Most of chronic diseases begin in the gut however you can’t have 100% healthy gut without well functioning liver. Liver is often neglected and a bit underestimated organ in terms of our health and also our thyroid. Liver detoxification isn’t something you just should do as a two-week “cleanse”. Your liver is working hard 365 days a year to process and get rid of toxic compounds like coffee, alcohol, pesticides or even excess hormones or ammonia – a harmful metabolite of protein breakdown. It’s really important to take care of your liver detox phase 1 and phase 2 on daily basis and ensure that your liver is working at its best.
Liver detox phase 1 and 2 and your thyroid health
If your liver detox mechanism isn’t working well, dangerous compounds can pile up in your body.
- Phase I liver detoxification is the first line of defense against toxins. During phase I liver detox, harmful substances either from external environment (like coffee, alcohol or pesticides) or from internal environment (byproducts of protein digestion i.e) are processed.
- Phase 2 liver detox is where those harmful compounds are neutralised and prepared to be excreted in a safe way by your body.
If either of those two liver detox stages is not optimal, it can lead to toxins build up and cause various symptoms like headaches, fatigue, gut inflammation and even underactive thyroid. Furthermore, build-up of toxins can increase your risk of chronic diseases, damage DNA, your mitochondria and accelerate ageing.
Can sluggish liver cause underactive thyroid?
Liver is the place where your thyroid hormone T4 to T3 conversion happen. That means that with overworked or suboptimal liver function your body will be less efficient at converting inactive T4 hormones to its active T3 form. Optimal levels of T3 are needed for your healthy metabolism, sleep, energy production and much more. If your liver is not working well, you thyroid may slow down over time leading to underactive thyroid. Click here to read more about hidden signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
How liver detox phase 1 and phase 2 works ?
As mentioned, we have two stages of liver detox: phase 1 and phase 2. For most people phase 2 tends to be more sluggish and that’s the stage which requires the most attention and support.
Phase 1 is activated by external toxins like caffeine, alcohol, xenobiotics and smoked food. Phase 1 rely on P450 enzymes and converts fat soluble toxins into water soluble. In Phase 2, they are conjugated and excreted either through kidneys and urine or through bile and bowel. Phase 1 produces high amount of free radicals that needs to be neutralised, otherwise they may damage liver.
How to improve liver detox PHASE 1:
There are two things you need to know about phase 1 liver detox: what are cofactors required for your liver to process toxins and how you can protect your liver from damage. First, lets take a look at essential nutrients needed to optimise your phase 1 of liver detox.
Liver detox phase 1 cofactors:
- B-Vitamins (required for P450 enzyme)
- B3 and B5 help to process cholesterol (yes excess cholesterol is not because of excess dietary fat! It’s because either sluggish liver or inflamed arteries)
- Magnesium – helps to increase glutathione production, so called master antioxidant
- Molibden – trace mineral, acts as catalyst in detoxification of environmental toxins, drugs, alcohol and certain hormones.
How to protect your liver from damage?
The most important – ensure appropriate intake of antioxidant. As mentioned, phase 1 generates free radicals that’s why you need variety of antioxidants to balance negative effect of free radicals. Additionally, you can focus on what induces phase 1 and limit your exposure to those factors. Less damage in the first place = less antioxidant needed to balance that negative effect.
Source of antioxidants to protect your liver:
- Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
- Minerals: Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Manganese*
- Superfoods: Asparagus, Beetroots, Apples, Lemons. Fruits and vegetables are in general good source of antioxidants.
*Manganese is not antioxidant itself but it’s a key mineral that helps to form superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is one of the most important antioxidants produced by our body.
How to reduce liver detox phase 1 activity?
Phase 1 is usually induced by external toxins. Limiting your exposure to various type of toxins and chemicals will save your liver from excess work and decrease risk of liver damage due to large amount of free radicals that are produced during phase 1.
- Choose organic foods
- Avoid plastics, xenobiotics and other pollutants
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
- Eliminate char grilled and smoked foods.
- Cut on smoking and drugs
- Avoid food additives and pesticides.
How to improve liver detox PHASE 2?
Phase 2 is basically joining all toxins together so they are less reactive and can be excreted safely. At this stage we have 6 different pathways that can be involved: Glucuronidation, Methylation, Sulfonation, Glutathione conjugation, Acetylation and Amino acid conjugation.
Which one will be activated, it really depends what type of toxins your body need to excrete and what nutrients are available. Glutathione conjugation is i.e commonly used for getting rid of pesticides and heavy metals, while glucuronidation is activated to remove drugs and some chemicals like plastics and BPA. It’s also activated to get rid of excess oestrogen from your body You may be surprised but your liver plays HUGE role in hormonal balance.
If we stimulate phase 1 too much and at the same time we don’t provide sufficient nutrients required for phase 2, there is a risk that phase 2 won’t be able to keep up with processing metabolites of phase 1. As a result, liver cells may be damaged because of too much harmful toxins from phase 1 that can’t be processed on time.
Below there are key nutrients that will improve liver detox phase 2
Liver detox phase 2 cofactors:
A. Amino acids:
There are certain amino acids that can attach to a toxic molecule, neutralise it and then can be safely excreted.
- Glycine (Bone broth)
- Glutamine (Eggs, meat, seafood)
- Methionine (Turkey, beef, tofu)
- Taurine (Chicken, beef and fish)
- Cysteine/NAC (Meat, lentils, oatmeal)
B. Other nutrients and foods to improve liver detox phase 2:
- Sulphur (Cruciferous vegetables: kale, broccoli & broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, turnips, arugula and alliums: onion, garlic) – important for detoxification of carcinogens. However be mindful with amount of cruciferous vegetables if you have under active thyroid.
- Choline (Egg yolks and beans) – protects liver from damage, free radicals and excess fat build up.
- Glucaric acid (apples, grapefruits, bean sprouts and cruciferous vegetables) – especially important for hormonal balance and appropriate excretion of excess hormones.
- Vitamins B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 – required for appropriate methylation and homocysteine breakdown.
- Flavonoids: Ellagic acid (pomegranates) – it helps to balance phase 1 and 2 activity, it slows down phase 1 and improves phase 2 of liver detox.
- Berries and antioxidant rich fruits & veggies
- Turmeric, Rosemary, ginger – they increase detoxification ability of the liver.
- Dandelion Tea, Rooibos Tea, Green Tea.
Elimination – last stage of liver detox
It’s the last stage of liver detox however equally important as phase 1 and 2. If your liver can process harmful toxins but your eliminations pathways are not working properly, there is a risk that toxins will be reabsorbed to your bloodstream and build up in the body. There are two major ways of elimination:
A. Kidneys & urine: toxins are filtered through your kidneys and excreted with urine.
B. Bile & bowel: toxins are released into your digestive tract, bound to bile and excreted with stool.
Last one – lymphatic system. Lymph flow is one of the most important systems in terms of elimination and flushing toxins out of your body. Beetroots are known to improve lymph flow and cleansing the blood.
Below are few simple steps that you can include to improve elimination of toxins.
How to improve elimination (last phase of liver detox)?
- Drink enough water, especially important to drink water as a first thing after waking up.
- Avoid excess protein intake
- Include herbs: nettle, dandelion, parsley, golden rod, celery seed.
- Adequate hydration
- Increase soluble fibre intake
- Probiotics and prebiotics rich foods.
- Skin brushing
- Hot and cold showers
- Deep breathing
Liver detox – key takeaways
Nowadays we are overwhelmed with toxins: pollution, plastics, pesticides, cleaning products, drugs and food additives. If our liver is overwhelmed with detoxification, other important processes performed by the liver can be hindered.
Ensuring you take care of your liver is essential for overall health. As apart from detox it also takes part in many process in our body. Liver is where your thyroid hormones are converted and it also stores various nutrients like vitamin A or iron i.e. Furthermore, liver produces glutathione – our own powerful antioxidant. It creates bile which is needed for fat and protein digestion. Liver also produces and breaks down cholesterol. Besides that liver supports healthy metabolism as it can converts glucose to muscle glycogen that can be used for energy when needed or converting fats to glucose which is especially important on keto diet with low carbs consumption.
As mentioned, toxins are everywhere nowadays. Some of them we can eliminate or at least reduce in our daily life however some we have little control over. What we can do for sure is to take care of our liver on daily basis to ensure it can deal with all the harmful compounds and protect us from developing chronic diseases.