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Why Detoxing Feels Bad

Detoxifying is incredible for your body, so why does it feel like you're being pulled backward through a meat grinder? The truth is some of those feelings are par for the course because you are asking your body to do some heavy work, but it can also show you where you're stuck.

Detoxifying is incredible for your body, so why does it feel like you’re being pulled backward through a meat grinder? The truth is some of those feelings are par for the course because you are asking your body to do some heavy work, but a lot of it can show you where you’re stuck.

Quick Review of What Happens in Detox

We talked a little bit about this process in the last episode, but let’s review it again.

  • Phase I – Phase I detox happens largely because of the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes, mostly in the liver. The toxin goes through one or a series of chemical reactions, converting it to an intermediary molecule that will bond easily with your major toxin conjugators. The cytochrome P450 system necessarily makes toxins more reactive so that they can complete the next step, so it often makes the original substance far more toxic and dangerous to your body. This phase also releases a lot of free radicals.
  • Phase II – The newer, often more active toxin floats around in your bloodstream, wreaking havoc until it can go through one of six conjugation reactions that involve bonding it to something else that will ultimately help it be carried out of your system. These six reactions include sulphation, glucuronidation, glutathione conjugation, methylation, acetylation, and glycination or other amino acid conjugation. These pathways need specific resources, like glutathione, sulfur, or methyl groups, and several gene SNPs interfere with these resources.
  • Phase III – This is the step that actually carries toxins into waste tissues through transport proteins and anti-porters that help to carry toxins through barriers like the blood brain barrier, cell membranes, etc…

Detox is not like a filter, which is passive. Your body must actually expend energy, use resources, and go to intense effort to push these toxins out. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re working on detox is underestimating the massive amount of effort that their body is expending to make this happen. Actively detoxing usually means slowing down your schedule, giving your body extra support, and adding resources to compensate for those being used. Detox isn’t the time to take on a new project; it’s the time to be gentle with yourself.

Four Reasons Why Detoxing Can Feel Awful

Usually, if detox feels bad, it’s either because you’re stuck somewhere, you’re pushing harder than what your body can accommodate, or you didn’t plan quite well enough. Here are the four main issues that cause detox to feel awful.

  1. You’re pushing too hard with the detox, which is making you toxic enough that everything feels awful.
  2. You’re experiencing addiction withdrawal from a food-based addiction.
  3. Lots of Phase I is happening without enough resources for Phase II.
  4. Phase I and Phase II are happening, but Phase III, elimination, isn’t. Usually, this is because you aren’t pooping enough.

Addictive foods that you would eliminate in a detox include sugar, caffeine, fermented or high-histamine foods, alcohol, gluten or gliadin, casomorphins from dairy, ultra-processed ingredients, glutamates, etc. Many of those are neuroactive chemicals and can have withdrawal-type symptoms. You can help with this suffering by giving yourself two weeks to taper off of those foods before you start your true detox. Of course, the diet is often the most challenging part for people, so two extra weeks can feel like too much effort.

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Symptoms of Detox

Even the best planned, organized, and executed detox can have symptoms because your body is doing so much work, and some of that work involves liberating toxins into your bloodstream. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Bad breath, dry mouth, or weird taste in mouth
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Skin stuff – break outs, rashes, strange reactions
  • Constipation

When symptoms can happen anyway, how can you tell when you need extra support? This is the million-dollar question, and it is essential that you know your go-to symptoms.

What I mean by go-to symptoms, are the symptoms you are most likely to have when your body is going through anything. Fatigue is in there for pretty much everyone. Your body feels tired when it’s going through something. For me, in particular, I am likely to get joint or muscle pain when I’m more inflamed and become more irritable. Those are how my body shows me it’s doing more work or needs extra care. For many people, the symptoms tend toward headaches or brain fog. The most important thing is to listen to your body when it asks for help.

What To Do About Symptoms During Detox

This will be next week’s big topic, but generally, symptoms are a sign your body needs extra support. Most often, that is supporting Phase II when it isn’t happening quickly enough.

When you’re going into a detox, it matters to know if you have any genetically impaired Phase II functions. Here’s a quick list of the major gene SNPs that can interfere with particular Phase II reactions – bear in mind that I’m talking about the biggies, but there are other smaller players as well.

Methylation – MTHFR, MTR, MTRR, and to a lesser degree, the genes ending in -MT (which are methyl transferases, like COMT, which detoxifies estrogen and neurotransmitters, or HNMT, which detoxifies histamine). To support these, we’re eliminating folic acid, adding food sources of natural folate, and potentially adding an MTHFR-safe folate like L-5MTHF or folinic acid and a methyl donor like SAMe, TMG, or one of the others.

Glutathione Conjugation – GST, GPX, to a lesser degree, CBS and the genes in the methionine and folate cycle like MTHFR, MTR, and MTRR. These are the big players in your body’s manufacture of glutathione. To support this, take NAC, the precursor to glutathione or liposomal glutathione itself. This also helps your body catch more free radicals.

Sulphation – the SULT family of genes, including SULT1A1, is especially important here. To support this pathway, eat food sources of sulfur and also retinoic acid-rich foods like eggs, liver, etc… or take a sulfur-based detoxification enhancer like MSM. Also, if you have a known SULT gene issue, consider keeping a small amount of caffeine in your detox as a SULT inducer.

Glucuronidation – The UGT family of genes is essential here, including UGT1A1, which conjugates acetaminophen, and UGT2B17, which conjugates testosterone. You can support this function with dietary sources of D-glucaric acid, including legumes and cruciferous veggies, and inducers of glucuronidation, including resveratrol, cruciferous veggies, and curcumin from turmeric.

Acetylation – The NAT2 and NAT1 gene SNPs are the most well-known for affecting acetylation. To support this function, stop smoking, consider some extra vitamin C, and add the antioxidants from your diet to help induce the NAT genes.

Glycination – I couldn’t find any specific gene SNPs that affect this process, but glycination is the most common form of amino acid conjugation, and a good supply of dietary protein is needed to keep this functioning.

A complete plan is needed to undergo a healthy detoxification, and the best policy is to work with a knowledgeable practitioner. In the next episode, we will discuss some strategies that can help you feel better during detoxification.

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MTHFR is a common genetic mutation that can contribute to anxiety, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, infertility, and more serious conditions like breast implant illness, heart attack, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, and some types of cancer. If you know or suspect you have an MTHFR variant, schedule a free 15-minute meet-and-greet appointment with MTHFR expert Dr. Amy today.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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