Have a healthy Liver
Every effort to detox and have a healthy gut starts at the liver.
The Liver in a Nutshell
Your liver is your most important organ of detoxification and continuously processes all forms of substances, from your digestive tract and the rest of your body, throughout the day. It has to deal with all these compounds, some of which are very toxic and others which are beneficial, and decide what to do with them. Your liver is very good at deciding what needs to be kept and what needs to be removed. It functions like a massive chemical plant that manufactures certain compounds, detoxifies dangerous compounds, and directs substances all over the body for use, storage or excretion.
Your liver makes use of two pathways in order to carry out its detoxification work. These are
- Phase 1: You can think of phase 1 as being responsible for breaking things down and then sending the raw materials to phase 2,
- Phase 2: Phase builds new substances from the raw material by adding molecules to them (this is called conjugation).
Getting rid of the toxins and not only
Some of the toxins and compounds your liver needs to deal with are
- Environmental pollutants: These include car exhaust, industrial pollutants, cigarette smoke, and pesticides like glyphosate. Besides chemicals, some pesticides and fertilizers contain toxic heavy metals. These can contaminate the air, water, and soil.
- Your home: A few examples are bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in nonstick cookware. Other examples are flame retardants in sofas and formaldehyde in the glue of particleboard used in some furniture.
- Personal care and cleaning products: The majority of these items contain artificial fragrances and other potentially toxic chemicals. These include phthalates, which can disrupt your hormones and block your uptake of iodide.
- Healthcare products: This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and recreational drugs, which are chemical concoctions. It also includes dental materials. Some of these are still made with toxic heavy metals, including mercury.
- Alcohol: No matter what form alcohol is in — beer, wine, or hard liquor — your liver has to detoxify it. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol as a carcinogen. It increases the risk of liver, colon, and breast cancers, among other types.
- Food: Some food toxins are added, such as preservatives and artificial colors. Others are created in the cooking process. You create toxins when you char meat on the grill. And mercury contamination is common in seafood. Pesticides taint many foods, too.
- Ammonia: Some amino acids you consume are used to make body proteins. You break down the rest for other uses. Ammonia is a byproduct of this process and can be toxic in high amounts. Also, some bacteria and parasites create ammonia, adding to your toxin load. Your liver converts ammonia into urea so you can excrete it.
- Hormones: Your hormones must be in proper balance. For example, excess estrogen is linked to problems like breast cancer and obesity. Your liver converts excess estrogen into a form you can excrete. Poor liver health can lead to excess estrogen.
- Mycotoxins: Mold can produce harmful chemicals called mycotoxins. These contaminate water-damaged buildings, as well as some foods. Mold can also grow inside you and produce mycotoxins in your body.
- Bacterial toxins: Harmful bacteria in water-damaged buildings and in your gut produce toxins. That includes endotoxins called lipo-poly-saccharides. These are from the outer membrane of bacteria. They can trigger inflammation in your body.
Phase 1 liver detoxification is the first line of defense against toxins. It consists of a group of enzymes known as the cytochrome P450 family. The enzymes help neutralize substances like alcohol. They offer protection by converting toxins into less harmful ones.The byproducts of Phase 1 liver detoxification can still pose a toxic threat to the body. If the toxins are allowed to build up and stay in the liver, they can damage DNA and proteins. It is the role of Phase 2 liver detoxification, to make sure that those toxins do not build up. Which provides final neutralization of the toxins so that they can be removed by the body.
Phase 1 uses many, many enzymes to break substances down. However, P450 drive the majority of Phase 1 detox reactions. They handle about 75% of the drugs that people may take. The liver has the most cytochrome P450 enzymes. This vital organ is the main workhorse in detoxification. Still, your small intestine, brain, heart, lungs, skin, and other tissues also contain these enzymes and help with detox.
Phase 1 is also known as the subtraction phase of metabolism, where the enzymes work to subtract molecules from substances and break them up into smaller more useful units, just like the process of food digestion does so in the gut. Phase 1 is utterly dependent on these enzymes, whose speed of metabolism is in turn affected by things like genetics, exercise and the presence or absence of certain substances/supplements in the diet that can either speed them up (induce them) or slow them down (inhibit them). After the enzymes have broken down some of the substances, some very toxic end products (metabolites) remain and they must quickly be shunted to phase 2 pathway in order to make them safer for the body to use. Heavy metals in particular can make these enzymes dysfunctional.
Phase 2 liver detoxification neutralizes the byproducts of Phase 1 liver detoxification and other remaining toxins. This is done by making the toxins water-soluble. That way they can be excreted from the body. This process is known as conjugation.
Phase 2 is the addition or conjugation phase where new substances are added/conjugated to the toxic and good metabolites produced in phase 1 in order to make them easier to transport, more stable and/or more functional for the body. Think of the phase 2 pathways like conveyor belts in constant motion extending outwards from a central point, where the phase 1 pathways empty their byproducts. Specific substances are sent towards a specific conveyor belt where particular enzymes are available for the addition of a ‘special substance’ to create a new substance. Mostly these ‘special substances’ are amino acids like glycine and taurine, and other substances, like glutathione, sulfate, and methyl. Each conveyor belt adds/conjugates a specific substance.
There are 6 pathways in phase 2. The Glucoronidation, the Sulphation (sulfation), the Methylation, the Acetylation, the Glutathione, the Amino-acids pathway.
- Glucuronidation: This is one of the most common Phase 2 pathways. It helps clear about 1 in 10 of the top 200 prescribed drugs. It also detoxifies some chemicals, such as BPA used in many plastic containers. The end products of glucuronidation are commonly excreted via your bile.
- Sulfonation: This is considered another major Phase 2 pathway. Sometimes it’s also called sulfation, but sulfonation is more accurate. It detoxifies acetaminophen and some carcinogens. Toxins that go through the sulfonation pathway are commonly excreted in your urine.
- Methylation: You know about methylation since some people have genetic variants related to this pathway. Methylation helps clear histamine. That’s produced in your body and is also high in some foods, such as fermented items. If histamine builds up, it can lead to headaches, nausea, rashes, and other issues.
- Acetylation: This pathway helps detoxify carcinogens, such as those in your diet, cigarette smoke, and car exhaust. It also helps clear histamine and caffeine. That’s why the effects of a morning cup of coffee “wear off.”
- Glutathione: Glutathione isn’t “just” an antioxidant. In Phase 2 detox, it helps remove mold toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals such as mercury. You also use this pathway to detox synthetics.
- The Amino acids: Certain amino acids — the building blocks of protein — can attach to toxic molecules so you can excrete them. For example, glycine can bind with benzoate, a common food preservative. In Phase 2, enzymes attach amino acids to some Phase 1 detox products to enable you to excrete them. These amino acids are glycine, taurine, cysteine, and methionine.
How to support your Liver
You need to supply the via your diet the right building blocks or the production lines come to a halt. If one conveyor belt stops because it is missing the compounds needed, the other conveyor belts are equipped to deal with some of these jammed items that need conjugation. But certain compounds are restricted to only go down a specific pathway and production must wait until more of the ‘special substance’ is provided. Even still, phase 1 does not stop production and it just keeps on going.
You can think of the toxic metabolites from phase 1 as many freshly laid and fragile eggs from different birds. These eggs need to be quickly organised and sent down the correct conveyor belt or they will back-up and create a huge mess. Chicken eggs must go down the chicken egg conveyor belt, and geese eggs down the geese egg conveyor belt. So the eggs are swiftly organized onto specific conveyor phase 2 belts where workers (phase 2 enzymes) add certain ‘special substances’, to create boxes and bubble wrap (taurine, glycine,sulphate) which stabilizes them and makes them ready for transport.
If the phase 1 birds are making way to many eggs, then the phase 2 workers are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with the packing. This creates a bottle-neck at the beginning of the phase 2 conveyor belt and the eggs spill over and make a huge mess. When this happens in the body, the toxic metabolites that are bottle-necked at the beginning of phase 2 start to circulate and cause a lot of damage throughout the system. So when a person encounters certain compounds like perfumes or paint that need to be detoxified by the phase 2 system and it is not working, then they get a lot of symptoms. These individuals need help to slow down phase 1 pathways, with phase 1 inhibitors.
Now to the list of compounds needed to support both detox phases
- Glutathione is so important for humans, it is known as the “master antioxidant.” It is called this, because it is the most abundant antioxidant in the body and it can regenerate itself in the liver. Glutathione is found in asparagus, avocado, spinach, broccoli, and some supplements. Sadly, food sources of glutathione are poorly absorbed into the body. Digestive enzymes can break it down before it can be absorbed. There is also no direct transport system for glutathione. Although glutathione is poorly absorbed, diet does play a part in the body’s levels. The body needs key building blocks to manufacture glutathione. Certain foods and nutrients are known to provide them. Eating these building blocks can increase the body’s production of glutathione. These include selenium, vitamin E, cruciferous vegetables, milk thistle, and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).
- B vitamins: Some Phase 1 enzymes need the help of B vitamins, including riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3). If you avoid dairy products — a top source of riboflavin — seek other sources. Riboflavin is in almonds, eggs, and quinoa. Niacin is found in meats, poultry, and sunflower seeds. Several B vitamins — including folate, B6, and B12 — support methylation enzymes, as well as other aspects of liver detox. Folate is found in spinach, sunflower seeds, and avocados. Good sources of vitamin B6 are meat, nuts, and seeds. And vitamin B12 is found in meat, poultry, and eggs.
- Zinc: You need this vital mineral for Phase 1 detox, as it’s required for cytochrome P450 activity. Some good sources of zinc are meat, chicken (mainly dark meat), pumpkin seeds.
- Sulphur (sulfur foods) are metabolized down through several steps in order to produce sulphate (sulfate), but some people are unable to complete the conversion of sulphur into sulphate, or they do it poorly, due to faulty or poisoned enzymes. In order to keep the Sulphation pathway moving, they must supply sulphate to the body via supplements taken on a daily basis, such as Magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salts) or Glucosamine sulphate. Brussel sprouts and cruciferous vegetables are a top source of sulforaphane. This phytochemical increases your production of glutathione. And it promotes the action of Phase 2 liver detoxification enzymes.
- Magnesium: This mineral may increase your glutathione production. As you read above, glutathione provides antioxidant protection and Phase 2 detoxification. Magnesium also supports methylation enzymes.
- Vitamin C is also important in liver detoxification pathways. It helps protect liver detoxification enzymes, created in phase I and phase II liver detoxification pathways, from oxidative damage. Vitamin C helps protect liver tissues from oxidative damage. Some research also suggests that vitamin C may play a role in toxin removal. Vitamin C is tightly controlled in the body. Blood levels are mainly determined by vitamin C intake and kidney regulation. Research shows that some phytochemicals may increase plasma vitamin C, even in the absence of vitamin C consumption. Foods richest in vitamin C are fruits like, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, oranges and other citrus fruits, strawberries, watermelon.
- Flavonoids: One key flavonoid is ellagic acid, which is abundant in pomegranates. Ellagic acid promotes the activity of Phase 2 enzymes while decreasing Phase 1 activity. This encourages a better balance between the activity of these two phases. And that could help keep damaging intermediate products in check. Tea and berries are a great source of flavonoids.
Once the water-soluble toxins are moved out of your liver cells, they’re released into your bile or blood. Toxins moved into your blood are filtered through your kidneys and eliminated in your urine.Toxins moved into your bile are ultimately released into your digestive tract. And bile can become bound in your stools and excreted. This requires that you poop everyday!
Proper complete nutrition is very important to help your liver get rid of the end products of detoxification. Here are some additional strategies that could help support toxin elimination from your liver
- Good hydration: You need to consume enough water to support the elimination of toxins through your urine and stools. Good hydration helps your kidneys work better. Being well-hydrated also helps reduce your risk of constipation.
- Low-carb and keto : Reducing carbs, especially refined, helps to avoid fatty liver and improves bile production which is needed for detoxification
- Organic food: Opting for organic food reduces your exposure to pesticides like glyphosate. This weed killer impairs cytochrome P450 enzymes you need for detox. Glyphosate also disrupts the function of mitochondria. They make energy your cells need for detox.
- Herbs: Several herbs could support kidney and liver detox. For example, milk thistle promotes antioxidant defense in your kidneys and liver. Herbs such as aloe vera and ginger stimulate your gut to help prevent constipation.
- Bile Acids / TUDCA: Water-soluble bile acids, also known as tauroursodeoxycholic acid. Animal and lab studies suggest TUDCA promotes bile secretion, which is important to get rid of toxins. TUDCA is a naturally formed Liver bile acid which supports your digestion & also your utilisation of fats & oils. If you have loose stools or feel super full after eating fatty meals TUDCA can help. The human body only produces small amounts of TUDCA. In a healthy person, digestion recirculates 95% of the body’s bile salts, but poor diet, decreased liver function, & certain medications can impair this process. Supplementation in this case really help! TUDCA has been popular in the bodybuilding world for years due to its efficacy of bringing down cholesterol & high liver enzymes. TUDCA helps with a healthy fat metabolism & breakdown as well as proper nutrient absorption. It is also supportive to cellular mitochondrial health. This means not only does it help digestion, it helps balance hormones & helps fuel cellular deficiencies too.
- BioActive Carbons / Activated Charcoal: These specialized extracts of fulvic and humic acid can bind some of the toxin-laden bile in your gut. That way, the toxins will be excreted instead of recirculating. The majority of your bile is recycled.
- Fiber: Some types of fiber you consume in foods may also help bind bile in your gut. So, fiber is another way to encourage toxin excretion in your stools. This includes soluble fiber.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): This is made from the amino acid cysteine. NAC can act as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals directly. But it also helps your body make more glutathione, a potent free-radical quencher. That helps protect your liver.
- Use Phase 1 inhibitors such as niacinamide (500-1000mg/day), grapefruit or oregano oil.
- Oxygen: A good supply of oxygen supports the chemical reactions in liver detox, including cytochrome P450 enzymes. Get plenty of fresh air and minimize indoor air pollutants, such as by using natural cleaning products. A supplement of stabilized molecular oxygen may support your oxygen status and oxygen hyperbaric therapy.
As we have seen to have a healthy liver we need all channels of the process to be working optimally. In this direction we can do a few tests.
- Perform a stool analysis test
- Perform an ultra-sound to check the health of the liver
- Check your blood levels for ALT, AST, ALP,Albumin, GGT
- Do a saliva testing of the adrenalsand thyroid blood tests. The thyroid labs will measure the glandular output (how much hormone is been secreted by the glands in the blood).
- Measure your temperature daily. Your body temperature indicates just how well your adrenal and thyroid hormones are having an effect at a receptor level. You need your daily average (based on three oral temperatures taken around 9am, 12noon and 3pm) to measure at 36.5 degrees C and stable for good health. If they are higher one day and lower the next, it indicates adrenal problems – because the adrenals control the stability of internal temperature. If they are low but stable, it indicates thyroid problems – because the thyroid hormones (T3 in specific) lift the temperature.
There is a common phrase frequently used here: “You need to clean downstream before you can clean upstream”, implying that you should clean your bowels first, otherwise you will be sending dirty water from the gut to a clean chemical plant at the liver! So let’s try to take it step by step.
- TEST: Confirm the the liver and gut status
- REMOVE: Remove offending foods from the diet and go keto.
- HEAL: Heal gut issues such as leaky gut. Many people have developed a leaky gut by the time they are ill. The gut lining needs to be repaired by using certain products containing glutamine. Make sure you get your gut health better before taking compounds to assist your liver pathways. At the same time address hormone, thyroid issues.
- DETOX: Take for one or two weeks detox supplements along side with daily intermittent fasting.
- Keep your liver healthy by getting on a daily basis all the nutrients you require.