Liver Detoxification | There is s much chatter out there about how to detox, support, or rehab your liver but very few people actually understand how the liver works. Understanding how your liver works will increase your respect for this amazing organ. After we all get on the same page about your liver we will give you practical tools for supporting it.
Understanding and supporting your liver will empower you to uplevel your health, age more gracefully, increase energy, prevent chronic and autoimmune disease, and treat the only body you have with the care and respect it deserves.
How The Liver REALLY Works
First of all, the liver is not a filter, but it IS a detox organ. There’s a difference. A filter keeps things out and a detoxification process breaks down and removes (or prepares for removal) toxic substances. The liver prioritizes and triages toxins that need to be broken down into forms that can be excreted through bile and urine. Supporting an overtaxed liver means helping it in the function of breaking down toxic substances in the liver.
In decades past, most people could rely on the liver to do this job sufficiently without extra support. However because of the increased level of food, environmental and body care chemicals/toxins that are affecting people even in the womb, the liver can’t keep up on its own anymore. The rise in neurological spectrum disorders, cancers, and autoimmune conditions are evidence of even the livers of need support. Poorly functional livers are no longer just alcoholics and those eating fast food everyday. Virtually every American would benefit from some level of extra liver support.
The liver is responsible for breaking down and excreting all types of toxic substances including mutated and excess hormones. The liver produces bile to digest fat, breakdown hormones and store essential vitamins, minerals, and iron. Again, the liver doesn’t filter, it modifies toxins to make them less toxic and easier to excrete. This happens in a 3 part detoxification system.
Liver Detoxification Process
The liver detoxification happens in 3 phases, and how you eat and supplement can hinder or support each of these phases. Here’s what they do and how you can help.
Phase 1: Oxidation Phase
This is basically the preparation phase. Oxidation neutralizes the toxin which make them less metabolically active (safer) and able to free radicals. There are multiple processes in the body (Phase 2 liver detoxification primarily) get these free radicals out of the body. Too many free radicals released from too many toxins will damage the liver, but having antioxidants on board will keep things in check. Glutathione is a key antioxidant that protects against free radical damage in this first phase, and massively important for phase 2. Some people have genetic hiccups (or polymorphisms) that prevent their body from making enough glutathione. This means they are at higher risk for inflammation and their liver may not be able to keep pathways clear of toxins.
Phase 2: Conjugation Phase
This phase is where the liver takes what’s been deactivated from phase 1, and adds other substances like cystine, glycine, and sulphur. The toxins then go into two groups. In one group the toxins “prepared” by oxidation in phase 1 become even less metabolically active and are ready to be excreted through poop or urine. The second group gets changed from fat soluble to water soluble, also making it ready to leave the body. Once these toxins get oxidized and then conjugated they are ready to leave the body. While this may sound simple, it is actually a complex process involving many enzymes and enzymatic pathways. Genetics can play a big role in the ability for the liver to do the conjugation it needs. For example, a P450 enzymes, of which there are almost 60 variations, can get upregulated by toxins from foods and chemicals which causes them to and actually produce more free radicals. Foods like grapefruit and curcumin and milk thistle inhibit this P450 process which supports good liver detoxification. Medications and other chemicals widely used by most people like alcohol, pesticides, paint fumes, acetaminophen (Tylenol), erythromycin (antibiotic), cyclosporin (mediation), metoprolol, and codeine are specifically known to increase the P540 enzymes and produce more free radicals.
Future articles in this series will help you know what signs and symptoms to look for to see if you liver needs more love (hint: most everyone has some of these), and ways to practically and easily add liver love lifestyle changes into your daily routine.