In part 2 of our detox series, we will be shedding light on nutritional interventions to help support your body’s detoxification pathways as well as some lifestyle strategies to reduce your toxin burden. The liver is the main detoxification organ and is involved in the biotransformation and elimination of toxins from the body. It metabolizes toxins through two pathways and key nutrients and antioxidants are crucial for optimal function. In addition to the liver, the gastrointestinal tract (GI) functions to excrete waste that is not beneficial to the overall health of our bodies. Ensuring optimal hydration and fiber intake is key for adequate GI function.1
Organs of Elimination
In the first pathway, or phase I detoxification, our liver utilizes enzymes to effectively transform toxins into less fat-soluble forms. To assist the enzymes responsible for detoxification it is important to consume high-quality proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and plant-derived vitamins and minerals.2 A diet full of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts helps support phase I. In addition, it is important to consume antioxidants found in plants to protect your body from harmful free radicals created through this process. Focus on berries, green tea, brazil nuts, and pomegranate seeds for extra antioxidant support!1,3
The second pathway of liver detoxification, or phase II, helps convert the intermediate metabolites into water-soluble forms to be eliminated mainly via the GI tract. Various nutrients involved in the process are then bound to toxins and can become depleted; therefore, it is essential to ensure optimal dietary consumption of primarily phytonutrients, nutrients found it plants, in addition to high-quality fats and proteins. For glutathione support, be sure to consume cysteine-rich foods, like eggs, garlic, onion, oats, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and lentils. To assist with methylation, focus on foods high in folate and vitamin B12 like high-quality beef liver, eggs, beans, split peas, animal protein and low-mercury fish.3,4
Lastly, phase III of detoxification includes elimination of waste from our body via the gastrointestinal tract. It is essential to ensure your gut is eliminating properly to detox. Ensuring adequate bowel movements, at least one per day, and hydration with filtered water, helps reduce the risk of toxin absorption. Factors that have been found to increase the GI transit time include adequate fiber and water intake, exercise, probiotics, and prebiotics like FOS, GOS, or arabinogalactans. Certain foods are excellent sources for prebiotics such as Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, chicory root, asparagus, onions, and leaks.5
There are also a few simple lifestyle modifications you can make to reduce your overall toxin exposure in addition to nutritional strategies to help support your organs of elimination. Below are a few examples to help you identify and remove sources of exposure.
Buy organic when it counts
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates two lists each year to help us know when it’s important to buy organic: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. If you can’t always buy organic, make sure you’re at least buying organic versions of the foods listed on the Dirty Dozen, and know that you can get away with conventional versions for the Clean Fifteen.
Store your food safely
When you store your food in plastic containers, you’re letting hormone disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) seep into your food. To avoid this, use stainless steel or glass containers to store your food at home. Remember, even plastic containers that say “BPA-free” contain other hormone disrupting chemicals!
Use safe cleaning products
Why use conventional cleaning products full of chemicals when you can use gentler ones with the same effect? The EWG has tested over 2,000 household cleaners; check out their directory to make sure what you’re using is safe!
Clean up your personal care products
On average, we put over 125 unique chemical ingredients on our skin daily. Reduce that number and use safer products by checking out the EWG’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics.
Be health-conscious on the fly
The EWG has a fantastic Healthy Living app to help you choose the healthiest products when you’re at the store. Use it whenever you’re not sure about a product!
Drink clean water and breathe clean air
Use the EWG’s Water Filter Guide to help you determine the right filter for your water. Use air filters at home (especially in your bedroom) to keep the air you breathe clean. Some popular choices include counter-top systems like the Berkey with an additional fluoride filter, and under-the sink systems like the reverse osmosis Radiant Life 14-stage filter, and multi-stage carbon filters like CrystalQuest. In general, reverse osmosis systems are most effective, but some people complain that the water these systems produce tastes “flat” and “lifeless”. Which filter is best depends largely on personal preference, provided it eliminates chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, lead, and other toxins.
Bottom Line: Eat and Live Clean for Detox
Despite our best efforts, we’ll still be exposed to some harmful chemicals in our day-to-day life. Eating a real food diet, drinking enough water, sweating when you exercise, managing stress, and getting quality sleep all play a role in how well we detox these inevitable exposures. Live a healthy life to help your body do its job.
Don’t forget if you haven’t taken our “How Toxic are you Quiz,” it’s a great place to start! And then consider joining us for our next discovery class to learn more and get started with detoxification and jump start change in your life!
Christine Reynolds, PharmD, BCPS, ADAPT
1. Cline, J. C. (2015). Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 21(3), 54–62.
2. Liska, D., Lyon, M., & Jones, D. S. (2006). Detoxification and biotransformational imbalances. Explore (New York, N.Y.), 2(2), 122–140. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.explore.2005.12.009
3. Minich, D. M., & Brown, B. I. (2019). A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients, 11(9). https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.3390/nu11092073
4. Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015, 760689. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1155/2015/760689
5. Hawrelak JA. Prebiotics, Synbiotics and Colonic Foods. In: Pizzorno JE, Murray M (eds). Textbook of Natural Medicine (5th ed). Elsevier. 2020. Volume 1. Chapter 104. Pages 797-808.
6. Hutter, H.-P., Kundi, M., Hohenblum, P., Scharf, S., Shelton, J. F., Piegler, K., & Wallner, P. (2016). Life without plastic: A family experiment and biomonitoring study. Environmental Research, 150, 639–644. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.envres.2016.05.028
7. Kresser Institute. Advanced diagnostics and personalized therapeutics practitioner training program. Living Clean and Green.