Phase 1 of Liver Detox:
“The Switch-a-Roo” AKA Hydroxylation, Oxygenation, and Reduction.
The first phase of liver detoxification involves using enzymes and oxygen to burn toxins, especially fat-soluble ones to make them more easily manipulated so they can eventually be eliminated from the body. These transformations are referred to as hydroxylation, oxygenation, and reduction, but I’ll just call them the ol’ “swith-a-roo”. Simply put, Phase 1 involves taking a large molecule of toxin and using enzymes to make it smaller to be passed along to the next phase in the process. Toxins include pollutants, metabolic end products (byproducts of human metabolic processes), pesticides, food additives, and other contaminants.
The liver is lined with a membrane system of cells called hepatocytes, which are responsible for production and secretion of enzymes such P-450. This group of enzymes is synthesized in response to exposure to specific chemicals. Basically, when these enzymes come into contact with toxins, they induce a chemical cascade that help to transform toxic chemicals into a product that can be shunted into the next phase of detoxification so that it can finally be rid from the body. The end products of Phase 1 are called Intermediates and require further alteration to be completely taken out of circulation, hence the second phase of detoxification called Phase 2. These Intermediates are highly reactive and can even be more dangerous than the original toxin.
Phase 1 detoxification requires an abundance of antioxidants to help neutralize, or calm down, the free radicals and Intermediates that were produced in the process of Phase 1 so that no damage to surrounding tissues occurs. Without antioxidants to help police the free radicals, there would be highly charged and dangerous particles floating around the body like a drunk-driver cruising around during rush hour.
Antioxidants are the patrol officers of the body and are abundantly founds in fruits and vegetables, including B-Vitamins (riboflavin, niacin), magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E rich foods like citrus, orange and yellow vegetables, and other brightly colored plant foods. Other Phase 1 boosting foods include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, which contain a type of phytonutrient called indole. The jobs of antioxidants are to catch free radicals, keep them calm, and make sure they aren’t wreaking any more havoc until they can be thrown into jail (a.k.a. Phase 2).
The notion of “juice cleansing” stems from the idea that fruits, vegetables, and their respective antioxidants are enough to completely cleanse the body, but it is only part of the story. The potentially hazardous byproducts of Phase 1 require additional attention that is provided by Phase 2. Given the potential for harm from only enhancing Phase 1 liver detoxification and increasing levels of Intermediates, a second phase comes to the rescue to help package up and export the toxins. It is contraindicated to stimulate Phase 1 detoxification without ensuring the Phase 2 is properly functioning.
In summary, juice cleanses mostly work on Phase 1, which can produce even more harmful substances leaving you feeling the effects of a “detox” like aches, pains, headaches, irritability, and fatigue due to the toxic nature of Phase 1 byproducts.
Part 3 of this series will include an in depth look at Phase 2 liver detoxification and what to do to ensure your detox plan is safe and effective.
Red Cabbage Jicama Slaw
Yield: Approximately 6 servings
2 carrots, grated (or pre-grated bag of organic carrots)
½ large jicama, peeled and shredded
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2-3 limes
Juice of ½ an orange
2-3 tbsp raw, local honey
Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine all vegetables into bowl.
Pour juice and honey over vegetables.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Tastes better if allowed to sit in refrigerator overnight!