AMMONIA TOXICITY: PART 2

DETOXIFYING AMMONIA

Ammonia toxicityIn part 2 of AMMONIA TOXICITY we are going to find out what we can do to remove ammonia from our body, both by supporting the organs involved in processing and disposing of it, and by taking supplements with an affinity for removing ammonia.

We have seen that there are 3 organ systems in the body that produce and/or deal with ammonia: the liver, the kidneys and the intestines. Let’s look at each one separately and see what we can do to facilitate their ammonia detoxification functions.

THE LIVER: FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST AMMONIA

Removal of ammonia begins with the liver, therefore keeping the liver healthy and well functioning will clearly help to improve ammonia removal. Since a major medical indicator of liver failure is high levels of ammonia in the bloodstream, it follows that detoxifying the liver may well be the best way to remove ammonia from the body.

The liver normally receives some ammonia via the intestines, from the bacterial break-down of amino acids found in dietary protein. A healthy liver detoxifies that ammonia, by converting it into urea, which is then removed from the body by way of the urine. But, if the liver is malfunctioning, the ammonia remains unprocessed, and will enter the bloodstream.

To enhance the detoxification pathways, the liver uses sulfur compounds to produce the antioxidant glutathione. The amino acid L-cysteine is the most crucial sulfur compound needed by the liver to produce glutathione. The best way to get L-cysteine into the body, in supplemental form, is to use N-acetyl-cysteine. NAC is a powerful antioxidant and immune stimulant, and as well has been shown to support lung function, and to help remove heavy metals.

It should be noted that taking NAC is more efficient at raising glutathione levels than taking actual glutathione, in supplement form. Vitamin C is also a potent elevator of glutathione production, with 500mg being sufficient to create this response. Other supplements that can effectively raise glutathione levels include Milk Thistle Extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, L-Glutamine and Whey protein. The highest food sources of sulfur compounds include members of the cruciferous vegetable family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc), as well as eggs, soy, legumes, garlic and onions.

THE ROLE OF THE KIDNEYS IN REMOVING AMMONIA

Symptomsof hyperammonemiaAfter the liver has detoxified the ammonia, by turning it into urea, the kidneys are the next step in filtration before it is removed via the urine.

Surprisingly, part of keeping the kidneys functioning well is keeping the blood sugar levels stable. If we have consistent high blood sugar levels, it causes the kidneys to filter too much blood and, by overworking them, we reduce their filtering capacity. High blood sugar levels can lead to reduced potassium levels in the blood, and if too much potassium is excreted it leads to alkaline urine. Urine that is too alkaline will reduce the amount of ammonia that is removed by the kidneys.

Three amino acids, L-Arginine, L-Citrulline and L-Ornithine, are necessary components of the urea cycle, and are therefore believed to work as protective agents against ammonia toxicity. They do this by stimulating urea formation, which aids the kidneys in performing their detoxification function. All three of these amino acids may be purchased in supplemental form. But, of the three, L-Ornithine is particularly helpful for removing ammonia from the brain, because the brain does not contain the ornithine-related enzyme necessary to render ammonia harmless by changing it into urea.

Commonly suggested is 500mg of L-Ornithine in the evening and 500mg of L-Arginine in the morning to aid in neutralizing ammonia in the liver, the body and in urine. A larger quantity of these 2 amino acids may be taken, but remember to take them on an empty stomach.

Eating celery or drinking celery juice daily will help kidney function, and also electrolyte balance. Celery also works to removes excess uric acid from the blood, a further aid to kidney function.

INTESTINAL HEALTH AND AMMONIA DETOXIFICATION

As mentioned above, small amounts of ammonia are produced as a byproduct of the normal digestion of proteins, and the body is prepared to handle this quantity. However, parasites, bad bacteria, and candida yeast overgrowth in the intestinal tract, can produce more ammonia than the body is equipped to deal with, leading to a compromised immune system.

Taking probiotics (friendly bacteria) maintains healthy bacterial flora, which in turn, reduces yeast overgrowth, and lowers the pH level of the large intestine, making it far more acidic. This is a place where being acidic is good. When the large intestine has a high level of acidity, the ammonia produced by intestinal bacteria remains in an ionized form. In this form, it is easily dissipated from the body, without entering into general circulation through the blood, and burdening the kidneys, liver and brain.

Animal studies have confirmed that probiotics can reduce levels of urea and ammonia in the blood. The same studies also found the herb Yucca to work for reducing ammonia generation in the intestines. Yucca has a long history of being used to treat arthritic conditions. It is believed that yucca may work on arthritis by correcting the balance of intestinal bacteria, eliminating bad bacteria and normalizing good bacteria, leading to a reduction in inflammation.

Another beneficial supplement to fight ammonia excess is bentonite clay, which absorbs toxins out of the intestinal tract. This clay is commonly used in programs designed to fight candida yeast overgrowth, but as well it shows an affinity for ammonia ions. Bentonite comes premixed in liquid or can be purchased as a powder. It is considered to be most effective when taken mixed into liquid, as opposed to ingesting it in capsule form.

A serving of bentonite is one teaspoon of clay powder mixed into 2 oz of water (juice may be used if the water mixture is unpalatable to you) and shaken well. Use purified water but not distilled. This amount can be taken once or twice daily (morning and/or night) on an empty stomach for 2 to 4 weeks. Then take a break, and use occasionally, or every few months as part of a detox protocol.

OTHER WAYS OF REMOVING AMMONIA FROM THE BODY

Chlorophyll, the green pigment of plants, is a good blood cleanser, neutralizing toxins such as ammonia and carbon monoxide. Chlorophyll can be purchased as a liquid supplement, or is found in super foods, such as wheatgrass, barley grass and chlorella, which are more rich in nutrients than is chlorophyll alone.

The amino acid L-Glutamine is another one of the most important nutrients that protects the brain and body from ammonia toxicity. The importance of glutamine is indicated by the fact that it is the most abundant amino acid found in the body. The body uses extra glutamine as a source of energy for the brain, if blood sugar levels dip too low, so again, we see the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar levels. On a more direct level, if blood levels of ammonia increase, the body uses more glutamine to reduce ammonia levels in the brain. L-glutamine also has a well-proven ability to elevate glutathione levels, which, as we saw in the section on the liver, is also an important part of ammonia removal.

Magnesium is required by the body in adequate amounts to help maintain blood sugar levels, which we have seen is important to helping the kidneys to perform their detoxification function. Magnesium also serves a function in glutamine metabolism, by activating glutamine synthetase, an enzyme that also helps to remove ammonia from the cells.

THE MEDICAL APPROACH TO REMOVING AMMONIA

The medical system uses two medicines to lower ammonia levels, when the situation is severe. One is the antibiotic “neomycin” which acts in the colon to kill the bacteria that break down proteins. The other is the sugar lactulose which reduces the absorption of nitrogen from the intestines. Lactulos, which is actually a laxative, also draws ammonia into the colon and then removes it though its laxative effect. Lactulose can cause dehydration so it is important to drink plenty of water if using it. These two agents would only be used in the most serious conditions of ammonia toxicity.

TESTING FOR AMMONIA

There is a medical test for high ammonia, which involves taking a blood sample from either a vein or an artery. The medical profession uses the ammonia test to help investigate the cause of changes in behavior and consciousness, to help diagnose the cause of a coma or of Reye’s syndrome, or to diagnose various liver or kidney diseases. However, this test will only determine if levels are severely high, not if levels are problematic, but not life-threatening. Another problem with this test is that brain levels of ammonia may be much higher than blood levels, something that can cause serious problems, but that will not be revealed by the blood test.

AMMONIA REMOVAL IDEAS FROM THE AQUARIUM

I part one I noted that fish will die quickly if there is too much ammonia present in their environment , because they have no way to detoxify it out of their bodies. Thus, fish tanks have filters powerful enough to filter and clean the aquarium of excess ammonia. Here the ammonia comes from the fish’s urine, and from tap water treated with ammonia (cloramine) and not neutralized by a specific liquid product, designed for this purpose (commonly available where aquarium supplies are sold).

So, fish owners must test the tank’s ammonia levels regularly, to ensure that the filter is functioning well and protecting their fish. Testing ammonia levels is a similar process to testing PH levels, but uses two solutions instead of just one. It is suggested that one do 2 or 3 ammonia tests to insure accurate results.

My point here is that, if we suspect that we have ammonia in our water supply, perhaps we can use the same system to check our water as fish owners do. Any aquarium shop will sell ammonia test kits, and it is recommended that for most freshwater fish, the ammonia level should not exceed 2 ppm (parts per million). According to the World Health Organization, ammonia levels in water of 0.1 to 1.0 ppm are typically found in most surface water supplies, and are safe for human consumption. So, if we detect levels much higher than this we know we have a problem.

Aquarium owners also often add Zeolite chips to aquarium filters in order to reduce ammonia levels. Zeolie is an absorbent porous mineral consisting mostly of silica and aluminum (a non-reactive form). It will trap and hold ammonia and other toxins, sort of like a sponge.

There are different grades of Zeolite, some of which are artificially created, but for ammonia removal we want a natural form, one which will have a high affinity for ammonia molecules. The one most recommended for these purposes is known as Clinoptilolite, or Clino. These chips are recharged by immersing them in a strong solution of non-iodized salt water, and then rinsed. If this is done, zeolite chips will last for many years

Since, zeolite is commonly consumed as a supplement (used to remove heavy metals from the body), it should be a safe option for inexpensively filtering ammonia out of drinking water. We would just add the chips to the bottom of our water-filter pitcher at a level proportionally reduced from the level recommended for an aquarium. Some more research on your part would be required but, for example, if a certain amount is recommended for a 5 gallon tank, and your water filter contains 1 gallon, you would add one-fifth as much zeolite.

CONCLUSION

So, while there is yet another toxin to worry about, if we are diligent we can find solutions to cope with it. And modern living now seems to be a constant back and forth between new damaging technologies and poisons (thanks to science without a conscience), and finding a suitable response that protects us, or at least undoes most of the damage. From electro-smog and radiation, to GMO foods and xenoestrogens in the environment (all initially sold to us as safe technologies), we have no choice but to stay informed and do our research, if we wish to remain healthy and ahead of the game. Unfortunately in this game there are no winners but those who profit from the suffering of others.

37 Responses to AMMONIA TOXICITY: PART 2

  1. There is a urine test for ammonia. My blood test showed I was deficient for Asparagine which could in turn create high ammonia levels (common problems: fatigue and immune system stress). My ND ordered this test:

    METAMETRIX, ICD-9 code: 270.4
    Called a “Neopterin Biopterin Profile”

    Laureli

  2. Re ammonia toxicity Can ammonia be harmful to a baby does a babies liver and kidneys filter ammonia as efficiently as an adults. If so why do you get such a strong smell when you change a babies nappy. Depending when a nappy is changed. The baby may then have continued exposure to the ammonia gas is this harmful to the baby. if the gas gets into the babies airway will this cause internal problems as the gas is toxic will this burn the airway of the baby causing internal bleeding leading to other problems would anyone like to discuss further . It may save babies lives if we all do some brainstorming.

  3. Interesting article but this process would not work for someone wiith genetic mutations in their methylation cycle that produce excess ammonia. NAC is a high sulphur supplement that would increase the ammonia load.

      • Some people believe this to be true though other debate the idea. According to one website: “In vitro, it significantly helped the antifungal activity of peripheral blood monocytes.., ie NAC helped to kill candida by enhancing the killing power of monocytes. I have wondered if the children who were having problems with NAC or other sulfur supplements were children with symptoms or altered lab values that are seen in thiamine deficiency, so I would like to bring a little attention to thiamine. This vitamin (B1) also contains sulfur and is made from cysteine, and it may be important to assess and address its deficiency before enhancing other parts of the downstream sulfur pathway.” http://onibasu.com/archives/am/40561.html
        So there may be other factors at work that could cause a negative reaction from NAC.

    • Green tea does indeed have a couple of attributes that can help the body to detoxify ammonia. Primarily it has the ability to elevate glutathione levels (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23507223), and secondarily, it exhibits prebiotic characteristics and inhibits pathogenic bacteria in the gut, both mechanisms that facilitate a healthy amount of friendly flora in the intestines (something that also cleans ammonia out of the body). (H.C. Lee, A.M. Jenner, C.S. Low, Y. K. Lee. Effect of tea phenolics and their aromatic fecal bacterial metabolites on intestinal microbiota. Research in Microbiology 2006, Volume 157, Pages 876-884)

  4. Thanks for these two articles about ammonia levels. My husband currently has twice the normal levels of ammonia in his blood.(his number was 102) He has a long medical history and list of problems but the short list: cirrhosis of the liver, ileostomy, and last year after several GI bleeding episodes (portal vein hypertension) he had a TIPS procedure done. He’s 60 years old. Currently takihg the lactulose powder three times a day. He still works but I feel like we are headed down a path where things could be changing for the worse. He recently had an ultrasound of his liver too so we’ll see what that shows. More bloodwork will be done to recheck the levels. Will continue to watch for symptoms of confusion, disorientation and some of the other things you mention.

    • Reading Pam’s comments, it could be my husband. Only difference is mine has been retired for 20 years and is 76 years old.
      Doctor did blood work Friday do no response yet. He take Xifaxan twice a day. Started him on Miralax Friday.
      His confusion and disorientation is at the point where it is worrying me.
      I have taken him to e.r. they can’t do anything.
      Have a call in to doctor. Will try some of the things you suggested I time allows.

  5. Hi I have been noticing for many years now that when I am detoxifying my body effectively, I get a strong smell of ammonia “downstairs”. It is almost as if ammonia is dripping out of me, sometimes even leaving a burning sensation. I came to the conclusion that my body must either be producing excess ammonia during my detox, or that my body is releasing ammonia because of the detox. Once I experienced the symptoms of ammonia poisoning mentioned in your article, and it was extremely frightening. I felt like I was going to die. Stopping the detox diet and eating some junk, sugar etc stopped these symptoms. Have you ever heard of ammonia seeping from the uterus? I fear for my reproductive health as a result of this and I am hesitant to detox even though I need to. Any insight you have on these matters would be much appreciated.x

    • Of course ammonia is removed through the body via the urine so there is a reason that you would smell ammonia “downstairs”, though similar odors could be cause by bacterial or yeast infections. When detoxifying, yeast die-off can cause problems that would be halted by eating sugars, essentially feeding the yeast and allowing them to go back to business as usual, and stopping the die-off. I would suggest seeing a medical profession to get tested for any type of infection, and to be aware that in Chinese medicine intense detoxification should only be done when you are relatively well since the process can be too much of a burden to those who are weak. Slow detox, especially of ammonia, is best done by increasing glutathione levels on a consistent basis, following some of the ideas in my blog, and obtaining liposomal glutathione.

  6. Hello

    I have noticed an ammonia smell to my urine lately. I have been drinking liquid chlorophyll in water daily, so I was surprised at this increase of ammonia smell, unless the chlorophyll is bringing the ammonia out of my body and this is why the smell? Any thoughts?

    • Chlorophyll helps to detoxify a number of chemical compounds from the body, and it is believed that ammonia is one of those compounds that can be so removed, though I could find no science to support this theory.

  7. This article literally prolonged my Aunt’s life and quality of life – has liver cancer. Thanks so much for writing this!!

  8. Hi. So I read this, re-read, and I’m confused. What should I do first? My problem is that my urine smells like 100% pure ammonia. Should I start with a liver detox and see how that works, or do I go out and buy all supplements and flood my body? Please advise….

    Thank you.

    Also, a little history. This has been going on for several years about 80% of the time. Just in the last 15 days, my diet has changed drastically to limited proteins, fruits and veggies. Nothing else. No fats, oils, sugars, etc. And I STILL smell like pure ammonia. Please help. Thank you.

    • HI Sandy: I’m afraid that you will have to find a naturopath to help you as I can provide not much more information than is in my blog on the subject of ammonia. That being said you must buy the supplements as there is no natural way to speed up ammonia removal, so if I were you I would use vitamin C three times daily, take whey protein, and use milk thistle three times daily as well. And possibly some probiotics to ensure that the intestines are functioning well, and some liposomal glutathione.
      If I were you I would not take the lipoic acid or NAC until I was convinced I did not have any mercury issues (which can be determined through hair analysis).
      Be sure to find out if your community uses chloramine (see part one of blog), since that would indicate where the excess ammonia is coming from (remember, you can’t filter it out of your water).
      If your community does not use ammonia, then you must check into methylation malfunction, as that is the most common reason that many people have ammonia toxicity. For this reason they cannot produce adequate glutathione, but it is too complicated to address here. In the case of methylation malfunction, either you get the genetic testing to confirm that you have it, or you take a chance, if enough of the symptoms fit you, and start taking injectable Methy B-12, TMG, methylfolate and B-6. However there are also sub-categories of methyation malfunction that are much more specific, so the general approach will not work for everyone.
      good luck and I hope this helps somewhat.
      Ken Peters

  9. ALPHA-KETOGLUTARIC ACID should probably be added to this list in bold letters. I am achieving GREAT progress solely due to the addition of this particular supplement. And I have tried all of them.

    Here are the others that have had a quite significant positive impact in my specific case,

    Targeting Ammonia:
    * ALPHA KETOGLUTARIC acid
    * Butyric Acid
    * Liposomal Glutathione from LivOn Labs
    * L-Carnitine (maybe not for removal, but it definetely has some mode of interaction from personal experience. Some websites has stated that it protects from ammonia toxicity).
    Liver assisting:
    * SAM-e (S-Adenosyl methionine)
    * Artichok extract – unsure about which parts of its mode of action that makes it work; it is a liver strengthener, but it also increases cholesterol metabolism among many other things).

    • Forgot to mention:
      Pyruvate is useful to further alleviate the fatigue, as well as being important in the Krebs Cycle that Alpha KetoGlucaric acid also plays a part in.

      Burdock root and Chanca Piedra are also worth checking out for liver/kidney support.

      If you are like I was, you also have severe intestinal dysbiosis.
      A combination of the following supplements in tandem will speed up your recovery significantly:
      SF722 (Thorne Research)
      Lugo’s Iodine (Some sites propose ridiculously high doses. I personally think the max should be 5-10mg, and not for more than a couple of weeks at a time).
      +Probiotics

      In my case it seems I have had ammonia lodged in the brain tissues for almost a decade. That is the only thing that could explain the extreme success of using Alpha Keto Glucaric acid (allthough the liver supporting supplements are also playing a part here, especially artichok extract and SAM-e. If you cannot get hold of SAM-e in your country,
      L-methionine is a “second best”).

  10. Ken, you mentioned not using NAC, or ALA in cases of mercury overload. Could you explain a little bit more about that? I use both of those as a combination liver support to help with methylation for myself. I have been suffering with a headache that has never shut off in 8 years. It feels like my brain is on fire. I am currently moving out of my apartment where my neighbors have several cats and never clean up after them. The smell of ammonia permeates into my unit from the hallway. 🙁

    • This is a highly debatable issue, but some professionals believe that, because these two substances will bind to mercury, and because they can also cross the blood brain barrier, that they can carry circulating mercury back to the brain, possibly worsening the circumstances.

  11. I have some issues going on with my kidneys, and for a while the toxicity level of ammonia was becoming unbearable. I tried amino acid supplementation of L-Arginine, and L-Ornithine per your blog recommendation and found it helped, but still suffered from a strong residual ammonia taste in my mouth. Recently I found out about Resistant Starch (potato flour) and out of desperation decided to try it along with probiotic supplementation. It has been nothing short of miraculous in getting rid of excess ammonia and there are conclusive scientific studies about it’s capabilities in drastically reducing ammonia in the intestines. I highly recommend reading up on it.

  12. Doesn’t glutamine in fact increase ammonia levels? I was told that glutamic acid combines with ammonia to form glutamine, thus lowering ammonia levels…

    ???

    • Here is some material that begs to differ.

      http://www.aminoacid-studies.com/amino-acids/glutamine-and-glutamic-acid.html

      “Glutamine plays a decisive role in keeping a balanced acid-base ratio. Thanks to glutamine, toxic ammonia is separated off in the kidneys and the basic ammonia molecule is connected to acids and is excreted. A further advantage is that bicarbonate which is necessary for the neutralization of acids can be saved.”

      “During the synthesis from glutamine to glutamic acids, the brain is protected from the toxic effects of ammonia. This protection against the cell toxin prevents impediments to brain functions and improves long and short term memory.”

  13. Found out by accident I had high levels of Ammonia in urine. Poured Clorox into a toilet that I had urinated in and it started foaming up and producing gas that was really strong, burns eye’s, hard to breath. Assuming Chlorine gas.

    • Very interesting; you may have discovered a simple home test to see if levels of ammonia are seriously high in a person. Thanks, Ken

    • This is not a symptom mentioned in any of the medical literature, however consistent nausea leading to a lack of appetite is not uncommon. In this case the best treatment would be the probiotic approach.

  14. Hello,

    Just wanted to say that I am super-impressed by the research and information in the post, plus such caring concern in reply to people commenting.

    Subbing… and if I buy something… I’ll check here first.

    That impressed. And I have read several blogs recently on a variety of homeopathic and natural cure type focus.

    Cheers!

  15. I enjoyed reading this information. My big question is, Does a Mega Dose of vitamin D cause a build up of ammonia in the body.

    • Well, evidently it can if hypercalcemia occurs, causing constipation, in one with liver disease. So most of us would not have to worry about this. Also if you take vitamins K2 and A, hypercalcemia is unlikely to occur even if you take high amounts of vitamin D (which should only be done for brief periods anyways.) https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/187845

  16. tx: Ken
    I have ms, and have been perscribed 50,000 units D3 3 times a week. In addition I take Depacote each day.

    1. Does the D3 interfere with the Depacote.

    2. How long can I take the 50,000 units of D3.

  17. For those with a CBS mutation, would taking glutathione help ammonia detox and immune support. There are 2 differing schools of thought- I’d love to hear from someone with personal experience. Thank you!

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