How Detoxification Works: The Liver

We all get to feeling “that way”: Lack of energy, poor health, digestive problems, trouble losing weight; in short it can feel toxic to live in the skin you’re in. Many of us turn to detoxification, since many symptoms of poor overall health can be linked to toxicity. But before you rush off to the health food store for detoxification supplements, you might want to know how detoxification in the body actually works.

Your body is a self-cleaning machine, given the right healthy foods, and good water, and healthy supplements, your body will cleanse itself. There’s no need to go on extended fasts, and in fact extended fasts may actually cause some health problems, including weight gain! Likewise, there is no need for master cleanses, or other special detox supplements. Simply give your body what it needs, and avoid the things it doesn’t, and your body will cleanse itself.

detoxification pathways in the liver

Make sure to get plenty of the nutrients listed here for daily detoxification

The Liver – the primary organ of detoxification

Lipid (fat) soluble  toxic substances in the body don’t just get flushed out, they have to be broken down in the liver first. Once the liver has broken down toxins into less harmful waste substances, they can then be sent to the kidneys for elimination. The liver uses a two-step process; referred to simply as Phase I and Phase II to break down lipid soluble substances for elimination. Phase I and Phase II detoxification in the liver converts lipid soluble substances into water soluble substances, which can then be filtered out in the kidneys. Here’s how it works:

Phase I: The liver depends on a whole family of enzymes, referred to as cytochrome P450 enzymes to initiate the reactions that lead to lipid soluble substances becoming water soluble. For your body to be able to produce adequate levels of these enzymes for detoxification, it needs adequate levels of the entire B Vitamin family. Sulfurous compounds commonly found in cruciferous vegetables like kale, help by up-regulating specific enzymes in the P450 family.

Phase II: Lipid-soluble substances that have been broken down by Phase One are called phase I intermediates – which can actually be more toxic than the original toxins! A sluggish Phase II can actually slow the detoxification process by inhibiting Phase I.

During Phase II, amino acids including arginine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, and taurine combine with toxins like herbicides and other substances. The process that combines amino acids with toxins are called pathways:

Phase II Detoxification Pathways in the Liver


Supporting Nutrients

Glycine, glutamine & cysteine


Cruciferous vegetable

Vitamins B2, B6, C


St Mary’s thistle


Depends on

Glutamine, Glycine,cystine

Limited by:

Arthritis, Heart Disease, Diabetes




Heavy Metals



Petroleum Distillates




Can compensate when other pathways are compromised

Supporting Nutrients

Sulphur-containing amino acids

(methionine, cysteine, taurine)

Sulphur-rich foods

(garlic, onions, cabbage)


Depends on

Inorganic sulphate

Limited by:

Amount of sulphate available to the liver



(progesterone, DHEA and melatonin)


(aromatic hydroxyl groups including histamine,

dopamine, gallic acid and coumarin)

Catecholamines (adrenalin, noradrenalin)

Supports other pathways as needed



Believed to be responsible for detoxification of 33% of all drugs

Supporting Nutrients

Calcium d-glucurate*



Vitamin B complex

Essential Fatty Acids

Depends on



Sex hormones, especially oestrogens






Supporting Nutrients


Vitamin B6


Reduce levels salicylates of in your diet

Depends on



Salicylic acids (e.g. aspirin, fluoride in tap water)

Benzoic acids (some ointments

& food preservatives)

Phenylacetic acids (found in

nuts & cigarettes)

*Calcium d-glucurate is metabolized into d-glucaro-1, 4-lactone (glucaro lactone GL). GL is a direct inhibitor of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme found in the gut that releases oestrogens and carcinogens that have been bound by Phase II conjugates.  This is a problem because beta-glucuronidase  permits reabsorption of those toxins. By inhibiting beta-glucuronidase activity, GL increases the net elimination of carcinogens, toxins and steroid hormones via glucuronidation.

Alkaline Water Shown Helpful for Alcohol Detoxification in study

Drinking alcohol can be hard on the liver. Excessive consumption leads to oxidative stress, which over time can damage the liver. Preliminary research performed on rats showed that alkaline water had the effect of speeding alcohol detoxification.

Alcohol does more harm to the liver than any other organ in the body. The rate of alcohol detoxification in the liver is under can be measured by evaluating levels of these substances in the liver:

    • Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH)

  • Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)

Elevated levels of these two enzymes mean that the liver is breaking down the alcohol. The rats in the study were divided into two groups. Both groups were intoxicated with alcohol. One group was given alkaline water, the other (control) group was given distilled water.

Compared to the rats that received distilled water, the rats that received alkaline water showed significantly reduced levels of ethanol. Levels of ADH, and ALDH were 3 to 5 times higher in the rats that got alkaline water. This means that the rats that received alkaline water detoxified much faster than the rats that received distilled water.

Foods to avoid

A healthy diet is the best way to keep your liver detoxification system working it’s best. Here are some foods that put an extra burden on your liver:

    • Fried foods: French fries, potato chips, fried twinkies, etc.

    • Food made with hydrogenated oils: Margarine, white bread, Fast foods

    • Alcohol

    • Sugary foods: Desserts, Kids cereals, Soda, donuts, cookies

  • High Fat/High Cholesterol: Fatty cuts of meat, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil,  cocoa butter

Foods that are good for your liver

You can maximize your liver’s ability to detoxify your body every day by eating foods that provide the necessary nutrients for each of your liver’s detoxification pathways. Here are some examples of foods that help you detoxify:

    • Foods rich in sulfur: Onions, garlic, egg yolks (2 – 4 per week)

    • Spices: Turmeric, cinnamon, licorice

    • High fiber: Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains

    • Alkaline water

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, brussel sprouts (all rich in sulfur too!)

In general, if you are eating a well-balanced nutritious diet, you are giving your liver what it needs to detoxify your body every day. You reduce your risk of gallbladder problems in particular by reducing your intake of deep-fried and fatty foods. Also minimize your consumption of high-fat, high cholesterol foods. Eggs are fine if consumed in moderation, 2 – 4 eggs per week is fine.Also try to stay away from smoked, cured or salted food.

A high fiber diet is essential for keeping your liver healthy. Munch on fruits or nuts as a healthy alternative to unhealthy snacks. You should also consider juicing so you can add healthy vegetables to your diet.

Drink plenty of alkaline water, it’s beneficial for your liver’s antioxidant status, and helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your gut. If your gut’s pH is chronically low, then unhealthy aerobic bacteria thrive. Aerobic bacteria in your gut generate toxins that your liver has to detoxify. An alkaline balance in the gut supports healthy probiotic bacteria, which reduces the load on your liver. Drink alkaline water on an empty stomach. Alkaline water consumed on an empty stomach passes through the stomach without being acidified by stomach acid.

Yes, alkaline water can help you detox daily, call us at 877-959-7977 for a free healthy water consultation


Seung-Kyu P, et al. “Electrolyzed-reduced water inhibits acute ethanol-induced hangovers in Sprague-Dawley

rats” Biomedical Research, 6 July 2009 Web 31 January 2014 <>

Patel, A. “Foods for Liver: 10 Foods for a Healthy Colon and Liver” Huffington Post Canada, 13 September 2012

Web 3 February 2014

George Mateljan Foundation. “What Foods can Improve Liver Health?” The World’s Healthiest Foods, N.D Web.

3 February 2014

Healthscope Functional Pathology. “Functional Liver Detoxification Profile (FLDP) Healthscope Functional

Pathology N.D. Web 3 February 2014 FunctionalLiverDetoxificationProfile_FLDP-SR.pdf

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