By Cassie I. Story, RDN
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in neurological and hematological functions.1 The majority of bodily cells require vitamin B12, especially ones that undergo rapid turnover like red blood cells (RBC).2 Vitamin B12 is also involved in DNA synthesis and methylation of RNA, as well as Phase I detoxification.1,3 Perhaps one of its most important roles is in relationship to the nervous system and its need for the formation of the myelin sheath, which is found around nerve cells.2 In fact, long-term vitamin B12 deficiency-induced neuropathy can damage nerve cells to the point of irreversible neurologic damage.2
What food sources are rich in vitamin B12?Foods rich in vitamin B12 are primarily from animal sources including liver, oysters, poultry, fish, eggs.2 Some fermented foods like miso and tempeh also contain vitamin B12. However, plant sources of vitamin B12 are likely unavailable for absorption by humans—so special care should be taken by people who avoid or do not consume animal products.2
In order for food-based vitamin B12 to be absorbed, it must first interact with hydrochloric acid (HCl) and gastric protease in the stomach. These substrates allow vitamin B12 to be released from the protein it is bound to and then to be combined with intrinsic factor (IF), which is secreted by the parietal cells in the stomach. The combined vitamin B12-IF complex travels through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for absorption in the distal ileum. It is well-established that HCl and IF production decline with age, and certain medications (proton pump inhibitors, metformin) have been found to reduce vitamin B12 absorption in the gut.2,4 Supplementation with vitamin B12 in its free form, or combined with IF, may be more beneficial in preventing or treating a deficiency.2
As vitamin B12 is stored in the liver in high amounts, with estimates being 3-5 milligrams, the majority of individuals are not at high risk for a deficiency.2 Situations in which individuals have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, such as malabsorptive disorders, lack or decline in the production of HCl or IF, low levels of hepatic storage, or dietary insufficiency, particularly for those who follow a strict vegan diet, are at higher risk of deficiency.1
Typically, there are three causes for a potential vitamin B12 deficiency. These include:1
What happens with a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Nutritional deficiency is the main cause for low hemoglobin and red blood cells (RBCs).2 A reduction of hemoglobin in the blood can eventually lead to anemia, a condition that can affect day-to-day living by impacting energy levels.2 Macrocytic anemia can result from low levels of vitamin B12 and presents with typical signs of anemia like pallor and fatigue.1 Jaundice can also be present as a result of impaired RBC formation.1
Certain medications can negatively impact vitamin B12 status, including contraceptive pills. Oral contraception can impact B12 status, without typically producing the above symptoms or neurological damage.3 Some medications have been shown to deplete vitamin B12 including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, metformin, and proton pump inhibitors.2
Serum vitamin B12 is a standard marker used to evaluate deficiency; however, this may miss 30-50% of vitamin B12 deficiencies in certain people, including those with a history of GI or bariatric surgery.5 For this reason, serum methylmalonic acid (MMA) is the preferred method for assessment and also helps to distinguish between vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies.2,5 Additional markers can include intrinsic factor antibodies (IFAB) and parietal cell antibodies.
Differential diagnosis of vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies lie in the measurement of MMA. If both MMA and homocysteine are elevated and vitamin B12 is depressed, this indicates a vitamin B12 deficiency. Alternatively, if homocysteine is elevated but MMA is within normal limits, this may indicate a folate deficiency.1
Physical signs and symptoms of deficiencyIt is estimated that 75-90% of individuals who present with a vitamin B12 deficiency experience neurologic disorders.2 Neurological symptoms present in vitamin B12 deficiency may include peripheral neuropathy, decreased reflexes, ataxia, vibratory sense loss, dementia, psychosis, and altered mood.1,6 Paradoxically, while vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, it also may induce insomnia.2 Other chief complaints may include glossitis, diarrhea, and headaches.1
In a 24-month randomized and double-blind intervention study that included 168 elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment, oral supplementation of vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin B6 slowed the progression of brain atrophy and the reduction of cognitive performance by 53%.7
How much vitamin B12 is recommended?The common dosage range for treating vitamin B12 deficiency with supplements is 500-2,000 mcg per day and is available as cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin, which is the active form. Methylcobalamin may be preferred especially for individuals with certain genetic polymorphisms, increased oxidative stress, or digestive conditions of any kind.2
Common repletion recommendations:2,5
When to take and what to take it with?
Taking vitamin B12 early in the day with the presence of other B vitamins including folate and possibly calcium is recommended. Avoid taking with alcohol and antibiotics.3
ConclusionAwareness and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency are important to ensure that individuals are not impacted by its potentially permanent damaging effects to neurological health, as well as to ensure overall health and wellbeing and expected energy levels for daily living. Check with your healthcare practitioner to see if you should be tested for deficiency and how much you should be supplementing with daily.
1. Ankar A et al. Vitamin B12 Deficiency. StatPearls. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
2. Mahan L, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 2000.
3. Mortimore D. Nutritional Healing. Boston, MA. Element Books Limited, 1999.
4. Miller JW. Adv Nutr. 2018;9(4):511S-518S.
5. Parrott J et al. SOARD. 2016;12:955-959.
6. Shils M et al. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Vol 10th edition. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2006.
7. Gröber U et al. Nutrients. 2013;12:5031-5045.
Add These Detoxifying Foods to Your Shopping List
Detox is a hot topic nowadays. Many detox programs promise to cleanse your body harmful compounds, and others tout weight loss and additional health benefits. Unfortunately, many of these detox methods involve a major dietary overhaul or giving up solid foods altogether, which may actually be harmful to your body.1 Because your body is in constant detox mode, you can encourage this process, correctly and effectively, by simply eating the right foods.
Scientific research has found that the nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants found in certain whole foods can help support the liver’s detoxification pathways, prevent the buildup of toxins, and support overall health.2-4
Chemicals and toxins are everywhere, but your body is built to fight back. Here are six of your top nutritional allies:
1. Cruciferous vegetables & leafy greens
Spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are among the folate- and chlorophyll-richgreens that support the body’s detoxification process by helping to detoxifythe blood and cleanse the intestines.2,4-7 All the more reason to go green!
Broccoli deserves some special attention for its high concentrations of glucoraphanin, which is converted in the body to sulforaphane—an active compound associated with many positive health benefits, including its role in inducing phase II detoxification enzymes and support for overall liver health.8-10
Used in many anti-inflammatory and detoxifying recipes, turmeric contains a powerful substance called curcumin, a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Science has found curcumin to play a role in modulating cellular response to oxidative stress—demonstrating hepaprotective and therapeutic effects on liver health.11,12
Commonly used in bread products, oils, and dressings, sesame is flowering plant that maybe beneficial for detox. Sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine—both of which are found at high levels in sesame—are precursors to the production ofglutathione, a key antioxidant in the detoxification process.4
These pretty-colored veggies contain betanin, which can help repair liver cells and help support detoxification processes in the liver.13,14 It’s also great for digestion. Tell toxic chemicals to “beet” it!
No party spread is complete without it! Avocado has high concentrations of the antioxidant glutathione, which has been found to neutralize free radicals to support and protect the liver—i.e., your detoxification powerhouse.4,15,16
Why guacamole? Avocado in this form often uses other healthful ingredients, like cilantro. Also known as coriander, cilantro contains oils with antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidative properties.17 Pass the guac, please.
Alongside its knack for warding off vampires, garlic may be beneficial for clearing out toxins. The sulfur-containing compound allicin, which gives garlic its unique and strong-smelling aroma, may enhance antioxidation and detoxification capabilities18,19 and has also demonstrated hepatoprotective effects against heavy metals in the liver.20
Incorporating more of these foods into your diet can help support detox processes. Add them to your shopping list today!
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team
By Molly Knudsen, MS, RDN
There’s no doubt that antioxidants are good for health. Antioxidants have been in the public spotlight since the 1990s and have only gained attention over the years, basically reaching celebrity status. And that status has not wavered, especially as their role in immune health becomes increasingly known. Antioxidants and antioxidant-rich foods continue to trend and make headlines, most recently in the forms of matcha/green tea drinks, acai bowls, golden milk, or just good ol’ fashioned fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are here to stay not only because they’re found in delicious foods, but they also play a vital role in health by protecting the body against oxidative stress.1
What is oxidative stress?
Everyone’s heard of oxidative stress, but what exactly does that refer to? Oxidative stress occurs from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that have lost an electron from either normal body processes like metabolism, reactions due to exercise, or from external sources like cigarette smoke, pollutants, or radiation.1
Now electrons don’t like to be alone. They like to be in pairs.
So do free radicals suck it up and leave one of their electrons unpaired?
Nope. They steal an electron from another healthy molecule, turning that molecule into another free radical and, if excessive, wreak havoc in the body and its defense system.
Immune cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress because of the type of fat (polyunsaturated) that they have in their membrane.2 So high amounts of oxidative stress over time can be especially detrimental to immune system.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are the heroes that can break this cycle. And there’s not just one antioxidant. Antioxidants refer to a whole class of molecules (including certain vitamins, minerals, compounds found in plants, and some compounds formed in the body) that share the same goal of protecting the body and the immune system against oxidative stress.2 But different foods contain different antioxidants, and each antioxidant has its own unique way of supporting that goal.
6 antioxidants for oxidative stress protection + immune health
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that also contributes to immunity. It works by readily giving up one of its electrons to free radicals, thereby protecting important molecules like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates from damage.3 Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means storage in the body is limited, and consistent intake of this nutrient is vital. Research shows that not getting enough vitamin C can impact immunity by weakening the body’s defense system.3 Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, bell peppers, citrus, kiwi, and broccoli. The benefits of vitamin C’s antioxidant capabilities are more than just internal. Benefits are also seen when a concentrated source of this antioxidant is applied to the skin. For example, topical vitamin C serums are often recommended by dermatologists and estheticians to help protect the skin from sunlight and address hyperpigmentation.4
2. Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG)
Green tea is easily, and unofficially, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, and the presence of EGCG is one reason for this drink’s reputation. EGCG is the most abundant, potent, and researched polyphenolic antioxidant found in green tea leaves.5 It has been shown to protect against damage caused by free radicals.5 Drinking green tea is a great way to reap the benefits of EGCG and other nutrients found in tea leaves, or it’s also available as an extract in nutritional supplements. If you choose to drink green tea, it’s important to remember that water preparation matters. Using hot water to steep green tea not only preserves, but it also encourages more antioxidant activity compared to using cold water, as hot water may be better at extracting polyphenols from the leaves.5
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that the body actually makes internally from three amino acids (AKA building blocks of protein): cysteine, glutamate, and glycine.6 Not only does this antioxidant protect the body against oxidative stress, it also supports healthy liver detoxification processes.7 Glutathione levels naturally decrease with age, and lower glutathione levels in the body are associated with poorer health.8 Since it takes all three of those amino acids to form glutathione, ensuring that the body has adequate levels of all three is vital. Cysteine is the difficult one. It’s considered the “rate-limiting” step in this equation, since it’s usually the one in short supply, and glutathione can’t be formed without it.6 Cysteine contains sulfur, so foods like unprocessed meat, garlic, and asparagus are great choices to support cysteine levels. Like cysteine, the compound N-acetylcysteine (found in supplements and often labeled NAC) can also be used to support the body’s glutathione levels.6
Curcumin is the yellow pigment and considered the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. In the culinary world, turmeric is best known for playing the leading role in curries as well as in golden milk. Studies show that curcumin has been shown to improve markers of oxidative stress, act as a free radical scavenger, and assist with other antioxidant processes in the body.9 Curcumin isn’t very bioavailable, so your body isn’t able to fully capture the benefits when consumed on its own or just as turmeric.9 But adding other spices or herbs like black pepper or fenugreek can significantly increase your body’s ability to utilize curcumin.9
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed with fat. It acts as an antioxidant by stopping the production of free radicals from forming when fat is oxidized, or burned.10 Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts) as well as green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E also plays a role in heart, eye, and cognitive health.10
Quercetin is one of the most well-studied flavonoids, or plant compounds, typically found in onions, kale, broccoli, apples, and tea. Quercetin acts as a free radical-scavenging antioxidant, helps inhibit oxidative stress, and supports a healthy immune response.11
What’s the bottom line?
Antioxidants are a crucial part to any healthful diet. They help protect the body from damage caused by oxidative stress and support immune function. There are many more antioxidants that are beneficial to health than those listed here. The best way to ensure that you’re getting enough antioxidants from the diet and supporting the antioxidants the body makes on its own is to consume a diet high in plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
By Melissa Blake, ND
When it comes to building a healthy immune system, we often hear about diet and exercise, but unfortunately less often about the importance of sleep. But, when it comes to the immune system, sleep is a crucial component. Researchers around the world continue to discover the numerous benefits of our nightly slumber.
Sleep is when the body and the mind have a chance to rest and repair on a cellular level, and without enough of it, or enough quality sleep, one’s health can begin to suffer.1 Disrupted sleep is a major contributor to hormone imbalances, skin issues, weight gain, and even a weakened immune system.1-4
Whether you’re not sleeping well due to stress, your schedule, or another factor, prioritizing sleep is a key component to a healthy immune system.1
The sleep debt cost
Most likely everyone can relate to the immediate impact of a sleepless night. Even getting just a little less sleep than one needs or is used to can contribute to confusion, weakness, muscle pain, and changes in appetite.2-4
The long-term consequences of neglecting sleep are even more serious. A regular lack of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular issues, weight gain, and compromised immune function.4,5
Correlation between sleep & immune health
Driven by a circadian rhythm, messengers called cytokines impact the state of the immune system and also contribute to sleep-wake patterns.1 While we are sleeping, cytokines instruct immune cells to work hard at repairing damage, clearing toxins, and defending us against illness.1 This might be one reason why we feel more tired and require more rest when we are sick. It’s during sleep that the immune system is most active and focused on recovery and developing immune memory.1
A good night’s rest is also key for improving the function of immune cells known as T cells, a type of immune cell that fights against pathogens such as viruses.6 A German study found that in people who slept adequately the night before, T cells were better able to attach to their targets, including virus-infected cells, than in the T cells of those who stayed up all night.7 The findings highlight one of many immune-supportive effects of sleep.
Habits such as a consistent routine, including regular bed and wake times, as well as exposure to natural sunlight within an hour of waking are small, simple changes people can make in order to get a better night’s sleep while improving their body’s circadian health. Even going to bed just 10 minutes earlier can have a profound effect on how you feel, so give it a try starting tonight—your immune system will thank you.
This is the first in a three-part series on circadian health. For more information on sleep and other general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.
When working to achieve a goal, being prepared is the number-one thing you can do to help you succeed. So when it comes to a metabolic detoxification program, how can you prepare to set yourself up for success?
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is…your mindset! Whether you’re hoping to reduce brain fog, gain energy, eliminate a buildup of environmental toxins, or simply give your health a boost, once you’ve determined that detox is a good option for you, a little mental preparation can go a long way.
Rushing into a detox (or any new lifestyle program) or starting without motivation will ultimately not produce the mental drive needed to follow through. If you are new to detox programs, they can seem intimidating, but they don’t have to be. Remembering why you started in the first place and the health benefits you are looking to achieve can be a good reminder to keep you going.
As you get ready to get “clean,” follow these steps to help move the odds in your favor:
1. Detox your thoughts
Take a temperature gauge on how motivated you are to start the program. Motivation and adherence go hand in hand. And without adherence, you won’t see the health results you’re looking for. If you’re lacking motivation, do a little more research behind the program. Know the “why” behind what you’re doing before you start. Keep a thoughts journal to remind yourself throughout the program for the motivational boost you might need to follow through to the finish line.
2. Monitor your caffeine intake
Most detox programs include an intermittent period of time that prohibits caffeine. If you are a coffee lover and can’t imagine a morning without it, this might be the biggest hurdle to jump when starting the program. To avoid caffeine withdrawals, start to cut back a week prior to starting your detox. Take out that afternoon cup, swap it with decaf, or do half-caf. Continue with your morning cup and so on. This will make the transition easier. If you like to drink something warm in the morning, switch to an herbal or naturally decaffeinated tea during your detox period.
Tip: We all know caffeine can help with bowel movements. If you find yourself backed up on your detox, add some fiber to your diet or try some magnesium citrate to get things moving.
3. Do a clean out
Detox programs can last up to 28 days, which can feel like a long time when eliminating favorite foods. To help resist temptation, clean out your fridge and pantry of the foods that you know will not serve you or your body well while on the detox. An empty freezer will help those late-night cravings where you might normally reach for the ice cream when all you have handy is an apple.
4. Replace the water filter
Staying hydrated is important whether you’re detoxing or not, but you’ll likely be drinking more water as you go through the detox process. In preparation for this, be sure to replace the filter on your water filtration system before you get started. It will be easier to drink if it tastes clean!
5. Make a shopping list & follow it
You’ll want to follow your detox program to the letter, so do your shopping before you start, not after. While you will be eliminating many food options from your diet during the process, there are plenty of food options you can choose from to keep you satisfied, from carbs to fruits and veggies to animal- and plant-based proteins.
Plan out your meals before you head to the market and make a detailed list to follow as you shop. If you’ll be following recipes, double-check that you have staple ingredients so you don’t find out you’re missing a vital item right as you’re about to cook.
Tip: Don’t shop hungry! Those salty chips and tasty sweets will look extra-tempting when you’re fighting the hunger pangs.
6. Meal prep
We’re all busy with family, work, and other responsibilities. It can be tough to think about taking the time to prepare a healthy meal after a long day. By preparing several servings in advance, you eliminate this hassle and can still eat well with minimal effort. Choose recipes that make multiple servings, separate them into individual servings, and then refrigerate or freeze the extras.
7. Know that perfection is impossible
It’s important to always show yourself grace. The reality is, we aren’t perfect! We set out with the best intentions, but sometimes things don’t always go exactly to plan. Just a friendly reminder not to let that be a reason to give up. Sometimes too much change at once can be just that, too much! Know what a realistic goal is, do your best, and don’t be too hard on yourself in the process. Consistency is more important than perfection.
Ready to get started? Don’t forget to check with your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any diet. Then follow these steps before you get started, and you’ll be feeling healthier in no time!
Submitted by the Metagenics team
By Melissa Blake, ND
So many options and many lofty promises. When it comes to doing a detox, what do you need to know so you can choose a safe and effective solution?
Detoxification, also referred to as metabolic detoxification or biotransformation, is a process that is happening in all of us all of the time.
The liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, and bowels are constantly working to reduce the impact of the toxins and toxicants we come in contact with on a daily basis, first by neutralizing them and then by eliminating them through stool, urine, breath, and sweat.
We can support these detoxification pathways on the regular by providing several essential dietary nutrients and ensuring our pathways of elimination are working well. This can include staying hydrated to promote urination, eating fiber to maintain bowel movements, and exercising to support elimination of toxins/toxicants through breath and sweat.
But what if you need a little more support?
Although the body is designed to naturally process and eliminate toxins/toxicants, it’s impossible to completely avoid exposure. A combination of a poor diet, high levels of stress, and sluggish pathways of elimination can lead to an overburdened system. Following a well-structured detoxification program can provide support to these overwhelmed systems and help promote optimal health and wellness.
A “detox” is a lifestyle program that includes lifestyle and nutritional strategies aimed at reducing the body’s toxic load by reducing exposure to incoming toxins and supportive efficient elimination.
However, not all detox programs are created equal. Here are five red flags to avoid when making a choice about a detox program:
1. High-sugar juices
A detox that focuses on consuming only juices high in fruit and/or added sugar, although tasty, can do more harm than good. Often low in fiber and other essential nutrients, these juices take your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. The lack of fiber can also contribute to constipation, effectively impairing a very important route of elimination. It may also be hard to stick to a juice-only detox, as liquids do not have the same appetite-quenching capacity as whole foods. This could lead to the consumption of more liquid calories to feel satisfied. That is not to say that a daily green-vegetable juice is not beneficial, only that moderation and ingredients matter.
Red flag: Juice-only detox programs are lacking essential nutrients and fiber and may wreak havoc on blood sugar levels.
Solution: If juicing is for you, consider adding a daily juice or smoothie to your whole-foods routine. Include green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, celery, cucumber, and parsley and keep the fruit content low.
2. Starvation nation
Fasting is defined as the voluntary refraining from eating food for various lengths of time.1 It’s important to remember that the process of metabolic detoxification requires many essential nutrients (see infographic above). Well-planned, intermittent periods of fasting may have health benefits and can even be incorporated into a detox.2-5 Long periods without food (i.e. fasting longer than 12-16 consecutive hours) should not be confused with a detox and should only be part of a personalized, medically supervised plan.
Red flag: Beware of detox programs that recommend fasting for long periods of time, especially without medical supervision.
Solution: Consider incorporating intermittent fasting (IF) into your daily routine, along with a whole-food diet. Common examples include time-restricted feeding (TRF), alternate-day fasting (ADF), modified alternate-day fasting (mADF), and the 5:2 protocol. Speak to your healthcare provider about ways to incorporate IF into a detox program.
3. Miracle cure
Beware of headlines suggesting any detox can offer a miracle cure. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Can a well-structured detox program encourage weight loss? Support immune health? Promote blood sugar balance? Enhance gut health? Some can! However, a 10- or 28-day detox should not be viewed as a miracle cure but rather as a way to support optimal health and perhaps offer a kick-start toward your health goals.
Red flags: Watch out for exaggerated claims. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Solution: If you have significant or chronic health concerns, always discuss your options with a healthcare provider. A detox may be a consideration as part of a comprehensive, long-term treatment plan.
4. Packaged parcels
Convenience is a big selling feature, and just because a food is packaged does not mean it’s imbalanced or poorly formulated. Even so, detox plans or cleanses that offer meals and snacks in the form of ready-to-drink meals, bars, soups, etc. should be carefully examined. Incorporating nutritional powders and having “detox-approved” snacks available can be helpful in managing cravings and hunger during a detox. However, the focus should always be on optimizing wellness with real food. After all, the goal of a good detox program is to promote a healthy, whole-foods approach long-term.
Red flags: When incorporating shakes or bars into a detox, review the ingredients closely to ensure they offer well-balanced nutrition. Reconsider detoxes that encourage long-term use of prepackaged meal plans.
Solution: Consider incorporating well-formulated nutritional powders and snack bars into a detox program that also includes and promotes a foundation of whole foods.
5. One-track mind
A detox that revolves around a single one or two food items (think celery juice or apple cider vinegar) should be approached with caution. Consuming an abundance of one specific food limits the diversity required for adequate intake of the variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein that support detoxification and may instead provide too much of single nutrient (sodium or potassium, for example). Rather than a detox with a one-food focus, it’s best to choose a safe plan that is based on good science.
Red flag: Avoid detoxes that emphasize one food as a cure-all that have not been researched extensively.
Solution: Choose a detox program that focuses on a variety of supportive whole foods and has good evidence to support its beneficial uses.
So what does the ideal detox program look like?
A well-structured detox program should:
Now that you know what to look for in a healthy detox, it’s time to get started. Don’t forget to talk to your healthcare practitioner before you start any diet.
1. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Fasting. Accessed December 11, 2020.
2. Headland ML et al. Int J Obes (Lond). 2018.
3. Trepanowski JF et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(7):930-938.
4. Gabel K et al. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2018;4(4):345-353.
5. Catenacci VA et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016;24(9):1874-1883.
By Molly Knudsen, MS, RDN
If you’ve ever done a metabolic detox, you know how beneficial it can be to address unwanted changes in the immune system, generalized joint and muscle aches, brain fog, or a lack of energy. Sometimes, exactly what you need is a 10- or 28-day whole-self reset. But maybe you only need a whole-self reset once or twice a year since your body actually does a really good job of detoxifying itself. So what do you do for the other 300+ days of the year?
There are two main ways to help your body detox on the daily:
Keep exposure to toxins & toxicants low:
The fewer amount of toxins in your body, the less strain is placed on your body to eliminate them. Obvious enough. Right? You would think. But it turns out toxins can be pretty hard to avoid. The term toxins consists of a wide range of compounds including heavy metals, pesticides (synthetic and organic), and industrial chemicals (like polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs); in this article, where we talk about toxins, we’re referring both to toxins and toxicants.1,2 These toxins can be found throughout the environment, in food, and even in medications.
Let’s face it. It can be a toxic world. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps you can take as an individual to help keep the load of toxins you ingest at bay.
Wash all produce:
Both conventional and organically grown produce carry some pesticide residue, although residue on organic produce can be notably lower.3 Washing produce under cold, running water for at least 30 seconds helps remove some, but not necessarily all, pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides that may be lingering.4 Washing produce is also important for food safety purposes, as it helps remove dirt and bacteria that may lead to foodborne illnesses.5
Choose glass over plastic:
Plastic food storage containers, plastic baggies, and even plastic water bottles are known for containing two chemicals: bisphenol-A (BPA) and bisphenol-S (BPS).6 When plastic is heated, these chemicals can seep into the food or water.6 So skip warming food stored in a plastic container in the microwave (which will also completely melt the plastic) and leaving a full plastic water bottle in a car on a hot day. Instead opt for glass or stainless-steel food storage containers and heat foods in glass or microwave-safe containers.
Limit alcohol consumption:
The liver, which is the body’s main detoxification organ, is also the main organ involved in the breakdown and elimination of alcohol.7 And the liver treats alcohol like a toxin. Because of that, the breakdown of alcohol gets preferential treatment over the breakdown of nutrients from food.7 So say that you have a cocktail with a healthy dinner such as salmon and Brussels sprouts. The liver’s first focus targets removing alcohol from the body, and only then can it begin its nutrient metabolism responsibilities. The more alcohol consumed, the more effort the liver has to make to remove it. But alcohol doesn’t need to be fully banished from the diet for good health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that if alcohol is consumed (by someone of legal drinking age), it should be done in moderation.8 Moderate alcohol consumption equals one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.8 So drink wisely, and (as always) prioritize food first.
Support the body’s natural detoxification pathways:
The second way to help your body detox daily is by promoting toxin elimination pathways. The liver, kidneys, and even the digestive system all work to remove toxins that have accumulated internally. Certain foods, nutrients, and lifestyle factors can help these pathways and systems run efficiently. Here’s what you can do daily to support the body’s natural detoxification system.
Get plenty of fiber:
Fibers are nondigestible carbohydrates which have physiological effects that are beneficial to human health.9 Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are naturally high in fiber. Fiber plays an important role in gut or intestinal health, and prebiotic fibers help feed and spur the growth and activity the good bacteria that live in the gut.10 Fiber helps remove toxins that are bound in bile (a digestive juice made by the liver) and may even decrease the absorption of some toxins from the gut.11-13 Some fibers have even been shown to directly bind toxins, neutralizing the threat.13
Focus on sleep:
Sleep is essential for every aspect of our health. While sleep may not play a direct role in detoxification pathways, it is definitely needed for optimal health. It’s recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep for optimal health, and getting enough sleep benefits the immune system, weight status, stress, and mood.14,15
Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate:
Toxins are mostly excreted in either urine or stool.16 And water makes up the majority of both of those outputs. Adequate hydration is needed for properly functioning kidneys and for softening stools (making them easier to pass).17 So grab that reusable water bottle and drink up to flush those toxins out of your body and down the toilet.
Eat foods with detox-supporting nutrients:
Yep. Your heard it right. Some foods have specific nutrients or active compounds that play direct roles in detoxification pathways. While you don’t have to eat ALL of these foods every day, incorporating a few servings per week could be beneficial.
Pomegranates: These ruby-red seeds are packed with antioxidants, one of them being ellagic acid. Ellagic acid uses some of its antioxidant powers to protect the liver from oxidative stress and has even been shown to help excrete some harmful metals.18,19 Pomegranate seeds are great at adding color, texture, and nutrients to any meal or snack. Try sprinkling some pomegranate seeds on your morning oatmeal, tossing some in a salad, or adding them on top of a slice of avocado toast.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts: These cruciferous vegetables are a main source of a sulfur-containing compound called glucoraphanin.19 Glucoraphanin is converted to its active form of sulforaphane in the body. And sulforaphane is known for its role in detoxification processes. Sulforaphane activates the body’s own detoxification enzymes and even activates glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by the body.20,21 Heat may disrupt the activation process to sulforaphane in the body or make the glucoraphanin less available, so raw broccoli (or lightly steamed) and broccoli sprouts are likely the best way to go for maximizing that glucoraphanin intake.22
Green tea: Green tea is chock-full of a class of antioxidant polyphenols called catechins. Most of the benefits of green tea consumption can be tied back to the drink’s catechin content, with one cup of tea containing anywhere between 100 and 200 milligrams of catechins.22 Green tea catechins may be protective against environmental insults due to their antioxidant capabilities and their involvement in liver detoxification pathways.23 Try replacing your second cup of coffee with green tea, using brewed green tea to cook oatmeal, or using matcha powder (a type of green tea leaf powder) in smoothies.
The bottom line:
Detox is a daily practice. Your liver, kidneys, and even gut are continually in detox mode. While a whole-self reset may be beneficial every once in a while, these seemingly small tips listed here can really add up to lower your toxin burden. And the best part is… following these tips is beneficial for overall health as well. So the only question is, which one will you add to your routine first?
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Certain persons, considered experts, may disagree with one or more of the foregoing statements, but the same are deemed, nevertheless, to be based on sound and reliable authority. No such statements shall be construed as a claim or representation as to Metagenics products, that they are offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease.