This is a guest post by Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I. A Functional Medicine Practitioner and Author of the book The Thyroid Alternative: Renew Your Thyroid Naturally
The Liver and Detoxification
The liver is an extremely complex organ that is involved in multiple immune and metabolic processes. If the liver is not detoxifying optimally, it will be virtually impossible to have success with treatment of any disease including low thyroid and hormone imbalances.
Unfortunately, many patients are given hormones without a thorough analysis of their liver’s ability to metabolize hormones. This can do more harm than good due to a build-up of partially or completely unmetabolized hormones circulating in the bloodstream and causing abnormal hormone responses. Partially metabolized hormones can bind to hormone receptor sites blocking active hormones from binding and prevent their proper metabolic action.
Nutrition, toxin exposure and genetics are all key factors in liver detoxification. I have seen many patients who were put on hormones and had impaired liver detoxification systems only to result in a worsening of their condition and even contributing to cancer from excess of estrogen.
Many studies have shown that impaired liver detoxification can lead to fatigue and autoimmune disease – both major factors in thyroid health. The majority of thyroid hormone is converted from T4 into its active T3 form in the liver. If the liver is not functioning optimally, signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism will arise.
The liver is also important for balancing sex and adrenal hormones due to its role in metabolizing hormones and detoxification of thyroid disrupting chemicals. Hormones are fat-soluble compounds as well as environmental toxins, drugs, pesticides and allergy-causing complexes. The process of detoxification is basically the conversion of fat-soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds that can be eliminated from the body with the feces, urine and sweat.
There are two distinct phases of liver detoxification known as Phase I and Phase II. Phase I involves the cytochrome P450 enzymes and Phase II involves six pathways:
- Glycine conjugation
- Glutathione conjugation
Liver enzymes can directly neutralize chemicals or convert them into waste products that can be easily excreted by the body.
Inflammation can put undue stress on the liver but can be reduced by compounds such as zinc, curcumin, fish oil and alpha-lipoic acid. L-carnitine, l-methionine, choline and inositol all help to metabolize fat in the liver by enhancing it’s function and can reverse fatty liver disease. Phosphatidylcholine (from lecithin) can protect from liver alcoholic cirrhosis.
Insulin resistance puts major stress on the liver due to inefficient sugar-burning in the liver which leads to fatty acid production from the excess sugar. Over time, this can result in fatty liver disease.
A leaky gut will put undue stress on the liver due to a constant flow of toxins passing through the gut barrier and entering the liver which must then detoxify these compounds.
The following pathways must be supported for proper detoxification. This can be important for thyroid patients who have thyroid imbalances due to excess of testosterone, estrogen, toxic metals and thyroid disrupting chemicals.
Sulfation basically involves binding toxins with sulfur-containing amino acids so they can be excreted. The enzyme used in this step is dependent on molybdenum. Sulfur-containing amino acids include methionine, glycine and n-acetyl-cysteine.
Glucuronidation occurs when toxins are bound to glucuronic acid which is produced by the liver. B-vitamins, glycine and magnesium are required for this process.
Methylation is required for compounds that have been altered in Phase I detoxification. This process requires folate, SAMe, methylcobalamin (B12), magnesium, trimethylglycine, pyridoxal-5-phosphate(B6), choline, vitamin E, vitamin C, betaine and methionine.
Acetylation depends on vitamin C, thiamine (B1) and pantothenic acid (B5).
Bile Synthesis Support
Bile is produced by the liver to break down fats in the intestine, act as a “detergent” and to carry toxins with it that are produced by the liver. Bile production and flow must be optimal for detoxification. Taurine, vitamin C, betaine (beet root), lecithin (phosphatidylcholine), methionine, inositol and l-carnitine have been shown to support bile production and flow.
I use many different liver detoxification programs depending on each individual case. Detoxification can be a vital part of optimizing low thyroid function due to the multiple thyroid disruptors in our environment. Be sure to be adequately evaluated by a qualified functional medicine practitioner before beginning any liver detoxification program. A properly performed detoxification program should not result in sickness or severe symptoms.
Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, D.C., D.A.B.C.I. practice functional medicine which finds the underlying causes of disease and helps people get well naturally. His truly unique and innovative practice is in Asheville, NC where patients travel from all over the world to seek his services. Dr. Hedberg uses state-of-the-art scientific laboratory diagnostic testing to uncover the underlying causes of disease. He utilizes a variety of natural medicines, nutrition and lifestyle modifications to correct the imbalances found through testing. His goal with each patient is to find the underlying cause, correct it without harmful drugs and teach each patient how to maintain an optimal state of health and well-being. Dr. Hedberg is the author of the book The Thyroid Alternative. Dr. Hedberg has appeared on television, radio and has been published in many journals, magazines and newspapers distributed all over the world. To find out more visit http://www.drhedberg.com or call 828-254-4024
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The Thyroid Alternative: Renew Your Thyroid Naturally by Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, Renew Your Health, 2011
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