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Foods and Supplements to Balance Phase 1 and Phase 2 Liver Detoxification

Last week I blogged about how the two phases of liver detoxification can get out of balance due to chronic exposure to toxins, for example, and how this can impact on a person's health. As discussed, the most common problem is that phase 1 speeds up and phase 2 cannot keep up - someone in this situation is known as a pathological detoxifier because of their increased risk for symptoms and disease.

The previous blogs with more detailed information can be found at:

Pathological Detoxifiers and Environmental Illness

Detoxification Profile Results - The Pathological Detoxifier and Chronic Illness


Now I want to take a look at foods and supplements that pathological detoxifiers can use to balance their liver detoxification pathways and improve their health. Essentially what we want to do is slow down phase 1 while speeding up phase 2. There are many foods and supplements that can help. One well known example of a food that slows down phase 1 is grapefruit. Grapefruit contains a substance called naringenin which is responsible for these effects. Regularly drinking a substantial amount of grapefruit juice can really slow down phase 1 detoxification. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli contain a chemical called sulforaphane which both inhibits phase 1 and stumlates phase 2. The only problem is that these vegetables also contain another chemical called indole-3-carbinol which actually speeds up phase 1. Overall though, these vegetables are good to include in the diet - supplements of sulforaphane are excellent for the pathological detoxifier.

The following is a comprehensive list of substances which slow phase 1 and speed up phase 2 pathways. The list is based on a lecture given by Dr. George Mouton during the second year of my bachelor's degree in nutritional therapy.


Phase 1 Inhibitors

- Naringenin (citrus fruits, particularly grapefruit)
- Quercetin (many fruits and vegetables)
- Eugenol (cloves)
- Curcumin (turmeric)
- Capsaicin (chilli peppers)
- Ellagitannin/Ellagic Acid (raspberries and berries and fruits)
- Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) (green tea)
- Silymarin (milk thistle)
- Sulforaphane (cruciferous vegetables e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, kale etc)
- Isothiocyanates (cruciferous vegetables)
- Sesamin (sesame seeds/oil)
- Xanthohumol (hops/beer)


Phase 2 Stimulators

Glutathione Conjugation:

- N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), Cysteine, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Whey
- Methionine
- Glutamine/Glutamic Acid
- Glycine
- Indole-3-Carbinol, Sulforaphane, Crambene (cruciferous vegetables)
- Isothiocyanates
- Ellagitannin/Ellagic Acid
- Curcumin
- Dipropenyl Sulfide (onions)
- Diallyl Disulfide, Diallyl Trisulfide (garlic)

Nutrient cofactors: vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, selenium, zinc, magnesium, copper



- NAC, Cysteine, MSM
- Methionine
- Reduced Glutathione
- Taurine 
- Inorganic Sulphur (SO4)(garlic, onions, eggs, cruciferous vegetables)

Nutrient cofactors: vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid, molybdenum, zinc, copper, magnesium


Amino Acid Conjugation:

- Glycine
- Taurine
- Glutamine
- Cysteine
- Arginine
- Ornithine



- Indole-3-Carbinol, Sulforaphane, Crambene
- Isothiocyanates
- Quercetin
- Limonene (citrus fruits)
- Ellagitannin/Ellagic Acid
- Cynarin (artichoke)
- S-Adenosyl-Methionine (SAMe)
- Calcium-D-Glucarate
- Omega 3 Fish Oils

Nutrient cofactors: vitamins B3 and B6, aspartic acid, glutamine, iron, magnesium



- Acetyl-CoA (produced in the body with acetyl groups present in many foods)

Nutrient cofactors: vitamins B2, B5, and C


Silymarin from the herb milk thistle protects the liver and generally speeds up most phase 2 reactions, although it slows down glucuronidation.


I hope this blog gives you some ideas but advise you to work with a health care professional and have a detoxification profile carried out. You can then be advised on which foods and supplements will be of most help. It is also important to know that the changes in liver detoxification, particularly the speed of phase 1 can interfere with the metabolism of certain medications so be sure to discuss this with your health care provider as well.





About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.