This major body system is based on both anti-oxidant protection and liver detoxification. These body functions are the physiological mechanisms that protect you from free radical damage and chemical toxicity. The initial assessment for the detoxification system is a complete organic acid metabolic assessment. This profile provides a view into the body's cellular metabolic processes and the efficiency of metabolic function. Identifying metabolic blocks that can be treated nutritionally allows individual tailoring of interventions that maximize patient responses and lead to improved patient outcomes. Further testing includes determining heavy metal burdens from lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic metals as well as chemical sensitivities.
Organic acids are metabolic intermediates produced in pathways of central energy production, detoxification, neurotransmitter breakdown, or intestinal microbial activity. Accumulation of specific organic acids in urine often signals a metabolic inhibition or block. This may be due to a nutrient deficiency, an inherited enzyme deficit, toxic build-up, or drug effect.
The Metabolic Assessment evaluates your level of free radical damage and oxidative stress. If the lipid peroxide levels are elevated, you have high oxidative stress, accelerated free radical activity and need anti-oxidant protection. The second portion of the test, sulfate/creatinine, assesses your liver's ability to detoxify and eliminate harmful substances. A low value on sulfate means you are slow to eliminate toxins and need support for the liver detoxification pathways. Inadequate detoxification leads to allergies, asthma, joint pain, skin problems, headaches, inability to concentrate and alcohol intolerance.
Anti-Oxidants and Free Radicals
What exactly are free radicals? Free radicals are unstable molecules that attack and destroy healthy tissues. Stable molecules have electrons that are in pairs. If a molecule loses a paired electron it becomes unstable and reactive—a free radical. This unstable molecule will now steal an electron from another molecule, causing it to also become a free radical. One free radical can initiate a destructive cycle that is difficult for your body to stop. This process of destruction of healthy tissue is called oxidative stress.
Effects of Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress
Oxidation occurs frequently in nature, for example an apple slice turning brown or a nail rusting. Both of these are oxidative reactions. The same thing happens inside our bodies; our tissues are gradually destroyed by oxidation from free radicals.
Free radicals are formed in our bodies from normal physiological processes like digestion, breathing and exercise. These free radicals are a natural result of the generation of cellular energy that our bodies require as fuel. Cellular energy comes from oxygen mixing with other substances. This cellular energy supplies our brain cells and muscles with fuel so we can work and think. But this energy production also forms free radicals, which are generated inside us. Free radical formation from cellular energy production is much like the formation of sparks that spit out of a burning fire. While free radical formation is a natural side effect of the creation of cellular energy, the effects of excessive, uncontrolled, free radical-induced oxidative stress is implicated in the development of heart disease and many cancers.
While a certain amount of free radicals are formed from biochemical reactions in a healthy body, their levels can greatly increase with poor internal organ function or illnesses. Poor digestive function or liver detoxification generates huge numbers of free radicals, which, if not controlled, can easily overwhelm our natural defenses. Oxidation of our cell's DNA by free radicals leads to structural damage of the DNA—a process that can cause cells to mutate and become cancerous. Oxidation of lipids/fats causes damage which results in plaquing to blood vessels, compromised blood flow, heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. This is why antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, lipoic acid and selenium are so important. These antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging your body's cells by stepping in and acting like a shield between the reactive free radicals and your healthy tissue. The anti-oxidants "put out the sparks" before they can create a problem. Because these nutrients prevent oxidative stress from free radicals, they are called 'ANTI'-oxidants.
Detoxification Lab Assessments
Measuring Free Radical Activity Your lipid peroxide test is a direct measurement of your level of free radicals and lets you know the level at which you need anti-oxidant support. Not everyone needs anti-oxidants and taking them if they are not needed can cause muscle weakness and fatigue. That is why appropriate testing before supplementation is so critical. If your tests demonstrate a need for anti-oxidant support, you can supplement and then retest at a future date to evaluate the success of your program.
Measuring Liver Detoxification Pathways The urinary test measuring your sulfate/creatinine ratio assesses your liver's ability to detoxify. If your detoxification abilities are over taxed, destructive chemical compounds will build up in your body. If you have a low sulfate/creatinine ratio, you have low liver detoxification ability— additional nutritional support is required to improve this condition.
The Detoxifying Role of the Liver
Why is your liver so important? One major role of the liver is to function much like a filter. If your body has to handle too many toxins, or waste products, the filter becomes clogged and ineffective. If toxins are not eliminated, they recirculate through your blood and affect many organ functions. Toxins can affect nervous system and mental function, leading to fatigue, depression or anxiety. This build up of toxins can cause allergies and skin reactions. Inadequate detoxification leads to accelerated aging and promotes the onset of degenerative diseases.
Sources of Toxins
Our bodies must deal with toxins from many sources. One major source of toxic exposure is through the digestive tract. High fat diets, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweetener consumption and the use of medications also contribute to the total burden placed on the liver. Hormones and antibiotics fed to animals, preservatives and dyes used in food processing can all cause serious symptoms and side effects. Heavy metal toxicity from dental fillings, contaminated food and water and other environmental exposure also add to the total toxic load on the body.
Most tap water in the United States comes from municipal water systems that are the repositories of millions of tons of chemicals, waste products, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from water run-off. Much of this finds its way into our food supply. Approximately three thousand chemicals are added to our food. Thousands more, in the form of emulsifiers and preservatives, are used in processing and storage.
It is impossible to completely avoid exposure to the environmental pollutants (car exhaust, cigarette smoke and industrial waste) that have accumulated in our air, water, food and soil. Chemical toxicity has been linked to breast cancer. Lead in paint has been linked to serious nervous system damage. More than 69 million Americans live in communities with smog levels that exceed national safety standards. Our bodies can easily become overwhelmed and unable to discard these toxic compounds fast enough to maintain our health.
There are some types of toxic exposure that are avoidable. In 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the toxic chemicals in common household cleaners—often in the form of fumes—are three times more likely to cause cancer than are other air pollutants. The EPA also reported to Congress that our indoor air contains the nation's worst pollution—the typical American home has chemical contamination levels seventy times greater than contamination levels found in the air outside! The quality of indoor air is being degraded by the products most of us are using to clean our homes.
We have no way to protect ourselves if our bodies are exposed to these harmful substances and unable to discard them quickly. Constant exposure to toxic chemicals in our food, air and water has been demonstrated to lower our resistance to disease and cause multiple nutritional deficiencies and altered liver enzyme function. Birth defects, infertility, neurological disorders, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder and other learning and behavioral disorders have been linked to excessive chemical exposure.
Eliminating Toxic Exposures
Despite all the work it has to do every day, the liver has an amazing ability to regenerate. It's the only human organ that can regenerate if a section of it is cut away. Your sulfate/creatinine ratio assesses your liver's ability to remove toxic compounds. If your toxic exposure level is high and your ability to eliminate these poisons is compromised, nutritional supplementation can reverse a dangerous situation. If your ability to detoxify is strong, then simple avoidance of obvious sources of toxic exposure will help keep it that way. Methods of avoidance include using non-toxic cleaning agents that are safe and effective, eating organic foods, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine, avoiding second hand cigarette smoke and avoiding any unnecessary use of over the counter medications.
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