Having Difficulty Detoxing Heavy Metals and Other Toxins?
The most likely reason for difficulty detoxing mercury and other toxic heavy metals is impaired functioning of the GI tract (or gastro-intestinal tract). For example, if you have a parasitic infection in your GI tract, or inflammation due to bacterial dysbiosis (imbalance between the good and bad bacteria species), the body will resist the removal of heavy metals. Another scenario is that you begin a detoxification protocol, and it goes fine for a couple weeks. But suddenly, your body goes “downhill,” exhibiting symptoms of pronounced fatigue, brain-fog, headaches, poor memory, pain, etc. This second scenario of detox cases usually relates to a systemic infection being present, such as lyme’s disease or epstein-barre virus, or mycoplasma infection. Once we strengthened the glutathione system of the body with our detox protocol, the immune system then responded to this threat that was already there (the immune system was too weak or depressed to respond to the existing infection previously).
What Happens when Gut Bacteria get out of Balance?
The GI tract has a nervous system all its own, called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) where it makes all it’s own neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, epinephrine, and norepinephrine – these neurotransmitters are all involved in GI health. Bacteria, pharmaceuticals, etc, change the landscape of the host system in the GI tract. It’s not so much that the organism(s) in the gut control the functioning and health of the body, but it’s more of a two-way street. Bacterial organisms in the gut can change over time and affect the organisms present in the gut, but the opposite also occurs. Rather than trying to kill the undesirable bacteria, it’s more effective to focus on regulating the immune system, which in turn will effect beneficial changes to the gut bacteria balance.
Functional Expression, SNP’s, and Inflammation
Genetic variations called SNP’s (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, pronounced “snips”) are certainly one cause of impaired detoxification, but functional expression is even more key. And inflammation is the most important indicator of functional expression that we can look at. Inflammation stops our
bodies’ detoxification processes, particularly on the level of the GI tract. High levels of inflammation can cause mercury retention, and vice-versa. Inflammation turns down the whole gene apparatus involved in detoxification. Much of the control over what’s called phase III detoxification occurs at the level of the GI tract.
Inorganic mercury (the form of mercury we are exposed to from metal amalgam dental fillings) as well as other toxins can be eliminated either via the stool or the urine. But GI inflammation will stop either of these processes from working effectively.
Basically, inflammation in the GI tract sets off what we call “leaky gut” (increased intestinal permeability occurring when the tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don’t work properly. This lets substances leak into the bloodstream). Leaky gut then allows transport of lipopolysaccharides (a toxin made inside our gut that causes strong immune reactions) from the gut into our circulation. This process eventually wreaks havoc on the whole body.
Pre-Tox before you Detox
For these reasons, it’s important to start with a “Pre-tox” focusing on optimizing liver and kidney function and clearing toxins out of the GI tract before beginning a full cellular detoxification protocol. To learn more about Pre-tox, see my previous article here.
One component of an effective Pre-tox involves the use of gentle GI tract “binders.” These pass through the GI tract and are not absorbed into our circulation. In the GI, they bind toxins and protect you from re-absorption of those. The goal is to prevent recirculation and absorption of these toxins through the process called entero-hepatic recirculation. A number of toxins can potentially be absorbed and recirculated in this way, including metals like mercury and cadmium, as well as biotoxins such as mold toxins or mycotoxins, lyme toxins, as well as some of the toxins generated in the GI tract itself endotoxins).
The binder essentially “grabs” onto these toxins in the GI tract, and holds onto them as they are eliminated from the body via waste. But we also want to prevent toxins that are formed in the GI tract from ever getting into circulation. Anytime you take a pharmaceutical or supplement to kill off undesirable organisms or biofilms (similar to the plaque that forms on our teeth) in the GI tract, we need to be sure to wipe up and take away the remaining dead organisms/materials with an appropriate binder.
What Binders Should I Use for Detoxification?
Some of the best binders for Pre-tox and soothing of an inflammed GI tract include activated charcoal,
clay (such as pyrophyllite clay), acacia gum, modified citrus pectin (not so much a binder as a normalizing supplement to counter gut inflammation), and chlorella. These are generally best taken apart from meals and supplements to avoid loss of food nutrient absorption, and generally should be pulsed for 3 days on, 1 day off, etc. In addition, it’s wise to drink extra water when taking these supplements to prevent constipation. I recommend taking these at night, just before bedtime for most detox clients.
Why do we become Deficient in Glutathione in the First Place?
Glutathione deficiency can be due to genetics and epigenetics (an area we are just now learning more about – this includes the way mold toxins block detoxification by blocking a protein called NRF2), but it can also be environmental. For example, inflammation in the body can down-regulate the production of glutathione. The amount of transport proteins such as glutathione s-transferase also is influenced by both genetics and environment. Chronic GI inflammation leads to neuro-inflammatory conditions, resulting typically in imbalances between neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate toxicity.
Synergistic Toxicities due to Lipopolysaccharides
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) exacerbate the damage from toxicities because the inflammation caused by LPS increases the impact of the toxins coming into the body. Also, parasites have a negative effect on the immune system. Immune system dysregulation can be caused by low glutathione levels as well as parasites, and inflammation leads to low glutathione levels.
GI Inflammation, Immune Dysregulation, and Toxin Retention
GI inflammation is the starting point that can lead to a range of diseases and health conditions, from mercury toxicity to autism. Mercury from amalgam dental fillings affects the flora of the GI tract, commonly leading to increased proliferation of yeast. The mercury is also a direct irritant to the
intestinal mucosa (lining of the intestines). In the case of autism, the mechanism appears to start with an inflammed GI tract causing internal generation of free radicals, increased toxin retention, then permeability of the blood-brain barrier due to the chronic inflammation, and finally resulting in neuro-inflammatory cascades that result in autistic-spectrum disorders.
So to take a step back and summarize the big picture, we see that toxicity leads to immune system dysregulation, which then leads to chronic infection both in the GI tract and on an intracellular level. The immune dysregulation also leads to food allergies and hypersensitivities. This further exacerbates inflammation, which slows detoxification processes. So we end up with even more retained toxins – ugh! Ready to start a detox program tailored to your specific toxic burdens and pace? Get in touch to arrange a free initial health consultation with me to find out if my approach is right for you!