How to Detox Heavy Metals: Boost Your Glutathione Levels
What I have come to learn during my own healing journey and recovery from dry eyes and other health issues is that the body has an innate ability to heal its self. If you cut your arm, the immune system immediately gets to work to repair the damage. It creates inflammation which provides a necessary function in bringing white blood cells to the area to fight infection, clear debris and stimulate the healing process.
The difference in chronic disease states is that the bodies ability to heal is BLOCKED and as a result disease symptoms occur in the form of self perpetuating inflammation. This causes oxidation and damage to the cells and tissues within the body rendering them unable to function optimally.
In functional medicine we identify and remove the underlying causes which impede the bodies natural healing mechanisms and ability to detox heavy metals. Examples of underlying causes are:
- Toxins: when the bodies ability to detox heavy metals (such as mercury, lead, aluminium, cadmium) or chemicals has been compromised these toxins accumulate within the cells and tissues of the body over time and cause chronic disease.
- Nutritional deficiencies: the western diet is lacking in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and zinc and most people have nutritional deficiencies. As a result, the body is unable to detox heavy metals and they accumulate causing cellular damage, inflammation and gene mutation.
- Low grade infections: in the gastrointestinal tract and/or systemically.
Detox heavy metals by boosting your glutathione levels
The first requirement to detox heavy metals and chemicals from the body is to raise your glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master cellular antioxidant, its role is to bind to toxins, pull them out of the cells and carry them to the liver to be processed and then excreted via the bowels, kidneys, lungs or skin.
Many whole foods contain significant amounts of glutathione or its precursors. Foods richest in sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine, are the best sources of glutathione.
1) Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and bok choy are part of the cruciferous vegetable family. They contain a substance called sulforaphane which enhances liver detoxification enzymes and increases glutathione production, speeding up the detoxification of heavy metals from the body.
My recommendation is to consume 7-9 portions of fruits and vegetables per day and to include as many of the cruciferous family as possible. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in vitamins C, E and K, folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and selenium which enhance antioxidant status and re-mineralise the body.
Stir-fry’s are a great way to get all the vegetables in everyday. Another great option is doing a green smoothie every morning, the fibers are pulverized and the nutrients will be much easier to absorb. Just add whey protein and fruit or Stevia to sweeten, I will post some smoothie recipes soon!
Be sure to lightly steam or eat raw vegetables as sulforaphane and other vitamins and minerals are lost during the boiling process.
2) The overall top food for maximizing your glutathione to detox heavy metals is whey protein:
Not all whey protein is are created equally so be sure to choose undenatured, whey protein from grass fed/hormone free cows, with out sweeteners for highest quality.
Whey protein contains the highest levels of naturally occurring glutathione precursors: cysteine, glycine and glutamate, along with important co-factors, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and alpha Lactalbumin (also a great source of cysteine), which together help create the right metabolic environment for high glutathione activity.
3) Raw milk and dairy
Glutathione occurs in the highest levels in fresh, uncooked eggs and raw milk, but is almost entirely absent in pasteurized dairy products.
Ensure that the eggs are organic and free range or local eggs from a neighbour who keeps hens is even better! This minimizes any risk of salmonella, which is only a problem in no free range commercial eggs.
4) Red meat and organ meats
Alpha lipoic acid found abundantly in red meat and organ meats from grassfed animals, has been shown to help regenerate glutathione and recycle other antioxidants: vitamins A and E- enhancing their activity in the body.
Alpha lipoic acid is also able to detox heavy metals by binding to them and pulling them out of the body.
It can be supplemented if you are leery about eating organ meats. Grass fed or organic lamb is recommended several times a week because it is high in zinc and many other vital nutrients, including cysteine and omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for dry eyes and skin.
Curcumin is found in the Indian spice ‘turmeric’, it is a delicious addition to curries, stir-fry’s, soups, stews or dressings. I love using it in my vegetable stir-fry’s, along with garlic and other herbs. Curcumin acts as an antioxidant, mopping up toxins from within the body and studies have shown that it enhances glutathione production and heavy metal detox. You can also buy curcumin in supplement form if you want a higher dosage.
Remove toxic foods from your diet
Keeping your glutathione levels up in order to detox heavy metals is a matter of increasing factors that boost your glutathione and decreasing factors that lower it. The things that deplete your glutathione levels the fastest are: chemicals, toxins, stress and a SAD diet (standard American diet).
Avoid processed foods, sugar, gluten, hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oils and caffeine which place the adrenal glands under stress, create more oxidative damage and increase the toxic load of the body.
Eat a whole food diet rich in vegetables, gluten free whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, gluten free oats and buckwheat, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and wild caught oily fish (3 times a week).
Detox heavy metals by keeping the pathways of elimination open
Once you start mobilizing toxins stored in your cells, you want them to move out of the body as fast as possible. Ways to achieve this are:
- Sweat it out: visit your local sauna or take Epsom salt baths. The magnesium in the Epsom salts absorb into the skin after 20 minutes and stimulates the release of toxins.
- Avoid constipation: make sure you are having at least one bowel movement per day. Anything less is constipation and toxins sitting in the colon will be reabsorbed back into the blood stream, circulate around the body and make you feel worse, so I can’t stress this enough!
- Cleanse the liver: health problems such as dry eye syndrome are often linked to a toxic liver. All of above foods will detox heavy metals from the liver, but the most powerful method by far is a coffee enema. Now I know what you are thinking- ”did I hear that correctly?”. Well yes and the reason is nothing else out there that will jump start your detoxification machinery and boost your glutathione levels like it, so I have to mention it. Also, it costs next to nothing to do. Coffee enemas are able to raise your glutathione levels by 700% and do so faster than any other method. If you are not convinced, listen to this podcast:
If you choose to do this, start with a small amount of organic coffee, such as a teaspoon per two cups of filtered water and work up to two tablespoons. Please seek a naturopath or qualified practitioner to supervise you while doing coffee enemas.
If this freaks you out don’t worry there are other ways to cleanse the liver, but they are less powerful and wont work as quickly:
Milk thistle is considered the ”king” of the detoxifying herbs and a fantastic liver cleanser. It is able to detox heavy metals, environmental pollutants and alcohol from the liver- also making it a great hangover cure! The active ingredient silymarin strengthens and supports the regeneration of liver cells.
DISCLAIMER: Heavy metal detox is a complex process and can be a challenging, you may experience detoxification symptoms along the way. Therefore, I would recommend a consultation with nutritional therapist/functional medicine doctor who understands detoxification and can guide you through the process. A functional medicine practitioner will access your entire case history, do testing and recommend personalized supplements which will aid your recovery and correct underlying imbalances. This article is solely for information purposes and is not intended to diagnose and treat.
I will be sharing more ways to detox heavy metals naturally soon, so check back for that, or like my facebook page for the latest tips on how to detoxify to restore your health and resolve chronic illness: facebook
Do you want to detox heavy metals to improve your health or are you already doing it? Post your questions or experiences below.