The 'inside' represents most of who we are; for example, our behavior and emotions - regulated by a brain sensitive to subtle fluctuations in its biochemistry. Our muscles - grow through our motivation (brain), activation (neurological) and recuperation (blood, liver, GI tract etc). The more you look, the more you see everything is connected. How many dots can you connect?
What does this have to do with toxicity? All tissues in our bodies; our lungs, skin, and brain for example, are sensitive to toxins. In fact our entire system of internal organs, especially our liver and kidneys, are already especially burdened in modern times. There are over 500 chemicals active inside your body that never even existed 100 years ago. 1
Not only posing a toxicity threat, many, such as xenoestrogens (pronounced 'zeno'), also mimic our own bodies hormones, causing a wide variety of undesired effects.
Researchers are now beginning to see the correlation between exposure to these chemicals from our environment and a wide range of conditions, including fertility/reproductive problems, certain cancers, and multiple sclerosis. Exposure can be from anything; food, air, water, clothing, carpeting, household chemicals, and even items like dental fillings, cosmetics and shampoo.
Symptoms of toxicity include many common to bodybuilders: joint pain, respiratory problems, back pain, allergies, mood changes, and insomnia. Conditions such as arthritis, constipation, hemorrhoids, sinus congestion, ulcers, psoriasis and acne can also be related to toxicity. 1
Invest in your future! Besides cleaning your teeth, you should 'clean' your organs as well. The additional stress added from bodybuilding needs to be accounted for. Large amounts of food and protein, training, use of bodybuilding supplements like vanadyl sulfate and all the different drugs add stress to our bodies. We need to compensate for this.
Part I - The Liver
The liver is the body's central organ for detoxification and other important metabolic processes, performing over 500 functions, many critical for life. Detoxification is the process by which dangerous or toxic compounds are removed from the body.
The liver produces proteins, cholesterol, and blood clotting factors. We get energy by it's conversion of carbohydrates into glycogen, which it also stores. It also stores many vitamins such as vitamin A, E K and B12. One of the livers key functions is the production of bile. Bile is essential for the absorption of fats and normal intestinal function.
The liver also metabolizes drugs and alcohol. One of the most liver-toxic drugs used by bodybuilders are oral steroids. Everyone knows orals are more toxic than injectables. This is due to an extra alkyl group added at carbon number 17 (17aa) on the steroid molecule to allow it to escape the liver and enter the bloodstream intact.
This adds more stress to the liver by interfering with certain liver enzymes. Orals are also not as efficient on a milligram per milligram basis as injectable esters. This is because adding the 17aa group sacrifices binding efficiency to the androgen receptor. Therefore more drug is needed to achieve similar results versus injectables, leading to build-up of the drug in the liver.
17aa groups have been shown to increase liver toxicity through cholestatis. 2 This is impaired bile flow, and can lead to inflammation of the liver, as well as elevated blood cholesterol levels. Milk thistle, contrary to popular opinion, does little for this type of toxicity.
What does work are compounds that can donate sulfur groups to the 17aa steroids, like anadrol. This increases their solubility and allows easier passage through bile ducts and out of the liver. The normal liver apparently has limited ability to accomplish this sulfation reaction on it's own. 3
What donates sulfur groups? One of the best is SAMe (S-Adenyl- Methionine). Another possible one is MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane). As these are non-toxic, high doses should be used with all oral steroids. Look for 800-1200 mg for SAMe and 4,000 to 8,000 mg for MSM. Other low cost methyl donors include NAC, choline and lecithin.
If bile flows, cholestasis doesn't set in, cholesterol and other metabolic by-products drain properly, leaving little or no liver inflammation and stress. This means none of those nasty sounding liver conditions like bloody peliosis sinusoid dialations and cysts.
Although rare for bodybuilders, these blood filled cysts can rupture and even lead to death. Less stress negates the need for rapid cell replacement and turnover in the liver. Therefore we avoid liver cell senescence (ie, the liver stays 'young'), and we get no malignancies.
Anything that gets the liver chronically inflamed likely sets in motion the cancer process. The Hepatitis Virus, for another example, leads to liver neoplasm's basically as a result of the liver being chronically inflamed, so liver cells are constantly forced to divide in attempts to replace themselves.
When cells divide and replace other cells, this process increases the odds of error and mutations in the DNA. These errors and mutations often lead to cancer. 4 Thus the importance of keeping the liver from becoming inflamed.
There are other modes of liver toxicity which is why the following are also important:
There are many published reports indicating milk thistle can reverse toxic liver damage, and stimulate hepatocytes (liver cells). It can be useful in the treatment of alcohol and drug induced toxicity, some forms of hepatitis, cirrhosis and fatty degeneration of the liver.
The best results are found in toxic metabolic hepatitis and cirrhosis. 5 Adding this to your supplements during a cycle would be wise. However, herbs, unlike nutrients, are not usually advised for continuous use. For example, we may not want chronic stimulation of hepatocytes with prolonged milk thistle usage.
Contains triterpenes, which are chemically similar to adrenal cortex hormones, and may account for its anti-inflammatory action. Glycyrrhizin, a triterpene, inhibits liver cell injury and is used in other countries to treat chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. 6
Good source of L-cysteine for replacing depleted intercellular glutathione levels. Liver glutathione powers some sort of anti-oxidant enzyme. When glutathione stores are gone, the liver cells get damaged, and die off.
This probably has little or nothing to do with the cholestasis problem, but cannot hurt. NAC is the antidote for acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. This is more effective when compounds yield toxic metabolites during liver detoxification, like Tylenol. Other glutathione boosters include alpha lipoic-acid and the herb astragalus.
Essential Fatty Acids
(EFA's) are just that; essential. This also applies to healthy liver function. EFA's include the Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids as well as gamma-linoleic acid. They are critical in many important activities, such as oxidation, the moment to moment living process that turns food into energy and keeps us alive.
They also are precursors to prostaglandin formation, some of which are anti-inflamatory for the liver. They also boost immune function, and enhance muscle growth and recovery. They govern every life process in our bodies. Supplementing with EFA's is critical as most fats found in our diets are non-essential and even dangerous. 7
We have discussed several dietary and supplemental approaches at improving liver functin and counteracting the accumulation of toxins. Next month, part two will discuss the gastro-intestinal system.
About The Author
Brian Cunningham has a MS in Epidemiology from New York Medical College, and was employed in the pharmaceutical research field. Brian can be reached at Brian@RxBody.com.
- Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Puyallup: Future Medicine Publishing. P158.
- Hepatology for the clinician: a problem-oriented approach. Edited by Beker, S., Alan, R. New York: Liss Inc. ISBN: 0-471-56212-2
- Hepatoxicity: the Adverse Effects of Drugs and other Chemicals on the Liver. Hyman J. Zimmerman, M.D. New York:
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- Hikino, H; Kiso, Y. (1988). Natural Products for Liver Disease. Economic and Medicinal Plant Research Vol 2. London: Academic Press.
- Armanini, D. et al. (Nov 1983). Affinity of liquorice derivatives for mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors. Clinical Endocrinology 19: 609-612.
- Erasmus, U. (1993). Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. Burnaby: Alive Books.