Liver Detoxification: “De-Livering” Yourself from the Grasps of Evil Toxins

Liver Detoxification: What is a toxin?

Liver detoxification is like giving your body a ‘spring clean’!  Cellular debris from normal metabolic processes, rubbish produced from highly stressed out cells, exercising and over-exercising, food additives, chemicals in food, air, water, refined, processed, excessive alcohol intake, illicit drug use, and unhealthy food products can all be classified as ‘toxins’.  Anything that causes disruption or damages the body can be considered a toxin.

How do toxins enter the body?  Routes of entry include inhalation, digestion (swallowing), or the skin, eventually making their way to the bloodstream, where they will pass through the liver.  The liver acts as the body’s ‘purification plant’, turning toxins into water soluble substances so they can be safely eliminated via urination.

How does liver detoxification work?

Liver detoxification is broken down into two phases, predictably named phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways.  With the help of enzymes, toxins and chemicals are bio-transformed and then excreted by the body.

However, a lack of particular vitamins or minerals, or a genetic malfunction in the genes which control the detoxification process can render some substances more harmful than their original state.  Toxins trapped in ‘no man’s land’, stuck between phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification have far more insidious intentions.  Below are some foods, vitamins, minerals, and herbs which can help to support the liver detoxification process.

What vitamins, minerals, and herbs are important for phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification support?

  • Vitamin A, C, E
  • B vitamins (B12, B6, B2)
  • Zinc, selenium and magnesium
  • Milk thistle (proven to protect your liver cells)
  • Dandelion root
  • Foods that are supportive of liver function include:
    • Artichokes
    • Brassica vegetables
    • Leafy greens (E.g. Mustard greens & other bitter greens)
    • Garlic & onions
    • Beets
    • Avocados
    • Healthy oils (Olive, walnut, flax, hemp seed)

What are the signs and symptoms of poor liver detoxification?

  • Yellowish tint to whites of eyes and/or skin (Jaundice)
  • Poor digestion (E.g. constipation)
  • General digestive complaints, or intermittent pain in the upper right side of abdomen
  • Floating stools (inability to digest fats properly)
  • Intolerance to alcohol or caffeine

A diet rich in nutritious, whole foods will give your liver a broad spectrum of the necessary nutrients it needs to drive the liver detoxification process.  However, if you are deficient in particular vitamins or minerals, supplementation may be necessary.  Herbs are an additive to any liver detoxification program, as they assist the body in the protection and elimination process.

If you have an unhealthy liver and aren’t eating an optimal diet, you are simply not giving your liver the nutrients it needs to take out the daily bin of rubbish your body produces.  If you start to notice any minor signs or symptoms, it’s time to give your liver some love!

Amanda Harasym

Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist


Grant DM. Detoxification pathways in the liver. J Inherit Metab Dis. 1991; 14(4): 421-30. PMID: 1749210. Retrieved from http://

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