We come into contact with environmental toxins every day. Not only that, but our body’s processes create byproducts that are toxic as well. You might think that the only way to get rid of these toxins is to “do a detox”. 


Did you know that your body already has detox systems of its own? It involves your cardiovascular, lymphatic, digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems and even your skin (via sweat)!


Today we will dive into how your body has the capability to detox on its own. However, sometimes you might need some help to enhance that detox process. So instead of “doing a detox”, we like to say that you can support your detox system to help it rid toxins out of your body. 


It’s extremely important that your detox organs are working optimally because built-up toxins can contribute to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.


Today we will focus on how your toxic waste travels through three phases of detox involving your liver and kidneys. 


Phase 1 of Detox

Toxins start out as nonpolar compounds that are stored in your adipose (fat) cells. The first phase of detox occurs in your liver and uses enzymes known as the cytochrome P450 family. These enzymes help protect your body from those toxins’ damage in the first place. 


Your waste is then converted into smaller substances to be eliminated easier. In this conversion process, it also makes the toxins (or metabolites) more water-soluble. These toxins and reactive metabolites that are created in your body are then tagged for elimination.


This occurs through an oxidation, and they actually become more reactive. You want to keep these harmful free radicals from lingering around because they can cause damage to your DNA. 


Therefore, you want to encourage these metabolites to travel into phase 2 as quickly as possible. However, keep in mind that this process is necessary to break down the original toxins into those smaller substances for elimination. 


Something to remember is that if phase 1 is occurring too rapidly (breaking down toxins into smaller, yet possibly more toxic compounds) and phase 2 is slowed down, it could cause toxic build up in your body. Some things that speed up phase 1 too quickly are alcohol, smoking, charcoal-broiled meats, and some medications. 


If you can speed up both phases though, it can be beneficial. Eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower, can speed up phase 1 and offer nutrients like glutathione for phase 2, accelerating that phase as well. 


Nutrients that are used during this phase include:

  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B3
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Flavonoids
  • Glutathione 


This is one of the reasons why eating plenty of antioxidants is needed. They can help counteract the byproducts of certain parts of the detox phase. Try incorporating an abundance of fruits and veggies in your diet to fuel your body with natural antioxidants. 


However, be aware that some foods, like grapefruit juice, contain a compound that inhibits the phase I enzymes. It’s so efficient at inhibiting phase 1 that people on certain medications shouldn’t eat grapefruit because it could cause a drug overdose. The toxin build-up from the medication becomes so great because it can’t be eliminated. 


Phase 2 of Detox

Now it’s time to take those water-soluble metabolites out of your body through your bile, stool, or urine, through a series of conjugated pathways. These biological reactions include glutathione conjugation, amino acid conjugation, methylation, sulfation, acetylation, glucuronidation, and sulfoxidation. This process makes your intermediate metabolites from phase 1 less reactive so that they can easily be flushed from the body. If phase 2 is slowed down, activated toxins from phase 1 can build up and damage the liver, or pass out of the liver into the general circulation.


Phase 2 of detox requires:

  • Amino acids
  • Sulfur
  • Vitamin B12
  • Molybdenum
  • Glutathione


Phase 3 of Detox

Phase three is the transportation of the metabolites out of your body. The now polar substances either go to your bile or go into your serum via your kidneys. If it goes to your bile, it will then be excreted through your stool. If it goes to your serum, it gets excreted through your urine- like uric acid and nitrogen. 


For this phase, you need to ensure that you are drinking enough clean water and staying hydrated. This enhances your body’s ability to excrete toxins through your kidneys. Note that we say clean drinking water. In today’s society, many of our water sources are contaminated with toxins. To avoid adding more toxins to your body, make sure you are drinking filtered water!


You also want to make sure that you are eating lots of green vegetables, citrus, and mineral-dense foods, like bone broth, to help your kidneys. 


It’s also essential that your digestive system is working optimally for your detox processes to run successfully. You want to be passing a stool every day without constipation or diarrhea. If you aren’t having normal stools, you’ll want to focus on:

  • Gut health– do you have dysbiosis? This is when your gut contains an unbalanced microbiome, meaning that the harmful bacteria have overtaken the beneficial bacteria. Bone broth is a great gut-healing fuel that’s filled with nutrients.
  • Eating enough fiber helps move stool along and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Increase your intake of beans, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Getting more magnesium!– this nutrient alone can help many people with their stools. If you are deficient, it could impact normal stools. A magnesium supplement may be needed.
  • Food sensitivities– a side effect of consuming a particular food that you are sensitive to could be diarrhea or constipation. In2GREAT offers food sensitivity testing, so you know what foods to avoid to help optimize your health. 


Contact In2Great Functional Medicine Clinic

If you want to maximize your health, optimizing your detox pathways is key. If you are worried that other things are causing your detox processes to get backed up or not work optimally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you want more insight into achieving optimal digestion, and receiving personalized care, get in contact with our in2GREAT Functional Medicine Clinic in Kansas City. Fill out our contact form or give us a call at (913) 308-0174

Dr Corey Priest, DC - Functional medicine practitioner

About the author

Dr. Corey Priest has been practicing functional medicine since 2001. in2GREAT was founded in 2014 by Dr Priest after 13 years of experience with his other practices. Over his career, Dr. Priest has worked with and helped well over 10,000 patients under a functional medicine model.

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