Detoxification excites the party animal in all of us and taps into our buy now, play later concept of health and wellness. For thousands of years humans have fasted, hosed out, sucked down and thrown up all sorts of substances to assist their body’s own natural cleansing processes.
Detoxification is a biochemical process undertaken by the liver as part of its normal functioning. Your liver (a truly magnificent piece of human machinery), silently engages in chemical detoxification processes everyday to keep your body healthy and reduce the effects of air pollution, water pollution, household chemicals, plastics, recreational and non-recreational drugs and alcohol.
The Liver Detoxification Process
Phase 1 of liver detoxification involves breaking down metabolites so that they can be processed. Toxins are broken down by oxidation, reduction or hydrolysis which transforms them into a water soluble form (for excretion by the kidneys) or a form that needs further metabolism by Phase 2 of liver detoxification.
Constituents that mediate Phase 1 detoxification include St Mary’s thistle, turmeric, resveratrol and green tea. Phase 1 detoxification must be followed by Phase 2 detoxification to avoid the build up of toxic metabolites in the body.
Phase 2 detoxification is the conjugation phase of liver detoxification. In this phase, many pathways work to bind substances so that they can be excreted. Phase 2 liver detoxification can be supported by St Mary’s thistle, turmeric, green tea, schisandra, resveratrol, rosemary, amino acids, B5, B6, B12 and folate.
Major Phase 2 detoxification pathways are:
- Glucuronidation - binds oestrogens, drugs (steroids, morphine, diazepam, salicylates, paracetemol and NSAIDS). Requires taurine and glucuronic acid.
- Sulphation - major pathway for detoxifying amine neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, oestrogen, thyroid hormones and artificial food colourings. Requires glycine, cysteine, methionine.
- Glycination - metabolism of salicylic and benzoic acids. Requires glycine.
- Glutathionation - binds heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, lead), pesticides, solvents, paracetamol and antibiotics and alcohol. Requires B6 and glutathione.
- Acetylation – binds mescaline requires B5 and N-acetylcysteine.
- Methylation - conjugation with a methyl group to bind dopamine, histamine and adrenalin.
Phase 3 detoxification involves the removal of toxins and excretion via the gut (poo), liver (bile) and kidneys (urine). This process can be supported with high water intake, intake of alkalising greens such as barley, wheat grass or spirulina.
How to Detox
There are a lot of fad diets and supplements available as ‘detox’ equals big business. All liver detoxification protocols were not created equal!
will be able to prescribe supplements or a program for you that assist the body’s own natural detoxification processes and correct any nutritional or biochemical imbalances that might impede good liver function. And remember, you don’t have to wait until something’s wrong to start asking questions.