Let’s talk about cancer and detoxification. When it comes to detoxing after cancer or chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery – it can be complicated. But it can (and should) be done.
Have you wondered….
Can I detox my body from these harmful chemicals?
We all know that the chemicals used in chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are beneficial for killing off cancer cells. But what does cancer treatment do to your normal cells?
Have you asked yourself (or your doctors)…
Is there a way to remove some of these toxins from the body?
Smart question! But, have you considered the downsides of detoxification.
Before starting a cleanse or detoxification program after cancer treatment, I like to consider:
- What will happen if you mobilize some of these chemicals from your body?
- Will your body be able to detox chemotherapy and treatments?
- Is it safe to detox? How did your liver, kidneys, red blood cells, and white blood cells recover from treatment?
The good news? For most of us, a cleanse is safe (but always check with your doctor before starting something new).
The bad news? When it comes to detoxing after cancer treatments, it can be complicated. So let’s start at the very beginning. The most important thing I have learned in over a decade supporting patients detoxing after cancer treatments: go slow!
What is detoxification?
Simply put, detoxification is anytime you’re removing toxins from the body. On a deeper level what’s happening with detoxification is that you are transforming toxic substances into less toxic substances.
One of the challenges with detoxification, especially with people who have undergone treatments for cancer, is that you can easily overload the body’s detoxification system. This happens in your liver and can cause a build up of toxic metabolites.
Have you ever tried a detox or a cleanse on your own, and just haven’t felt that great? Sometimes people can experience:
- Brain Fog
This can be because you overloaded phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification systems. That’s why it is so important to detoxify in the way that best supports your body, and doesn’t cause overload. Also, one of the first principles of detoxification is to remove toxic exposures. That is why you should not push a detox while receiving chemo or radiation.
Let’s dive a little deeper into why it’s important to detox slowly after cancer treatments, especially when detoxing from chemotherapy. In the liver, there are several different detoxification pathways.
We have Phase 1 detoxification. Phase 1 detoxification is the first step to helping chemicals, hormones, or drugs move through the liver to the first phase of detoxification. This phase is called the enzymatic phase and it includes the CYP 450 system.
The CYP 450 system is the system that metabolizes most of our medication medications. It is because of the way Phase 1 detoxification interacts with medications, that detoxification is often NOT RECOMMENDED while you are undergoing treatment of any kind.
Phase 1 detoxification requires oxidation and reduction, so when you hear the term antioxidants, these substances support this first phase of detoxification.
After phase 1 detoxification, the metabolites (also known as toxic intermediate metabolites) become fat-soluble. If all goes well, the metabolites (or breakdown products from Phase 1), go into Phase 2 without a hitch. However, sometimes our body can have a traffic jam between Phase 1 and Phase 2.
The traffic jam between Phase 1 and Phase 2 will cause these fat-soluble toxins to exit the freeway of the liver and circulate into the rest of the body. When in circulation in the rest of the body, these toxins can then be stored in your fat cells, muscle tissues, and brain. It is super important that the toxins don’t have a traffic jam between Phase 1 and Phase 2. So, we want to support the phase 1 to phase 2 process going smoothly.
What happens if there is a traffic jam between Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detoxification?
- fat-soluble toxins exit the liver and go into circulation to the rest of the body
- hormone imbalance can happen, particularly excess estrogens being circulated
- carcinogens exit the liver and start circulating in the body
Phase 2 detoxification, is called the conjugation phase. This is what changes fat-soluble metabolites made during Phase 1 into water-soluble metabolites. So, in Phase 2 we are creating a waste product that can be excreted through the kidney into the urine and the gallbladder into your bowel movements.
If you are constipated or if you have experienced constipation in the past, the water-soluble waste products this form of detoxification and excretion will get backed up. Another traffic jam on the freeway of detoxification. Your body can reabsorb toxins and hormones from the bowels, and start recycling them throughout your system. One of the benefits of having a daily bowel movement and including fiber in your diet is to have this part of the excretion pathway completely functional.
Now the other part of the Phase 2 excretion pathway are the kidneys and urine. Since toxic metabolites wind up in your urine, it becomes really important for you to empty your bladder as often as you need to. The more the urine sits in the bladder with these toxic metabolites and comes into direct contact with the bladder wall, the more likely you are to damage the bladder wall and create inflammation and opportunities for cancer.
Phase 2 excretion also highlights the importance of drinking enough water so that you can urinate and improve this excretion process. If you’re dehydrated and only urinating once or twice a day, you might be backing up the Phase 2 excretion process
Supporting Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detoxification Naturally
Some nutrients that are needed for phase 1 detoxification include:
- Folic Acid
- Milk Thistle
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Citrus Bioflavonoids
In phase 2 detoxification we’re using things like:
- Amino Acids
- Sulphurated Phytochemicals from garlic and cruciferous vegetables
Can you see why it’s important to be gentle in cleansing after cancer treatment? A lot of the nutrients that are depleted from chemotherapy and radiation are needed for Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification.
What’s the difference between detoxification and cleansing?
Detoxification is that very little process of what’s happening in the liver during Phase 1. Cleansing, on the other hand, sometimes called depuration, is anytime we’re freeing the body from something unwelcome. When we’re doing a cleanse, we’re using several different organ systems including the skin, kidneys, colon, lungs, lymphatic system, gallbladder, and liver.
A gentle cleanse is a way to slowly introduce cleansing practices into everyday life. Gentle cleansing allows you to build up your vitality, reduce negative reactions that you might have to perfuse, or certain chemicals in your environment, it also is the best way, in my opinion, to start after cancer treatment.
In cancer care, it is imperative that we start with a gentle cleanse! Why? Because we’re going to assume that you already have a backup between phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification just because of the chemicals in the oxidative stress that has happened with chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.
Since there is already likely to be a traffic jam in phase 1 and phase 2 freeway system, we don’t want any toxic metabolites exiting the system. We want to support a gentle movement so that as things get kicked ready to be removed from your body, they can be completely excreted.
I feel that cleansing is an important part of cancer survivorship. Our body recovers from treatment better when we take out the garbage. And let’s face it, after treatment for cancer, the garbage has built up to a bit of a junkyard. By removing the junk left behind from cancer treatments, which includes everything from heavy metals to damaging free radicals…detoxing can become a critical step in living healthy with and after cancer.
We know from research studies that cancer growth can be contributed to several lifestyle factors including what we eat, what we drink and the type of environment that we live in. But it is also linked to if we’ve been exposed to pesticides, excessive amounts of solvents. These all can contribute to cancer growth.
So, detoxing becomes important in taking the next step in:
- Cleaning up after Chemotherapy, Radiation Surgery
- Reducing risk of cancer recurrence
- Repairing the body after treatment
- Cancer Prevention
- Jumping off point for a healthy and sugar free diet
Whenever you are ready, I would love to support you in taking out the garbage.