Detox Diets? Not For Me!

        Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS         January 3, 2016


Detox Diets?Your body knows how to detoxify. With the New Year, there are so many claims by so-called experts who want to sell you their special detox diet or cleanse kits. Detox diets and cleanses are not for me! A published review of the literature in 2014 showed that claims by these detox diets are very questionable and not well substantiated.


I have written about this before.  Your body has many well-designed systems to get rid of the junk.


Individual cells have genes that create natural biochemicals to rid your body of unnecessary and damaging elements by way of the Nrf2 pathway. Your liver is the primary organ that performs detoxification. Then there are the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, skin and lungs that all play a role in the elimination of unwanted and toxic substances.


Therefore, it is critical to provide the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy functioning body. Healthy food choices give your body the nutrients to successfully manage most toxic loads. Healthier lifestyle choices can avoid and eliminate most other stressors. A primal or Paleo diet and lifestyle are the means to the end – the end being to make your body function as it was meant to function.


Special cleanses that are touted to detoxify your body are not the answers, in my opinion. There has not been any well-designed, published research in peer-reviewed journals proving these are effective. I believe the answers lie in what you eat, in what you don’t eat, and in how you take care of the rest of your body.


What these cleanses apparently do very thoroughly are to remove dollars from your wallet.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes:
Powerhouse Salad

evolution rFood is Medicine. This is a powerful statement!
Almost 2500 years ago, Hippocrates was credited with saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He also was credited with saying, “The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
Nutrient-dense foods nourish us and assist our natural healing potential by stimulating a myriad of biochemical processes. One process is the activation of the Nrf2 pathway, which I described in this previous blog. Dr. Pall and Dr. Levine, in their 2015 review article, inferred that the Nrf2 pathway might well be one of the most important discoveries of all time.
The following nutrient-dense salad includes many phytonutrients, most of which stimulate the Nrf2 pathway in addition to other biochemical pathways. It’s not only delicious but also “medicinal”. This has become my favorite go-to health salad. Play around with the ingredients and their quantities, and see if it becomes one of your favorites.

Ingredients: (all ingredients are organic)

  • 1 4-ounce bag of Herb Blend Organic Salad by Earthbound Farm (baby lettuces, chard, mizuna, spinach, arugula, radicchio, parsley, dill, cilantro)
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, sliced and diced
  • 1 tomato, sliced and diced
  • 1 Tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 Tsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 Tsp Kelp Granules (I use Maine Coast Sea Seasonings)
  • 1 Tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tsp green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tsp fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)
  • salt and pepper to taste



  • Add all ingredients into salad bowl and toss (use more or less of any ingredient to satisfy your taste)
  • Serve in separate salad bowls

Antioxidant Supplements? – Not So Good!

evolution rAlmost everything you have heard about antioxidants in the past may not be true!
Unfortunately, some facts that we thought were proven in the past have been invalidated today. For example, we thought that science proved that saturated fats were unhealthy, but recently published meta-analysis articles (Here, Here and Here) have shown that saturated fats from plants and pastured animals are actually necessary and healthy for our bodies.
The question then becomes, “Will the facts that science verifies today become false tomorrow?” The answer is, “In some cases, yes!”
So, what can we do if we look to science for answers?
My personal approach has been to take a broad view – like you would observe at 30,000 feet above the earth in an airplane.
For example, if you were seated on a plane before takeoff and looked out the window, you only would be able to see the runway. Once the plane began its ascent, you would see some of the rooftops surrounding the airport. As the plane continued to climb, you now would be able to see some of the roads and waterways making up the city. After the climb and now at cruising altitude, you could make out the mountains, clumps of neighborhoods, and a broad overview of the terrain.
My approach to what is best for us as humans is to first take the most comprehensive view. To me, that means studying our species’ evolution over the course of 2.5 million years. The facts of evolution have given me a healthier appreciation of what allowed our species to survive and thrive. Therein lies the truth!
The fact that we are alive today is a testament to these truths. Our bodies are complex and intricately designed. Almost always our bodies will function at their peak if given the nutrients and lifestyle from which they evolved.
This leads up to supplements. Generally, supplements are not necessary for our body. Nutrient-dense foods usually will be the only nourishment our bodies require to function optimally unless there was a disease that had damaged the body’s ability to perform in a healthy state.
Antioxidants are among the most popular health-protecting supplements sold worldwide without prescription. As a society, we think we need to purchase them in huge amounts in order to help rid our bodies of all those bad free radicals that are running around causing harm to our cells.  Research is showing that “it just ain’t so.”
Free radicals are molecules or atoms containing an unpaired electron. Unpaired electrons are hungry for another electron with which to pair up. Electrons want to exist in pairs. They are unstable until they get that additional electron from somewhere else so that they can be paired up again.
However, free radicals are naturally occurring byproducts of normal functions within the cells of our body. They are formed from the cell’s use of oxygen to produce energy. In turn, these free radicals, in the form of oxidative stress, can signal the cell to make its own homemade antioxidants through the pathway of Nrf2. Activation of Nrf2 can also be stimulated by various nutrients in foods, and this process is critical to our survival.
Antioxidants are molecules that are able to donate an electron to the free radical, thus stabilizing the free radical by giving it the extra electron to make a happy pair.
If free radicals are unable to get their needed electrons from antioxidants, these radicals can cause damage to the body through oxidative stress, which is associated with ageing, heart failure, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other health problems.
In the past, science has suggested that the more antioxidants we ingest, the less oxidative stress we have to endure. These antioxidants would donate electrons to the free radicals and neutralize their potential damage. However, antioxidants themselves can become reactive (become a free radical themselves) after donating an electron to a free radical.
In the human body there are many varieties of antioxidants present. As I mentioned, we can produce them internally by stimulating the Nrf2 pathway. Also, our body can obtain antioxidants from nutrient-dense foods we ingest from a primal diet. The varieties of antioxidants in our system can buffer each other as they in turn give up electrons to newly formed free radical molecules.
As an example, one naturally occurring external source of antioxidants is chocolate. It contains more than 20 antioxidant flavonoids. Once you eat chocolate, its antioxidants have the ability to donate electrons to free radicals in the body. As one type of flavonoid gives up an electron to a free radical, this flavonoid is converted into a free radical itself and becomes reactive, but less reactive than the free radical to which it donated its electron. This reactive flavonoid then receives an electron from another type of flavonoid within the chocolate. This second flavonoid becomes reactive but not to the extent of the first flavonoid. This goes on and on with each successive flavonoid giving up an electron but becoming less reactive. Eventually, the naturally occurring antioxidants in chocolate (in this example) decrease the damage of free radicals in our body.
A problem occurs when we take a high-dose antioxidant supplement. For example, taking a high-dose vitamin C supplement provides only one form of an antioxidant. There are no other antioxidants in this supplement to offer the protective give and take by providing extra electrons. The end result could be an abundance of antioxidant molecules of vitamin C that are now free radicals themselves. They have become highly reactive with no means of neutralizing themselves. This creates more oxidative stress.
The bottom line is to help your body produce its own antioxidants as necessary and to utilize the antioxidants supplied in nutrient-dense foods. Taking doses of antioxidant supplements could prove unhealthy, resulting in more oxidative stress to your body. Eating a nutrient-dense diet like the primal diet not only could promote activation of the Nrf2 pathway but also could provide numerous varieties of beneficial antioxidants for your cells.

Detox Products: Scam? or Science?

evolution rI have a pet peeve – professionals using their credentials to oversell products. They first present great information, but then they embellish it and sell a truckload of questionable products.


I do understand that there are people who are sick and need help. I do believe that some of these people need a jumpstart to help their bodies get on the right track. Healthcare professionals dealing with these medical situations must initiate active treatment for acute problems.


Yet, the facts are that when people eat unhealthy foods and lead unhealthy lifestyles, their bodies respond in unhealthy ways. The first treatment after acute care should be to initiate healthy life changes. Most people who are suffering could be helped tremendously by simply giving their bodies what they need and most importantly by avoiding what their bodies do not need. That goes not only for overall health, but also for mouth health.


This brings me to the topic of detoxification. A study by NIH showed that the money spent on alternative medicine in 2007 was $34 billion annually. I suspect the money spent just on detox products today has generated a multimillion dollar industry annually – selling whatever miracle concoction that is popular at the moment to make your body do what it was designed to do in its natural state.


What Is Detoxification?

The word detoxification in the health world has two meanings:

  • One is the medical treatment for people who have drug addictions. This medical practice of detoxification allows the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is designed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications that might appear if the patient were left untreated with their chemical addiction.
  • One is the process that has become popular with entrepreneurs who promote products to help your body rid itself of harmful toxins. The question is, “Are these products necessary above and beyond what your body is capable of doing through its normal process of detoxification?”


No question that there are many toxins getting into our bodies that never were there a few decades ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2010 that 212 chemicals were found in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never before been measured in the U.S. population.


These chemicals could present a toxic burden to the body if your liver and kidneys could not remove them or if you were exposed to so many that your body could not deal with the total toxic load.


How Do You Detox?

The main detoxification organ in your body is the liver. Everything you breathe, digest, and absorb into your bloodstream passes through the liver, which is your body’s main filtering system. Many commercial detoxification products make the claim that they “cleanse” your liver. Your liver does not store toxins. The liver actually turns potentially harmful toxic material into water-soluble chemicals that can be removed by your body in a natural way through sweating, exhaling, urinating, and defecating.


Your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2, they are bound to other molecules, creating new non-toxic molecules that can be excreted.


It is essential for your body to have adequate nutrients so that liver detoxification can work properly. Many of these nutrients also stimulate the Nrf2 pathway, which in turn begins the body’s process of creating detoxifying and antioxidant biochemicals. If phase 1 and phase 2 of liver detoxification were not to work properly, toxic substances could build up in your body creating disease. Some of the specific foods that provide specific nutrients that support healthy detoxification are:

  • Deep colored fruits and vegetables
  • Sea vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Protein from pastured animals
  • Pastured eggs and organ meats
  • Wild caught fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring
  • Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts


A healthy liver will do a great job of removing toxins, but there are a few diseases that could compromise the process. Diseases like viral hepatitis or alcohol-induced liver disease may not allow normal detoxification. Some nutrients like vitamin A, iron, and copper in high concentrations could also create problems. Disease states of the liver must be treated by a healthcare professional. Detox products have never been demonstrated to treat a diseased liver.


Kidneys also are a part of the detoxifying system. They filter the blood, remove excess water, pass urea that is a byproduct of protein metabolism, and eliminate these wastes through urination.


When healthy nourishment and lifestyle are introduced, the body is able to detoxify continuously and naturally 24/7.


Best Way To Detoxify

When it comes to cleansing the body, one of the best techniques has been fasting. Possibly, the real benefit from the popular cleansing products in the market may be that many of them restrict food for a certain period of time. Some of the medical benefits of fasting include lowering blood sugar, fighting cancer (here, here, here), and causing the death of old and diseased cells.


I practice intermittent fasting in my personal diet. I usually finish eating for the evening after completing dinner by 8PM. Then my next meal the following day generally would be about 1 PM. That translates to an intermittent fast of about 17 hours. Eating six meals a day doesn’t align with our ancestral history.


My Bottom Line

I detoxify daily by eating nutrient-dense foods and practicing intermittent fasting. Science supports these methods.



If you don’t want to miss out on new posts, sign up for my email alert list here.

Buy My Book

Crazy-Good Living

Nrf2 is Not a New Password

      Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     Nutritional Periodontist
      March 14, 2015   [printfriendly]

evolution rNrf2 is not just a few random letters with a number attached. Nrf2 actually means something – something important. For those inquisitive minds that like scientific names, Nrf2 stands for nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2. Actually, Nrf2 is critical for your health. I will describe what this strange “word” is and how it becomes a powerhouse for your body.
Nrf2 is a protein – but a very specific protein. It is called a transcription factor. As a transcription factor, it lives in the cytoplasm of the human cell, and it is ultimately responsible for sending genetic information from the human DNA located in the nucleus of the cell to RNA, which then creates chemicals that help cells perform many health-promoting functions.
The DNA is the unique biological formula for each of us. Every cell in our body (except red blood cells) contains this architectural script for the entire body in its nucleus. There are approximately 25,000 genes in the human DNA. Nrf2 assists more than 500 of those genes to function in ways that increase antioxidant activities, produce anti-inflammatory changes, stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, improve mitochondrial function, stimulate death of damaged cells, and remove toxic material.
Recently, a great deal of research has uncovered Nrf2’s ability to affect detoxification and excretion of both organic pollutants and toxic metals. This is critical in light of our repeated exposures to toxic materials and heavy metals. However, much of what Nrf2 does and how it works are still being discovered.
In order for Nrf2 to function properly, an activator must awaken it. Without an activator, Nrf2 is stored quietly in each cell without benefit to the cell. Once Nrf2 is activated, it moves to the nucleus of the cell to begin its communication with the DNA.
Current research has identified some of the activators that will awaken Nrf2. The majority of these activators turn out to be various nutrient-dense foods, moderate exercise, low-level oxidative stress (hormesis), and caloric restriction (intermittent fasting).
Once activation has occurred, Nrf2 has been shown to prevent and treat a large number of chronic inflammatory diseases including various cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, lung diseases, diseases of toxic liver damage, cancer (prevention), diabetes along with metabolic syndrome and obesity, sepsis, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy.
Modern diets throughout the world cannot provide the necessary nutrients to activate Nfr2 effectively. However diets like the Paleo diet are effective in activating Nrf2. Some of the more powerful nutrient activators are:

  • Olives
  • Sweet potatoes (especially purple sweet potatoes)
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy, dark green vegetables
  • DHA and EPA from fatty fish
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Cruciferous vegetables

Martin L Pall and Stephen Levine published a paper in February 2015 that reviews the recent research surrounding Nrf2. They reviewed 141 peer-reviewed papers. Their article is well worth reading! In their summary, they make the following statement, “We may be on the verge of a new literature on health effects of Nrf2 which may well become the most extraordinary therapeutic and most extraordinary preventive breakthrough in the history of medicine.”


If you don’t want to miss out on new posts, sign up for my email alert list here.