Clean out: get detoxification happening

How we overload our body with toxics

Each day, every day, and all through the night, your organs of detoxification are designed to collect the waste products sent them from every cell, transform them into something less toxic, and ultimately eliminate these from the body.

Meet your “Phase 1” detox pathway

Within the liver there are two phases of detoxification. Phase I takes place in the cell and involves oxidation, reduction and/or hydrolysis in an attempt to reduce the toxicity of the chemical. This is a “small quantity” pathway that produces free radicals in low amounts that are easily neutralized… well, until there are large amounts of toxics to transform.

The body’s detox backup plan

When this “Phase 1” detox path becomes depleted or otherwise overloaded, the liver now uses its back-up generator. Whether trying to deal with acetaminophen, or other drugs, or pesticides, preservatives, hormones or the toxic waste sent it after healthy exercise, the liver has to find another way.

When our enzymes of detoxification become depleted they can’t do their regular housekeeping:

If antioxidants are lacking and toxin exposure is high, toxic chemicals become far more dangerous.

For example, Joe drinks a bunch of alcohol, which uses a particular p450 to clear it out. The next morning, Joe tries to kill the hangover headache with Tylenol—which uses the same p450. That enzyme is supposed to be available for normal housekeeping—there’s the overload.

This is especially a problem when Joe doesn’t eat lots of green veggies and other nutrient dense foods which contain the vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants the body needs to keep the p450s working. The p450 depletion is faster.

While this might be an extreme example that you can’t relate to if you’re a regular reader or health-seeking client, this example is not much different than day-to-day lifestyles thick with hidden chemicals, pollutants, and waste. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the lotions we lather on our skin… scientists estimate the average adult has about 700 contaminants in their body at any given point.

This toxicity overloads our systems and is not just about getting cancer; it directly increases rates of chronic disease and unwanted symptoms, even stubborn weight gain.

As we age, the Phase 1 pathway decreases.

Aging also decreases blood flow through the liver. Lack of physical activity combined with poor nutrition all add up to impairment of our detoxification capacity.

To avoid free radical damage to the liver and nervous system, the liver moves into “Phase 2” detoxification.

Meet your “Phase 2” Detox Pathway

Also called the “conjugation pathway”, your liver cells add another substance (e.g. glutathione) to the toxic chemical or drug, to render it less harmful. This also makes the toxin or drug water-soluble, so it can then be eliminated more easily via your kidneys or intestines. Through conjugation, the liver turns drugs, hormones and various toxins into water dissolvable substances and gets rid of them.

Since 1955, we’ve known about remarkable enzymes that work in your service to get rid of the toxic waste made by the body and also to handle the toxic waste that comes in from the environment. Discovered by Axelrod and Brody, these enzymes grabbed scientific attention because they absorb light in visible spectrum (450 nm). We now know them as the cytochrome p450 enzymes.

Biochemical names aside, to put it simply, the p450 step converts a toxic chemical into a less harmful chemical. During this process free radicals are produced which are neutralized by antioxidants (such as vitamin C and E and natural carotenoids) to reduce the damage that would otherwise be caused by excessive free radicals.

The enormous family of p450 enzymes go about their daily work handling the day-to-day task of decontaminating our bodies by transforming small amounts of toxic chemicals into less toxic ones.

If we’re exposed to something foreign they’ll get busy detoxifying that. If we get a little bit of a lot of different things, your different p450s work as a team according to their chemical area of specialty.

The problem of fasting

In fasting to detoxify theory, fasting lowers the load of chemicals being taken in through the diet—it gives the body a break from its day-to-day need for housekeeping, often by slowing metabolism.

But the problem is that in fasting, the body will begin to release stores of fat and with it many fat-stored harmful chemicals.

The worst of the toxic chemicals store in fat, many of them for decades.

Since fasting releases toxic chemicals from fat stores while providing zero nutrients, anti-oxidants, sulphur molecules like glutathione, and others, the real question is: how well-nourished was the person before they started their fast?

Eggs and cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), raw garlic, onions, leeks and shallots are all good sources of natural sulphur compounds that enhance phase two detoxification. These foods and others help your liver with its cleansing actions.

The person who is not eating many of the above on a routine basis (daily, at least) should be asking: Is there a step I should take before I can safely detoxify?

The answer is. YES, you should first establish good nutrient status. Your liver needs genuine resources to do this job.

You don’t have to fear toxins and you don’t have to avoid smart detoxification regimens. Awareness, prevention and knowledge and are powerful tools. You can come clean in our toxic world.

Easy tips to reduce your toxic load:

When it makes sense, choose organic. On a budget? If it’s the “Dirty Dozen” invest in organic; if the “Clean 15” save the money: Organically-grown food has an advantage compared to conventionally grown food in that you get far more nourishment and far fewer pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, both on and throughout the final food.

Not only that, but organic farms tend to be smaller and more sustainably run keeping their environmental impact minimal. Large commercial fields of a single crop are just as environmentally destructive and polluting as many major industries.

Drink pure, filtered or spring water. If you are going to detoxify, you need to flush these products out. But drinking water contaminated with chlorine, fluoride, having residual medicines, and all the other additives and toxic chemicals just adds another burden. Here’s a link if you want to get a simple, counter-top water filter that can handle fluoride. and you can easily search there for under-counter and other cost-effective units.

Read the labels on your personal care products and/or look up the data in the Skin Deep database: Women may “consume” 126 chemicals from personal care products daily, and men take in 85 unique chemicals. It is essential to read your product labels like you would your food labels to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and parabens. But even if you do, realize that cosmetic companies don’t have to list everything on the label. Anything under 5% of the total ingredients does not have to be listed (think about hormones that act at levels below 0.00000000000001%).

Make your own non-toxic products and save money to boot.

What separates a well-designed detoxification regimen from a “fad” detoxification program?

Characteristics of a safe metabolic detoxification program should include the following:

* Fresh vegetables and fruits that are organic
* Adequate calories and nutrient intake to prevent under nutrition
* Foods that are free of common food allergens such as gluten (from grains)
* Elimination of stimulants, synthetic chemicals, alcohol, tobacco products and modified food ingredients
* Adequate amounts of fluid intake as pure water
* Moderate amounts of exercise and movement
* Adequate fiber to promote proper bowel function and prevent constipation
* Adequate (but not excessive) protein, with an emphasis on sources that provide the amino acids and glutathione used in the conjugation pathway.
* Intake of specific nutrients that have been found to support proper detoxification function, including epigallocatechin gallate from green tea, glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and cabbage).

For a safe and effective whole foods cleanse, join the next Rejuveo Guided Cleanse.


Axelrod J. The enzymatic demethylation of ephedrine. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 1955;114, 430-438

Brody B, Axelrod J, and Cooper JR et al., Detoxification of drugs and other foreign compounds by microsomes. Science 1955;121, 603-604

Cecchini M, LoPresti V. Drug residues store in the body following cessation of use: impacts on neuroendocrine balance and behavior—use of the Hubbard sauna regimen to remove toxins and restore health. Medical Hypotheses. 2007;68(4):868–79.

Marie Sternquist

Marie Sternquist, MS CHHC is a graduate of the University of Colorado, with 30 years of health-related clinical research published peer-reviewed medical journals, Marie's interests lie in how chemical and metal toxicities affect our health, hormones and immune function—and how to heal these problems with whole foods. In 2014, Marie completed the Health Coach program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied 100’s of dietary theories with an emphasis on developing step-by-step nutritional programs and is currently working on her Nutritionist certification through the Masters in Functional Nutrition program and the University of Western States. Marie’s signature nutrition programs have helped thousands of people just like you regain health and quality of life. In 2016, Marie Sternquist completed her Advanced Level in Nutrition Response Testing®, joining her husband Dr. Greg Sternquist as an advanced clinician. Marie is also a wilderness explorer, skier, photographer and mom. Visit her at and

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