More on detoxification and smart lifestyle choices

Last week, I cited information from Dr. Hyman who is an expert in functional medicine and who collaborates with Harvard Medical School’s Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Dr. Hyman notes that many times when people try to lose weight they hit a plateau and it becomes difficult to shed more body fat. He offers some valuable information on why toxicity and resistance to fat loss are linked.

A paper published in 2003 outlines the effects of toxins on metabolic rate and weight regulation. The paper concludes that pesticides and PCBs from industrial pollution released from human body fat where they are typically stored, through dieting or exercise, lowers the metabolic rate.

The authors note that people with a higher body mass index store more toxins because they have more body fat. The stored toxins interfere with thyroid hormones by lowering the amount of thyroid hormone produced as well as an increased excretion of thyroid hormones. A double whammy! Obviously, the released toxins must be excreted in order to cease affecting the body and that can be a difficult process.

In addition, toxins damage the mitochondria and increase oxidative stress which reduces the mitochondrial ability to burn fat by inhibiting thermogenesis of fatty acids. The mitochondria is the sub-cellular organelle responsible for energy production. It can burn fat, sugars, or even converted protein for energy.

Oxidative stress, Dr. Hyman notes, is both a cause and an effect of obesity. Toxins increase oxidative stress and affect redox signaling which influences gene transcription and signaling pathways controlling insulin resistance and mitochondrial function. Toxins also disrupt central appetite regulation and disrupt hormones in the body.

Environmental chemicals and heavy metals especially are well known hormone disrupters. Toxins can affect many of the major weight control hormones including thyroid, estrogens, testosterone, cortisol, insulin, growth hormone and leptin.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver is the most common liver disease in America, affecting approximately 20 percent of the population. The cause is the most abundant toxin in our diet — white refined sugar. Sugar (white flour products, high fructose corn syrup, and simple carbohydrates) increases insulin resistance which leads to an accumulation of fat in the liver cells. A fatty liver further impedes detoxification since the liver is the chief detoxifying organ of the body. As well, a fatty liver is also inflamed, which produces inflammatory free radicals and leads to more mitochondrial damage.

Simple lifestyle choices can reduce exposure to toxins and enhance mobilization and elimination of stored bodily toxins. The detoxification system relies on the proper balance of protein fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to be effective. All these elements play a crucial role in the elimination of toxins.

For example, Dr. Hyman indicates that adequate protein is required to supply the amino acids used by the liver to produce glycine, cysteine, and glutamine to synthesize glutathione as well as other amino acids critical for phase II detoxification. Glutathione is the most essential antioxidant and detoxifier in the body, but it is easily depleted in the face of chronic exposure to toxins.

Many phytochemicals found in highly colored plant foods enhance detoxification. Foods such as cruciferous veggies (broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts etc.), green tea, watercress, dandelion greens, cilantro, artichokes, garlic, ginger, rosemary, turmeric, citrus peels, berries and cocoa are helpful in enhancing detoxification pathways.

Saunas, steam baths, and exercise that makes you sweat helps detoxify your body. Drinking clean water helps you dilute and excrete toxins. Reduction of toxic foods is obviously a huge step in ensuring health and reducing the toxin levels and therefore fatty accumulation on the body.

Many of the toxic foods are those containing trans fats, processed foods, foods containing aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, refined flour, excess caffeine, char-broiled meats, and excess alcohol. Dr. Hyman also advocates elimination of unnecessary drugs such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or acid blocking medications which interfere with gut function and also deplete glutathione. These “medicines” become unnecessary when the body is cleansed and detoxified since inflammation is then reduced.

Common household toxins and environmental toxins can be reduced by carefully considering the cleaning agents and personal care products that are used in the home, and avoiding as much as possible known toxic sites and buildings.


Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached or (808) 212-8119 and


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