What does detox mean to you?
For many, the word detox brings up images of restrictive diets where drinking nothing but lemon juice for a week somehow translates into enhanced wellness.
In reality, detoxification is not a wellness trend. It’s a physiological process that runs behind the scenes in your body every single day. When it’s working well, you feel great, but sometimes due to lifestyle or illness, the process can fall out of balance.
Supporting detoxification requires a holistic approach that includes multiple diet and lifestyle factors. Still, certain foods and supplements, especially those found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, can help bring the body back into equilibrium. Sulforaphane and Diindolylmethane (DIM) are two phytochemicals found in cruciferous veggies that can be powerful tools for optimizing the body’s already impressive detoxification system.
Every day you come into contact with potentially harmful compounds from the outside world via your skin, lungs, and GI tract. You also create toxic byproducts as a normal part of metabolism (think free radicals). Detoxification is the process by which your body neutralizes and removes these products, so they don’t cause any damage or detrimental health effects. 
Your liver is the primary organ involved in detoxication, but other organs also play an essential role in the process, including your GI tract, kidney, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system. Anything potentially toxic to the body goes through several steps before being eliminated from the body, broken down into three phases:
When you break down the individual phases of detoxification, it helps to understand how important the balance between them truly is. Without an efficient phase two, phase one products can bottleneck and cause problems. Movement out of the body in phase three is equally important as without excretion, you can’t get rid of the byproducts. You can’t simply focus on phase one without balancing phase two or vice versa, as imbalances can lead to health concerns, including oxidative stress, gut health disruptions, hormone imbalances, and more.
Cruciferous vegetables (also known as the brassica family of veggies) contain two important glucosinolates (unique sulfur-containing compounds) that impact detoxification: sulforaphane and DIM.
Sulforaphane is a natural sulfur-containing compound found in cruciferous veggies, especially broccoli, that is well studied for its health benefits, including acting as an antioxidant and supporting healthy inflammatory responses. Sulforaphane promotes healthy detoxification balance through its actions on phase one and two detoxification pathways.
Studies tell us that sulforaphane plays a role in inhibiting the overproduction of intermediates in phase one while turning up the transformation process in phase two. This is especially important as research suggests an overaccumulation of toxic byproducts of phase one without an equally balanced phase two activity can seriously impact your health. Sulforaphane appears to help balance this process by promoting cell regulation and inflammation reduction while also supporting liver function.  
Sulforaphane also promotes the upregulation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Nrf2 is a transcription factor activated in response to oxidative stress. It supports the expression of hundreds of genes involved in detoxification (especially phase two enzymes) and cellular antioxidant protection.
DIM also comes from brassica vegetables as a metabolite from indole-3-carbinol (I3C). During digestion, I3C, an unstable compound, is converted to DIM in response to the acid in your stomach. DIM is a much more stable metabolite and also supports the body’s detoxification pathways.
Studies suggest that DIM can promote the upregulation of genes that control the expression of your detoxification enzymes. It also supports a healthy inflammation balance in the body. DIM supplementation may be especially supportive for the detoxification of women’s hormones, especially estrogen. DIM supports a healthy balance of estrogen metabolism, shifting the ratio in favor of the more protective forms.
The cruciferous vegetables include:
The way you prepare these veggies affects how much of these compounds you absorb. Heating increases absorption, but overdoing it can also inhibit bioavailability. Based on research on broccoli, steaming is the best way to obtain sulforaphane.
While it’s always ideal to obtain these phytonutrients from the sources listed above, you may need a higher amount of DIM or sulforaphane to impact a specific health concern. In this case, supplement options can be a way to get a higher amount as a compliment to your food sources.
Both sulforaphane and DIM supplements are available in a variety of forms, from powders to capsules, but should ideally be directed by a health care practitioner to make sure you are getting the proper form and dosage for your individual needs.
It’s well accepted that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are good for you, and their role in detoxification may be a reason why. Including a few servings each day of these powerful phytochemicals is a smart way to optimize your health and support all phases of detoxification. DIM or sulforaphane supplements may also provide added value to help bring all phases of detoxification into balance.
Disclaimer: The information is for general education purposes only. These therapies are not substitutions for standard medical care and are not meant to be used by a patient alone. The Company assumes no liability for the author’s information, whether conveyed verbally or in these materials. All presentations represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the position or the opinion of the Company. Reference by the author to any specific product, process or service by trade name, trademark, or manufacturer does not constitute or imply endorsement or recommendation by the Company.
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