Holiday Support for Detox and Digestive Function

Holiday Support for Detox and Digestive Function

Just one more bite, you think as you teeter on the brink of being somewhere between very full and feeling almost sick. An after-dinner cocktail warms your belly despite the large cube of ice chilling it in the glass. “I’ll detox/exercise/eat better tomorrow” is a common theme through the holidays as we encounter many gatherings with beverages, multiple course meals, and elaborate dishes to try. Although the “enjoy now, pay later” motto is one strategy, support for the body on the front end also can help to mitigate the damage that inevitably accompanies excessive intake of beverages or food.

One way to support digestive and liver health through the holidays is by using bitters. Herbal bitters have a long history of use, and are commonly used in cocktails known as aperitifs and digestifs which are served before and after meals to stimulate appetite and digestion. However, bitter herbs act far beyond the digestive system, and broadly impact the liver, kidneys, skin, immune system, and detoxification pathways.1 They stimulate the body’s production of digestive secretions, supporting the digestion of food and healthy gastrointestinal function. Bitters substances support healthy bile flow, which is necessary for the normal bowel motility and elimination.2 This bile flow also helps keep the gut flora in balance, a balance which can be tipped in the negative direction with excessive consumption of holiday sweets.3 Bitters can be taken before meals to support digestion, but also can be enjoyed in a cocktail or sparkling water between meals to help alleviate digestive discomfort. Some of the herbs used as bitters such as dandelion, milk thistle, and gentian also deliver hepatoprotective benefits, supporting the antioxidant status and health of the liver, giving even more reason to use them in your cocktail.4,5, 6

Holiday Support for Detox and Digestive Function J html fd72455cAt times, with holiday meals, we may consume foods that we normally try to avoid due to sensitivities. Although that carrot cake with cream cheese frosting may taste good for a moment, cloudy thinking, anxiety, itching, or digestive discomfort may soon follow. One substance which can help restore immune system balance and reduce food reactions, even when taken after the fact, is diindolylmethane, commonly known as DIM. DIM is derived from cruciferous vegetables and is commonly used as support for hormone metabolism, but its potential benefits are much broader than this. DIM has been shown to induce a regulatory T cell response, reducing the T cells associated with allergy and the pro-inflammatory response.7 A bolus of DIM, taken in a rapidly absorbable form such as a nanoemulsion, can help restore the body to balance quickly. DIM also has the effect of “turning on” the Nrf2 pathway, the switch that turns on the body’s expression of many drug metabolizing enzymes, detoxification transporters (necessary to get toxins out of the cell), and other antioxidant enzymes.8,9

Holiday Support for Detox and Digestive Function J html c878cdd2Although the liver technically is a part of the gastrointestinal system, it really serves a much larger job than just digestion. Many are familiar with the burden that alcohol consumption places on the liver, but excessive food is taxing to the liver as well and contributes to a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. One of the molecules that is important for supporting the health of the liver is glutathione, the body’s main intracellular antioxidant.10 Consumption of alcohol induces oxidative stress that damages the liver, impairing antioxidant defenses and producing reactive oxygen species, as well as depleting glutathione.11,12 Glutathione is important for cellular health, energy production, and a normal immune system response.13,14

Alcohol, particularly in excess, has an effect of increasing intestinal permeability, leading to what is commonly known as leaky gut. With leaky gut, endotoxin associated with bacteria in the gut is able to enter into circulation, creating a strong inflammatory response, blocking detoxification pathways, and damaging liver and kidney function.15 This is, in part, what leads to symptoms of a hangover -- including difficulty thinking, aches and pains, and digestive symptoms after consuming excess alcohol. One effective tool to reduce these symptoms is the use of a binder such as activated charcoal and chitosan which both bind endotoxin and also help to reduce related inflammation.16,17,18 A comprehensive binder also can help the body to clear other things which it may be reacting to such as pesticides and herbicides, as well as mold toxins found in food, wine, and beer.19,20,21,22

For a comprehensive liver support package, one must also consider phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is the predominant phospholipid building block of cellular membranes, and comprises over 90% of the bile phospholipid content.23 It helps maintain the fluid nature of cellular membranes for transport of nutrients in, and toxins out of the cells. It is of particular importance for the function of hepatocytes in removing toxins from the body, which are transported out complexed with the bile and phosphatidylcholine. Inadequate intake contributes to impaired biliary excretion of bile and toxins, and promotes cholesterol crystallization and gallstone formation.24 Increased intake of phosphatidylcholine has been shown to enhance biliary lipid secretion, preventing cholestasis and subsequent liver damage.25,26

Holiday Support for Detox and Digestive Function J html ff4281d4So, before you head out to your holiday parties, make sure you are prepared with your arsenal of support! Crafty cocktails with charcoal in them are also even a trend, showing up in trendy lounges in major cities and with do-it-yourself guides on the internet. Enjoy your pre-dinner bitter-filled aperitif and make an after-dinner cocktail everyone will be talking about still the next year!


To learn more, read on at:

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2 Hellström PM, Nilsson I, Svenberg T. Role of bile in regulation of gut motility. J Intern Med. 1995 Apr;237(4):395-402. View Abstract

3 Islam KB, Fukiya S, Hagio M, et al. Bile acid is a host factor that regulates the composition of the cecal microbiota in rats. Gastroenterology. 2011 Nov;141(5):1773-81. View Abstract

4 Mihailović V, et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Gentiana asclepiadea L. extracts against carbon tetrachloride induced liver injury in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Feb;52:83-90. View Abstract

5 Rui YC. Advances in pharmacological studies of silymarin. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 1991;86 Suppl 2:79-85. View Full Paper

6 You Y, et al. In vitro and in vivo hepatoprotective effects of the aqueous extract from Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Jun;48(6):1632-7. View Abstract

7 Huang Z, Jiang Y, Yang Y, et al. 3,3'-Diindolylmethane alleviates oxazolone-induced colitis through Th2/Th17 suppression and Treg induction. Mol Immunol. 2013 Apr;53(4):335-44. View Abstract

8 Ernst IM, Schuemann C, Wagner AE, Rimbach G. 3,3'-Diindolylmethane but not indole-3-carbinol activates Nrf2 and induces Nrf2 target gene expression in cultured murine fibroblasts. Free Radic Res. 2011 Aug;45(8):941-9. View Abstract

9 Saw CL, Cintrón M, Wu TY, et al. Pharmacodynamics of dietary phytochemical indoles I3C and DIM: Induction of Nrf2-mediated phase II drug metabolizing and antioxidant genes and synergism with isothiocyanates. Biopharm Drug Dispos. 2011 Jul;32(5):289-300. View Full Paper

10 Yuan L, Kaplowitz N. Glutathione in liver diseases and hepatotoxicity. Mol Aspects Med. 2009 Feb-Apr;30(1-2):29-41. View Abstract

11 Albano E. Alcohol, oxidative stress and free radical damage. Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Aug;65(3):278-90. View Abstract

12 Hirano T, et al. Hepatic mitochondrial glutathione depletion and progression of experimental alcoholic liver disease in rats. Hepatology. 1992 Dec;16(6):1423-7. View Abstract

13 Palamara AT, et al. Evidence for antiviral activity of glutathione: in vitro inhibition of herpes simplex virus type 1 replication. Antiviral Res. 1995 Jun;27(3):237-53. View Abstract

14 Cai J, et al. Inhibition of influenza infection by glutathione. Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Apr 1;34(7):928-36. View Abstract

15 Groschwitz KR, Hogan SP. Intestinal barrier function: molecular regulation and disease pathogenesis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Jul;124(1):3-20. View Abstract

16 Nolan JP, McDevitt JJ, Goldmann GS, Bishop C. Endotoxin binding by charged and uncharged resins. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1975 Jul;149(3):766-70. View Abstract

17 de Souza JB, et al. Oral activated charcoal prevents experimental cerebral malaria in mice and in a randomized controlled clinical trial in man did not interfere with the pharmacokinetics of parenteral artesunate. PLoS One. 2010 Apr 15;5(4):e9867. View Full Paper

18 Davydova VN, Yermak IM, Gorbach VI, et al. Interaction of bacterial endotoxins with chitosan. Effect of endotoxin structure, chitosan molecular mass, and ionic strength of the solution on the formation of the complex. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2000 Sep;65(9):1082-90. View Abstract

19 Quintela S, Villarán MC, López De Armentia I, Elejalde E. Ochratoxin A removal from red wine by several oenological fining agents: bentonite, egg albumin, allergen-free adsorbents, chitin and chitosan. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2012;29(7):1168-74. View Abstract

20 Park Y, Sun Z, Ayoko GA, Frost RL. Removal of herbicides from aqueous solutions by modified forms of montmorillonite. J Colloid Interface Sci. 2014 Feb 1;415:127-32. View Abstract

21 Lagaly G. Pesticide–clay interactions and formulations. App Clay Sci. 2001 May 31;18(5):205-9. View Abstract

22 Mateo R, Medina A, Mateo EM, et al. An overview of ochratoxin A in beer and wine. Int J Food Microbiol. 2007 Oct 20;119(1-2):79-83. View Abstract

23 Hişmioğullari AA, Bozdayi AM, Rahman K. Biliary lipid secretion. Turk J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jun;18(2):65-70. View Full Paper

24 Morita SY, Terada T. Molecular mechanisms for biliary phospholipid and drug efflux mediated by ABCB4 and bile salts. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:954781. View Full Paper

25 Chanussot F, Benkoël L. Prevention by dietary (n-6) polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholines of intrahepatic cholestasis induced by cyclosporine A in animals. Life Sci. 2003 Jun 13;73(4):381-92. View Abstract

26 Karaman A, Demirbilek S, Sezgin N, et al. Protective effect of polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholine on liver damage induced by biliary obstruction in rats. J Pediatr Surg. 2003 Sep;38(9):1341-7. View Abstract

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