Many people say that most of diseases begin in the gut and I can’t disagree with it however I think liver is often neglected and a bit underestimated organ in terms of our health. 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 on daily basis and ensure that it’s working at its best.
If your liver detox mechanism isn’t working well, dangerous compounds can pile up in your body. That could lead to various symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and nausea. Over the long run, build-up of toxins can increase your risk of chronic diseases, damage DNA and accelerate ageing.
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.
How liver detox works?
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.
PHASE 1 SUPPORT:
What you really need to know about phase 1 are two things: what are cofactors required for your liver to convert toxins and how you can protect your liver from damage.
Phase 1 Cofactors:
- B-Vitamins (required for P450 enzyme)
- B3 and B5 help to process cholesterol
- Zinc (required for P450 enzyme)
- Magnesium -helps to increase glutathione production, a powerful 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 antioxidants to balance negative effect of free radicals. Additionally, you can focus on what induces phase 1 and limit your exposure to those factors.
Source of antioxidants:
- Vitamins: A,C,E
- Minerals: Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Manganese*
- Other Antioxidants: CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Flavonoids, reduced Glutathione or NAC, Milk Thistle, Astaxanthin.
- Superfoods: Asparagus, Beetroots, Apples, Lemons. Fruits and vegetables are in general good source of antioxidants.
*Manganese is not antioxidant itself but it a key mineral that helps form superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is one of the most important antioxidants produced by our body
How to reduce 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.
PHASE 2 SUPPORT:
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.
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 I listed key nutrients that support phase 2 detox.
A. Amino acids:
Certain amino acids can attach to a toxic molecule so it 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)
A. Other nutrients:
- Sulphur (Cruciferous vegetables: kale, broccoli & broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, turnips, arugula and alliums: onion, garlic) – important for detoxification of carcinogens.
- 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, B9 and 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.
- Berries and antioxidant rich fruits & veggies
- Turmeric, Rosemary, ginger – they increase detoxification ability of the liver.
- Dandelion Tea, Rooibos Tea, Green Tea.
It’s the last stage of liver detox and 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.
- Drink enough water
- 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
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.
Liver stores various nutrients like vitamin A or iron i.e. It produces glutathione – our own powerful antioxidant, it creates bile which is needed for fat and protein digestion, it produces cholesterol which is needed to make our hormones. It’s also play key role in energy metabolism, 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. Fat can be burnt for energy however our brain uses mostly glucose as a fuel.
There are certain toxins that we can eliminate in our daily life but there are some that we have not much control over. What we can do is 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.