Upregulating the Nrf2 pathway is the key to effective detoxification. Here are five ways to do it…
It’s no secret, when the body is overrun with toxins, the detoxification process begins to slow down. In some cases, it may even come to a grinding halt. With nowhere for toxic substances to go, the body takes a deep sigh, and then stores toxins in fat cells. It does this in an attempt to keep dangerous materials away from vital organs. At this point, weight gain and chronic fatigue become common complaints.
For some, the storing away of toxins such as heavy metals, toxic molds, PCB’s, etc. will continue until one day something finally gives way. The medical terms for this are “death and disease.”
Reducing any further exposure to a known toxin is always a smart, first step. But this alone is unlikely to clear the backlog. However, with the right approach, it is possible to remove years of toxins that have become lodged inside layers of fat. To help us do this, it’s important to optimize glutathione levels. We can then tap into a remarkable pathway known as Nrf2. Before we get to that point, let us first explore what glutathione is and how it benefits us.
Glutathione (GSH) is a molecule found in the body. It consists of three amino acids being glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. When these bad boys get together, they form a formidable detoxifying gang. Between them, they are capable of riding the body of metals, molds, free radicals, etc.
A poor diet, underlying health conditions, and the natural aging process all decrease glutathione. A clear sign that your levels are running low is a poor immune function. This can make a person more prone to catching coughs and colds every year. Fortunately, there are ways to boost your levels back up.
When it comes to supplements, most are poorly absorbed in the gut. This makes them about as useful as a wooden frying pan. A better option is to take glutathione as a liposome (a little fat bubble that glutathione fits into). This helps glutathione survive the digestion process.
You could also ask your doctor to administer glutathione intravenously. Before we hand responsibility over to anyone carrying a sharp needle, perhaps we should explore a smarter, less invasive option. What if I told you that your body could make its own high-quality glutathione for pennies on the dollar?
Surprisingly enough, this is pretty easy to do. We just need to give the body what it needs. This leads us to precursors. Precursors are the building blocks that your body needs to make glutathione. The good news is there are only three of these. Each is widely available and relatively inexpensive. The first ingredient is N-acetyl L-cysteine (NAC) which can be found in most health stores. The remaining ingredients are vitamin C and whey protein. Think of this as baking your own glutathione cake. The better the ingredients the better the results will be. With that in mind, it’s probably best to skip those “bargain” supplements sold at the big box store.
Letting your body make its own glutathione will allow it to reach its own optimal level. And once it does, a noticeable improvement in health comes to the surface. Glutathione can then reclaim its title as “the body’s master antioxidant,” going about its job maintaining the balance of reduction and oxidation. Glutathione does a wonderful job of repairing proteins that have become damaged by oxidative stress. At the same time, glutathione neutralizes the current imbalances of free radicals. This helps control their damaging effects which are often associated with premature aging.
To be clear, having sufficient glutathione in your tank can make the difference between good health and being sick. That said, it’s worth noting that glutathione cannot do all of this alone. Nope, it performs these tasks with the help of certain enzymes. Enzymes act as the catalyst that makes specific biochemical reactions happen. Without them, glutathione would be rendered ineffective.
Why is this important to know?
Well, when a substance such as mercury is attached to a cell, a family of enzymes known as glutathione S-transferases (GST) guides it into the hands of glutathione. All of this happens in Phase II detoxification. Phase 11 is just a step where harmful toxins are neutralized and turned into water-soluble toxins. If it helps, imagine all those tiny enzymes holding plastic spoons as they mix mercury with pee. It’s an odd example I know, but sometimes odd examples help to get my point across. Once toxins become water-soluble, it’s easier for them to be expelled out of the body via the kidneys.
All things being equal, mercury can also be transported through the blood to the liver. It then goes from the liver into the bile, and then out to the small intestine. Who knew that pee and poop were so important?
As a side note: Insoluble fibers found in strawberries are known to capture over 95% of dietary mercury! If you eat sushi, this is good to know as (organic) strawberries reduce the amount of mercury found in contaminated fish.
Moving along nicely, once we have our glutathione levels topped up, we can then tackle the next part of the detox puzzle. For this, we simply need to upregulate nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 which is a key regulator of the cellular antioxidant response. Whoa! What the heck does that mean?
At this point, I expect I’m going to be working for my tips. Not least, because Nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 upregulation (Nrf2 for short) is a challenge to break down into plain English. And if I can pull this off, I’ll be sure to take a bow at the end.
At the last count, scientists estimate that the human body has around 25'000 genes in our genome. The genome is the DNA that encourages those 25'000 genes to act a certain way.
Genes are what make us who we are. And while we all share some gene characteristics (like most of us have only one head) many characteristics are unique to each of us. As an example: we all have fingers, but our fingerprints are unique to each of us.
But what has any of this got to do with detoxification or the Nrf2 pathway?
Well, fingerprints aside, those 25'000 genes tell each of your cells what to do and when to do it. This is huge as your body is mostly made up of cells, be it muscle, bone, nerve, and so on. (Phew, that last sentence saved us going off on a two-hour biology lesson.)
At one time, the consensus within the medical field was that you are stuck with the genes handed to you at birth. And if some of those genes happen to be a little crappy, then there wasn’t much you could do about it. Too bad, so sad. However, we now know this isn’t strictly true. The way genes act is influenced by nutrients (AKA food.) Stay with me here because this next bit is incredibly relevant.
When your body needs to carry out a repair, certain genes are turned up. (Notice I said turned up, not on and off.) This distinction is an important one. Here’s why …
In your mind’s eye, imagine an electric light switch being turned off and on. It’s a pretty basic design for stopping and starting the flow of electricity. But there’s a much fancier option for doing this. It’s called a dimmer switch. Dimmer switches give us more control over how much of that light is expressed. Think of those 25'000 (ish) genes as acting in the same way. They don’t turn on and off like a light switch, rather, they are being turned up and down to match the body’s needs.
Here’s an example of that: If we twist our ankle (ouch, always a bummer) inflammation is quickly turned all the way up. This sends out more healing nutrients to the area. As the injury heals, less inflammation is then required. But inflammation is never fully turned off, it’s simply turned waaaaay down. Kinda like the dimmer switch we just mentioned.
This process is self-regulated by the immune system. But further upstream, the genes are being expressed in a way to influence the immune system. Ahh, all is clear, but how does Nrf2 fit into all of this?
I’m so glad you asked.
Nrf2 is an extremely important pathway. It’s also one of the key proteins found in the body and is present in pretty much every cell. It performs a whole bunch of different tasks. One of those is to help upregulate the protective enzymes and protective proteins found inside the cells. Put simply, this helps the cells to protect themselves from a wide range of chronic diseases. That’s a pretty neat trick but Nrf2 is far from being a one-trick pony.
Check this out…
Whenever a stressor hits the body (like inflammation) Nrf2 springs into action. It then binds to something called the antioxidant response element. This, in turn, controls antioxidant production. At this point, our old friend glutathione is pumped around the body like it’s going out of fashion. But wait, there’s more…
Once Nrf2 gets activated, your mitochondria begin to produce more ATP. (Think of ATP as the fuel that powers the body.) Here’s where it gets interesting.
As Nrf2 responds to oxidative stress, it takes control over 500 or so genes. To ensure the cells are protected from harmful situations, Nrf2 works each of these genes collectively. Some genes are turned all the way up; others are turned all the way down. But not for too long, as we learned earlier, everything in the body is a balance. Too much expression of Nrf2, over too long of a period, may even promote the development of cancerous tumors. I kid you not. But that’s not the case here. With the right balance, the genes controlled by Nrf2 can be thought of as our survival genes.
And here’s where this all neatly dovetails together.
Just about every illness known to man can be linked to any one of the following four things. 1: An excess of inflammation. 2: Excess toxicity. 3: A deficiency in key nutrients. 4: Too much oxidative stress which causes us to age. Nrf2 is doing all that it can to keep these things in range.
However, there are times when Nrf2 is sitting ideally on the sidelines waiting for a problem to solve. It’s like having a high-powered sportscar sitting in the garage. That’s a shame as once Nrf2 makes more glutathione, it allows us to crank the detox handle more than normal.
Hmm, if only there was a way to somehow upregulate Nrf2. That would be like having our sweaty little fingers on all of those dimmer switches! I know what you are thinking because I had the same thought, how do we upregulate Nrf2?
That’s a great question and here are several ways to it. First, let’s start with sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a potent compound that kicks Nrf2 in the pants and shouts “hey, wake up Mr. sleepyhead, it’s time to get to work.”
The trick is to find a pure, natural source of sulforaphane. But you aren’t going to find it online, and you won’t find it in your doctor’s office. The good news is you can find it growing in my garden. Before you beat a path to my door, first, see if you can guess what it is I’m growing. If you guessed broccoli sprouts, then you would be correct.
Broccoli sprouts contain glucoraphanin which in turn, creates a highly potent form of sulforaphane. If you only take one thing away from this book, then let it be the benefit of eating fresh broccoli sprouts. In case you missed it, Broccoli sprouts accelerate the body’s ability to detoxify. The idea is not to go faster than your body can handle. Remember, detoxification is a marathon race, rather than a sprint.
In the interest of providing value, here are some more ways to upregulate Nrf2. The first is by adding more cruciferous veggies and sulfur-based compounds into your diet. These can be found in the allium family (onions, shallots, and garlic, etc.). As a side note: There are lots more healing foods to be found in my book “The Healing Point.”
Make no mistake, broccoli sprouts are your least expensive option. But if you have a little cash to flash, you can also coax Nrf2 out of its shell with a few well-targeted supplements such as DHA, R-lipoic acid, and PQQ.
DHA is a type of omega-3 fat found in fish oils. Most people lack omega-3 fats in their diet which causes an imbalance in the body’s omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio. DHA can help turn down inflammation, it’s also pretty good for the brain and heart health. I like the brand of DHA sold by Nordic Naturals as it’s been screened (by a third party) for mercury.
R Lipoic is significantly more potent than Alpha Lipoic Acid, hence, it’s always best to start small and go slow. R-lipoic acid is an essential cofactor for many enzymes involved in energy production. It’s of interest to us here as the body recognizes it better than Alpha Lipoic Acid.
PQQ is about 100 times as powerful as vitamin C. It was first discovered as a cofactor for enzyme reactions in bacteria. A “cofactor,” simply means it helps enzymes do their job. PQQ improves cellular energy and cognitive performance. As we age, the performance of mitochondria declines. To keep this simple, PQQ enhances the formation of new mitochondria. The downside of PQQ is some folks may find it too stimulating. The workaround for this is to take regular breaks from it. This leads us nicely into something known as “pulsing”.
Without wanting to sound like a broken record, everything within the body is a fine balance. Attempting to Upregulate Nrf2 is not something you want to do all day, every day.
Best results come when supplements such as R-lipoic acid are taken for a short period of time and then stopped. This technique is often referred to as “pulsing”. Pulsing stimulates the system. It also gives the body a chance to regroup and regenerate once we do stop. It’s like taking a brisk walk around the park and then pausing to sit on the park bench to catch a breath of fresh air. Just don’t get busted by the COVID-cops for stealing oxygen. I digress.
Depending on your current ability to detoxify, it’s important to find a sweet spot that works for you. Some folks find that “pulsing” with supplements for 5 days on and then taking a break for 2 days works best. Others may find better results from doing 4 days on and 3 days off. It really depends on your tolerance for things. If at any time you feel worse, stop. Then go back to adding more binders while at the same time drinking more water.
Although supplements are a way to upregulating Nrf2, it’s important to understand that you cannot supplement your way out of a poor diet. Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, we now find ourselves talking about fasting. When combined with exercise, fasting is yet another way to upregulate Nrf2.
The word “fasting” conjures up all sorts of images in the mind. Lets’ begin with what fasting isn’t. Fasting isn’t sitting cross-legged under a tree eating berries and twigs for an extended period of time.
Yes, it’s true, some fasts can last for days or even weeks. But most of the time, fasting is done in short bursts. This is commonly known as intermittent fasting. Unless you possess the rare ability to eat while you are asleep, YOU have been doing this for most of your life. Usually, until breakfast which literally translates into “breaking the fast.”
The idea of intermittent fasting is to prolong the window from the time we wake up, to the time when we eat our first meal. In effect, we are choosing to eat within a specific time frame. This is sometimes known as the 16/8 method. For example, if your last meal is taken at 8 p.m. and you don’t eat until noon the following day, then technically you have just fasted for 16 hours straight. That wasn’t too bad, was it?
Here’s some good news. The health benefits that come with fasting go well beyond Nrf2 upregulation. During a prolonged fast, the body enters a process known as autophagy. This is where the body begins to clean out old or damaged cells. When less junk clogs up the system, things tend to run smoother. It’s the equivalent of removing all those old cat videos from your cellphone.
Okay, we’ve covered a lot of complex issues together, and hopefully, I’ve given you a few things to think about and maybe even made you smile in the process. In the interest of providing value, I’d like to share one last detoxification tip with you.
Heat exposure activates Nrf2, heat also makes us sweat. This, in turn, allows us to shed more toxins. I like this idea as sweating lifts some of the burdens off the liver and kidneys. In case you missed it, the skin is the body’s largest detoxification organ.
There are lots of ways to work up a sweat, but my favorite is to use an infrared sauna. If you don’t have a sauna on hand, all is not lost. Your local gym may have one you can utilize. Often times it’s included in the gym membership and no additional money is required.
If you are fortunate to have your own infrared sauna at home, then making it part of your detox routine is easy to do. The body does all the work while you sit back and chillax.
As I write this, I’m working on a new detox protocol called the Niacin flush. It includes the use of specific minerals, binders, and a supplement known as Niacin (B3.) When combined with sauna use, niacin helps to pull out older toxins stored in fat cells. If you are struggling to lose weight (and a change in diet hasn’t helped) then an overload of toxins might be something that’s holding you back. It’s uncanny how heavy metals and mold can make a beeline for our hips. This is sometimes called “mid-life spread.” Another way to look at it, the longer we are on this planet the more toxins we tend to acquire. Hence detoxification should always be viewed as an ongoing process.
If you are serious about your health, owning an infrared sauna should be at the top of your wish list. Here’s why… Studies show that regular infrared sauna use not only reduces toxins, it also improves cardiovascular health. That’s a pretty big deal when you stop to think that heart disease is the number one killer here in the US. According to the CDC, heart disease accounts for a whopping 23.1% of all registered deaths. That’s more than 647,000 American deaths per year!
An infrared sauna can also help with chronic fatigue, sleep issues, and depression. Personally, I find a thirty-minute session, followed by a hot shower, followed by a quick blast from a cold shower, elevates my mood for the rest of the day. It also helps to get the lymphatic system moving which we covered earlier in the book.
Regular infrared sauna use can also help with lingering injuries. It does this by penetrating deep into joints, muscles, and tissues. As it does so, it increases oxygen flow and circulation. This can help improve stiffness and painful joints. Infrared sauna use can even help with toxic mold exposure. The link between heavy metals and mold is an important one. At best, mold will add to your toxic burden, at worst, it causes a bottleneck and slows down the entire detoxification process. Statistically speaking, people with an unresolved heavy metals issue are more prone to certain molds. But wait there’s more… people with an ongoing mold issue are more prone to contracting Lyme disease. Why?
Think about it, both metals and mold are a drag on the entire system. An infected tick bite becomes the final straw that breaks the camels back. The good news is once the mold is dealt with the body becomes much better at managing Lyme disease. I digress.
Before rushing out to buy a sauna, it’s important to find one with a low EMF (electric magnetic field) reading. I did quite a bit of research in this area and discovered some companies “claim” to have low EMF readings but when you dig a little deeper, this isn’t always the case. Often times, isolated parts of the sauna are sent away for testing. When the results come back, the company claims that the sauna has been “independently” tested and they slap a low EMF sticker on it. But this isn’t telling us the whole story. As with most things, you tend to get what you pay for. Cheap saunas may sound good in theory but not if they add to your toxic burden.
The sauna I eventually chose arrived on my doorstep with the promise of ultra-low EMF readings. Once it was set up, I was able to replicate the company’s numbers by using my own EMF meter. Seeing this with my own eyes made me happy.
When a company “gets it,” I like to make a point of speaking with the owner. In the process, I managed to secure a discount code for readers of this book. Check out Radiant Health Saunas and use the pro-code James500 and you’ll save yourself $500 in the process.
As fall turns to winter, I seem to be spending more time basking in infrared rays. The heat isn’t as intense as a regular sauna, it’s more like the comforting heat you get from sitting by a campfire. This makes it an altogether pleasurable experience. The only difference is toxic heavy metals and PCB’s etc. are pouring out of the skin. The trick is to use a binder which stops all those toxins from recirculating back in the system.
For now, I guess that’s it except to say thank you for spending your time with me. I hope this information has been helpful. If so, feel free to check out my heavy metals detox book.
Bye for now,