more »
Leah
Leah
2 months 18 days ago

I’m curious as to your reasons for being against coffee enemas. I’ve read up on them, and some people swear by them for gentle detoxification, but I’d love to hear your side.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 months 17 days ago
Leah, enemas are useless except for those cashing in on the service. Furthermore, enemas are based on the notion that they wash the Colon from encrusted food particles that get attached to its wall. It’s valid no more than the idea that if you eat meat, it will rotten in your belly. There are two types of toxins: environmental and ingested. Environmental toxins accumulate in various fat cells and one gets rid of them when sweating and/or loosing fat mass, or, when doing aerobic exercise at optimal heart rate (MAF method), which draws on stored fat cells for energy; and… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
2 months 17 days ago

So if finally worked…. sorry for the trio response 🙂

Suzy Holman
Suzy Holman
2 months 18 days ago

I’ve heard of, agree with, and use many of the things mentioned. Many of your words or phrases meant nothing to me, even though I’m a retired nurse. Maybe you could do a similar, but simplified version.

Peedie
Peedie
2 months 18 days ago

I’ve suggested to friends to eat the foods that are less processed. In another words, real food.
Lean towards Paleo/Primal.
Supplements should be just that. A supplement.
Always read this news letter.
Can’t go wrong.
Thanks Mark

Esther M
Esther M
2 months 18 days ago

There are a lot more than “two” sides to a subject like this.

Jack Lea Mason
2 months 18 days ago

When I fast and or ingest more fructose than I would like, I take konjac root powder supplements. It is a long chain polysaccharide with no caloric value. It essentially is a fiber bulking agent that gut bugs like and help carry out toxic waste efficiently.

Jeff Johnson
2 months 18 days ago

What about Vitamin C supplementation? I understand it is necessary to help your body generate glutathione.

Lisabeth Robinson
2 months 18 days ago
I’ve done the whole “castor oil” purge thing where you oleate for several days then drink castor oil and eliminate all night. The first time felt exhilarating, the second time not so dramatic, the third time–I was just plain tired. I’ve also done the lemon/maple syrup thing–made me break out in canker sores (I cannot take that much acid). In other words, no cofee enemas, no more weird concoctions. Some healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables that act as “nature’s broom”, starting the day with hot lemon water (or just hot water), and a few cups of coffee (down the… Read more »
Coccinelle
Coccinelle
2 months 18 days ago

I only knew about muscle meat, I didn’t know about the eggs! Also, I’d like to know if gelatine works or if collagen would be better. Thanks!

Shalini
2 months 17 days ago

There are quite a few natural detox drinks and smoothies which can be made by vegetables and fruits, that can also help to increase detoxification ability.

Thanks,
Shalini

jacob
jacob
2 months 17 days ago
I definitely think that fasting should be on the list. You are not ingesting anything but water, giving your body time to deal with its internal stuff rather than having to process food and whatever that comes with it. No food = nothing coming in that needs to be detoxified = more time to repair and expel what’s broken inside. I do “dinner-to-dinner” fasts ( 24 hours ) every other day and have been for a couple of months. The results are amazing. my workouts have improved, I shifted 6kg in my body composition ( lost 3kg of fat, gained… Read more »
OnTheBayou
OnTheBayou
2 months 17 days ago
Well, OTB admits to having a knowledge re-alignment. Always scoffing at the woo woo detox beliefs. Which, I guess still has some validity, but here comes Mark with his (as always) spot on clarification of what detox really is. No magic herbs, fasts, or periodic cleanses, just right diet. I’m good with that. As an acknowledged heavy drinker here and to my doctors, I want to amplify on the matter of saturated fats and liver health. I’ve researched this a lot, especially peer reviewed experiments. Over and over, they find that it’s PUFA’s in combination with alcohol this destroy the… Read more »
ChrisT
2 months 17 days ago

Grok and wild animals has always used CLAY in different forms for cleaning,
purification, detoxing, both internal and external. That’s what I stick to.

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 months 17 days ago
Mark, as usual, I find you mainly on the button with your posts about metabolic related subjects. I realize that your entire endeavor is predicated upon the research that it requires in order to be so informed and to be able to pass it along but I still find it commendable that you can be so broad while remaining accurate in your advice. I say, “mainly” because, pertaining to this article anyhow, I might object to your dismissal of “die off.” I get what you are saying about the over wrought citations of “magic bullets” or “flushing” rituals but the… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
2 months 17 days ago

So basically just follow a primal lifestyle? 😛

James
2 months 17 days ago
I find it humorous that people think the paleo/primal diet is real. Aside from that very few people need to “detox.” This is a myth created by people wanting to sell their book or products. There are many reason why you are having constipation, acne, low energy etc. Having body that is full toxic chemicals is usually not one of them. I have first hand experience with this as I was diagnosed with eczema at an early age. I had skin eruptions on and off throughout my life. For many years the eczema went away as I changed my diet.… Read more »
bigmyc
bigmyc
2 months 15 days ago

I can appreciate your obvious strides to think independently and thus, critically, but how is that you seriously contend the idea that the Paleo/Primal “diet” is “real.” What exactly is not real about the juxtapositioning of macro-nutrients and the omission of grains and uber processed vegetable oils from one’s diet?

Larry Clapp
Larry Clapp
2 months 6 days ago

Did you even read this article?

Tracy James
Tracy James
2 months 16 days ago

What is NAC

EmmaR
2 months 16 days ago
As someone who is currently undergoing chelation for heavy metal poisoning this post was really comforting to read – the idea of coffee as liver support was a totally new (and exciting) idea for me. I underwent a 24 hour chelation test with a high dose of DMSA tablets (you collect your urine over 24 hours and a sample is then tested for heavy metals) and it came back with the highest level of nickel my doctor had ever seen as well as high levels of mercury and lower levels of barium and thallium toxicity. I also have a MTHFR… Read more »
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