Are you looking for additional ways to boost your immune system? Liver detoxification is the ultimate naturopathic approach to maintaining immune health and offers many additional benefits for your body. Although other interventions like taking herbal home remedies and immune supporting supplements also have their place (when taken at the right time; in the proper amounts), a much more holistic strategy is a preventative one that has been practiced for centuries.

Keep your “health tank” in good operating condition
As the case with any illness or condition, lifestyle maintenance is the foundation for health and increasingly more and more diseases are associated with immune dysfunction, whether it be an over-reaction (hypersensitivity), under-reaction (immunodeficiency), or even self-sabotage (autoimmunity). Metabolic detoxification is often overlooked when it comes to maintaining resilient immune health. When you support your organs of detoxification (the liver is #1), you also naturally increase your body’s capacity to stave off inflammation and infection by leaving more resources and room in the “health tank” to handle unexpected disruptions.

Spend your metabolic reserves wisely
Metabolism is a term that encompasses all the chemical reactions that take place in your body to create and breakdown molecules, which allows you to eliminate waste and produce energy. The metabolic demands of modern living are higher given our constant exposure to increasingly foreign toxins and large amounts of physiological stress that the body isn’t well equipped to handle. Metabolic detoxification is an energy dependent process—it requires ample amounts of targeted nutrients to efficiently neutralize and eliminate substances that can cause harm. Incomplete or even slow rates of detoxification can: (1) damage your cells; (2) cause gastrointestinal irritation that worsens immune-mediated inflammatory responses; and (3) deplete nutrient resources, which all open the door for more immune issues.

Balance your nutrient and antioxidant intake
There is a continuum between addressing nutrient deficiencies that cause disease susceptibility on one-end and optimizing nutrient levels to enhance immune function on the other. When facing immune illnesses / challenges, your body’s needs increase (often beyond the recommended daily allowance), as reserves of storable nutrients get depleted faster. Without an adequate nutrient buffer, you are left more vulnerable to disease in general. An overworked immune system also produces more oxygen free radical by-products, which requires antioxidant support. However, if you continually take large doses of supplemental antioxidants (brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are okay), you also run the risk of shutting down your body’s own production of glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant compound.

What happens when you don’t spend your metabolic reserves wisely
You feel tired and run-down when you get sick because all available metabolic energy reserves need to be mobilized to fight the infection. Frequent illness negatively impacts our ability to detoxify and vice-versa: a high toxic load interferes with proper immune function. If your cellular nutrient reserves are already running near empty from poor dietary choices, stress, overexertion and inadequate sleep, let alone heavy detoxification demands, there’s next to nothing to spare for immune system regulation. These same lifestyle factors in and of themselves are also known to be detrimental to immune health.

Protect your metabolic reserves with a liver detox / cleanse
Doing a metabolic detoxification protocol annually or even semi-annually can help keep your immune system healthy by removing allergens and toxins from your diet, supplying key nutrients for the 100s of different enzymes involved in the liver detox pathways (e.g., the cytochrome P450 system), and boosting glutathione and other antioxidants to get the job done more cleanly. Spring and Fall are the traditional times to cleanse, but there isn’t really ever a wrong time, save for a few medical conditions, such as unmanaged diabetes, heart / liver / kidney disease, chronic medical illness, pregnant or breastfeeding women, etc. If you are unsure whether a metabolic detox would be suitable or safe for you, please consult with your healthcare provider.

Ultimately, the impact of external and internal toxins on your body is based on your current and lifelong exposures as well as your body’s individual detoxification capacity, which is influenced not only by genetics but also dietary and lifestyle choices. Toxicogenomics is an emerging field that studies which genes are activated or repressed when you come into contact with toxins. It is similar to nutrigenomics, which investigates the impact of nutrients on gene expression. On a cellular level, most of the chronic effects of toxins are subtle: (1) depleted metabolic reserves; (2) reduced antioxidant capacity; (3) lowered mitochondrial efficiency; (4) imbalanced microflora; and (5) increased intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut syndrome). However, cumulative effects like decreased immune function and increased frequency and severity of illness are much harder to ignore.

In lasting health,
Dr. Vanessa