Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 5/11/22

A great many toxins are fat soluble. As the toxins are liberated from your fat cells, they are converted to “active metabolites”. In this state they are free to roam around the body and cause trouble because they are looking for someone to “be active” with. Your lymph system guides these toxins into your blood stream so that your liver can do one of its primary jobs in life – help your body get rid of toxins!

Liver as a Cleanser

Your liver has the important task of cleansing your blood and getting rid of the waste. It uses a variety of “scrubbing” tools that each specialize in a type of “dirt” or toxin. The result of the “scrubbing” is water soluble trash that needs to get washed away by the kidneys (and all that healthy water you drink).

The first “scrubbing” step of the liver is to convert the toxin from fat soluble to water soluble. When Phase 1 detox is activated, the goal is to make the toxin “less toxic” via the “scrubbing” processes of oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration, and dehalogenation [there is no quiz about those]. These Phase 1 processes are managed and controlled by a family of enzymes called P450. Supporting Phase 1 detox ends up being all about supporting the P450 enzymes! In these processes, many free radicals are produced and you might accidentally find yourself feeling worse during detox (and damaging your cells and DNA).

Activating Phase 1 Liver Detox

Phase 1 detox is activated for many reasons – good and bad. Too much “need” or activation of Phase 1 processes can result in Phase 2 being overloaded and you feeling poorly.

External Activators of Phase 1 Detox

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Mold mycotoxins
  • Steroids
  • Paint and chemical fumes
  • Gasoline and diesel fumes
  • Birth control pills
  • Cortisone shots
  • Pesticides
  • Prescription medications
  • and so many more!

Internal Activators of Phase 1 Detox

  • Vitamin C and citrus fruits
  • B Vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Sulfur and cruciferous vegetables
  • Choline
  • Lipotrophics – particularly those take to help break down fats for weight loss purposes

Assessing your Phase 1 Capabilities

How quickly do you process caffeine? If your morning cup of coffee has you still jazzed at dinnertime, you process caffeine slowly. If you can drink a cup of fully caffeinated coffee (maybe even Danger Coffee or Purity Coffee!) in the late afternoon and still fall asleep like a baby, your liver speeds through phase 1 detox. It is important to understand your personal rate of Phase 1 detox so you can keep yourself feeling good and protect your cells from being threatened by active toxins running around free.

When wellness is a focus, it is also important to know that the same enzymes that make phase 1 detox happen also control and facilitate your liver’s manufacturing of bioactive forms of Vitamin D, converting cholesterol into pregnenelone (a precursor to reproductive hormones and cortisol), manufacture of bile and fatty acids, and breaking down proteins into their amino acid components.

Antioxidants Protective Role

The byproducts (metabolites) of Phase 1 detox are often more reactive and more damaging in the body (and liver) then before the liver starting changing the toxins. Those byproducts need to be matched with antioxidants in order to minimize their damage. Insufficient antioxidants in your diet or those made within the body lead you down the path of cellular damage within the liver and everywhere outside of it too. The more you are actively detoxing, the more antioxidants you need – and they must be varied!

Liver Regeneration Is Real!

Your liver can regenerate! It is the only organ in the body that can regrow after surgery or damage – up to about 25%. What that means is that if your liver is suboptimal from years (or even just a few weeks!) of a diet high in sugar, plentiful in alcohol, low in magnesium, low in B vitamins, low in antioxidant rich vegetables – there is hope! Just like you can damage your liver from a few weeks of bad choices, you can heal your liver quickly too.

When you look into what you do to support the regeration of your liver you find that the exact same things are what support Phase 1 detox! Yay!

In order to be proactive about Phase 1 Liver Detoxification, the liver needs certain ingredients and environmental conditions.

  • Low sugar, low processed grains, and low alcohol consumption – stop challenging the liver and your insulin levels so the liver can focus on detox and healing
  • Eat more healthy fats – because it turns off the storage of fat in your liver (seems like the opposite but its not!) and improves your liver function – try adding MCT oil and avocado to your diet
  • Zinc, Copper, and Magnesium are minerals needed by your liver in order to make glutathione which controls Phase 1 detox. Zinc and Copper should come together in your diet or supplementation plan – try Spirulina Algae to help with your mineral intake. Grass-fed meat is the simplest way to get your minerals. Most modern foods do not provide enough magnesium for your detox, energy production, muscle relaxation, brain, etc so I recommend supplementing with Magnesium Breakthrough to get all the forms you need.
  • Vitamin E and Selenium for their antioxidant properties. Get yours from avocado, brazil nuts, and more! If your diet does not provide you with enough, supplement!
  • B vitamins are required by the enzymes that drive Phase 1 detox processes. If you are not getting each of the B vitamins in the form and quantity that you need, Phase 1 detox starts to look like making a recipe with only half the ingredients. You get points for trying but there is no completion possible. If you need a starting point for all your B vitamins, try Life Extension’s Bioactive Complete B Complex.
  • Vitamin C protects the enzymes that control the production of glutathione inside your liver. Without those enzymes in good condition, your glutathione levels are low. Remember that Vitamin C is one of the many water soluble vitamins which means if you take too much at once, your kidneys just excrete what you can not use – you pee out your supplement. A little bit all day long is better than a megadose once a day!
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (a protein!) to make your master antioxidant glutathione. In your diet, cysteine can be supplied by meat, eggs, and non-conventional dairy (choose what works for your body). If your diet is low in these protein sources, consider supplementing with NAC.
  • Antioxidants and flavenoids aplenty from your organic vegetable and fruit rich diet. Aim for 9 cups of vegetables daily with a mix of brightly colored, sulfur rich, and greens. If you are local to Zen and Vitality, consider getting your weekly organic produce from Next Step Produce.
  • Protein! Your liver requires the amino acids that make up proteins in order to accomplish Phase 1 detox. Your body also needs protein to make new YOU like muscles and to repair damaged bits. If you are low protein or imbalanced in your protein consumption, your body has to choose where to use the available protein. Will it be detox or something else?
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is an essential fatty acid that helps the liver generate protective antioxidants.
  • Iron, in particular heme iron sourced from meat, is required by the P450 enzymes that control Phase 1 detox processes. If you are anemic, there is not enough iron stored in the liver for the liver to properly function (and you get light headed and fatigues easily among other things). Too much iron stored in your liver is toxic. The liver regulates iron absorption through your gut – when it is working well! If you do not know your iron status, consider getting a Full Iron Panel blood test.

Slowing Down Phase 1 Detox

If you have a lot of mobilized toxins in your blood that the liver must process, sometimes you need to slow down the rate that you make the phase 1 byproducts (called metabolites) which are damaging and work on speeding up Phase 2. Grapefruit juice can be a helpful tool because it both slows down phase 1 and speeds up phase 2 detox. I am not a big fan of fruit juices due to the high sugar/low fiber nature but I do love to eat grapefruit! Quercetin is another nutrient that lowers phase 1 activity. Of course, there is also simply reducing your body’s toxin load by reducing your exposure to things that need to be broken down!

Speeding Up Phase 1 Detox

Sometimes you want to boost up your Phase 1 detox, hopefully knowing that you are already supporting a healthy, responsive Phase 2. Coffee is full of nutrients like antioxidants and polyphenols and is a fermented food! Coffee is understood to stimulate the liver to work better among other wonderful health benefits – as long as it is mold-free (try Purity Coffee or Danger Coffee)! Glutathione stimulates both Phase 1 and Phase 2 processes (taking a precursor like NAC works also). Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root, and burdock root will encourage the liver to contract and push out toxins faster.

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