Written by: Angelique Johnson
The liver is a vital organ in your body located in the upper right quadrant of your abdomen, just below your diaphragm. It is responsible for many tasks, including protein synthesis and the production of biochemicals that are necessary for the digestion of the food you eat.
But it’s most important job lies in its responsibility to detoxify your body.
That’s right, every artificial chemical, drug, hormone and pesticide that enters your body is broken down by special enzymes that reside in your liver. Although the liver is responsible for directly metabolizing thousands of toxins, some of these toxins are fat-soluble and first get stored into your fatty deposits. These toxins are difficult to get rid of once they are stored in your fat.
The liver has two ways in which it turns stubborn fat-soluble toxins into easily excretable water soluble toxins: Phase I and Phase II.
Phase II of liver detoxification is called the conjugation pathway. This is where your liver cells begin to attach certain substances (i.e., glycine or cysteine) to a toxin or drug residue in order to make them less damaging to your body.
This process makes the toxin or drug residue water-soluble, making it easier for it to be eliminated from the body via urine or bile.
The Major Phase II Metabolic Pathways
Glutathione is the most important antioxidants that protects the liver because it can help to reduce damage caused by free radicals. Large amounts of toxins and/or drugs passing through your liver can lower the amount of glutathione in your body. Starvation and fasting can also cause this effect.
Sulphate is an anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant used for making stomach acid and digestive enzymes in your body. It helps to work on steroid hormones, neurotransmitters, certain drugs (i.e., acetaminophen) and many toxic compounds.
Glycine is an amino acid needed for the production of bile and helps to protect liver cells. Salicylates and benzoates are detoxified through this compounds. Benzoate is found in many foods and is widely used as a food preservative. If you suffer from a toxic overload, it may be because you don’t have enough glycine to help process the high amount of toxins you are carrying in your body.
4. Glucuronide Conjugations
These are mostly involved with the breakdown of toxic substances such as: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, steroid hormones, some nitrosamines, heterocyclic amines, some fungal toxins and aromatic amines. Glucuronide conjugations also remove “used” hormones, such as oestrogen and T4 (thyroid hormone).
Through the process of conjugation, your liver is able to turn drugs, hormones and other toxins into water-soluble compounds, making them easy flush out of your body.
Foods To Stimulate Phase II Liver Detoxification
Phase II of liver detoxification requires sulphur-containing amino acids. Some of these include: taurine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, choline and inositol.
The sulphur-containing amino acids can be found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts. They can also be found in other vegetables such as onion, garlic, shallots and leeks. Eggs are also an “egg-celent” source (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t help it!).
Most of these foods are considered to be ‘cleansing’ foods because they help your liver cleanse your body of toxins.
What Happens During Toxin Overload
If the phase I and phase II detoxification pathways get overworked, a buildup of toxins develops in your body. Because some of these carcinogens and toxins are stored in your fat, they can stay there for years, if not a lifetime.
Your brain and hormonal glands are fatty organs and are two favorite places for toxins to move into. Think of it as having a bunch of dirty, unwelcome house guests in your brain that won’t leave. This could result in brain dysfunction and hormonal imbalances in your body, such as breast pain, adrenal gland exhaustion, early menopause, menstrual disturbances and infertility.
Pesticides and petrochemicals accumulated in the body have also been linked to an increase of diagnosed cancer cases.
Herbs To Help Improve Both Phase I And II Detoxification
Herbs have been used for thousands and thousands of years as part of natural medicine. Bitter herbs specifically cause a wide range of physical responses following stimulation of the receptors of the tongue that recognize a bitter taste.
These taste buds stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers reflexes in your body that are important for maintaining good digestive and general health.
Some of these bitter herbs include:
Sialogogues are a group of bitter herbs that help to increase saliva to ease the digestion of carbohydrates. Some herbs that belong to this family are cayenne pepper, ginger, senega, blue flag and bloodroot.
This group of bitter herbs helps to stimulate hydrochloric acid in your stomach to better the digestion of protein. This group of digestive bitters can be found in herbs such as dandelion root, burdock, fennel seed, ginger and yellow dock root.
Cholagogues are medicinal agents that help to stimulate bile flow in order to help you digest fats. Some examples of herbs in the cholagogue family would be turmeric, fringetree or goldenseal.
By stimulating the flow of digestive juices from your mouth, stomach and liver, you can help your body better digest and absorb foods and nutrients.
The foods and herbs listed here can easily be implemented into your diet. Eat them in salads, scramble some of the veggies with your eggs, season your meals and meats with the herbs, include both the herbs and veggies in your stir fries, etc.
What are your favorite liver detox/boosting recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
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