KEYS TO CANCER PREVENTION: Improving Liver Function to Decrease Our Toxic BurdenSat Dharam Kaur, N.D. March 1, 2012
We live in a gorgeous world which we have tragically contaminated with human waste – plastics, pesticides, solvents, detergents, cosmetics, preservatives, drugs, chemicals and pollutants all threaten our health and the health of other species. Many of these toxic substances act as carcinogens, accumulating in our cells and tissues, persisting in our bodies until we pass them on to the next generation in utero or through breastmilk. We bank them in our fat cells where, over time, they can damage cell membranes, disrupt hormones, and initiate the cancer process.
One of the ways in which we can assist our bodies in dealing with these toxins is through maximizing liver function. Another is through intensive sauna detoxification. In this article I will suggest ways in which you can improve your liver to help deal with carcinogens more effectively.
YOUR LIVER DOES THE TWO-STEP
The liver acts as our main ‘factory’ for breaking down, neutralizing, detoxifying, and removing chemicals, poisons, body wastes, bacteria, antigen-antibody complexes, and unused and undigested food surpluses from our body. The liver makes bile, which it uses to carry away harmful poisons and wastes. The bile passes through the bile ducts into the intestines, and is eliminated with its accumulated toxins.
About one litre of blood passes through the liver every minute for detoxification. The liver uses a two step detoxification sequence to protect us from ‘outside’ chemicals (exotoxins) as well as internally generated endotoxins. Each of these steps uses different types of enzymes for detoxification. Chemicals or hormones that are fat-soluble must first be processed through Phase 1 detoxification to be made water soluble so they can be inactivated by Phase 2 enzymes. The Phase 2 enzymes do most of the real clean-up.
PHASE 1 DETOXIFICATION
Phase 1 detoxification uses a group of 100 different enzymes, known collectively as the ‘cytochrome P450’ system, each with an affinity for a different family of fat-soluble toxins. These enzymes act on toxins utilizing the biochemical reactions of: oxidation (lose an electron); reduction (gain an electron); or hydrolysis (add water). Some toxic substances are inactivated completely through Phase 1, but most are not, and need Phase 2 to finish the job.
Many of the water-soluble intermediate products of Phase 1 are highly reactive and can have up to 60 times more toxic activity than their previous fat-soluble incarnations, unless they are quickly neutralized by Phase 2 enzymes. These reactive intermediate products are collectively called ‘epoxides.’ Some epoxides are highly carcinogenic, such as benzo[a]pyrene (BP) – a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon found in smoked meats, and the C4 estrogen – a breakdown product of estrone. People who have a fast Phase 1 and a slow Phase 2 are at most risk of cancer because they build up epoxides during Phase 1 detoxification.
When the P450 enzymes act on a toxin, free radicals called ‘superoxide radicals’ are formed along with epoxides. If not quickly neutralized, both of these products have the potential to damage cell membranes, resulting in tissue injury, inflammation and possibly cancer. Superoxide radicals are neutralized by an enzyme called ‘superoxide dismutase’ (SOD) that is dependent on the minerals manganese, copper, and zinc to work. The Ayurvedic herb Amla can double our levels of SOD.
Carcinogenic epoxides are neutralized by Phase 2 reactions and by antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium as well as another antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione is a protein containing the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. Glutathione production and activity are dependent on healthy levels of selenium, magnesium, sulfur, manganese, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and the amino acid cysteine. The herb milk thistle can increase glutathione production by 35% in the liver, while alpha lipoic acid increases glutathione levels in red blood cells and lymphocytes by 30 to 70%. Sugar decreases the production of glutathione.
The P450 enzymes in general need zinc, copper, magnesium, molybdenum, iron, calcium, choline, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins C, E, A and the B complex to work effectively. Other substances that speed up Phase 1 detoxification include foods in the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), as well as oranges, tangerines and caraway seeds. Supplements that speed up Phase 1 detoxification are indole-3-carbinol or DIM, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B1, vitamin C, Limonene (in essential oils of palmarosa, lemon, orange, celery), Rosemary, Schizandra and St. John’s Wort.
St. John’s Wort, Rosemary, and Schizandra all stimulate Phase 1 detoxification and can more than double the activity of the P450 enzymes. This is a good thing if Phase 2 enzymes can keep up, but will be harmful if they can’t. These herbs can decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy and some other medications by reducing drug concentrations and should be avoided during this time.
PHASE 2 DETOXIFICATION
Phase 2 detoxification enzymes utilize six pathways to step in to bind up the water-soluble toxins so they can no longer do damage (unless they become unbound in the large intestine). The smaller products of Phase 2 detoxification, being water soluble, are eliminated through the kidneys. The larger ones are transported in the bile to the gall bladder, then to the small intestine, and are eliminated through the stools.
You can improve both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification with daily use of the following nutrients:
– N-acetyl cysteine 500-1500 mg;
– curcumin (derived from turmeric) 500-1500 mg;
– ellagic acid 2000 mg; amla 1000 mg;
– rosemary 2 grams of leaf as tea 1-3x daily;
– schizandra tincture 30 drops twice daily;
– milk thistle tincture 30 drops twice daily;
– vitamin A 10,000 IU;
– vitamin B complex 100 mg;
– vitamin C 3000 mg;
– vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) 400 IU;
– choline 500 mg; selenium 100 mcg; zinc 30 mg;
– magnesium 500 mg;
– manganese 5 mg;
– coenzyme Q10 100 mg;
– indole-3-carbinol or DIM 300 mg;
– limonene from essential oil of lemon;
– flaxseed and fish oil 2000 mg each;
– and foods containing cysteine and methionine.
Using a combination of many of these, you will maximize your liver’s ability to deal with carcinogens and decrease your total body burden.
CHEMICALS TO AVOID
PCBs – found in old paints, varnishes, inks, microscope oil, hydraulic fluids, electrical transformers. PCBs concentrate in fish; consumption of contaminated fish increases our levels.
PVC (vinyl) – found in cars, children’s toys, food containers, credit cards, blinds, raincoats, furniture, building supplies, water pipes, window frames, flooring, exterior siding for homes, wallpaper, blow-up furniture, shower curtains, sterile gloves, medical infusion bags, yoga mats.
BISPHENOL A – present in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics including Nalgene water bottles; used to seal cracks in water pipes; present in composite plastic tooth fillings, dental bonding agents, cash register receipts; used to line metal can food containers; added to plastic to make it hard and durable.
Phthalates – added to plastics to make them soft and flexible; found in building products, children’s toys, balls, children’s polymer clay, food packaging; medical devices – tubing, blood bags; infants’ teething rings and pacifiers; vinyl upholstery; tablecloths; raincoats; adhesives; glue, latex adhesives; food containers; garden hoses; shoes and shoe soles; car undercoating; wires and cables; carpet backing; pool liners; solvents for dyes; vinyl tiles; artificial leather; food conveyor belts; traffic cones; canvas tarps; notebook binders; cosmetics, nail polish; dishwasher baskets; flea collars.
BROMINATED FIRE RETARDANTS (PBDEs) – found in plastic appliances, computers, TVs; present in upholstery foam, mattresses and futons; children’s pajamas; carpets and drapes; added to hard styrene plastics
PARABENS – used as a preservative in cosmetics, shampoo, and toothpaste. Traces of parabens have been found in breast tumours.
PESTICIDES – buy organic food when it is available.
FORMALDEHYDE – is a colourless, flammable, strong-smelling gas used to manufacture building materials and produce household products. Studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde, particularly embalmers and those studying human anatomy, have demonstrated an association between formal-dehyde exposure and cancers of the nasal sinuses, nasopharynx and brain, as well as myeloid leukemia.
Products containing formaldehyde include adhesives, air deodorizers, antiperspirants, cellophane, concrete, embalming agents, conventional cleaning products, contraceptive creams, cosmetics, fungicides, laundry detergents, disinfectants, dry-cleaning compounds, enamels, fabric finishes, fertilizers, finger paints, gas appliances, gelatin capsules, inks, insect repellent, urea formaldehyde insulation, carpets, laminating materials, lacquers, laundry starch, mouthwashes, nail polish, tempera paint, paper towels, particle board, perfume, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, photographic chemicals, photographic film, plaster, plastics, plywood, polyester fabric, rodent poison, shampoos, shoe polish, soaps, tobacco and tobacco smoke, toilet paper, toothpaste, wood stains, and preservatives.
Editor’s note: The article above was adapted from two previous articles published by Dr. Kaur. For the complete article on “Chemicals to Avoid”, go to: http://bit.ly/AaJZIb
For the complete article on “Sauna Therapy for Detoxification” go to: http://bit.ly/wyqPNp
Editor’s note: An excellent source for non-toxic alternative building / construction materials is Eco Building Resource http://www.eco-building.ca and for non-toxic organic bedding visit: http://www.dormio.ca
Sat Dharam Kaur is a naturopathic doctor, Kundalini Yoga teacher trainer, and author, practising in Owen Sound, Ontario. She developed the Healthy Breast Program, designed to help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women, and the Beyond Addiction Program, a yogic path to recovery, and offers these programs internationally. She was awarded the Naturopathic Doctor of the Year award in Ontario in 2000. She has written several bestselling books: A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook; The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer; and The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women's Health. The schedule of her upcoming workshops can be found at http://www.satdharamkaur.com and many breast-friendly resources can be found at http://www.mammalive.net. For more information, call (519) 372-9212.