Solving My Cancer Puzzle – Part 2

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As I mentioned at the end of Part 1 of this series, detoxification was and remains a major part of my healing process after being diagnosed with a recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer in June 2016. My original intention was to share my own favorite detoxification methods with you in this post. However, it seemed prudent to first explain how your body’s detoxification process actually functions.


Many in conventional medicine love to dismiss detoxification. The common argument is that your liver was designed to eliminate toxins from your body and doesn’t need your help, thank you very much.


Sounds reasonable, right? Your liver truly is an incredible detox machine.


Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.


Hang onto your hat because most of you probably have no idea how your body’s detoxification processes work, and it’s actually quite interesting. It’s also a very complex system that isn’t completely understood yet, but here it is in simple terms (Source: The Textbook of Functional Medicine, David S. Jones, MD, 2010):


Your body eliminates environmental toxins, including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, through processes known as Phase I and Phase II detoxification. (There is also a Phase III but I’m not going to discuss that here.)


During Phase I, a family of enzymes, most of which are called cytochrome P450s, converts these fat-soluble (meaning combines with or dissolves in fats) toxic substances into ones that are water-soluble. These enzymes are located primarily in the liver but are also found in the gut wall, kidneys, lungs and brain. After conversion, your body is able to immediately excrete some of these water-soluble compounds in your urine.


Phase I is know as the “transformation” phase.


However, not all toxins are excreted in Phase I. Sometimes they are simply not made water soluble enough for your body to easily excrete. Those that aren’t will go on to Phase II. The Phase II reaction, which involves a second series of enzymes, further decreases the toxicity and increases the water solubility of the original toxic substance so it can be rapidly excreted.


Phase II is known as the “conjugation” phase. (Conjugation means to form a link between things.)


Easy peasy, right? Not so fast…here’s what can go wrong:


Sometimes the compound created during Phase I is actually more reactive, or toxic, than the original compound and is not water soluble enough for immediate elimination. If this newly created, more toxic compound does not immediately go through Phase II it can have a toxic effect on the liver, or even the entire body if it happens to escape from the liver. In addition, certain other toxins such as PCBs and DDT, are resistant to the transformation that occurs in Phase I. (Even though PCBs and DDT were banned in the 1970s, both have persisted in the environment.)


Furthermore, the genes involved in your body’s detoxification processes are subject to genetic mutations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or “SNPs” (pronounced like ‘snips’) that can affect their metabolism of toxins. There are roughly 10 million SNPs in the human genome and while most have no effect on health, many can have a profound impact.


(If you would like to learn if you have some of the more common SNPs, you can find out at The test is $199 and it is a simple saliva test. I did this recently and learned my body is terrible at detoxification.)


In order for this system to work effectively, both phases must be functioning properly and in balance with one another. It’s crucial that Phase II reacts quickly and efficiently to avoid the creation of free radicals and the oxidative damage that can result from Phase I byproducts that are not eliminated. (If you’re wondering how much damage oxidation can cause, think of rust on a car; the damage in your body is similarly destructive.)


For example, certain compounds in cigarette smoke and charbroiled meats can result in a dramatic increase in the enzymes involved in Phase I and as a result, in Phase I activity. However, this doesn’t necessarily give rise to Phase II enzymes. If not, you may end up with a boatload of these reactive Phase I compounds that have nowhere to go. Instead, they hang around in your body – in fat in particular – where they can cause DNA damage and other destruction.


Another thing that can trigger Phase I is fasting because during periods of fasting toxins are released from both fat and lean tissue. If your phase II activity is inadequate or unprepared for this onslaught of toxins, you will end up with a body full of these circulating reactive compounds.


This is why it is so dangerous to undertake things like juice fasts or strict cleansing regimes if you don’t know what you’re doing.


There is good news, however.


You can induce Phase II activity by eating the flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables, particularly in cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. This is believed to be one of the possible reasons fruits and vegetables protect against many types of cancer. In addition, garlic oil, rosemary and soy also contain compounds that can induce Phase II activity.


You can also engage in certain detoxification activities, which I will share with you in the next post in this series.


In general, this system should function adequately to protect your body from potential damage from these outside toxins. However, nowadays your body is being subjected to way more of these toxins than ever before in human history. In fact, according to the EPA over 3 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the water, land and air in the U.S. in 2015. No matter how careful you are there is just no avoiding many of these toxins. (The amount of toxins you personally are subject to is known as your “toxic load”.)


So…this is where the detox naysayers lose me. I often wonder if these people even understand how the human detoxification process works.


Knowing what you know now, let me ask you this:


Wouldn’t you agree it’s possible your liver is just plain overwhelmed with the amount of toxins it has to deal with nowadays and has become something akin to a clogged toilet?


The answer to that is likely yes.


The fact is, diseases can result when your body’s detoxification systems get overloaded. One study showed a link between polymorphisms (mutations) in the Phase I and Phase II detoxification systems and breast cancer. In addition, it has been confirmed that farmers have a higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease and it is believed pesticides are to blame.


One area in which I do agree with the naysayers is that it’s not prudent to treat your body like a human garbage disposal and then “detox” occasionally. As you now know, without the proper Phase II channels to eliminate the released toxins, you are no better off and may actually be worse off.


Unfortunately, you cannot avoid all of the toxins you are exposed to nowadays. But you can reduce your toxic load significantly by doing the following:


  • Eat organic, at least for the Dirty Dozen.
  • Avoid or at least minimize chemically processed foods with artificial colors/flavors, BHA/BHT and other dangerous additives.
  • Filter your tap water with something like a Berkey system. (This is an affiliate link. We’ve been using a Big Berkey in our home since December 2015 and love it!).
  • Avoid toxic chemicals such as parabens and phthalates in your beauty and personal care products. Instead, try safe brands like Beautycounter. (I’m a Beautycounter consultant and love the products.)
  • Buy safe cleaning products. Conventional cleaning products are loaded with chemicals that can cause blindness, neurological problems and even death. Why would you want to expose yourself to these, even in small amounts?
  • Watch your intake of OTC and prescription drugs. Don’t be fooled into thinking OTC drugs are harmless. From 2001 through 2010, over 1,500 people died from acute liver failure caused by Tylenol. In addition, approximately 106,000 people die each year from properly prescribed prescription drugs. Take what you need but no more and don’t fall for every direct-to-consumer drug act you see. In my opinion, this type of advertising is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American public.
  • If you can afford it, buy organic or chemical-free furniture, mattresses, bedding, pillows, carpet or other flooring, paint and other building materials.


I know all of this sounds daunting but start small and do what you can. Small changes can make a big difference. For instance, a recent study showed a significant drop in dangerous chemicals in the bodies of teenage girls who used chemical-free products for just three days.


You can and must begin reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals if you want to be truly healthy.


Don’t wait…start today!


In the next post, I’ll share some of my favorite detoxification methods with you.


Informed. Empowered. FIERCE.





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2 thoughts on “Solving My Cancer Puzzle – Part 2

  1. S

    I do not want my name published. That is why I used my first initial.
    I do not understand why someone condemns the writer for her ideas. One can accept or reject them.
    I use prescription drugs or diabetes (yes I am losing weight and have never been close to obese, but still overweight. I am close to 25 on the BMI scale, but need to go much lower. I also take a drug for blood pressure even though it is not overwhelmingly bad. I also have other issues that require a prescription drug. These are necessary. I rarely take non prescription drugs as I generally do not need them.
    I do not do organic because I do not believe they are much healthier than non organic and they are very expensive. yes, I am an accountant.
    I must watch fruits due to their natural sugar. I know about strawberries and eat them when possible.
    Finally, read and agree or disagree with the writer. However, nastiness can yield high blood pressure.

    1. Kris Sampson Post author

      Hi S,

      Thanks so much for your post. I agree that even if we don’t agree there is no reason to get so nasty. I am not just guessing at this stuff and irresponsibly giving people info that may harm them, and am educated in this field.

      Yes, sometimes prescription meds are very necessary. Even my naturopath made it clear that if the low-carb, high-fat diet I am on does not bring my A1c to where she wants it, she will want me on Metformin. Life Extension is actually a huge fan of that drug. However, when I see ads for things like restless legs syndrome it really bothers me. Chances are the person just has a magnesium deficiency…

      I do disagree on organic though and hope you will reconsider! At least for the Dirty Dozen. Please reconsider your position on those. :-)