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Deep Dive in Detoxification

nutrition 101 Oct 05, 2020

As I mentioned in a previous post, we are constantly exposed to toxins every single day.  Our body works hard to detox.  Today let’s dive deeper into how our amazing bodies are able to detox and nutrients that can support that process.

Detoxification Health Benefits

Our body is continually detoxing - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The liver is the primary organ of detoxification, however, every cell in the body has its own detox pathway.  Detoxification occurs when lipophilic (fat-soluble) substances are converted to water-soluble substances.  Detoxification is essential to the healthy function of our bodies.  This is done through three stages known as Phase I, Phase II, Phase III.  Through these phases, toxins are able to be excreted through the body by breath, sweat, pee, or poo when it attaches to a water molecule.

So what happens if toxins build up?  We can begin to experience various symptoms.  Symptoms are warning signs/messages that your body is giving you to let you know that something is not in balance within your body.  So often we, as in the general population, turn a deaf ear to these messages.  It’s often not until your body is screaming that you begin to listen and seek out answers or make changes.  

Signs of Toxic Overload

  • Systemic inflammation

  • Brain fog

  • Memory problems

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Headache/migraine

  • Fatigue

  • Obesity

  • Infertility/miscarriage

  • Joint/muscle pain

  • Hormone imbalance

  • PMS

  • Allergies

  • Eczema

  • Chronic colds

  • Autoimmune condition

How to Detox

Well, our body is pretty dang smart.  It recognizes toxins that we are exposed to outside of our body (exogenous toxins) and ones that are generated in our bodies (endogenous toxins) and it sends them through the detoxification process.  However, sometimes our body cannot keep up with the demands we put on it.  When that happens, toxins are stored in fatty tissue and in the liver.  When you support your body’s detoxification pathway through nutrition, lifestyle, and possible supplements you can begin to release these toxins.  This happens during Phase I of detoxification.

Phase I Detoxification

Toxins are released from fat and functionalized to be more water-soluble.  This occurs through enzyme reactions that result in oxidation, reduction, and hydrolysis.  Now, this is where things can get complicated.  You see, if those free radicals are not quickly neutralized by antioxidants or attached to a water molecule (Phase II), they can be recirculated into your system.  These released toxins/free radicals are almost more dangerous than the original toxin itself.  

Phase II Detoxification

Enzymatic conjugation occurs during Phase II to further increase water solubility and decrease the reactivity of Phase I products through 6 different pathways - sulfonation, glucuronidation, glutathione, acetylation, acylation, and methylation.  Through this process, the toxins are attached to a water molecule and now are ready for Phase III.

Phase III Detoxification

This is the phase where we purge the toxins from our bodies.  Elimination occurs through sweat (skin), breath (lungs), urine (kidneys), feces (liver/GI tract).  If any of these pathways are compromised, detoxification can be compromised.  

How to Support Detoxification

In a perfect world, we would go through Phase I and II at the same rate of speed.  However, we often see Phase I work well (toxin released and now a free radical) and Phase II be sluggish (attach the free radical to a water molecule).  This can be dangerous as that free radical can be potentially more dangerous than the original toxin. Damage can occur to the DNA, phospholipids, and protein.  Antioxidants are a must!  To really support the Phase I and II pathways, we can turn to foods, herbs/supplements.

Phase I Supporting Nutrients

  • B-complex

  • Glutathione

  • Branch-chain amino acids

  • Antioxidants

    • Carotenoids

    • Vitamin C and E

    • Glutathione

    • Selenium and Zinc

    • CoQ10

    • Sulfur

    • Bioflavonoids

    • Milk thistle

    • Proanthocyanidins

  • Foods containing these nutrients include (but may not be limited to):

    • Liver

    • Animal proteins

    • Seafood

    • Poultry

    • Mushrooms

    • Nuts

    • Seeds

    • Avocado

    • Legumes

    • Potatoes

    • Bananas

    • Leafy greens

    • Eggs

    • Bone Broth

    • Peppers

    • Squash

    • Carrots

    • Stone fruits (any fruit with a pit or seed in the center)

    • Berries

    • Whole grains

    • Olive oil

    • Tropical fruits

    • Cruciferous vegetables

Phase II Supporting Nutrients

  • Sulfur-containing foods

    • Animal proteins

    • Eggs

    • Legumes

    • Cruciferous veggies

    • Onions

    • Garlic

  • Glutathione support

    • Cysteine

    • Glycine

    • Glutamic acid

  • Taurine

    • Animal proteins

    • Seafood

    • Poultry

    • Eggs

  • Glutamine

    • Bone Broth

    • Animal proteins

    • Spirulina

    • Legumes

    • Cruciferous veggies

  • Folate

    • Liver

    • Legumes

    • Leafy Greens

    • Asparagus

    • Avocado

  • B12

    • Seafood

    • Liver

    • Animal proteins

    • Poultry

    • Eggs

  • Choline

    • Liver

    • Egg yolks

Phase III  Detox Pathway Support

  • GI Tract

    • Bile is the primary route of detox metabolite excretion once the liver processes it.  If you don’t have a gallbladder, your detoxification can be compromised.  But don’t worry!  You can supplement with ox bile to support that process.

    • Fiber acts as a sponge to toxins but also encourages bowel movements.

      • Constipation can add to the toxic burden as toxins in the fecal material are reabsorbed into the bloodstream the longer it sits in your GI tract.  Bowel movements should be occurring daily.  Ideally, you are having 2-3 bowel movements per day that are soft and formed like a banana.   

    • Gut dysbiosis can compromise detoxification.  H. pylori? Leaky gut? Candida? SIBO?  These (and other gut issues) can impair the process.  I would suggest addressing getting your microbiome in balance first.

  • Kidneys

    • Hydration, hydration, hydration.  That toxin needs to attach to a water molecule to be excreted.  Your kidneys are the main player in this whole process.

  • Sweat/Skin

    • Eccrine sweat glands are located all over the body and apocrine sweat glands are located in the armpits and groin area.  However, some skincare/personal care products can block pores from sweating and releasing those toxins.  Reading labels and replacing ones with clean formulations is a very important step to holistic health. Here are some other key tips.

      • Avoid aluminum in antiperspirants.  It inhibits the flow of sweat from the glands to the skin surface.

      • Avoid mineral oil/petroleum-based products.  These are very occlusive and will not allow the skin to “breathe” or sweat appropriately.

    • Intense physical activity can increase sweating, which is good!  But it also increases free radicals.

      • Be sure to include antioxidants after workouts to neutralize those free radicals

      • Saunas can be an effective way to increase sweating without increasing free radicals

  • Breath 

    • Deep breathing techniques can help to clear toxins. Deep breaths are also great for activating the parasympathetic nervous system.  This is very important in our high-stress, busy world as we are often operating on the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.

(You can check out my post here for a few other suggestions related to self-care).

Supplements and Herbs to Support Detoxification

You can also include some herbs and supplements to help support your detox pathways.

Herbs to include daily to support elimination, bile production, protect the liver and contain antioxidants.

  • Milk thistle

  • Artichoke

  • Turmeric

  • Dandelion root and leaf

  • Green tea

  • Burdock root

  • Celandine

  • Gentian

In addition to the nutrients and antioxidants listed to support Phase I and Phase II these supplements can help provide targeted support when doing a focused detoxification.

  • N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) - upregulates glutathione

  • Lipoic acid - antioxidant

  • Phosphatidylcholine - increases liver clearance

  • Cracked cell chlorella - antioxidant

  • Activated charcoal - binds to toxins to prevent reabsorption (should not be taken within 1 hour of food, other supplements, or medications)

Targeted detoxification is a good thing to incorporate into your life a few times a year.  Some like to do a detox at the change of every season to reset and refocus health and wellness.  When you are doing a targeted detox there are a few foods that I recommend eliminating to really get the best benefit for your efforts and reduce inflammation.

  • Refined vegetable oils

  • Refined, conventional grains

  • Gluten

  • Dairy

  • Corn

  • Soy

  • Refined sugar

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Coffee

  • Alcohol

The information available on this website is for general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should not rely exclusively on information provided on the Website for your health needs. You can read more about our disclaimer here.


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