We have had a lot of people write to us about “detox rashes” from various cleanses, deodorants, and other products on the market. Is there any merit to this or is this just another health myth? First, we will take a look at toxin and toxicant exposure and how the body deals with them.
The world is full of toxins and toxicants. There are more and more studies coming out every day addressing new noxious chemicals that are found in clothing, pets, food, cleaners, the air we breath, and even the “outgassing” of VOCs from plastics. This is nothing new. The human race has always been exposed to various harmful substances, and though the some of them have changed, the way the body handles them has not.
The biggest difference, historically, is the cumulative toxic load that we are now exposed to. Ancient man would succumb to a high amount of toxins, from tainted food for example. The body would respond to this by expelling the food as quickly as possible. Now, we take in our toxicants in microdoses that are just under the body’s threshold for expulsion. These toxins add up and can make us weak, or even sick over time; thus, the market responds with detox products. Unfortunately, some of these products cause people to have rashes which leads us to an important question: what is causing the rashes? The detox, or the product?
The body’s master detoxification system comes from a family of enzymes categorized as cytochrome P450, or CYP for short. The ultimate goal is to reduce the toxins and toxicants in our bodies and expel them. A good detox product should work with the body to provide chemical energy that will serve as electron donors in redox reactions, or bind the toxic compounds for transport. In normal human physiology, none of these should produce a detox rash.
Rashes are the result of dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin. This means that the skin has been exposed to a compound that is irritating the skin. Rashes are not caused by removing toxic components – this is nonsense. In fact, the ultimate peptide that irritates the skin is known as substance P. What breaks down substance P? The enzyme, CYP3A – and the first three letters of this protein indicate that it belongs to the cytochrome P450 family of detoxification enzymes. Therefore, when you are going through a true detox, you should not have a detox rash. Your skin should actually improve in appearance. It is also noteworthy that substance P can also act as a neurotransmitter in the brain and causes irritability, moodiness, and sensitivity to pain. If you detox program is giving you negative psychological side effects, it is a good sign that you are on the wrong program.
My verdict on detox rash:
Where did this myth come from? There is a widely used misnomer in the medical community for drug withdrawal. When someone checks into an alcohol rehabilitation center, they often call it a “detox center.” Due to the continuous use of ethanol, alpha4 GABAA receptors are upregulated, and alpha1, and alpha3 are downregulated. This causes phantom sensations on the skin in 50% of rehab patients causing them to itch resulting in skin irritation. This misconception spread into the naturopathic world and it is causing people harm.
Here are a list of antioxidants that will have been shown to facilitate the cytochrome P450 pathway:
- R-Lipoic Acid – use with caution if you have mercury fillings.
- Milk Thistle
- NAC – no more than 600 mg, at doses around 1,200 mg NAC may become a pro oxidant.
- Vitamin C
- Upgraded Glutathione
Here are some compounds that have been shown to bind toxins and toxicants:
The skin is our largest organ, and the best external indicator of health. If your detox program is giving you a “detox rash” it is a problem, not a sign that the detox is working. Consider using some of the supplements above the next time you decide to detox.
Written by Jason Hooper