Getting the Fat Toxins Out
By Chad Krier, N.D., D.C.
It makes sense that high fat diets are associated with an increase in weight over time, but is there more to the picture than just calories? Fatty foods are not only a source of calories but also a source of fat soluble toxins. This is especially true in animal derived fatty food sources. The more fatty foods we eat and the longer we live the more likely we are to accumulate fatty toxins.
The big problem with fatty toxins is that they are toxic to our mitochondria (the energy powerhouses inside our cells). In order to turn our food (FAT) into energy, our mitochondrial powerhouses must be in tiptop shape. Many toxins have been shown to disrupt the rate at which our mitochondria can use fat for fuel, including: pesticides, PCBs, heavy metals, ethanol, herbicides, and trans fats. If we carry a significant toxic burden, we can’t burn fat well.
Fatty toxins are found everywhere in the environment and in animal tissues.
I’ll just lose the fat and the toxins will melt away – right? WRONG. With calorie restriction and weight loss, levels of circulating toxins actually increase up to 388% above pre weight loss levels. This is often why many people have trouble losing weight. As they start to get motivated to exercise and start losing weight, their toxin levels rise and cause them to feel sick or flare up a bothersome symptom. This causes us to get off our routine and fall into the yo-yo trap. Weight loss alone does not help us dispose of fatty toxins. It does cause us to stir up the toxins and redistribute them to other fatty locations, such as the brain and liver.
Weight loss also can affect our thyroid which can have an effect on metabolic rate. In one study, blood levels of organochlorine concentrations (fatty toxin),serumT3 concentration (thyroid hormone), and resting metabolic rate were measured before and after weight loss in 16 obese men who followed a calorie restricted diet for 15 weeks. Weight loss in the men caused increased circulating toxin levels and lowered the level of T3 (the active thyroid hormone responsible for metabolic rate). We have always thought that taking in fewer calories may slow down our metabolism as part of the body’s innate protective mechanisms, but it could be that it is the increase in toxin levels disrupting the thyroid, causing a drop in metabolic rate.
To summarize so far, fatty toxins are found everywhere in the environment and in animal tissues. These fatty toxins enter the body in food and are stored in our adipose tissue. Loss of body fat through calorie restricted diets mobilizes fatty toxins and results in redistribution of those toxins to other tissues. Weight loss only increases the levels of circulating toxins but does not promote excretion of the toxins. The problem with the toxins is that they decrease our ability to burn fat for fuel, decrease mitochondrial function, decrease energy production, and disrupt the endocrine system, creating disordered metabolism.
The question becomes, “How do we get the fatty toxins out?” We have to realize that most toxins will go through our filter known as the liver. We have to utilize methods that prevent the reabsorption of fatty compounds in the intestine and kidneys once the liver has done its duty. The liver generally dumps fatty toxins into the bile which are eventually delivered to our intestinal tract.
Using nonabsorbable fats is one method of preventing toxin reabsorption. Olestra is a fat substitute that adds no fat, calories, or cholesterol to products. You often see olestra used in the preparation of traditionally high-fat foods such as potato chips. Olestra is a model of what a fat inhibitor can do. Olestra contains a sucrose molecule, which can support from six to eight fatty acid chains arranged like an octopus. Olestra is too large to move through the intestinal wall and be absorbed. Olestra’s fatty acid tails cannot be removed from the sucrose molecule for digestion. Olestra basically passes through the digestive system without being absorbed and adds no calories or nutritive value to the diet.
The major drawback to olestra is that it limits fat soluble vitamin and fatty acid absorption. It can also cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Stools may also float due to excess fat, have an oily appearance, and be especially foul smelling. An oily anal leakage or some level of fecal incontinence may occur if you take too much.
In one study, an obese man with Type II diabetes, high lipids, and neuropathy went on olestra products for two years. Before the study, he was found to have high fatty toxin levels. After the study, his toxin level, blood sugar, and lipids all normalized. The man in the study found that he could tolerate seven olestra (fat free) chips per day with no adverse abdominal symptoms. Hence, the saying “Seven fat free chips a day keeps the doctor away,” or something like that.
If you’re not an olestra fan, there are other things that we can use to limit the reabsorption of fatty toxins in our digestive tract. Ginger tea can inhibit the intestinal absorption of dietary fat by inhibiting the breakdown of fat (pancreatic lipase inhibitor). Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis) somewhere between green and black tea in oxidation. It ranges from10 to 70% oxidation. Polyphenol enriched oolong tea can increase lipid excretion into feces when consuming fatty meals (pancreatic lipase inhibitor). Fat excretion into the feces is two to three times higher when oolong tea is used in the diet.
Fibers can also help with the elimination of fatty toxins by promoting the excretion of fats in the stool. Ten to 12 grams per day of rice or oat bran can increase the excretion of fatty toxins two to five times over low fiber diets. Chitosan, which is extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans, including shrimp, lobster, and clams, forms a positively charged gel matrix in stomach acid. This gel matrix binds onto bile (from the liver) and helps prevent the reabsorption of fatty toxins in the gut. In fact, chitosan increases excretion of fat soluble toxins around 80% greater than most fibers. Chitosan slightly increases fecal fat by one to two grams per day using larger dosages (3.0 to 4.5 grams of chitosan daily).
Seaweed, algae, and foods high in chlorophyll also decrease the absorption and increase the excretion of fatty toxins. Chlorophyll provides the green color that is found in grasses, leaves, and many of the vegetables that we eat. High chlorophyll foods include: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, celery, collard greens, green beans, green peas, kale, leeks, green olives, parsley, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens. Japanese (Matcha) tea can increase toxin excretion four to nine times greater compared to diets with no Matcha tea consumption.
Other useful tools include using botanical bile movers termed cholagogues and choleretics. Herbal cholagogues stimulate contraction of the gallbladder(storage depot for liver bile) and promote the flow of bile. Herbal choleretics increase bile secretion by the liver and increase the solubility of the bile. Herbs that are useful for promoting bile flow include: Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale), Silybum marianum (Milk thistle), Cynara scolymus (Artichoke), Curcuma longa (Turmeric), Chelidonium majus (Celandine), and Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe Tree).
In order to promote excretion of fatty toxins while trying to lose weight consider the following: regular exercise, use of infrared sauna, and a low refined carbohydrate diet (which has been shown to decrease fatty liver while losing weight).
In addition, using teas on a daily basis can be helpful. One to two cups of a combination tea (ginger and oolong) during meals and 30-60 minutes after a meal has ended will help to inhibit pancreatic enzymes that promote fat absorption. Drinking one cup of Matcha tea with meals utilizes the tea’s ability to bind up toxins in the GI tract. Drinking one cup of Matcha tea before bed may also promote elimination. Dandelion root tea works as an herbal choleretic. It may be best to drink a cup of dandelion root tea 30-60 minutes after a meal. Green tea increases fatty acid oxidation by blocking enzymes that break down sympathetic hormones. Green tea appears to have a thermogenic (fat burning) effect on the body. Drinking two to three cups during the day before 5:00 p.m. may be best.
Further, using natural binders can promote elimination of toxins. Consider eating a small amount of food made with olestra (seven chips). Utilize one gram of chitosan with meals (three to four grams total). Add seaweed to meals and eat three to four servings of green vegetables daily. Consider taking a chlorella supplement daily. Take three to four grams of oat bran or rice bran fiber with meals (12 grams per day). While promoting fatty toxin elimination, remember to supplement with fatty acids (fish oils), minerals, and fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Ensure that your bowels are moving at least one time daily and stay hydrated (all the tea should help).