Detox Pathways

There are three phases of detox. The focus on phase 1 of detox is oxidation of harmful toxins in order to break them down into less harmful metabolites. Without moving these toxins out of the body, disease causing free radicals can build up in the body. During phase 1, increase antioxidants and foods with polyphenols and flavonoids to further protect the body. Eating 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies is a good way to ensure you’re getting what your body needs for phase 1. Some phase 1 activators are antioxidants, like vitamin C and silymarin in milk thistle.

milk thistle growing in the wild
Milk Thistle in Luray, VA photographed by Rebecca Roberts

According to Meghan Livingstone, during liver detox phase 1 toxins are broken down with specific enzymes while in phase 2 the body makes the same toxins less harmful and eventually eliminates them. Diet plays a large role in facilitating the different phases of detox. Since toxins accumulate in fat in the body, it’s not possible to get rid of them in a short period of time.

“Phase 2 is all about conjugation, which uses 6 different pathways to take water-soluble Phase 1 metabolites OUT of your body through your bile, urine, and stool. Required for phase 2 is sulphur, vitamin B12 and glutathione which is made from amino acids we just mentioned above. Flavonoids also help support phase 2 of detox and are found in fruits, vegetables, many herbs, ellagic acid in red grape skin, garlic, rosemary, soy, and cabbage” (Livingstone).

Phase 2 detox is often slow due to people not consuming enough of the nutrients necessary for this phase. Although this is common, it’s detrimental to the body because the metabolites of phase one are harmful to the body and need to get moved out. While phase 1 may be activated by a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the evening, if you don’t make a conscious effort to include foods that are supportive of phase 2, these toxins will build up in the body resulting in insomnia, brain fog, hot flashes and a feeling of grogginess.

The focus of phase 3 detox is about transportation of phase 2 conjugates to either the kidneys for further filtration and then out of your body via your bladder and urine OR out with your bile into your small intestine, and down through your GI tract for elimination via stool. Phase 3 requires, adequate hydration for the kidney-urine elimination, proper function of your GI system so that you can pass daily stools. Swipe to see what a healthy stool should look like.


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