Phases of Detoxification
Phases of Detox Explained

Symptoms indicating you need to detox

Phases of detox

A true detoxification will address all 3 phases.


What happens in Phase 1?

In the phase 1 pathway of detoxification the goal is to transform lipid based toxins (most toxins are lipid based) that have accumulated in the cell using biotransforming enzymes whose common underlying feature is their ability to catalyse (induce) the oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis (Phase I) of the toxins. The Cytochrome-P450 enzyme group is largely responsible for this process of:

  • transforming the toxins to be more water soluble for excretion and
  • transforming them to be bound with other molecules in phase 2 to make them even more water soluble for easier excretion.

Phase 1 is utterly dependent on the cytochrome P450 enzymes whose speed of metabolism is in turn affected by things like genetics, exercise and the presence or absence of certain substances/supplements in the diet that can either speed them up (induce them) or slow them down (inhibit them).

After being acted upon by the Cp-450 enzymes, they become free radicals and if not enough phase 2 enzymes to act quickly upon them, can do secondary cellular damage to the body.

Many substances inhibit cytochrome P450. This situation can cause substantial problems as it makes toxins potentially more damaging because they remain in the body longer before detoxification. Many medications including antacids, Antihistamines, NSAID's, and many more have the potential to block your livers phase 1/ phase 2 detox pathways.

If Phase 1 and Phase 2 are not in balance, i.e. enough phase 2 enzymes to process the products of Phase 1, you run the risk of increasing free radical damage and your body becoming MORE toxic. A high-quality detox program that balances and induces the proper enzymes in phase 1 and 2 to work efficiently can be really helpful. A detox program that only stimulates or supports one detoxification pathway or that ends prematurely can have the opposite effect of detoxification and can bombard your system with unwanted harmful free radicals.

What natural products induce or enhance the action of phase 1?

Phase 1 and the Cp-450 enzymes require certain nutrients be present to effectively prepare them for phase 2. High quality protein sources are essential as too little can hinder Cp-450 activity. In addition, the body must have adequate amounts of B vitamins, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Phase 1 produces free radicals requiring antioxidants like vitamin E, C, and various carotenoids.

No matter the detox program you choose, if these are not present in sufficient amounts, you will not experience an optimum detox.

What happens in phase 2?

Phase two is called the conjugation pathway because it takes the products from phase one and binds them with phase two substances (conjugates) to render it less harmful and more water soluble for easier excretion.

Phase II conjugates include: amino acids, sugars, glutathione (which is stimulated by N-Acetyl-Cystine), methionine, sulfur (found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage) and acetyl co-A. It is very important that phase two is working quickly and efficiently after phase one, as there is growing scientific evidence suggesting that certain diseases are the direct result of damage to the body from poor Phase 2 detoxification. Some of the diseases that may be caused by toxic intermediate metabolites and free radicals include cancer, Parkinson's disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, lupus and immune dysfunction.

Phase 2 enzymes work to further enhance solubility and reduce toxicity. Through conjugation, the liver can turn drugs, hormones and various toxins into water soluble excretable substances.

What natural products enhance Phase 2 detoxification?

For efficient phase two detoxification, the liver cells require sulphur-containing amino acids such as taurine and cysteine. The nutrients glycine, glutamine, choline and inositol are also required for efficient phase two detoxification.

Eggs and cruciferous vegetables (eg. broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), raw garlic, onions, leeks and shallots are all useful sources of natural sulphur compounds to enhance phase two detoxification. Thus, these foods can be considered to have a cleansing action.

While it is always best to get what you need from a healthy varied diet, it isn’t always possible to feed the body enough of these, with the optimal amount of nutrients that the body will need to detoxify, especially if you are experiencing toxic overload. Phase 2 detoxification needs to be fed the proper conjugates (amino acids, nutrients like glycine, glutamine, choline and inositol) to transform the phase 1 intermediates into compounds that can be excreted.

This is a common roadblock for many attempting to cleanse or detoxify and a legitimate reason to consider a comprehensive detoxification program from a reputable nutrition company.


What happens in Phase 3?

Phase 3 is commonly referred to as the waste removal and excretion phase. During phase 3 the conjugates from Phase two, that are now water soluble and have been reduced in toxicity, are ready to be removed from the body. They are pumped into the bile and intestinal lumen to be processed and eliminated. In this portion of detoxification, a healthy gut is imperative.

If you have an imbalance of healthy bacteria vs. bad bacteria (E. Coli, Clostridium) the bad bacteria can produce enzymes like beta-glucoronidase that deconjugate (unbind them) the Phase 2 compounds making them impossible to eliminate, sending them back to be processed again and again by the liver, further increasing a person’s toxic load. This negative feedback loop can be a harbinger of weird symptoms and disease states, which is why proper detoxification is often our doctors first suggestion in treatment.

What natural products can enhance phase 3?

Research has shown that calcium-D-glucarate and glucaric acid found in various fruits and vegetables including oranges, apples, grapefruit and cruciferous vegetables inhibit beta-glucuronidase, thereby supporting detoxification. Silymarin, a constituent of milk thistle, also inhibits the enzyme beta-glucuronidase.

What can I do?

As you can see, there is a lot more to proper detoxification than simply fasting, cleaning up your diet, or drinking a special drink. It requires each of the 3 phases be supported by the proper minerals, nutrients and antioxidants. A first step for anyone interested in detoxing should be a quality detoxification program that addresses them all. Once this is accomplished, you can start more targeted detoxification support. For instance, perhaps you know you have had a high exposure to heavy metals. There are products that can target those and support their healthy elimination. Whatever your circumstances may be, rest assured there is a product to support it.

We like the OmniCleanse Whole Body Detoxification Program. It covers all aspects of detoxification and adequately supports the body’s natural processes to give you the best chance of reducing your toxic load. This system covers all aspects of integrative nutrition: Homeopathic, botanical and nutritional, giving you the very best in whole body detoxification. We also have great detox protocols from Systemic Formulas, Designs for Health, Biotics and more. Go to our detox page to check out all our detox programs and targeted detoxification products.