In our body the liver is the main organ responsible for detoxification, and its activity is adapted to the amount of xenobiotics brought to it. These xenobiotics are molecules foreign to our body such as drugs, hormones, heavy metals, but also the chemical compounds associated with the preparation of food (such as the famous Maillard body). The liver is the main “purifying” plant of the body: it treats most molecules that are foreign to it and continuously filters the blood. The cells that make it up – the hepatocytes – benefit for this purpose from a long lifespan, of the order of a year or even 500 days, and a large capacity for regeneration.
How does your liver eliminate xenobiotics?
To ensure the elimination of xenobiotics, the liver intervenes in several steps to transform the initially toxic substance into a soluble derivative, which will be eliminated by urine or feces. The liver will eliminate these substances through several complex steps, whose proper functioning depends on the level of exposure to xenobiotics but also the genetic predisposition and nutritional status.
What are the signs of a need for liver detoxification?
When the liver is no longer able to effectively eliminate xenobiotics, various symptomsmay appear: chronic fatigue, difficulty recovering, tinnitus, migraines, post-meal drowsiness, bad breath, laden tongue, nocturnal awakenings, pale or yellowish complexion nausea with increased sensitivity to strong odors, alcohol or caffeine, etc. I advise you to refer to a health professional to determine if these symptoms are related to liver overload, regardless of the existence of a disturbance of biological markers.
In practice, here are some tips to help you work the liver:
- Promote the intake of certain nutrients : antioxidants (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium), amino acids (methionine, glutamine), trace elements (magnesium, vitamins of group B).
- Treat yourself to fresh vegetables with every meal, organic, raw or cooked on a gentle heat. In general, favor mild cooking, steaming, especially to avoid the formation of Maillard bodies (chemical compounds formed during the cooking grills for example).
- Hydrate yourself : at least 1.5 or even 2 L of water a day, to allow optimal functioning of the liver and its drainage of toxic.
- Some foods can support the functions of “detox” of the liver: broccoli, cabbage, garlic, turmeric, coffee (maximum 2 coffee per day, organic and before 17h, traditional and not percolator favoring the passage of Aluminum), black radish, rosemary, small berries. The artichoke is rather used as a dietary supplement because of the use of the stem and not the leaf.
- The Desmodium ( Desmodium adscendens ) can be used for infringement of liver cells, for example following a hepatitis. The chlorella helps it eliminate heavy metals.
- Beware of St. John’s wort and grapefruit , which may interact negatively with the liver detoxification process. In case of medical treatment, the easiest way is to seek advice from your doctor or read the following article developed.
In conclusion, is it necessary systematically to carry out a cure of detoxification?
Given the environment in which we operate, relieving liver functions by certain foods seems indeed beneficial. If you are particularly subject to functional disorders mentioned above, the famous cure of “detox” may be necessary in addition to a quality diet. Take care of your liver, he deserves it!
For those who want to go further and discover the complete file, here is the complete file.
Should we “detoxify”?
Fast, monodite, drainage: info or intox? Detoxification is a timeless theme for the media. But what is really hiding behind these terms? Is it effective, and really necessary? Are we exposed to poisons permanently? Let’s take stock of these “detox” diets.
Is our environment toxic?
Drugs, hormones and antibiotics contained in industrial animal meats, alcohol, tobacco, contraceptive pills, pesticides, herbicides, exhaust fumes, heavy metals (to mention only cadmium contained in tobacco or Beryllium present in some dental amalgam lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel or aluminum), phthalates, bisphenol A, food additives, solvents, detergents, etc. So many substances totally foreign to the body that we have been regularly confronted with for some decades and grouped under the term xenobiotics (literally “foreign molecules”).). Our environment has become very different from the one in which our hunter-gatherer ancestors evolved. This list is unfortunately not exhaustive. It could be supplemented by the compounds from high-temperature cooking, the heterocyclic amines formed during grilling or fried foods, the Maillard bodies giving this famous toasted taste to foods. Good things for the palate, you say to me. Perhaps, everything is a matter of taste. On the other hand, your body does not appreciate this accumulation of toxic substances. Other sources of pollution, mostly from a living organism, may exist: we talk about endogenous toxins when they are produced by the human body (hormonal metabolites or ammonia for example) or exogenous if they come from a foreign organism (like botulinum toxin). However for reasons of simplification, we will group all substances under the term “toxic”.
But then … Would we all be condemned to this invasion of toxic? Fortunately, no. Cellular machinery is once again terribly organized to respond effectively. The body has indeed several elimination organs, emunctories, to treat and eliminate toxins. It is mainly lungs, skin, intestines and liver . However, as for all cellular functions, everything is a question of balance and homeostasis: in case of lack of elimination or excess exposure to these toxins, they can accumulate in the body. ‘organization.
The notion of intoxication is complex. Some substances may indeed be highly toxic and cause endocrine disorders, organ damage or even death. Others have more insidious effects because of their progressive accumulation in the body. They can cause an increased risk of cancer by DNA mutation or disruption of enzymatic reactions in cells, resulting in fatigue, loss of vitality and functional disorders. It all depends on the dose, the route of absorption, the type and the severity of the exposure. The long-term effects of these toxins can be added to create an unfortunate synergy, the “cocktail effect”, which is difficult to evaluate. The risk assessment system is primarily based on the establishment of Admissible Daily Doses (ADI) by the body for each pollutant or on the measurement of biomarkers of exposure in the urine and in the blood. The science of toxicology is complex but outside the subject, I invite those who wish to deepen these notions to explore the works of Professor Narbonne, expert French toxicologist and author of the book “Sang pour sang toxic”. We will not tackle here the acute toxicity of substances harmful to the organism, but more insidious effects on the vitality of all these xenobiotics polluting the liver.
The liver, a major organ for our health
Imagine a 24-hour active waste reprocessing plant, providing over 500 different functions and filtering everything you drink, eat, or get into your body. This organ, active throughout your life and weighing 1.5 kg, is your liver. It is an essential organ for maintaining an optimal state of health and its involvement in many functional disorders is often underestimated. Indeed, our thoughts for the liver are usually dedicated to the aftermath, after a well-watered evening or a hearty meal. But beyond its role in digestion, the liver does the hard work of treating most foreign molecules in the body and continuously filtering the blood circulating throughout the body. Fortunately, the cells that make it up – the hepatocytes – benefit for this purpose from a long life, of the order of one year or even 500 days. They also have a particularly surprising capacity for renewal. The liver of a rat is reconstituted for example in less than 10 days when a removal of 70% of it is performed. Schematically, you regenerate your liver about once a year, especially at night. For the anecdote, in mythology, Prometheus was condemned by Zeus to be eternally devoured the liver during the day by an eagle while he was recovering at night, after stealing the gods by offering the sacred fire to the human race. The capacity of regeneration of the liver thus seemed already known to the ancient Greeks! after stealing the gods by offering the sacred fire to the human race. The capacity of regeneration of the liver thus seemed already known to the ancient Greeks! after stealing the gods by offering the sacred fire to the human race. The capacity of regeneration of the liver thus seemed already known to the ancient Greeks!
What are the signs of a need for detoxification?
Without liver, no life. Beyond its role of detoxification, the liver indeed has many other functions. Bile formation, the storage of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, the participation in the metabolism of fats, the formation of ketone bodies (in case of fasting) and urea, the synthesis of enzymes, plasma proteins of inflammation, coagulation factors, etc. It is easy to understand that the liver is an organ constantly in search of energy!
- Chronic fatigue,
- Difficulties of recovery,
- Postprandial sleepiness,
- Bad breath,
- Language loaded,
- Nocturnal awakenings (the liver being particularly active at night, awakenings between 2 and 4am are, according to Chinese medicine, characteristic of liver weakness),
- Pale or yellowish complexion,
- Nausea with increased sensitivity to strong odors, alcohol or caffeine, etc.
If any of these symptoms affect you, you are under medication or hormone treatment, and you are a lover of alcohol, coffee and little attention to the origin (biological or not) of the food you consume, this article will be useful to you! Of course, the analysis and weighting of these functional disorders by a health professional is essential to determine their possible link with liver overload. These signs may indeed not be associated with a disturbance of the biology conventionally used as a marker of liver damage (transaminases, gamma GT, bilirubin, phosphatases, etc.). However, your liver may be overwhelmed by this influx of xenobiotics or be deficient micronutrients essential to the proper performance of its functions. Moreover, since the metabolism of the liver is closely linked to that of the intestine through what is known as the enterohepatic cycle, it is common for a disturbance of the metabolism of one of the two organs to affect that of the second. .
How does your liver eliminate xenobiotics?
To ensure the elimination of xenobiotics, the liver intervenes in several steps, with the aim of transforming the initially toxic substance into a soluble derivative that can be eliminated by urine and feces. Most of these toxic molecules are indeed fat-soluble, explaining that they accumulate in adipose tissue cells, adipocytes. For this reason, fatty fish at the end of the food chain such as salmon or tuna can accumulate significant quantities of heavy metals, unlike small fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies) which are therefore preferred. The parenthesis being closed, let’s go back to our liver, which must eliminate these substances through two stages, called “phases”. Courage, a little concentration is needed:
- Phase I is called functionalization.The enzymes of this phase, mostly grouped under the term cytochromes P450, will “oxidize” liposoluble toxins by adding a specific chemical radical. Oxidative stress is generally considered to be responsible for cellular aging, but let us not forget that it ensures essential roles for the good functioning of the body when it is well controlled, like this first phase. It is the most powerful oxidation system in the body. The micronutrient status is therefore essential to enable these enzyme complexes to function optimally: vitamins B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12, magnesium, zinc, manganese, chromium and copper are particularly important.It should be noted that the intermediate compounds resulting from this first phase are then unstable and may be more toxic than the original compounds, especially in the case of insufficient antioxidant status.
- Phase II is called conjugation.It is in charge, not to guarantee a good syntax, but to transform the oxidized substances from the first phase into water-soluble molecules that can be eliminated by urine and bile. This transformation is ensured by different mechanisms depending on the nature of the substances. This is called sulfoconjugation, glucurono-conjugation, detoxication by methylation or acetylation. Beyond their technical denomination, these reactions are dependent on the nutritional status, in particular in Glutathione, Taurine, Arginine, Glutamine, Ornithine, trace elements, vitamins B2, B5, B6, B9, B12 and C. Moreover, the beginning this second phase neutralizes the oxidized derivatives from the first phase:
- A last so-called solubilization phase, in charge of finally eliminating the metabolites of the body then become water-soluble, thanks to the bile.
The complex hepatic detoxification mechanism is governed by the balance between the different phases. Depending on our genetics, our ability to convert toxins into intermediate derivatives can vary significantly. In addition, the first phase is called “inducible” : the enzymes can become more and more effective and more numerous depending on the level of exposure to toxic. What may appear at first sight as a definite advantage: yes, on the essential condition that the second phase is however equally effective. Indeed, remember that intermediate molecules can be more toxic than the original molecules. This is one of the reasons for toxicity of certain drugs in people with an operating imbalance between these two phases of detoxification. There may also be an interaction between these derivatives and certain cellular proteins responsible for the formation of haptens, molecules potentially involved in inflammatory or immune reactions. Let’s take chronic alcoholism as an example: the first phase makes it possible to metabolize ethanol (alcohol) into toxic derivatives, in particular acetaldehyde, which must then be solubilized during the second phase. If the latter is deficient, the intermediate metabolites will cause liver cell damage, or even cirrhosis in case of chronic exposure. This notion of enzymatic inducibility explains the reason why people who regularly consume alcohol are less and less subject to drunkenness, since alcohol is rapidly metabolized to acetaldehyde. The effectiveness of the second phase is, for its part, much less inducible than the first and under the influence of many factors, including:
- Genetic predisposition . For example, President Churchill tolerated a large quantity of alcohol without triggering major complications for his health.
- The status in micronutrients, mentioned above, and in particular in sulfur amino acids (methionine, cysteine, taurine) , essential substrates in the conjugation phase.
What are the effects of diet on the liver?
Heavy consumption of alcohol, foods rich in pesticides, additives, hormones or antibiotics in animal meats, overcooking of grilled foods (including all products browned by the Maillard reaction: crust of bread, biscuits, roasted products, etc.) are all dietary factors that increase the detoxification work of the liver. Significant and chronic consumption of carbohydrate foods with a high glycemic index also favors the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Do you make foie gras?
We are talking here about your liver and not that of geese or ducks … Touching 20 to 40% of the adult population in Western countries and close to one in three adolescents, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD for alcoholic fatty liver disease) may progress to advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis (21% of patients with a study of 132 patients) (1). This disease is closely related to diabetes: more than 90% of obese patients with diabetes have this disease. Since the liver has a significant capacity for regeneration, its involvement in the form of fibrosis can be reversible under the condition of appropriate medical and nutritional management. In contrast, cirrhosisis a more advanced stage in which hepatocytes lose their ability to regenerate: it becomes irreversible .
A chronic sedentary lifestyle, too rich meals, especially carbohydrates with high glycemic index are at the origin of increased secretion of insulin by the pancreas. But insulin acts on a hormone (HSL, Hormone-Sensitive Lipase) promoting the release of free fatty acids and their diffusion in the liver, while increasing the conversion of glucose into fatty acids, which can then form triglycerides stored under form of fat in the liver. Such an accumulation can generate an influx of inflammatory compounds due to oxidative stress, causing fibrosis and then cirrhosis.
Several studies conducted by Dr. Ludwig have shown an increased risk of liver fat accumulation following consumption of foods with a high glycemic index, especially those rich in amylopectin (2, 3) . As a reminder, the glycemic index makes it possible to quantify the effect of the carbohydrates present in a food on the elevation of the sugar level, thus secondarily on the insulin secretion (see article ).
Fructose is a carbohydrate with a low glycemic index and has been promoted for years as an ideal substitute for table sugar (sucrose). Consumed in the form of fruit or honey, it poses no risk to health. Conversely, excess fructose is responsible for an accumulation of fats in the liver and triglycerides in the blood, an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and even intestinal hyperpermeability (4). , 5) .
Yet many industrial and sodas products, particularly from across the Atlantic, contain high fructose corn syrup ( High Fructose Corn Syrup ) used for its industrial properties in terms of binder and sweetness. This is a typical example of the beneficial effect of a low-dose, deleterious nutrient when consumed to excess.
Good news … this mechanism is reversible: reduce consumption of foods with a high glycemic index while ensuring a sufficient intake of fats (olive, rapeseed, walnut, flax, avocado, small oily fish, oilseed oils) and quality protein is a particularly benevolent gesture for the liver (6) .
The micronutritional status is essential to enable enzymes in charge of liver detoxification to perform their functions: antioxidants (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium), amino acids ( methionine, cystine, glutamine, arginine), trace elements, magnesium, B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12). A diet rich in fresh vegetables, organic, raw or cooked to a gentle heat is therefore the first health action to take care of his liver.
Some foods help support the liver detoxification functions: we can cite broccoli (7), Brussels sprouts, garlic, turmeric, beetroot, apple, ginger, seaweed .. . They possess the property of stimulating the genes of the enzymes of the second phase, interesting point for the persons having an unfavorable genotype. Broccoli (especially young shoots) is rich in sulforaphanes, known for their properties on cancer prevention. Specifically, broccoli contains an active ingredient of the glucosinolate family and an enzyme, myrosinase, which interact to produce sulforaphane, only when the plant is crunched, chewing to bring the two assets into contact. In addition, a study published in the journal Journal of Food Science in 2013 reveals that this enzyme is inactivated by cooking or freezing (8).
Nothing like fresh young broccoli sprouts! You can also garnish with radish (white or black), cabbage (red, Chinese), arugula, watercress, strong mustard or wasabi, which naturally contains myrosinase.
Coffee, rich in antioxidants and caffeic acid, has many health benefits, especially in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes or certain cancers (pancreas). Drinking coffee daily also appears to reduce the risk of chronic liver disease (9). However, its consumption deserves to be moderate (about 2 coffees per day, of biological origin and before 17h, traditional and not percolator favoring the passage of Aluminum) considering the effects of caffeine on the nervous system.
Grapefruit juice inhibits the activity of the enzymes of the cytochrome P450 3A4 complex (or CYP3A4) of the first phase due to the presence of a specific compound, naragenin. The juice should therefore be avoided in case of hepatic overload or in people on drug treatment (statins, benzodiazepines, ciclosporin and cisapride in particular). By way of example, a single glass of grapefruit juice can modify the pharmacokinetics of a drug for 72 hours . The St. John’s wort traditionally used in food supplements for the treatment of depressive syndromes or sleep disorders, increases the activity of cytochromes P450, as well as tobacco, alcohol and certain drugs (anti-infectives, anti-epileptics) .
Of course, hydration is an essential factor in ensuring effective liver detoxification. It is well known that the days of well-watered evenings are particularly difficult for people who have not bothered to hydrate themselves enough (with water!) To compensate for the dehydrating effect of alcohol. Drinking at least 1.5 to 2 L of water a day is essential.
The deleterious effect of alcohol on the liver is moreover to be demonstrated. But what about wine? Rich in resveratrol, a particularly powerful antioxidant to protect cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, cancer and diabetes, it would partly explain the French Paradox. However, wine can also contain many pesticides and high amounts of sulphites, particularly soft white wines, thus increasing the xenobiotic overload of the liver and reducing the degradation of alcohol. Attention therefore to the quality and the origin of the wine. The wines of biological origin are to be favored, for your liver as much as for the vine growers, word of amateur!
Favor a gentle heat for cooking (steam) to limit the production of toxic compounds (Maillard body, heterocyclic amines produced during grilling in particular).
What is the point of complementation and herbal medicine?
Many plant active ingredients can be interesting to support liver function or even stimulate detoxification. However, several types of actions can be distinguished.
Some plant extracts are used to stimulate the secretion of bile (choleretic action) or its evacuation to the intestine (cholagogue action), in order to “drain” the liver in case of overload or lazy liver:
- The artichoke is rich in a bitter compound, the cynaropicrin, found in the leaves, but also in phenolic acids such as cynarin or caffeic acid. Artichoke leaves have the reputation of facilitating digestion. The content of the artichoke in phenolic acids allows it to protect the hepatocytes against oxidative stress. In lactating women the consumption of artichoke is not recommended, it can inhibit the process of lactation.
- Black radish has artichoke-like properties as well as cholagogue action (it facilitates the evacuation of bile to the intestine), as well as rosemary (10). Black radish contains flavanoids and raphanol, as well as glucosinolates that can be converted into active ingredients, such as sulforaphane, itself inducing the detoxification enzymes of phase II. The cytochromes of phase I are inhibited by other enzymes. Its consumption thus makes it possible to optimize the functions of detoxification of the liver.
- Rosemary contains, like artichoke, phenolic acids (rosmarinic and caffeic acids), flavonoids, terpene derivatives, diterpenic quinones and aromatic essences. It can be brought as an infusion of leaves.
Micronutritional complexes are intended to support liver detoxification functions through phase I and II enzymes.
Other assets are used for their protective qualities:
- Turmeric has hepatoprotective properties. Its combination with piperine, extracted from pepper , also improves its bioavailability (11). Rich in curcuminoids, turmeric also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties: it represents a great combination for your health
- Milk thistle , rich in silymarin and silybin, is also regularly used for the same qualities. With these properties, it can be useful in addition to drug treatment for hepatitis, but also in protecting the liver against chemotherapy.
- Sulforaphane is the active ingredient in broccoli that we mentioned earlier. Some food supplements offer standardized extracts and are often associated with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants discussed in this article . Glutathione (stored in the liver) and alpha-lipoic acid (involved in the recycling of glutathione) are antioxidants naturally produced by the body and sometimes offered in the form of complementation in case of liver injury or deficits.
- Taurine intake may also be of interest in case of increased need for liver function support.
- In the event of significant solicitation of the liver, the vitamin B3 requirements are increased. The body can indeed partially manufacture this vitamin using a particular amino acid, tryptophan , which has already been mentioned in the interest in the production of a neuromediator, serotonin. As part of a micronutritional program, this is a point to consider in case of mood disorders including (see this article ).
- Finally, Desmodium ( Desmodium adscendens ) is a plant of African origin, particularly interesting in case of damage to the liver cells (hepatocytes) and whose importation into France is attributed to Dr. Pierre Tubéry in the 1970s. the difference of the other assets mentioned above, this plant has the property of intervening on the regeneration of hepatocytes : it is therefore particularly recommended in cases of cirrhosis, hepatitis or following chemotherapy.
- Wild garlic, Coriander and Chlorella are used more to promote the elimination of heavy metals.
What solutions for a single need! Indeed, like the work of your liver and the number of mechanisms involved, the possible actions are multiple. But there is an essential need common to all these situations: the need to benefit from functional enzymes, so a diet rich in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids sulfur) and good hydration.Thus, the liver will perform its functions effectively. Depending on the situation, the choice can then be to restore micronutrient status in priority, associated with plants with detoxifying action (artichoke for example for toxins and chlorella for heavy metals) or supporting the regeneration of hepatocytes. (desmodium) if they have been affected by drug treatment or hepatitis.
Using a fast or a monodiète (grapes or any other food made virtuous by the media) makes it logical to lighten the work of the liver, the amount of nutrients and xenobiotics being significantly reduced. The body will naturally be able to devote its energy to eliminating the excess of toxic accumulated previously and its general functioning. These food restriction phases must, however, remain punctual: such choices must indeed be considered in the short term at the risk of generating nutritional deficits, thus a less effective enzymatic reactions and a difficulty in the reintroduction of a more conventional diet. . Fasting one day a month, or more frequently for some, will not interfere with micronutrient status. However, such an approach is not essential to allow the liver to perform its functions.
In conclusion, is it necessary systematically to carry out a cure of detoxification?
Given the environment in which we operate and the number of xenobiotics we face daily, yes, I would tend to advise to support detoxification with a cure of micronutrients and plant extracts at least once a year. However, it is not essential for all and depends, on the one hand on our phenotype (or genetic predisposition) and on the other hand the level of exposure to toxic. If you are subject to the functional disorders mentioned above, such a cure may be necessary. And of course, it does not find in my opinion its full legitimacy that integrated into a global approach of taking care of the quality of the food and the general hygiene of life.
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