3 Phases of Liver Detoxification You Must Know About

There are no safe levels of toxins, and our bodies are bombarded by them every.single.day. They come from all angles and the primary culprits include environmental toxins, toxic body care products, air pollution, heavy metals (aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, etc.), and toxins from our food and water.

The liver's detoxification process plays a pivotal role in purging these harmful substances from our bodies. Discover how supporting your liver's detoxification phases is essential for long-term health and vitality.

What Does the Liver Do?

The liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body, tirelessly detoxifying harmful substances.

However, detoxification isn't straightforward, particularly with fat-soluble toxins that tend to accumulate in fatty tissues rather than being eliminated. Our blood is principally water, and fats don’t dissolve in water, so these fat-soluble toxins tend to “stick” in the body’s fatty regions instead of getting washed out and flushed away.

Therefore, they must be converted into substances that will dissolve in the blood in order to be transported into stool and finally leave the body.

To facilitate their removal, these toxins undergo chemical transformations within the liver, called phase 1 and phase 2. This process converts the toxins into water-soluble compounds for easier excretion via urine and stool, ultimately purging them from the body.

The Liver Has Three Phases of Detoxification

Here are all the details about phase 1, phase 2 and elimination, often called phase 3.

Phase 1 (Cytochrome P450 Enzymes)

In this crucial phase, these toxins are metabolized into intermediate compounds, which can sometimes be even more toxic than their original forms. It's imperative to support this process with essential nutrients to prevent congestion in the enzyme system, which can lead to unpleasant side effects such as headaches, palpitations, and jitteriness.

Phase 1 detoxification is primarily completed by the cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP450). This phase is the liver's first line of defense against toxins such as caffeine, alcohol, drugs, pharmaceuticals, hormones, procarcinogens (cigarette smoke, dioxin, paint fumes), xenoestrogens, and pesticides.    

During this first phase, the toxic substances are metabolized into intermediate compounds, which are often more toxic than their original form, so it's imperative to support this process with essential nutrients. If the cytochrome P450 enzyme system is overloaded with toxins, it may get backed up, causing undesirable side effects, such as a spacey feeling, jitters or a headache, sweating, and heart palpitations.

This enzyme system relies on certain nutrients. My advice is to ensure you're eating plenty of the necessary nutrients so phase 1 doesn't get backed up and toxins don't build up.

Important Nutrients for Phase 1: 

  • B-vitamins: Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Niacin (Vit B1), Pyridoxine (Vit B6), Folate (5-MTHF), Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Magnesium (Magnesium Malate is highly recommended to help detoxify Aluminum)
  • Antioxidants: Flavonoids, Polyphenols, Carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin A
  • Phospholipids

Phase 2 (Conjugation Pathways)

During phase 2 detoxification, known as the conjugation phase, the intermediate toxin from phase 1 is converted into a nontoxic form that can be excreted into bile and then stool (fat-soluble) or into the urine (water-soluble). 

Fat-soluble toxins include sex hormones (ie: estrogen, testosterone) and xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are the body’s biggest environmental threat because they are ubiquitous and they can overload the body so the liver can’t keep up, especially bogging down phase 2.

These fat-soluble toxins must go into bile so they can be eliminated in the stool, emphasizing the importance of bile health

If bile becomes too thick, the intermediate toxins for the fat-soluble substances are left untreated, which is damaging to the body. Healthy flowing bile is crucial for liver and gallbladder function. Some ways to maintain healthy bile include: eating a lot of leafy greens, especially beet greens, including the amino acid taurine, eating high quality proteins, healthy fats, & quality fiber (fiber binds the bile acids), and having a low sugar/low glycemic diet.

Additionally, adequate dietary protein is a necessity, but proper digestion of protein is also required for effective phase 2 detoxification. Deficiencies in key nutrients can impede the process, leading to toxin accumulation and metabolic disruption.

Important Nutrients for Phase 2:

  • Sulfur-rich foods (garlic, onion, broccoli sprouts, cruciferous veggies, ginger, mustard powder)
  • Amino acids for Phase 2: Arginine, Glutamine, Glycine, Methionine, Ornithine, Taurine
  • Glutathione and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC)
  • Glucuronic acid
  • Folate-rich green vegetables
  • B-vitamins: Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Pyridoxine (Vit B6), Vitamin B12

DIM-X is formulated to support both phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification. It's a powerful blend!

Phase 3 (Elimination)

This phase is the actual removal of the toxins. Water-soluble substances go to the kidneys to be eliminated via urine, and fat-soluble substances are packaged into bile and eliminated via the stool.

If you don’t produce one or more stools daily, you must resolve this before doing a focused detox or cleanse. Otherwise, it is not worth the collateral damage. You don’t want to push Phases 1 and 2 if Phase 3 isn’t working! 

Likely culprits of poor elimination include:

Dysbiosis – an overgrowth of pathogenic microbes in your GI tract, or not enough core beneficia bacteria – dysbiosis can cause loose OR sluggish stools.

Lack of Fiber – fiber feeds beneficial bacteria and their byproducts form stool. Lack of fiber can cause loose OR sluggish stool.

Magnesium Deficiency – so common and often the culprit of sluggish stools. Magnesium Malate is a great form of magnesium. Could you be deficient in magnesium?

Food Intolerance – can cause loose OR sluggish stools.

Who Benefits From Liver Support and Extra Detoxification Help?

Perfect for anyone who:

  • Has been exposed to heavy metals
  • Has lived in or been exposed to a moldy building
  • Regularly indulges in alcoholic drinks
  • Does not consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables or fiber
  • Is exposed to toxins in the workplace
  • Uses conventional, non-organic personal care products

Don't wait! Do what it takes to support normal detoxification and waste elimination, and maintain an overall healthy liver. If you're looking to cleanse, try out these easy ideas. 

Featured Products

DIM-X - supports phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification

Taurine - supports healthy bile

Magnesium Malate - supports sluggish bowels and detoxifies aluminum.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



1. Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch.

2. Hodges RE, Minich DM. Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application. J Nutr Metab. 2015;2015:760689. 

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