In This Article:
- The Blood-Brain Barrier
- Importance of Glutatione
- The Liver’s Role
- The Best Detox Supplements
The gastro intestinal (GI) tract contains the largest immune-active tissue in the body and has the greatest exposure to pathogens and toxins. Toxins pass through the gut wall and are delivered to the liver for neutralisation and elimination. Most detoxification then occurs in the liver, where the liver cells (hepatocytes) modify toxins so that they can be excreted or eliminated from the body.
Toxins ingested in our food, inhaled from the atmosphere or released as by-products of bacterial, viral or fungal activity can build up in the body and cause disruption and damage to various organs and systems. The Liver has incredibly sophisticated mechanisms for dealing with many of these, but it can only do so much, and can either fail due to its own dysfunction, or can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume or potency of the toxins.
How can these toxins affect brain function?
In some cases, toxins that make it past the liver can affect the central nervous system (CNS), directly affecting different types of neurons affecting the signals received by the brain. The gut with its own enteric nervous system, (ENS – often called the ’second brain’) is a dense nerve network which communicates directly with the Central Nervous System via various nerve fibres including the vagus nerve.
The neurons in the ENS control ‘mechanical’ functions of the gut, such as the secretion of digestive enzymes and the muscular contractions of the gut called peristalsis. This is why emotional responses can have a direct effect on the sensations and activities of the gut, such as ‘butterflies in the stomach’ and fear-induced diarrhea. The communication link between the gut and the brain is influenced by many chemicals and toxins and can impact how the gut talks to the brain and vice versa.
The brain has its own separate membrane called the ‘blood-brain barrier’, which helps prevent toxins from reaching and damaging the brain, in much the same way as the gut is designed to prevent the passage of toxins and bugs from getting into the bloodstream.
The blood brain barrier is not fully formed in infants, and research is starting to show that it may not be fully intact and functional until much later, possibly well into adolescence and can allow undesired inflammatory chemicals and toxins through, especially during infancy.
Where do toxins come from?
Toxins are derived from numerous sources, and can have dramatic effects on the body. Some are the chemicals or byproducts of chemicals that are part of the food we eat. Some toxins are the waste products of chemical reactions in the body, including defensive reactions of our own immune system. These chemicals are all ‘foreign’ to our bodies and therefore require detoxification.Research on umbilical cord blood from newborn babies identifies almost 300 toxic chemicals in its composition. Toxins that have a direct effect on the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain or nervous system are called neurotoxins.
Neurotoxins in order of toxicity include;
- Heavy metals such as mercury, aluminium, antimony, lead, arsenic, fluorine
- Biotoxins and microbial toxins released by bacteria such as tetanus, botulinum, proprionic acid, quinolinic acid, peroxynitrite, viral and parasitic toxins
- Mycotoxins from fungal species
- Xenobiotics (man made environmental toxins such as dioxin, phthalates, formaldehyde, insecticides and pesticides, wood preservatives and so on
- Food additives and preservatives such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate, etc
Piecing it all together
With a high current chemical burden, our bodies are constantly under stress due to this enormous toxic load. Children who go on to develop autism have the same exposure to viruses, vaccinations, environmental toxins and heavy metals as all other children, however they are especially susceptible to toxic overload through immunological susceptibility. This susceptibility is predominantly genetically driven in the infant’s first two years until maturity, and issues regarding increased inflammation, oxidative stress and poor detoxification capabilities that are common to many people with autism.
Glutathione (GSH) is the most prevalent and potent antioxidant and detoxifier in the body. Significant deficiency in glutathione is common in people with autism due to methylation and transulfuration (a series of chemical reactions that make glutathione) gene defects. These genetic abnormalities are increasingly being viewed and researched as a major factor in the condition.
The main functions and abilities of glutathione are as follows:
- Binds to toxins, making them more water-soluble and easier to eliminate
- Powerful antioxidant that neutralizes damaging molecules called free radicals
- Vital to cellular energy production by protecting mitochondria (powerhouses in each cell)
- Supports production of lymphocytes (white blood cells)
- Natural chelation agent, bonding with heavy metal molecules for elimination
- Regulates protein bonds
- Maintains integrity of the gut lining by neutralising microbial toxins and stimulating immune function
The Role Of The Liver
The liver is the body’s most important organ for eliminating these toxins, ably aided by the body’s most potent antioxidant glutathione.
The detoxification abilities of the liver are clearly vital to health and well-being, and any impairment can have significant effects. If the liver fails completely, there is currently no way to replicate it’s various functions, and apart from liver transplantation, nothing that can be done.
The very fact that the liver acts as a filter for all the toxins ingested or metabolized from whatever source makes it particularly vulnerable to damage and disease as soon as the toxic load begins to overwhelm its capabilities. If it’s pushed too hard; symptoms of liver stress will start to appear. These may include:
- Lethargy and decreased energy
- Increased allergic reactions
- Brain fog
- Poor memory and concentration
- Mood swings
- Coated tongue (Candida)
- Bad breath
- Dark eye circles
- Pale coloured stools
- Stools that float
- Erratic blood sugar control
- Abdominal weight gain
- Fat deposits beneath the skin
The liver is an organ that is not often discussed in the field of autism, but is heavily associated with many of the issues associated with the condition, including the following:
- Poor ability to detoxify
- Methylation and sulfuration problems leading to glutathione deficiency
- High general toxicity levels
- Leaky gut – increasing absorption of toxins, allergens and pathogens
- Hormone imbalances such as insulin, epinephrine, cortisol and serotonin
- Poor digestion of fats
- Candidiasis and constipation
- Low levels of beneficial flora
- pH imbalance in the gut
- Increased food allergens
- Low levels of B vitamins especially vitamins B6 and B12
- Vitamin D and mineral deficiencies
- Poor liver enzyme function
- Heavy metal toxicity
Many children with gut dysbiosis, permeability of the gut membrane, constipation and other gut issues will enhance and exacerbate toxin production into the blood system. All toxins are passed via the gut into the blood system and are carried to the liver for nutrient processing and toxin elimination. A clean and healthy gut will maximize digestion and nutrient absorption and significantly reduce the toxic load carried to the liver.
The Best Detox Supplements
These packages have been designed to work synergistically to provide safe and effective detoxification support. These packages should be taken independently in the following sequence. The Optimal Nutrient Foundation may be used throughout the entire detoxification process if required. Please seek guidance from your healthcare provider.
Save now on PractitionerSelect.com with coupon code “healthy2015” and receive 20% off your first order!
Nutrient deficiencies are very common in individuals with autism. This may be due to poor food selections, impaired digestion and inability for nutrient absorption. Due to additional burdens placed on the body such as increased toxicity and genetic factors, more nutrients are commonly required to support these additional needs.
- Klaire Labs Vitaspectrum as a broad multi vitamin and mineral
- Barleans Omega Swirl
- Klaire Amino Acid Complete
Excellent gut Health helps protect the blood system and liver from excessive toxic exposure by allowing toxics from the microbiome and non organic, refined and processed foods, drinks and waste byproducts to be eliminated from the body through the bowels. Secretory IgA production must be enhanced along with levels of beneficial bacteria, by using probiotics to help remove toxin secreting pathogenic bacteria and fungal opportunists which live in the gut.
- Klaire Labs Saccharomyces Boulardii to support secretory IgA production
- Klaire Labs Lactoprime Plus to support the colonies of beneficial bacteria
- Premier Research Labs Paratosin as an antimicrobial and reduction of biofilm adhesion
- Bio Botanicals liquid biocidin advanced formula as an antimicrobial support
- ProThera GastroThera to support intestinal permeability
- Premier Research Labs Aloe Detox to support gut healing and detoxification
There is overwhelming evidence that doing whatever we can to reduce the exposure to toxins, and supporting the liver in its detoxification process is a fundamental part of improving the health of people with autism and may bring about dramatic changes in behavior, mood and ability.
Providing the vital and necessary nutrients required by the liver to function will enable your child to detoxify better and to take the stress off the liver. Many toxins and most neurotoxins are fat-soluble and are readily stored in fat tissue, including the central nervous system and brain, which makes them harder to eliminate. The liver has a method of getting rid of these toxins by using a system of strong enzymes which pull the toxins out from the fat molecules (phase 1) and makes them water soluble (phase 2) so they can be eliminated from the body.
This system works in two phases:
In phase 1, the enzymes (predominantly an enzyme called Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD) remove the toxin from the fat molecule. SOD relies on the minerals molybdenum and zinc to make it work, supported by vitamins B2, B3, B6 as well as iron and manganese.
In phase 2, the liver utilizes the enzyme glutathione peroxidise (GPO) to convert the toxin to a water-soluble form so that it can be excreted .
- Premier Research Labs SOD Premier to support phase 1 liver detox
- BioRay Liver Life to support liver function
- ProThera Active B12-Folate to support methylation and glutathione production
- Premier Research Labs Premier Glutathione supporting detoxification and liver function
Heavy metal burden and cellular toxicity is commonly elevated in individuals with autism since they generally lack the ability to get rid of toxins. Genetic defects associated with glutathione production and protein transporters of heavy metals (called metallothionein proteins) are commonly low. Reduced levels of glutathione and metallothionein can substantially impair the body’s natural ability to rid the system of these poisons, but removing them is essential.
- Bioray NDF Plus removes toxic heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides while balancing nutrient and mineral levels
- Premier Research Labs Gamma Detox FX natural zeolites and bentonite clay to support detoxification
- NeuroBiologix Glutathione Plus (4 oz) topical liquid better absorbed as a topical lotion and a great antioxidant and free radical scavenger
Don’t miss part 2 of this blog: Tips for Supporting Detoxification and Reducing Toxic Exposure. Subscribe to our newsletter for more great articles and exclusive discounts and promotions!
You should always consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any nutritional supplements. Statements made herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.