I have Lyme. I’d like to not have it anymore. I also just want cake.
Me: “Doc, I’ve been having issues with xyz symptoms lately”
Doc: “Have you been detoxing?”
Doc: “What are you doing to detox?”
*Me in my head: “I literally hate this”
Me: “……. Stuff”
Me: …. *silence*
*Me in my head:
*Me in my head: “FINE”
Ok, so, I’m a lazy detoxer and I resent being told to detox. I admit it. I mean, I have my spurts. But if I’m told detox is the answer to everything that ails me one more time I could just throw something. Let’s just call this a “do as I say, not as I do” post, and get on with it.
We all know Lyme is a toxic disease. It’s very nature is to poison you slowly. And then you go messing with anti-microbials and then it decides to poison you quickly. Various biotoxins are at play here with a Lyme infection. Not only is the infamous Bbtox1, a neurotoxin produced by the spirochetes involved, but toxic byproducts of our own immune cells (granulocytes, monocytes, macrophages) are released as well. There are normal metabolic byproducts given off by the bacteria or pathogen that are toxic and are speculated to be the cause of Lyme-related encephalopathy. The increased activities of our own cells in response to all of this toxic soup will increase their metabolic waste too. (source) This is not to even mention the normal day-to-day toxins we encounter, the medications and treatments we take, the mass amounts of supplements many of us are on, and whatever else you want to add that our bodies have to filter. It’s just a large soup of goodness, really. Detoxing is part of your treatment. It’s not optional.
A LOT of detox methods are focused on elimination. Which kinda bugs me. It’s good and all, I mean definitely incorporate them into your practices, but (and this is Tara science here) the bottleneck isn’t your kidneys or your colon or your sweat glands. The bottleneck is your liver. The bottleneck is in the biochemistry. Your liver is where the magic happens, we must coddle the liver. Really, truly, madly, deeply, the number one thing you can do to help your body detox is provide it with certain key nutrients. The body is built to detox. It’s a detox machine if given the right fuel. So lets, then, talk about that first. If you want to talk about stinky sweat and bathroom visits, your turn is waiting until the last half of this post, where I expect you to be an adult about it and not twelve.
The removal of toxins occurs in three phases, performed by different enzymes or proteins with the help of certain nutrients. This is important you should know this. Let’s discuss. OH-wait, first you need to know two terms:
Enzymes: they do the work of a cell, increasing the rate at which body reactions occur, like putting together molecules/compounds or tearing them apart. (detox is ALL about changing the chemical structure of toxins so they are no longer toxic)
Cofactors: mostly vitamins/minerals that help enzymes to carry out their jobs.
Let’s get on with it. Toxins are ushered through a process of neutralization that occurs in three phases.
This is the transformation phase. Most toxins are lipid soluble (fat lovers) and cannot be eliminated from the body until they are changed into water soluble substances. They will ever cling to fat (just like this one dress I have) until certain parts of their chemical structure are changed so they can blend in water. Phase I detox uses enzymes to prepare them before sending them off to Phase II, where different enzymes work on them until they can officially be put in bile or urine for their ultimate fate. These fat soluble toxins include: metabolic waste, pathogens, pathogen toxins, pollutants, insecticides/pesticides, food additives, drugs, and alcohol. Some toxins are water-soluble already, and those are easily flushed out with far less fanfare.
Now these detox process phases have been made all fancy with lots of scientific names made up of combinations of capitalized letters and numbers that make scientists feel exclusive when they use them and I could go all in to that but I suspect many of you have Lyme brain and would gloss over it anyways so I’m going to keep it as simple as possible. The family of Phase I detox enzymes responsible for transforming these lipid loving toxins to water mixin’ ones are called cytochrome P450s, they are found on your liver cells but the transformation processes occur throughout the body. There are 57 total P450s, and they can detoxify any potential toxin. However, since they are so versatile, they are slow. The most predominant cytochrome P450 metabolizes just 1-20 molecules per second. Compare that to superoxide dismutase in Phase II detox, which metabolizes 1,000,000+ molecules per second. Luckily, there are many Phase I P450s to keep up with the few show-offs in Phase II. Phase I enzymes can be made even slower by depriving the body of the specific nutrients they require for their processes. We will get to that in a second.
Phase I has to change the lipids in order to get rid of them and make the toxins water-soluble. Usually they oxidize them, which often makes the toxin temporarily more toxic. There are some toxins that will actually disrupt the P450 systems by causing them to overwork, which creates high levels of these oxidized free radicals. This happens because you can put Phase I in overdrive which will clog Phase II and cause toxins to back up. These free radicals are bad and damage things like our DNA. No bueno, you do not want this. So while over-stimulating Phase I detox sounds good in theory, you really don’t want it to be going faster than Phase II. Most people have problems with Phase II, so peruse the below handy little list of things that cause this over-activity and avoid when possible:
There are also substances that inhibit the P450s, the most popular being grapefuit. This is really only important to know if you are on certain prescription drugs as they may alter the time the drug spends in your body, increase side effects, or render the drug more toxic. A quick google search can produce a list of drugs affected. More on intentionally slowing Phase I later, and why you would want to.
NOW to the good part. P450s require cofactors to work. If you want to be a good lil’ detoxer this is where you perk up and start listening to my rambling again. Let me smack you with some facts:
Micronutrients (cofactors) required by Phase I detox include:
Now before you go running off to buy all of these in supplement form, don’t. It’s truly best to get them from food. Supplements are a sort of toxin in and of themselves, as your body has to filter them as well. That being said, a few I will always supplement – Magnesium, Vit C, B vitamins, and occasionally amino acids. I say these are good to supplement because as you will see, nearly every detox phase requires them. When you are the toxic landfills that us Lyme patients are, you need generous amounts. I’ve toyed around with supplement forms of all of these nutrients, but you really need to be careful. You also don’t want to stimulate Phase I faster than Phase II by “overfeeding” it.
Because we are naturally better at Phase I, there are certain nutrients that slow Phase I detox metabolism while simultaneously stimulating Phase II. It’s like nature already knew. We call these things equalizers. They help balance the two systems.
Which brings us to Phase II.
The conjugation phase. Even though the fat soluble toxin has been changed into a more water soluble form, it can’t be eliminated yet, because reasons.
This is where Phase II comes in and saves the day. Phase II uses a protein inside your cells to “sense” oxidative stress produced by Phase I, where it then turns on the genes of various antioxidant proteins and the Phase II enzymes. It is Phase II (can I say “phase II” one more time) where things like glutathione, the master antioxidant, and superoxide dismutase, the show-off enzyme that metabolizes a million toxins per second, are synthesized. This phase is also responsible for recycling CoQ10, a really potent antioxidant, and regulates much of the anti-carcinogenic activities in the body. It’s main purpose however, is to attach the newly transformed toxin to other water-soluble molecules to further increase it’s solubility. These toxins need to be as watery as possible you guys. Super moist toxins. It’s the only way to get them out of the body.
Since most people are slower on Phase II than Phase I, clearly, we want to know the cofactors for Phase II detox. Different Phase II pathways and their enzymes and cofactors work on different toxic products the body needs to break down and eliminate. Whereas Phase I was very generic and versatile, the second phase sorts toxins based on what they are. I really set out to make this simple, I really did. My intentions were good, they really were.
Phase II does a lot of stuff, including things like Methylation and amino acid conjugation, but for the purposes of simplicity (hah!), following are only the top three Phase II detox pathways, what they detox, a list of important compounds involved in the actual biochemical changes, and the cofactors needed to support those changes for each of the three pathways:
Glucuronidation – works on most drugs/medicines and many environmental toxins.
Cofactors: vitamins B3 & B6, aspartic acid, glutamine, iron, magnesium
Glutathione conjugation – detoxifies free radicals
Cofactors: vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, folate, selenium, zinc, magnesium, copper
Sulfation – metabolizes sulfer reactions, may control sex hormone blood levels by breaking down hormones
Cofactors: vitamins B2, B6, B12, folate, molybdenum, zinc, copper, magnesium
If you really want to simplify Phase II nutritional support because your head is spinning and you really can’t be bothered to make some semblance of a detox plan from all of those bullet lists, the best stimulates of this phase are sulfur-rich foods and lots of amino acids. And if anybody complains that you smell because you are eating too much raw garlic and onions and cabbage, be proud. You are a grown up who cares about your body and life isn’t about mac & cheese and chicken fingers.
Phase III is removal. It is the transporter phase and it is the actual mechanism where toxins are put into your bile or transferred from your blood to kidneys for elimination. Getting healthy amounts of fiber and plenty of water help this process. That’s all I have to say about this phase.
Now, when this whole system of natural, internal cleansing becomes overwhelmed, toxins build up and nestle themselves in the fatty parts of your body like your brain and hormone glands. Here they can mess with brain and nervous system functioning and cause hormonal imbalances. If the toxin is carcinogenic, like pesticides, they can contribute to eventual cancer. You reallllly want to have smooth functioning detox pathways. No amount of sweating, activated charcoal, whatever, can make up for poor functioning detox pathways.
To be honest, this is why I’m kind of lazy in those other forms of detox… I’m doing a great job providing my body with the necessary nutrients and cofactors. Lazy me wants to know shouldn’t this be enough?! *whine*
When you have Lyme though, and your body is bogged down with umpteen amounts of things, it’s not enough. You really should do all you can. Below are some other methods aside from nutritional support that can help escort the nasties out of your body. Because I have your back, I have tried all of these things in moderation, and can vouch that none of them will kill you. I’m 97% sure.
Add 2 cups magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) to bath water. They say if you have unfiltered water (who’s “they” anyways?) add 1 cup baking soda to neutralize chemicals. I haven’t fact checked this, and honestly I don’t do this myself simply because Costco doesn’t sell baking soda in boxes big enough for the amount of baths I take and really it’s something I say instead of saying the truth, which is that I am lazy.
The claims behind epsom salt baths are that, obviously, magnesium is vital to detox as well as the sulfate. One study performed did show increased blood levels of both magnesium and sulfur in people after soaking in epsom salts. And for those who are bad at metabolizing sulfur, don’t fret. Sulf-ITE is your concern… not sulfates. Many people have genetic mutations that give them a hard time converting sulfites to sulfates. Since Magnesium Sulfate is already sulfate, you sulfur avoiders can sit in your epsom baths worry-free.
Really, does it get any better than taking sugar-free ice cream into the bath and watching makeup tutorials on YouTube until your bath water turns cold and people have forgotten you are even home, all in the name of detox?
These are your activated charcoals, your bentonite clays, zeolite, chlorella, pectin, etc. They work by binding to toxins in your GI tract so that they are not absorbed, or re-absorbed through the natural processes in which your body recycles a lot of bile. Like many “mechanical” detox methods like this, they simply work to help escort already metabolized toxins out of the body. Do not take binders within a two hour window of medications or supplements, and honestly I wouldn’t even take it with food. Drink with plenty of water.
My personal favorite binder is chlorella as it supplies a lot of nutrients as well as binds toxins, however it is not as strong as something like activated charcoal or clay. There is some controversy about potential heavy metals in clays and zeolite, but you will find advocates and critics for most of these detox methods, so really just do what you feel helps you. I have noticed I felt better after taking binders, but sometimes I also feel worse. If a lot of toxins or bile is bound up and eliminated, it may trigger a detox reaction which I will talk about later.
If you’re currently only sitting at a level of desperation where you would consider drinking a glass full of globby wet clay to feel better, please know there are multitudes yet out there who want your life.
Before I say anything about this one, I must warn you. Many chronically ill cannot tolerate Cholestyramine. If you are sensitive and overly toxic, please warm up on other detox methods first and even then go very slow until you can gauge your tolerance levels for this one. I didn’t include it in the previous binders category because it is a binder on steroids. It asks for its own category and it gets it. Cholestyramine is a resin used to bind bile so that the body does not reabsorb it in the intestinal tract. About 90% of your bile salts are recycled in this manner, often several times during a single digestive cycle, and a single bile salt is usually reabsorbed up to 20 times. While this is efficient for the liver and digestive processes, it is bad news for those whose bile is so loaded with toxins it probably glows a gross neon green like in the cartoons.
By preventing the reabsorbtion of bile and toxins with cholestyramine, the body will suddenly realize it can release more toxins from “storage” to detox, and because everybody’s body wants to be a hero about it, it won’t judiciously judge an appropriate amount to release that won’t make you sick. I know people who have made themselves gravely ill by trying cholestyramine, and many have had to fight their way back for long periods because of it. It really is expert level detoxing.
Since you have been thoroughly warned, and because this is prescription only anyways, I will assume your doctor will direct you properly. Regardless, start slow. Take the amount you want to start with, and then take only 25% of that. Then monitor yourself for at least two days. Some people are fine with it, and some are so beyond NOT fine with it that it warrants this overly dramatic warning.
Me? I took half a packet to start because I was flippant. Remember, do as I say, not as I do. Luckily, I only had minor detox reactions. However, I’m three years into treatment and much improved when I took it. I would have put myself in the grave with that amount earlier on in my healing process. Also worth mentioning is that for me the detox reactions will build on itself the longer I take it, so even right now I wouldn’t do this every day because honestly I’m just to that point where I need my good days to outnumber my bad days, which they currently do, and I won’t ruin that ratio even in the name of detox.
This detox method has a cult following, some might say. There are some who hear about it and with no reservations over-zealously sign up for that asap leaving me with a raised eyebrow and many, many questions about their eagerness, and then there’s the rest of us who prefer to wait until desperation withers away our principles like normal people. Regardless, CE’s are one of the stronger detox methods for healthy elimination, which also requires a bit of an adventurous spirit, if you will. You can turn in your amateur detoxer chip for sure the day you cross this bridge.
CE’s works predominantly by palmitic acid in the coffee, which stimulates the enzyme in Phase II of detox, producing glutathione by about 600-700% of normal levels. Glutathione then goes around and disables free radicals in the blood stream, which are then dissolved in bile and released from the liver and gallbladder into the intestinal tract. The caffeine helps dilate bile ducts in the liver allowing it to freely dump your toxic stew. Over the course of 15 or so minutes while holding the coffee your blood will pass through your liver 4-5 times, giving ample time for much of those disabled free radicals to be put into bile and dumped.
Instructions require coffee be made with a quart of boiling water and anywhere from 1 tsp to 3 tbsps of coffee. This is a good brand, chosen specifically for the high palmitic acid content. Allow your brew to cool to lukewarm. Actually, I’m going to just link you to instructions. So click here, tell no one, and it can be your little secret. Now, a lot of people like to be super extra with their CE’s (because this is the sort of crowd drawn to this method likely) and do all sorts of yoga positions and jumping jacks and massaging their belly while holding the coffee. This defeats the purpose, so don’t be weird. You need that coffee to sit still in the sigmoid colon so that the palmitic acid and caffeine can be absorbed through a specific portal vein there. So lay still on your right side for 15 minutes and THEN if you insist, you can play that game of risk and go do your Cirque Du Soliel full of coffee then high five your other enema buddies.
Consuming a binder 15 minutes prior to your CE to catch the bile dump will up your detox game even further. But be careful with this, treat the CE with respect. It can make you quite sick by triggering epic detox reactions if overdone. I’m not crazy about the potential it has to flush out good bacteria in your colon as well if performed too frequently while on antibiotics, so be mindful. Do your research and decide for yourself if this is up your alley (pun intended).
Instructions HERE. This is the only detox method that simply made me feel better for several days following. It does cause some to flare, and others not. I just felt great after. Because the title is evident what it does, needs no explaining. A few tips though if I may? There are a few variations floating around there in internet land on how to perform this flush, and some call for large amounts of apple juice. If you are low-sugar like me, go with malic acid capsules instead. I also opt for lemons as opposed to grapefruits as I am on medications that interact with grapefruit. Also the link I gave you suggested Coke to mix with the olive oil mixture and to me that just sounds like a fantastic way to ruin the taste of coke for you forever. Just mix lemon juice in there and it will be fine. You may experience nausea after drinking the olive oil, so if you have a sensitive stomach (hi, hello, me here) take a zofran 10 minutes before drinking.
Enjoy yourself the next day. Heh heh.
Lemon water is like, the O.G. detox method. So simple. So cheap. So gentle. So effective. So, …. sour.
Squeezing one lemon into a cup of water and sipping does for your liver what like, really good quality gasoline does for your car. Because the atomic structure of lemon is similar to digestive juices, ingesting it will trick your liver into producing more bile. And if we haven’t learned anything from this post yet about the need to produce and eliminate bile to detox, then why are you even still reading?
Lemon juice also obvi has lots of vitamin C and antioxidants that help those detox phases described earlier. Drink with a straw, learn from my mistake. I have far less tooth enamel today than I had at the beginning of my illness. Wah.
Burbur comes from a Peruvian plant. Which is nice because it makes you sound fancy. For a $25-something dollar tincture it should. It should also work for that price. Certain properties in Burbur work their magic on the P450 system of Phase I detox. It also has dieuretic properties which helps keep those kidneys flushed. There also claims about it being anti-inflammatory and an immune system strengthener, but I’m just going to stick with the major component. Which is detox support.
Pinella comes from pine bark extract, and the claims are less verifiable than for Burbur. It is touted as a nerve-cleansing agent, but I can find nothing but marketing claims stating that. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Pine bark, however, is an anti-inflammatory.
Personally, I like the Burbur, but never noticed much with Pinella. I’ve gone through several Burbur bottles and I still have my original Pinella. So that says something. Also, protip: sip your fancy Peruvian burbur with your pinky finger extended.
There are SO many claims to sauna therapy for detox. I mean, hot yoga’s biggest claim is you can come sweat out your toxins! Contorting myself stacked in rows of people bum-to-face as the room exponentially grows more disgusting smelling… That’s a no from me dawg. Cue saunas. Saunas of all kinds are marketed by the detox claim as well. And it’s true, you DO sweat out SOME toxins. But according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society (a medical group dedicated to the study of sweating), only trace amounts of toxins are found in human sweat. There ARE toxins in there though, and studies have proven it. (source) The overwhelming consensus, though, is that no amount of sweating can make up for ignoring the liver and kidneys. In fact, forced perspiration through heat exposure can signal the kidneys to save water and that would make you literally hang on to more toxins. Definitely do not go into the sauna without generously hydrating yourself beforehand or you are doing yourself no favors. You want to have ample water to give for this.
As an added benefit, increasing your body temperature regularly will dilate blood vessels and improve circulation while those vessels are dilated. This has numerous benefits from moving sluggish capillary beds to improved lymphatic drainage. Not everyone can handle the sauna though, especially those with heat intolerance due to dysautonomia.
Also, has anyone else out there noticed the growing movement of sauna snobs? Oh your sauna has jacks for your headphones and fancy pants air flow systems and light waves that penetrate the depths of your body to personally massage each cell until that cell brings forth its toxins in a ceremonial rebirth of some sort as the light waves baptize them with new-found purity? Oh Okurrr.
Actually I would totally sit in that sauna.
Not only does sun exposure help modulate the immune system and quiet over-active ones (source), but it directs the immune cells to act properly (source). Beyond the obvious beneficial ramifications of this (properly identify and eliminate pathogens while maintaining tolerance to itself), a vital component of the immune system is also to “clean up” debri. Think of it as like street sweepers that clean your streets. Macrophages scavenge our bodies and “eat up” things that shouldn’t be there anymore, whether from your own body or the entities of other things. I’m not saying go lay out in the sun all hours of the day, but quality sun exposure for limited amounts of time will boost these processes.
A great rule of thumb for people at sea level is 15 minutes per side if wearing a bathing suit that exposes as much skin as possible. If you live in higher elevations like me over here up in the mountains, even in cooler temperatures, start with much less time or ya’lls gonna burn. You really shouldn’t even stay out long enough to develop a tan, unless you’ve been doing this throughout the summer. You also shouldn’t do this if you are on tetracyclines. Give yourself a few days after your last dose before your skin is sun ready.
Last summer I started this practice and I lasted a month because the detox reactions built up and frankly, I felt unready for it at the time. After stopping though, let me tell you, I felt the best I had felt up until that point in my illness. And if you think about it, why wouldn’t it work? Living things literally sustain their biochemical processes through the sun’s rays. We’re meant to feel it on our skin. Save your sunblock for extended exposure times, and just go enjoy some solar communion a few times a week. I call it sun church. Besides our sick hermit butts could use a little living. This could literally be you:
So far this year I am not experiencing any detox issues or symptom flares with the sun. I mean, I haven’t tested it long-term… it’s still spring. But I did spend an entire day hiking in the mountains in the sun in Southern Utah a few weekends ago and not a single inkling of a flare. Last summer, ten minutes would have knocked me out. So based on that unscientific completely anecdotal evidence, if you’re very sensitive to sun exposure and you weren’t previous to getting sick, don’t worry. You will get that back as you heal. My experience applies to each and every human. Totally.
But no really, you likely will. Also, if you live in an urban area like I do, have fun finding that one tiny spot in the yard none of your neighbors can see.
Other methods of detox include things like ionic foot baths, lymphatic drainage massages, different herbs, acupuncture, green drinks, etc. I have tried many of them and frankly, left them out a) because they aren’t as powerful as previously mentioned things, or b) I maintained some semblance of an interest in time here.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your body, right now, as mentioned, is to support your Phase I and Phase II detox pathways. Every detox method depends on those processes running as optimally as possible. The last thing you want is to trigger toxin release only to have it backup, clog your liver, and potentially be re-distributed elsewhere in your body. When it comes to supplementing, play around with it. For example, I’ve found I do really well on SAM-e every other day, but not every day. Some don’t do well on it at all, and some need four times as much as I do. The nutrient lists aren’t a one-size fits all. Even though every body requires those nutrients, your body may not agree with them in supplement form and it may totally depend on some in supplement form. I wish I had a magic supplement ball that I could tell you what to take, I’d make a ton of money off you if I did. But you really do have to use trial and error and figure out a diet and supplement program that works for you. Good luck with your rocket science.
How do you know if you have your detox pathways running well? Most often it’s simply a case of if you are eating right and supplementing where you can’t get from food, your body can handle the rest. If you are addressing genetic mutations in your methylation cycle you can feel even better about it. Your body will use those nutrients to facilitate detox automatically. Some people know they don’t handle sulfur rich foods or supplements very well, for example. Those people can supplement with molybdenum to support their sulfation pathways (as listed in the Phase II detox part) and then likely tolerate more sulfur rich nutrients. Poor detoxers will have a myriad of symptoms. And there is another list I could give you, and it would look something like “feeling sluggish, brain fog, digestive disturbances, fatigue, nausea, etc” and then you’d be like “wow ok thanks a lot that really cleared everything up perfectly”, so I won’t.
Some of us are so sick that no matter what you do to detox, you won’t feel better. And that’s a temporary phase, so just wait it out. “Detox” didn’t do a darn thing for me except make me feel worse for the first few years of Lyme treatment. However, and I can’t stress this enough, you do it anyways. Your body needs the support. It’s going to be backed up and you are going to be miserable, but whether it gets you out of bed and functioning or not, make caring for your detox processes your full-time job. Eventually, your body will catch up and it will make a difference. What helps me is to make a calendar of detox activities a week in advance, otherwise before I know it I find myself 20 episodes deep in a netflix series weeks later getting chastised by my doctor for not detoxing. Also, keeping in mind that during periods of intense illness it may not matter as far as relief goes what you do, it will be hard to figure out a lot of nutritional/supplement support that jives best with you. Again, be patient, do a more generic support program and fine-tune it as the crisis periods pass and responses are more decipherable.
Lastly, for like the tenth time, don’t overdo it. A rule of thumb when playing around with detoxing is make yourself feel something, and then do just a little less. Back off once you’ve determined your threshold. Make an experiment out of yourself! Detox is fun!
I low-key just forced myself to say that last bit right now and it felt so wrong.