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New Year’s Detox – with Probiotics

It’s not just another new year – it’s a new decade! This is a time that is refreshingly optimistic and inspiring – especially when embarking on a better-for-you healthy lifestyle journey.

It is highly recommended to cleanse/detox first before embarking on a new dietary regimen of clean, healthy foods. It can be considered like giving your body an oil change: an oil change, which replaces all the engine oil in the vehicle along with a new filter, helps remove contaminants built up over time.

Why Internal Cleansing Boosts Well-being

When we kickstart a healthier regimen, we tend to think more in macro terms: cut down sugars/simple carbs, alcohol and red meat; drink more water and perhaps try a juice fast. These are the common steps of a new year’s detox, but it’s also a goal of an internal cleanse to build up optimal immune resistance. Your immune system is threatened constantly: when touching such commonplace surfaces as door handles and shopping carts, both of which are fertile breeding grounds for cold and flu (and noroviruses)—even when you do use the antibiotic wipes.

There are also thousands of unavoidable and inescapable man-made toxins we encounter daily. These microscopic evildoers lurk everywhere, ready to engage for destruction. Here we have a few examples.

Pesticides: While you may use the natural and organic tools and strategies of controlling pests in your yard and garden, public grounds are often treated with conventional pesticides, such as organophosphorus pesticides (those which contain a number of organophosphates). Don’t let the “organo” part of the name fool you—the EPA banned most residential uses of this chemical group but they are still used in agriculture as well as in killing mosquitoes. These harmful agents can wind up in your body through consuming foods containing them, or by absorption through lungs and skin.

Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to organophosphates in pesticides can increase risk of respiratory disease and cancer, and in pregnant women, increase risk of premature birth. Further, these pesticide chemicals inhibit an enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, which is involved in normal nerve signaling; disrupting this enzyme can cause symptoms that are similar to those caused by nerve gases.

Probiotics contained in the fermented food kimchi were shown in an in vitro study to degrade an organophosphorus (OP) insecticide chlorpyrifos (CP). In this study, the researchers added 30 mg of CP during the fermentation of kimchi, and the kimchi rapidly degraded the CP by 83.3% after three days, and completely eradicated the chemical by day 9. Specifically, the authors write, “four CP-degrading lactic acid bacteria were isolated from kimchi fermentation in the presence of 200 mg L(-1) CP and were identified as Leuconostoc mesenteroides WCP907, Lactobacillus brevis WCP902, Lactobacillus plantarum WCP931, and Lactobacillus sakei WCP904.”

Bisphenol A: Yes, even a supermarket receipt can be gnarly. Bisphenol A (commonly called BPA) is a ubiquitous chemical toxin that has been linked to more than 40 health conditions. BPA may generate the onset of respiratory symptoms and nausea; it is also suspected of impairing fertility. BPA is primarily used in plastics and are found in: thermal printer receipts, canned foods, plastic containers, sports equipment, dental filling sealants and eyeglass lenses.

However, one enlightening study showed that consuming probiotic strains Bifidobacterium breve (Yakult) and Lactobacillus casei (Shirota) can help the body thwart absorption of BPA, effectively thrusting it out of the body through fecal excretion. In the study, the subjects given the probiotics had a 2.4-fold greater amount BPA excretion than control. The authors concluded that the results suggest that these two strains “reduced the intestinal absorption by facilitating the excretion of BPA, and that these probiotics may suppress the adverse effects of BPA on human health.”

Heterocyclic aromatic amines: Vegans and vegetarians don’t have to worry about this class of health disruptors. Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCAs) are molecules created when meat is cooked at high temps (150 to 300 degrees Celsius) and are known to damage DNA. Further, some research has suggested that HCAs may be an instigator of onset of colon and gastric cancer development.

Lactobacillus casei DN 114001 was investigated via in vitro test for its potential ability to metabolize or adsorb (adhesion) of three specific and common HCAs. The results showed that this strain was able to reduce HCA genotoxicity.

Food Preservatives: Most diets (if not all) for weight loss prohibit frankfurters and processed meats—they are the main foods containing sodium nitrite, responsible for triggering numerous health conditions. Again, here, vegans and clean-eaters need not worry. However, if you are an omnivore, it is not a bad idea at all to just stop eating any of these; packaging labels will list this common preservative. Nitrites and nitrates have been associated with cancer development, as they can be metabolized into carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Another kimchi study revealed that the fermented food contains a probiotic strain that can break down sodium nitrate by more than 90% after five days.

The primary nitrosamine found in processed meat products can cause stomach, kidney and colon cancer is N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Results of one study showed that the strain Lactobacillus brevis 0945 lowered the concentration and genotoxicity of NDMA by up to 50%.

Heavy Metals: Not a type of music, but a class of compounds that you need to be aware of that can accumulate in your body and cause health disturbances. These include arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium. Selenium and copper are needed by the body, but too much of these heavy metals can also be toxic.

Authors of one review summarize, “A number of environmental microorganisms have long been known for their ability to bind metals, but less well appreciated are human gastrointestinal bacteria. Species such as Lactobacillus, present in the human mouth, gut, and vagina and in fermented foods, have the ability to bind and detoxify some of these substances.”

They conclude, “Lactobacilli and potentially other bacterial types used in the food industry or as probiotics are ideal organisms to use as an adjunct tool to prevent/reduce heavy-metal toxicity and prevent absorption of metals into the human body.”


When considering “detox,” don’t quite think of something drastic like a food-prohibited juice and herbal tea fast. That’s extreme and may do more harm than good. Add or increase probiotics to your daily routine to feel better and live cleaner!

There are other natural products that can help your body regain its healthy balance by accelerating the removal of toxins: milk thistle, apple cider vinegar, dandelion, burdock, fennel, cayenne and more.

Probiotics are useful in cleansing your body without being harsh (eg, Cascara sagrada). Strains mentioned here are gentle yet effective and also suitable for long-term use because there is no “immediate effect.” When combined with a reasonable detox-focused regimen, probiotics can buttress your constitution, immunity and general well-being—especially when faced with invisible marauders.

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