Detoxification System and Supporting the Liver

Dear FT,

Taking a product, ANY PRODUCT, because a friend suggested it… well, it can be a very dangerous thing to do. If your friend is qualified to discuss both the dangers and the benefits to taking any product, herb, drug, or food, then perhaps you should take the advice.

If, however, the friend is not qualified to discuss potentially dangerous products, then run! I realize there are a large number of people selling herbs that are not qualified and this truly bothers me.

That being said, let's look at Milk thistle . This herb is well known in medical circles for its benefits to the liver. People have long taken Milk thistle as a liver protectant and for treating liver damage caused by toxic chemicals.

Milk thistle is also used to stimulate the appetite, help support the gallbladder and spleen, and is common nutritional support for people with chronic hepatitis, drug and alcohol abuse or those simply wanting to cleanse the liver for more energy. The seeds and fruit of the plant are also used in many cultures as a substitute for coffee.

Milk thistle is getting a very close look in the medical research industry. Studies are indicating what most herbalists have known for some time, that the plant does have some amazing properties. There are several active ingredients in Milk thistle. They include silymarin, silibinin, and isosilbinin. These all seem to be liver protective and serve as antioxidants, as well.

The plant is indeed finding use as a protector of the liver for people with Hepatitis C, as well as helping those suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, from excessive alcohol or toxic intake. Studies are also suggesting that people that have had liver damage as a result of medication or illicit drug use are benefiting from the herb.

Among all the herbs used in alternative or complementary therapy, Milk thistle is considered safe. It can have a laxative effect in some people, and it can cause mild allergic reactions in some people, including those with allergies to marigolds, ragweed, daisies, and other members of the Asteraceae family.

While studies do not indicate reactions from taking Milk thistle with other herbs, there are some reports of interactions with aspirin, hepatotoxic drugs and cisplatin.

The plant exudes a milky sap when leaves are torn, and this is the reason for the name. Milk thistle should not be confused with other thistle plants, such as Blessed thistle, and care should be taken when using the fresh herb.

Supplements used in supporting the liver function may include the herb or it can be found individually in capsules. I highly recommend several products BECAUSE I have researched the companies and know that they are of good quality. You can find them by clicking here.

One of the problems with the supplement and herbal industry is the lack of regulation, both in the dispensing and the quality of the manufacturing. Because supplements and herbs are considered food, anyone can sell them.

When considering taking a supplement or herb, start by getting all the information possible. Ask your pharmacist to help. Recent reports indicate that more and more pharmacists are learning about natural products and herbs, and indeed many are nor suggesting them. I am also happy to answer your questions; simply contact me or e-mail me.

In years past, many people taking herbal products were afraid to discuss them with their physician or pharmacist. I began my training in natural medicine because many people afraid to talk to their physician were asking me questions.

As a pharmacist, I believe it is my duty to know about herbs. I now regularly ask my patients if they are taking supplements and herbs, not just to sell them the products, but to make sure they are taking them responsibly, without affecting their medications. If you are concerned about the products you are taking, contact me at the Wellness Store.

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077



Dear Mike,

I have had some problems with my liver, which include alcohol and excessive medications. I heard from a friend that I can clean my liver and blood out and this will really help. He called it "detoxification." I thought that was something they did at rehab centers, but he said you could detoxify yourself. How do you do this? Can I really help my liver?

SA, Destrahan

Dear SA,

I want to thank you for your letter and I hope I can explain the process of detoxification. It has been the subject of many magazine articles over the past several years and is a really broad topic. I will try to explain the body's natural detoxification process, how this process of detoxification came to the health and wellness industry and offer you some suggestions how we can help the body to get clean and stay clean.

What is detoxification?

While the body maintains incredible defense systems against toxins, it is slow to evolve. Many practitioners feel the body is not prepared to defend itself against toxins created over the past several centuries. With the introduction of petroleum, processed foods, synthetic medicines, and "modern" goods, like plastics and aluminum, the body is dealing with objects it is not genetically programmed to fight. This alone is reason to aid the body's natural detoxification process.

The body has several methods of protecting itself against toxic agents in foods and the environment. Every cell in the body provides energy and participates in detoxification. Each cell is like a microscopic furnace. The fire produced becomes energy. Like any furnace, "smoke and soot" are produced in the burning process. These by-products must be eliminated and the body depends on its detoxification process to do so.

Organs used for detoxification are the lungs, skin, digestive system, liver, kidneys, and colon. With each breath, filters in the nose and lungs capture foreign elements for elimination. The skin, the largest organ in the body and a vital part of the immune system, both defends against toxins and forces elimination of toxins from perspiration. Digestion breaks down foods into units of nourishment, arranges their delivery, and eliminates waste components. Once substances reach the intestines, intestinal cells signal the immune system to neutralize invasive toxins and bacteria for elimination.

The liver and kidney process nutrients, including water, cleanse the bloodstream of toxins and eliminate by-products, through urine and fecal deposits. As the body flushes toxins, it eliminates unused nutrients, hormones, fats, dead bacteria, toxins and water. As a result, the bloodstream remains clean, transporting oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

What kinds of toxins are eliminated?

Over the past two centuries, the body has been introduced to new toxins, products of industrial advancement. Pollution, preservatives, pesticides, and processed foods now invade the body. The body must expel an increasing load of synthetic chemical agents, including medicine, synthetic soaps, exhaust, asbestos, mercury, aluminum, plastic, synthetic fibers from clothing…well, the list goes on and on! In short, the infusion of toxins in the modern world progressed much quicker than the body's evolutionary ability to defend itself from them.

As a result, practitioners believe that aiding the body in detoxification is prudent and, in some cases, quite necessary. Modern medicine has responded with new detoxification drugs, including antibiotics, anti-viral and anti-fungal medications. These have shown miraculous ability to prolong life and fight disease, but often create digestive problems that inhibit the body's natural ability to cleanse.

Natural methods of detoxification, some of which, ironically, are quite ancient, have now been introduced to the Western world. These forms of cleansing are the very ones making the news today. Many detoxification programs are available in spas and rejuvenation centers nationwide. They include both internal and external methods, and often therapies are combined for maximum results. Detoxification brings increased energy, better digestion and elimination, weight loss, healthier skin and overall enhanced vitality.

The ancient Ayurvedic rite of purification and rejuvenation, Panchakarma, is fast becoming a popular treatment in spas everywhere. The foundation of Panchakarma is the understanding that releasing toxins is crucial in disease prevention. Although Panchakarma is considered an entire procedure, it is actually one of a series of cleansing techniques known as shodhan. The shodhan techniques incorporate fasting, purging toxins through emetic and enema therapy, oil infusions and diet/lifestyle changes.

Cleansing programs often employ historical techniques for digestive, blood and skin purification. Herbs known historically for detoxification are quite targeted and should be considered as a part of an overall cleansing program*. Methods of detoxifying the skin with salts, abrasives, essential oils and herbs are becoming a part of mainstream skin care.

Cleansing the digestive tract from end to "end"

Experts in detoxification advise following programs combining diet, intestinal cleansing, blood purification and colon cleansing. While self-care detoxification programs do exist, it is wise to seek guidance from experts in this field, to insure your health is accepting of the program. Those with immune, digestive or hepatic problems may require special care in cleansing.

The digestive system is an important area to cleanse. As the "soul of health", the digestive tract must be properly nourished before, during and after detoxification. Prior to attempting any detoxification program, support the immune system with a multivitamin, rich in antioxidants and minerals. These nutrients supplement a diet of "living" foods, providing added nourishment to the immune system. This is important, as purification processes release dormant bacteria from cells to the bloodstream, which could weaken the body during the cleansing process.

Adding a supplement of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, will inoculate the digestive tract with "good" bacteria that fight toxins and protect intestinal walls. Probiotics and enzymes break down fibrous food particles for nourishment, aid in nutrient absorption, and protect the digestive system from fungal overgrowth. A supplement of probiotics will provide billions of units of bacteria and is actually preferred over fermented dietary sources, such of yogurt.

Adding fiber to the diet, both through fresh foods and supplements, will continually aid the detoxification process. Soluble fiber, which breaks down for elimination, provides nourishment and emits beneficial bacteria. Insoluble fiber does not break down and is important for keeping the walls of the digestive tract clean. Fiber is important to consume every day, especially prior to, during and after detoxification programs.

Water is the most important element of the detoxification process. Water is the main transportation of nutrients and wastes and simply adding an increased quantity of water to the diet will prevent illness, restore energy, and have a profound impact on detoxification. During any cleansing program, consume purified water, at least 8-10 cups daily. Taking a fiber supplement without adequate water is a recipe for disaster, as constipation is almost assured.

Supporting the Liver

Essentially, once you have your digestion in good shape, you should concentrate on supporting the liver. As the body's major detoxifying organ, the liver filters and cleans the blood circulating throughout the body. Today, however, environmental pollutants and toxic chemicals put added pressure on even the healthiest liver, perhaps causing it to function less efficiently. When the liver is unable to screen toxins effectively, they can pass through cell walls and enter the bloodstream.

The most impressive herb I have encountered to help the body is Milk thistle. It is a targeted herb for detoxification programs and I strongly encourage anyone that has been on medication regimens, has suffered with liver disorders or has had a problem with alcohol and recreational drugs to consider using it.

Milk thistle, a stout weed related to the daisy family, grows abundantly in the United States and Europe, and has been used by herbalists for thousands of years to promote healthy liver function. This powerful herbal antioxidant helps protect liver cells from free radical damage caused by various toxins and pollutants. Twenty-two studies have demonstrated that the active ingredient in milk thistle, silymarin, can help enhance healthy liver function. Milk thistle also nourishes and strengthens cell membranes so toxins are less able to penetrate cell walls.

The liver is one of the few organs that, with the proper nutritional tools, can renew itself. One of the most interesting effects of silymarin on the liver is its ability to stimulate protein synthesis. This helps promote the body's ability to regenerate new liver cells.

It's virtually impossible today to completely avoid exposure to environmental pollution and destructive chemicals. Milk thistle helps the body naturally counter the effects of pollutants and free radicals.

You can click here to purchase both the individual herb and a targeted liver formula to help detoxify. I would also encourage you to consider contactingmyself or a member of my staff to help you with your program and offer advice prior to starting it. A Three-month program follows.

Program of Detoxification

The ultimate detoxification is a three-month program, utilizing an elimination diet and a stacking of nutritional supplements and herbal products to support the immune system, cleanse the gastrointestinal tract and cleanse the bloodstream of unwanted toxins.

The program addresses the liver, thyroid, kidneys and colon, as well as the digestive system and circulatory system. For dietary considerations and sample menu, stop by the store. Likely results from dietary and nutritional considerations include a reduction in weight, reduction in cholesterol metabolism, an increase in elimination and a cleaner detoxification profile in the body. Prior to starting this "Ultimate Detox", consult with us about the products you will need and any potential problems you may encounter.

Nutritional Supplements by Month

Month One

* Probiotic Supplement containing bifidum and lactic species bacteria - 5000-25000 CFU daily on empty stomach. First thing in morning. Heavy need for probiotic influence would call for VSL3, a lactic species bacteria (450 billion CFU daily) on empty stomach.
* Antioxidant product - 5000-12500 iu Beta-carotene, 3-4 gr Vitamin C, 800 iu Vitamin E, 15-30 mg zinc, 200 mcg Selenium, 50-100 mg, CoQ10. Product containing all levels should be available. Should be taken at second meal, with exception of vitamin C, which should be taken at each meal and bedtime.
* Multivitamin - Containing good levels of B vitamins taken with first meal
* Multimineral - 600-1500 mg. Calcium, 400-800 mg. Magnesium, good levels of all trace minerals. This product should be taken at night.
* Essential Fatty Acid product , comprised of fish oil, containing at least 1000 mgs. per serving. 2-3 time daily.
Digestive Enzyme product , containing no acid.

Months Two and Three

In addition to previous month's protocol, add:

Milk thistle - 240-500 mgs. daily of standardized extract containing 4.5-5.5%. Should be taken between meals. If liver has been compromised, add in Lecithin Granules (1200-1800 mgs.)
* Red Clover (600 mg), Burdock Root (300 mg), Yellow Dock (300 mg), and
Echinacea Root (900 mg) and Dandelion Root (300 mg). These products will aid in cleansing the blood of fats, sugars and impurities.
* If yeast concerns prompted detoxification, add Caprylic Acid (100-200 mg) and Potassium Sorbate (250 mg.) An alternative approach would include Grapefruit Seed Extract (100-200 mgs daily).

* If parasites, molds or fungi prompted detoxification, add Black Walnut Husks [fruit] (300 mgs) and Pau D'Arco Bark (300 mg).
Olive Leaf (500 mgs) is an alternative for molds, fungus, etc.
* If concerns about heavy metal toxicity prompted detoxification, add in Apple Pectin (900-1000 mgs. daily) and EDTA, if chelation is suggested.

* Fiber products, containing both soluble and non-soluble ingredients should be taken during both months. Examples include oat bran (4-5 grams daily) and/or psyllium husks (according to your dietary fiber needs.) If constipation occurs during detoxification, add ginger (300 mgs) and aloe vera juice (6-8 oz. daily) to regimen.

* Many of the herbal cleansers are available in formulations that contain the ingredients listed above. Ask your detoxification professional which formulas are appropriate for you. Once the detoxification has concluded, the colontherapy treatment is considered a reward for a detox "job well done".

* One final tip: Take it easy and be good to your self during the detoxification program. Don't exercise more than your body can stand. Take healing, cleansing baths and exfoliate your skin during the elimination cycle of the program (Months Two and Three). Use herbal abrasive cleansers to eliminate rough skin and toxins exuded topically. Utilize a sauna or steam bath to sweat out toxins. Consider some of the overall programs mentioned above, such as Panchakarma, to completely eliminate the toxic materials from your body…and life. When the detox seems difficult, take a moment to meditate on the benefits of a cleaner way of living, eating and being.

The three-month protocol is not easy. It is likely that several symptoms may occur, including flu-like feelings and lack of energy. With the large array of supplements to take, many feel the treatment is worse than the condition; however, those that complete this regimen certainly believe it is worth the price. Many notice a complete change in their diet with the continued exclusion of processed foods from their diet. Other notice increased energy that comes from proper digestion, while others note benefits to skin, blood sugar metabolism, cholesterol metabolism and thyroid energy.

Consult your Wellness Store professional about the supplements required to maintain optimal health once the detoxification program has concluded. Maintain a high fiber diet and continue to think "fresh" regarding your diet. The benefits of daily intake, as opposed to the rigors of detoxification, would suggest that sticking to a cleaner way of eating the feelings of detox energy without the cleansing effects of detoxification. For most, one detoxification session a year is adequate. Come visit us for more information and to get started on your detoxification program.

Mike Casso, R.Ph.