Understanding the Role of Toxin Binders in the Detox Process - Restoration Healthcare Blog

Understanding the Role of Toxin Binders in the Detox Process

By: Restoration Healthcare

To most, it’s no secret that we live in a toxic environment of our own creation. Toxins are in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the schools where we send our children, and our workplaces. There’s no escaping them.

Fortunately, our bodies have mechanisms in place to detox — to filter out and eliminate — these toxins. The bad news is, we may ingest such a high quantity of toxins that these mechanisms can’t keep up. In other words, we have more toxins coming in than going out. And if you’re wondering how this can happen, there are essentially three reasons:

  1. Overexposure to toxins
  2. Impaired ability to detox
  3. Combination of overexposure to toxins and an impaired ability to detox

Here at Restoration Healthcare, we have a number of diagnostic and treatment protocols in place to test for toxins and to enhance the body’s detox pathways. Although our detox protocol is individualized to each patient’s unique needs and plan of care, it almost always involves the use of one or more binders — chemical compounds to which toxins stick, making it easier for the body to eliminate them.

Understanding the Four Phases of Detox

To understand the role that binders play in the detox process, it helps to have a basic understanding of the four phases of detoxification:

  • Phase 0 — Diagnosis and Identification and Elimination of the Source: We have several tests to diagnose issues related to toxins. These include the Organic Acids Test (OA) that measures potentially harmful chemicals produced by yeasts and bacteria in the body and oxalates in certain foods, and evaluates the body’s ability to detox. We also may choose to run a mycotoxin urine test (for mold exposure), heavy metals urine test, GPL-TOX Profile (for non-metal toxins), and a urine test for the herbicide glyphosate. The test results help us to 1) determine whether there’s a problem, 2) identify and help you address/avoid the source of the exposure, and 3) guide the treatments we prescribe.
  • Phase 1 — Biotransformation: Biotransformation is the chemical alteration of toxins to prepare them for Phase 2 of detox. Three main chemical reactions play a role in Phase 1 — oxygenation, dehydrogenation, and electron transfer. Certain enzymes produced by the body are responsible for these chemical reactions. Part of a medically supervised detox protocol will likely involve diet recommendations and supplements to induce and enhance the activity of these enzymes.
  • Phase 2 — Conjugation: During biotransformation, some toxins are converted to a hydrophilic state (water soluble), which enables the body to excrete them. The fat-soluble toxins remain and must undergo conjugation to make them water soluble. During conjugation, several important chemical reactions occur in the liver, and part of a thoughtful medically supervised detox protocol will involve using foods and supplements to support these reactions.
  • Phase 3 — Elimination: This phase involves excreting the toxins through urination and bowel movements. This is where binders come into play. Many toxins are fat-soluble and get packed in bile to travel through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. But about 95 percent of bile is reabsorbed and recycled, along with many of the fat-soluble toxins. Binders attach to the toxins to prevent reabsorption and enhance elimination. To support this phase of the detox process, a proper medically supervised detox protocol should 1) use binders to cling to the toxins, and 2) keep waste moving freely through the GI tract (to prevent constipation).

Note: Any detox protocol should focus first on Phase 3, elimination. Otherwise, toxins, along with harmful chemicals produced by the body’s own detox mechanisms, can build up, leaving you worse off than before you started your detox. Remember, detox should make you feel better, not worse.

In addition to the reduction in their toxic load, patients who include binders as part of their detox protocol often experience the following benefits:

  • Improved bowel regularity and consistency
  • Decreased bloating
  • Increased energy
  • Improved skin condition

Choosing the Right Binders for the Job

When developing your personalized detox protocol, we need to select the right binders for the toxins in your system. Our options include the following eight binders:

  • Cholestyramine and colesevelam hydrochloride: Commonly known as Questran and Welchol, respectively, these prescription medications are used to lower cholesterol, bind to bile, and thereby reduce the amount of bile (and the toxins it contains) that’s reabsorbed into the body. These two binders are often used to help detox from exposure to toxic mold because they bind to a mycotoxin called ochratoxin A (OTA), which is produced by two of the most universal molds in the environment — Aspergillus and Penicillium.
  • Charcoal: Like cholestyramine, charcoal binds to bile, so it prevents bile and the toxins in bile from being reabsorbed into the body. Charcoal is useful for firming loose stools, binding to toxins from food poisoning, and binding to mycotoxins from mold. It will bind to nearly any toxin excreted in the gut.
  • Clay: Various types of clay, including bentonite, zeolite, and montmorillonite are effective in binding, especially to aflatoxins produced by certain molds that grow in soil. Aflatoxins are regularly found in improperly stored human and pet foods and in feedstock for agricultural animals. Clay may also be helpful for binding to other toxins, including zearalenone, OTA, and gliotoxin.
  • Glucomannan: Derived from the elephant yam, glucomannan is a hemicellulose fiber commonly used to enhance weight loss. Since human saliva doesn’t have the enzymes to break it down, glucomannan passes through the GI tract unchanged. It can absorb up to 50 times its own weight and is a powerful binder for various mycotoxins — especially aflatoxin and It can also be helpful in Phase 3 of detox (elimination), along with drinking enough water, to alleviate constipation.
  • Fiber: Any fiber you consume as part of your diet or supplementation aids in detox. Fiber from barley, oats, wheat bran, alfalfa, flax, chia, guar gum, and so on bind to bile to lower cholesterol and reduce the amount of bile and the toxins it contains from being reabsorbed into the body. It’s not as powerful as cholestyramine, but it has a similar effect. Fiber in general can help reduce levels of mycotoxins, but modified citrus pectin (MCP) has shown to be very effective in binding to heavy metals, such as lead.
  • Chlorella: This binder, considered a superfood, is a freshwater alga available in tablets, liquid extracts, and powders. It’s high in protein, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and E. It’s also very effective in binding to heavy metals and aflatoxins. It has been shown to inhibit aflatoxin B1-induced liver cancer.
  • Humic and fulvic acid: Humic and fulvic acid, are the byproducts of the decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms. They’re often used as soil additives to increase nutrients and bind to toxins in the soil, and they’re often used to support a detox protocol. Humic acid also works as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Probiotics and prebiotics: Many strains of beneficial bacteria that naturally live in the gut are effective binders. The lactobacillus strains L. pentosus and L. beveris bind to aflatoxins, especially the B1 type. L. plantarum C88 not only binds to aflatoxins and sterigmatocystin (a common mycotoxin), but it also upregulates the antioxidant activity of glutathione s-transferase. Certain strains of saccharomyces also bind mycotoxins. S. cerevisiae binds to aflatoxins, OTA, and zearalenone. S. boulardii is effective against gliotoxin and reduces Aspergillus and Fusarium molds in the GI tract. By reducing the molds, S. boulardii reduces the mycotoxins those molds produce, including zearalenone, enniatin B, OTA, gliotoxin, and aflatoxins. Mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) are prebiotics derived from the outer cell wall of S. cerevisiae. MOS binds to citrinin, produced by a wide variety of molds.

At this point, you may be wondering whether binders bind to nutrients as well. And if so, can taking binders lead to malnutrition? Yes and no. Certain binders may bind to some minerals, but they don’t remove significant amounts of nutrients from the body. In fact, many of the binders described above have nutritional value, as well.

Knowing When to Detox with the Help of Binders

Because exposure to toxins is unavoidable, most of us, under the supervision of a qualified medical professional like the functional medicine practitioners here at Restoration Healthcare, could use a regular cleansing and detox. Our bodies haven’t evolved to the point at which they can effectively eliminate all the toxins we’re exposed to. Detoxing is especially helpful in the following situations:

  • You have food poisoning or some other form of acute poisoning. In this case, you need emergency medical attention. Treatment may include detox.
  • You’re suffering from mold toxicity. You can be exposed to toxic molds in the buildings where you live or work or through contaminated food. Certain bacteria and molds can even set up shop inside your body, releasing a steady stream of toxins. Symptoms include pain, fatigue, brain fog, chronic sinusitis or allergies, constipation or diarrhea, sensitivities to certain smells or chemicals, unusual body odor, physical aches and pains, skin rashes or acne, an illness that’s not responding to treatment, or a chronic, unexplained illness.
  • You have or are recovering from an infection. Infections can be from bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites, and they can significantly increase your toxic load in several ways. First, the infectious agent may release toxins. Second, the immune response to the infection may increase toxins in your system, and third, the die-off from infectious agents often results in the release of toxins.
  • You’ve just completed treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good bacteria along with killing infectious bacteria. Using binders during antibiotic treatment can help to protect the good bacteria. Also, detox often involves the use of probiotics to restore populations of beneficial bacteria.
  • You drink alcohol, ingest nicotine, take medications, or eat foods with lots of additives or other chemical substances your body can’t metabolize. Anything you consume that’s bad for you can increase your toxic load, increasing your need to support your body’s detox processes.

If you think that you may benefit from a cleanse or detox, we strongly recommend a medically supervised detox, which includes diagnosis, testing, and treatment. Your detox protocol should be personalized according to the toxins in your system, your body’s ability to detox, and other factors. Detox can be harmful if not done right. Many people who detox on their own release toxins faster than their body can eliminate them, which can result in significant pain and discomfort. That’s why we recommend that you detox only under medical supervision.

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about toxin binders is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at Restoration Healthcare, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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