What Happens to the Body During Detox?

Nobody likes uninvited guests. This includes toxins and pollutants such as heavy metals and pesticides from the air, water, and soil that bombard our bodies every day. Over time, these “guests” can build up and can contribute to mild issues such as brain fog, tiredness, aches, and skin complaints.1,2 This is when it is important to understand the three phases of your body’s natural detoxification processes. Here’s what that looks like:

Phase I: Reaction

In the first phase of metabolic detoxification, your body reacts to toxins by using enzymes (known as P450 enzymes)3 that act to turn the toxins into free radicals. This is a good thing: Free radicals are a natural occurrence that, when balanced, should not be an issue; it is when free radicals become imbalanced that they are considered an issue. Through this conversion process, toxins become water-soluble molecules that are easier for your body to get rid of via the kidneys (and eventually through the urine).3

Phase II: Neutralization

Welcome to the activation phase of detox! After Phase I, some toxins are rendered as more reactive than before. In Phase II, these products are attached to other water-soluble substances to increase their solubility and make them easier to eliminate through urine or bile.3 This process is called a conjugation reaction, and requires cofactors (metal ions or coenzymes) to make it happen.3

Phase III: Transportation

Like a ferry that brings cars and people from Point A to Point B, the transporters of Phase III help ensure the water-soluble compounds created in Phases I and II are excreted from your cells. Before this occurs, Phase III neutralizes the compounds and binds them with dietary fiber. From here, it’s literally a flush when the toxins are excreted.3

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  1. Goldman RH et al. The occupational and environmental health history. 1981 Dec 18;246(24):2831-6.
  2. Nelson et al. 2011.
  3. Liska D. The Detoxification Enzyme Systems. Altern Med Rev.1998 Jun;3(3):187-98.
  4. Infographic: The 3 Phases of Detoxification. Metagenics Institute. Available at: https://www.metagenicsinstitute.com/ce-education/clinical-tools/3-phases-detoxification. Accessed August 30, 2018.

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