Detox – WTF?

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In the intellectual schism between the hardened scientific racialists and those prepared to explore beyond their current margin of confidence and institutional remit, there is an emerging pattern in the comprehension of the role of chemical pollutants. Included in this is the almost heretical concept that modifying primary enzyme pathways through the ingestion of food concentrates might aid in protection and or recovery!

Almost 3 years previously, in 2009, The USA’s Endocrine Society issued a scientific statement [1] concerning endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), [2] in which the grave dangers posed by these compounds were explored. Among the many diseases and conditions linked to EDCs are diabetes, heart disease, PCOS, breast and prostate cancer, obesity, thyroid disruption, and both male and female reproductive impairment.

Unfortunately, EDCs are now ubiquitous in industrialised countries, including (among many other compounds) polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), dioxins, bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, pesticides, fungicides, and pharmaceutical agents. These new-to-nature molecules place a far heavier load on the human body’s detoxification systems than they would have evolved to handle.

The two areas of health of functional disorders that conventional medicine tends to regard detoxification as a pertinent approach includes alcohol and drug rehab and the use and excretion of pharmaceuticals. However, a simple review of the evidence implicating EDCs as a major driver in the chronic disease epidemic tells us that this limited view is very shortsighted.

The question that needs to be asked; Why do we pay so little attention to helping the natural phase I and phase II detoxification processes cope with the body burden of EDCs we all carry today? There is no doubt that many clinicians and practitioners have limited or no training in this field of health management and many are intellectually compromised by absence of adequate data and meaningful discussion. This void then permits negative, as well as overly confident positive comments to dominate the mainstream press, rather than a grounded clinically driven discussion in which the main beneficiaries – the patients gain.

Functional Medicine training, from the Institute for Functional Medicine has long regarded this as an area in need of continuous update and development, so that contemporaneous data is mixed with practical strategies and future plans. This constant revisiting of the literature as well as the day to day clinical needs and expectations of clients and patients  ensures an evolving framework that meets and exceed patients expectations. Detoxification and biotransformation are legitimate aims in the human physiology, and whilst we are uniquely capable of meeting most toxic insults, there are significant variations in the genes that manage these enzymes, many of which are co-dependent on micro and macro nutrients.


For further evidence about the importance of ensuring a healthy detox capacity in all patients, check out some additional observations from the report mentioned above:

  • “Some EDCs were designed to have long half-lives; this was beneficial for their industrial use, but it has turned out to be quite detrimental to wildlife and humans. Because these substances do not decay easily, they may not be metabolised, or they may be metabolised or broken down into more toxic compounds than the parent molecule; even substances that were banned decades ago remain in high levels in the environment, and they can be detected as part of the body burden of virtually every tested individual animal or human (4, 5)…”
  • [E]ven infinitesimally low levels of exposure—indeed, any level of exposure at all—may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, particularly if exposure occurs during a critical developmental window (10). Surprisingly, low doses may even exert more potent effects than higher doses. … There is no endocrine system that is immune to these substances, because of the shared properties of the chemicals and the similarities of the receptors (13) and enzymes involved in the synthesis, release, and degradation of hormones (Fig 1).”
  • “Lang et al. (464) published a cross-sectional analysis on the relationship between concentrations of urinary BPA and chronic disease states in over 1400 adults in the United States. They found a significant correlation between BPA concentrations in urine with cardiovascular disease and abnormal concentrations of liver enzymes.”
  • “A challenge to understanding the relationship between EDCs and health abnormalities is that EDCs are a ‘moving target’. Individuals and populations are exposed to ever-changing patterns of production and use of these compounds. They also tend to be released into the environment as mixtures, rather than individual chemicals. Therefore, it is important to understand the effects of simultaneous co-exposures to these chemicals, which may interact additively, multiplicatively (synergistically), or antagonistically (48).”


[1] Diamanti-Kandarakis E, et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an endocrine society scientific statement. Endocrine Reviews. 2009;30(4):293-342. PDF available at

[2] “An endocrine-disrupting compound was defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as ‘an exogenous agent that interferes with synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding action, or elimination of natural blood-borne hormones that are present in the body and are responsible for homeostasis, reproduction, and developmental process.’ [F]rom a physiological perspective, an endocrine-disrupting substance is a compound, either natural or synthetic, which, through environmental or inappropriate developmental exposures, alters the hormonal and homeostatic systems that enable the organism to communicate with and respond to its environment.”

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