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3 Phases of Detoxification You Must Know About

There are no safe levels of toxins, but our bodies are bombarded by them every.single.day. They come from all angles, and these are the primary culprits – environmental toxins, toxic body care products, medications, and toxins from our food and water.

What Does the Liver Do?

The liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body – think of it as the “Grand Central Station” of your body because detoxifying foreign, hostile substances is a complicated physiological process.

The reason detox isn’t simple is because many of the most toxic substances behave like fats. Because our blood is principally water, and fats don’t dissolve in water, these fat-like toxins tend to “stick” in the body’s fatty regions instead of getting washed out and flushed away. They therefore must be converted into substances that will dissolve in the blood, so they can be transported into the urine and stool and finally leave the body. The conversion is a chemical modification that makes the fatlike toxins look less like fats and more like water.

The Liver Has Three Phases of Detoxification

Phase 1 (Cytochrome P450 Enzymes)

The liver takes toxic substances and converts them into intermediates. These intermediate toxins are often more toxic than before they were broken up, so it’s important that they’re able to be managed. The detoxification enzymes – cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP450) – are responsible for most phase 1 reactions. If this enzyme system is overloaded with toxins, it may get backed up, causing undesirable side effects, such as a spacey feeling, jitters or a headache, sweating, and heart palpitations.

Phase 1 is activated by many external toxins like caffeine, alcohol, dioxin, paint fumes, steroids, pesticides, sleeping pills, contraceptive pills and cortisone. To counteract these toxins, your body relies on certain nutrients. My advice is to so ensure you're eating plenty of the necessary nutrients so phase 1 doesn't run out and toxins don't build up.

Important Nutrients For Phase 1: Sulfur from cruciferous veggies, garlic & onions, Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Niacin (Vit B1), Pyridoxine (Vit B6), Folic acid, Vitamin B12, Flavonoids & Polyphenols (antioxidants), Phospholipids, Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium

Phase 2 (Conjugation Pathways)

This phase kicks in as soon as the intermediate is formed, and converts it to a water-soluble, now-nontoxic, substance. There are a huge variety of tails that can be added to the substance, but the conjugases will pick the one that’s right for the specific intermediate. The result will be a substance that’s capable of being transported in the blood and from there into the urine (water-soluble substances) or the stool (fat-soluble substances).

When it comes to the fat-soluble substances, the liver must stick them into bile, which allows these toxins to be eliminated in the stool. All sex hormones are fat-soluble (ie: estrogen, testosterone). Xenoestrogens are also fat-soluble, and are the body’s biggest environmental threat. They can overload the body in such a way the body can’t keep up. Needless to say, fat-soluble toxins are capable of bogging down phase 2.

Another way Phase 2 can go astray is if bile becomes too thick. If this happens, the intermediate toxins for the fat-soluble substances are left untreated (a conjugase tail isn't added). Healthy flowing bile is crucial for liver and gallbladder function. Some ways to maintain healthy bile include: eating a lot of leafy greens, especially beet greens, the amino acid taurine, eating high quality proteins and healthy fats, quality fiber (fiber binds the bile acids), and a low sugar/low glycemic diet.

The conjugation reactions in Phase 2 depend upon the availability of specific nutrients in your food. Missing these nutrients impacts the effectiveness of your detoxification process, and a toxic load of substances builds up in the body and poisons your metabolism.

Favorable Nutrients Used During Phase 2: Sulfur from cruciferous veggies, garlic & onions, Glycine, Glutathione, Glutamine, N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), Cysteine, Methionine, Glucuronic acid, Folic acid, Vitamin B12

Phase 3 (Elimination)

This phase is the actual removal of the toxins. Water-soluble substances go to the kidneys to be peed out, and fat-soluble substances leave via the stool.

If you don’t produce one or more stools daily, you must resolve this before doing a focused detox or cleanse. Otherwise, it is not worth the collateral damage. You don’t want to push Phases 1 and 2 if Phase 3 isn’t working! 

Likely culprits of poor elimination include:

Dysbiosis – an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in your GI tract, or not enough core beneficia bacteria – dysbiosis can cause loose OR sluggish stools.

Lack of Fiber – fiber feeds beneficial bacteria and their byproducts form stool. Lack of fiber can cause loose OR sluggish stool.

Magnesium Deficiency – so common and often the culprit of sluggish stools. Could you be deficient in magnesium? 

Food Intolerance – can cause loose OR sluggish stools.

“Good For Your Liver” Nutrients                                                  “Good For Your Liver” Plant Food

Carotenes (Vit A)                                                                              Silymarin (milk thistle)

Vitamin C                                                                                          Green tea

Tocopherols (Vit E)                                                                            Turmeric

Selenium                                                                                           Broccoli

Copper                                                                                               Brussels sprouts

Zinc                                                                                                    Cauliflower

Manganese                                                                                        Garlic

Coenzyme Q10                                                                                                   Onions

Who Benefits From Liver Recovery?

Perfect for anyone who:

  • Has been exposed to heavy metals
  • Has lived in or been exposed to a moldy building
  • Regularly indulges in or drinks too many alcoholic drinks
  • Does not consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables or fiber
  • Is exposed to toxins in the workplace
  • Uses conventional, non-organic personal care products

Don't wait! Do what it takes to support normal detoxification and waste elimination, and maintain an overall healthy liver. If you're looking to cleanse, try out these easy ideas. 

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

Reference: Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch.

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