We live in a toxic world, and unfortunately it’s only getting worse. Thousands of new chemicals have been manufactured over the last decade, and thousands of more will be produced during the next decade. As a result, the air we breathe has toxins, the food we eat has toxins, the water supply has toxins, the furniture we buy is toxic. And as I’ve discussed in other articles and posts, there is evidence that certain toxins can cause the development of a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. There is nothing we can do to completely avoid these toxins, but there are a couple of things we CAN do.
First of all, you can do what is necessary to minimize your exposure to toxins. You can do this by eating organic food, drinking purified water, using an air purification system, etc. You can also use natural household products and cosmetics, try not to use pesticides and herbicides, don’t jog or ride your bike where there is heavy traffic due to exposure to the fumes. I realize that many people reading this information have already made some of these changes, and that’s fantastic.
You can also do things to help eliminate toxins from your body. In this post I’m going to discuss three specific things people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions can do help eliminate toxins from their body:
1. Detoxify Your Liver. The liver is one of the most important organs of the body, and it plays a huge role in detoxification. It is also the most overworked organ in the body due to all of the different toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis. As a result, I’ve been recommending methods of detoxifying the liver to my patients for many years. And I personally go through a liver detox program at least twice per year. There are numerous programs out there, but the one I recommend is 21 days in length. Such a program basically consists of eating well, and taking some supplements to help with the detoxification process.
There are also specific foods and herbs which can help detoxify the liver:
Cruciferous Vegetables. Yes, I know they’re goitrogenic, but they are very healthy foods, and they help to support healthy liver function and phase 2 detoxification (1) (2). And as I’ve mentioned in other more recent articles and posts, as long as someone is iodine sufficient, then eating normal amounts of the cruciferous vegetables (i.e. one or two servings per day) shouldn’t inhibit thyroid function.
Garlic. Garlic consists of a compound called allicin, which helps to detoxify the liver. Besides helping with detoxification of the liver, garlic is hepatoprotective (3), and there is some evidence that it can be used as a chemoprotective agent for the prevention of liver cancer (4). Recently a patient of mine emailed me some information on how garlic might also be effective in removing lead from the body (5). Try to have a clove of fresh garlic each day, or consider taking a garlic supplement.
Green Tea. Green tea has catechins, which can help to improve liver function. There is evidence that green tea can prevent early alcohol-induced liver injury (6), and might be hepatoprotective against conditions such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (7).
Cilantro: Cilantro can potentially help to remove heavy metals, and thus is commonly included in certain detoxification products. If you’re like me and have a daily smoothie you can also add some cilantro to it. I must admit that I don’t like the taste of cilantro, and so I don’t include it in my smoothies, but I do frequently include broccoli and kale.
Chlorella. Chlorella has numerous benefits, as it can potentially help with heavy metals, such as cadmium (8) and mercury (9). Chlorella might also be useful in preventing the accumulation of dioxins within the body (10), and might even provide a benefit to liver cancer patients (11).
Milk Thistle. This is one of the most well known herbs to help to protect and improve the health of the liver. It can help with liver damage, hepatitis, exposure to chemical toxins, and can possibly prevent the formation of gallstones. Silymarin is the active component of milk thistle that protects the liver and kidney cells from the toxic effects of drugs, including chemotherapy (12). Although milk thistle alone doesn’t seem to help much with chronic liver disease, it has reduced liver enzyme levels and demonstrated anti-inflammatory and T cell-modulating effects (12). Silymarin acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation, and may act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting binding of toxins to the hepatocyte cell membrane receptors (13).
Globe Artichoke. This herb is also useful for liver toxicity or damage, and can also help to improve bile production.
Dandelion. This is yet another herb which can help to improve the function of the liver, and can also help with gallstones.
Schisandra. This is a great herb, as it can help to improve the detoxifying capacity of the liver, and also help with acute and chronic liver diseases.
Fringe Tree. This herb can help to improve bile production by the liver, and can also help with gallstones.
Greater Celandine. Helps to clear toxins from the liver and bowel. Can also help with bile production and with gallstones.
2. Clean Your Colon. There are numerous ways to clean the colon. If you walk into your local health food store, or perform a search online, there will be no shortage of kits to clean your colon, although I’d be cautious about purchasing such products and doing this on your own. Some natural healthcare professionals recommend coffee enemas. I honestly don’t have much experience with coffee enemas, but they can clean the colon, help with liver detoxification by increasing glutathione production, might help to eliminate parasites, and there are other potential benefits. I’ve had a few patients use coffee enemas prior to consulting with me, and most have reported positive results. If anyone else reading this has received positive benefits from coffee enemas then please feel free to share your experience by posting a comment.
There is evidence that coffee enemas can lead to proctocolitis, which is inflammation of the colon and rectum (14). So coffee enemas might not be completely risk free, although to be fair this showed that only three people experienced this side effect. The truth is that just about every treatment procedure has the potential to cause side effects, and for the most part it seems that coffee enemas are safe, and perhaps it’s something I’ll eventually incorporate into my practice.
Colon hydrotherapy and colonic irrigation are also methods to clean out the colon. When receiving colon hydrotherapy/colonic irrigation it is best to see a certified colon hydrotherapist. The advantage that coffee enemas have is that you can do this from the convenience of your home, and of course it costs less than seeing a colon hydrotherapist. The advantage of colon hydrotherapy is that they do a better job of cleansing when compared to coffee enemas. However, for some people, colon hydrotherapy can be too aggressive. For example, if someone has an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut), then it’s probably best to refrain from receiving colon hydrotherapy until the gut is healed.
Some question the effectiveness of colon hydrotherapy, stating that there is no physiological basis for it, and that it might cause the dissemination and absorption of toxins and bacteria into the body (15). However, numerous healthcare professionals have had a lot of success using colon hydrotherapy in the practice. This includes Dr. Walter Crinnion, who is a naturopathic doctor with 30 years of experience, and he focuses on biotransformation and detoxification. While going through my masters in nutrition degree I took a 10-week biotransformation and detoxification course through Dr. Crinnion, and he said that if he could only choose one method of detoxification it would be colon hydrotherapy.
3. Sauna Therapy. Infrared sauna therapy can also help with the removal of toxins, as well as improve circulation and reduce blood pressure. Numerous healthcare experts recommend using sauna therapy, including Dr. Mark Hyman (16), Dr. Walter Crinnion (17), and Dr. Joseph Mercola (18). Heck, even Dr. Oz understands the benefits of infrared sauna (19). I’m also an advocate of sauna therapy.
I mentioned how Dr. Walter Crinnion is an advocate of colon hydrotherapy, and here is what he has to say about sauna therapy (20):
“Saunas can be used very effectively for certain cardiovascular problems and as a means to enhance the mobilization of fat-soluble xenobiotics. When saunas are used to reduce blood pressure and enhance blood flow and cardiac functioning, only short sauna sessions (15 minutes) are necessary. When one wants to enhance the mobilization of heavy metals and chemical xenobiotics, longer sessions are needed and those should be medically monitored. But, for either use, saunas are safe and effective and should be used more frequently to benefit the health of our patients and ourselves.”
Although many different healthcare professionals realize the benefits of infrared sauna therapy, there is a difference in opinion when it comes to near vs. far sauna therapy. Some healthcare professionals are proponents of near infrared sauna therapy, others seem to favor far infrared sauna therapy. I think both near and infrared sauna therapy can be beneficial, although most of the units being sold are far infrared saunas.
So hopefully you have a better understanding of what you can do to detoxify your body. In my opinion, everyone should be doing things to help detoxify their liver and increase glutathione levels, including eating some of the foods I listed, perhaps taking some of the herbs, and it’s also wise to consider following a liver detoxification program once or twice per year. Infrared sauna therapy and colon cleansing should also be considered by those who are overloaded with toxins, but can also be used as a preventative measure, and to help minimize the negative impact that toxins can have on one’s health.