HOW TO SUPPORT OUR LIVER’S DETOX PATHWAYS
Our liver is our body’s main organ of detoxification. It has two different detoxification pathways which transform fat soluble compounds into water soluble compounds so that they can be transported out of our bod in urine or bile.
Phase I pathway: adds oxygen molecule to create a reactive site on the toxic compound
Phase II pathway: adds water soluble group to this reactive site so the compound can be excreted in urine or bile.
Image from Liska (1998)
Nutrients required for Phase I detox:
B2, B3, B6, B12, Folate
Nutrients required for Phase II detox:
After going through phase I detox, the activated molecules are often more toxic than the original compound- if these metabolites are not pushed down the phase II detox pathway, they can cause damage- this is where antioxidant nutrients come into play. Having antioxidants around, helps to prevent these guys from running around wreaking havoc.
Antioxidant protective nutrients
How different types of foods support our liver detox pathways:
Fats and Oils. Excellent source of energy for detoxification processes.
Nuts and seeds. Excellent source of energy and fiber to support healthy transit times through the GI system.
Proteins. Important as a source of amino acids for production of some phase I and phase II enzymes. Protein is also an excellent source of sulfate (useful for phase II detox)
Fruit. Excellent source of antioxidants. Fruit is also high in soluble and insoluble fiber which can help contribute to healthy transit times.
Vegetables. Starchy vegetables are excellent sources of fiber and phytonutrients. Non-starchy vegetables provide a variety of phytochemicals and can favor the production of 2-OH estrogen as opposed to the more potent 4-OH and 16-OH estrogens.
This all sounds complicated. So what do I eat? All the basics still apply.
-Drink adequate H20 daily. A good rule of thumb is to get ½ your bodyweight in ounces of H20 + 15 ounces for every hour of activity.
-Minimum 25g fiber daily. Pick a goal that’s attainable for you- whether it’s doing the 800 gram challenge, or eating a vegetable from every color of the rainbow. Be sure to get leafy greens and cruciferous veggies at least 3-4 days/ week
-Prioritize grassfed/ organic protein sources. If you can’t do 100% grass fed, but sure to opt for leaner cuts of meat. All the hormones, toxins, etc hang out in the fat, so we’re better off going for leaner cuts and getting our fat from other sources if we’re not able to commit to 100% grass fed, organic meat.
-Limit alcohol use. If you choose to drink, do so away from meals- and if you choose to drink with a meal, keep fat intake low during that meal.
-Limit food with added sugar. No sugar is not the worst thing in the world. But many of the processed food products are engineered with the perfect combination of sugar and fat to make you crave more and more of them. These foods are calorically dense and virtually void of any useful dietary nutrients. So no, they are not the devil- no, you don’t need strict rules around never eating them- but if you’re concerned about your long term health, they should not make up the majority of your diet. And if the majority of your diet is made up of processed food, its likely that your detoxification pathways are very sad. No 30-day cleanse or supplement regimen is going to fix that. Making better choices about our nutrition is one of the most powerful forms of self care.
-Be conscientious about skin care/ beauty products. If you really need all products you’re using on your skin/ hair, take the time to check out what’s them. Referencing the EWG database (link in bio) is a great way to learn more about potentially toxic ingredients in your skin care/ hair care/ household products.
Hodges & Minich (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Compounds: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism.
Cline (2015). Nutritional Aspects of Detoxification in Clinical Practice. Alternative Therapies, (21)3.
Liska (1998). The Detoxification Systems. Alternative Medicine Review (3)3.