This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I'll earn a small commission. If you do, I truly appreciate your support as I work to support my family. Please know I only recommend products I trust to promote health & wellness.
Medical jargon can be so frustrating, am I right?
Maybe you’ve been told you’re not processing toxins properly. Maybe your symptoms point to a congested liver. Or maybe you just want to learn how to detox effectively.
So you hop on the internet only to see terms like “detox pathways,” “MTHFR,” and “Cytochrome P450 enzymes” that make you want to give up before you’ve even started.
In order for a lifestyle of true detox to be successful, it needs to first be simple and easy to understand.
That’s what I hope to help you with today….taking a term like detox pathways and translating it into plain English. Only then can you can move forward and put what you’ve learned into toxin-beating action.
So first, let’s answer the primary question.
What Are Detox Pathways?
To put it simply, this term just describes the paths that toxins take as they move through and get purged from your body.
There are 3 primary detox organs/systems. I tacked on some nicknames to help you understand each of their roles:
- Liver (converter, filter)
- Kidneys (filters)
- Lymphatic System (sewage system)
Anybody else a visual learner? Check out this diagram. Hopefully it paints a clearer picture of how the detox process works:
If you follow the arrows, you’ll have a much better understanding of detox pathways and how they work.
You may notice that I didn’t illustrate the lymphatic system. Keep in mind that it stretches throughout your entire body and works as the sewer system, keeping everything clean and moving.
You’ll also notice that detoxification in the liver is divided into two phases: Phase 1 and phase 2.
Basically, most toxins enter the body as fat-soluble substances (aka they can only be broken down in fat). Before they can be eliminated, they have to first be converted into water-soluble matter (can be excreted via fluids). This is a pretty complicated process that relies heavily on certain nutrients, which we’ll touch on later in this post.
I don’t want to bog you down with a bunch of medical jargon, but it is important to understand how these liver detox pathways work. So let’s take a quick look:
Phase 1 Pathway
Phase 1 detoxification involves a family of enzymes that alter the molecular structure of toxins. The main goal of this phase is to start neutralizing toxins and making them water soluble. In a perfect system, toxins should move through this phase onto phase 2 very quickly. However, overuse of medications, nutrient deficiencies and more can slow this process by reducing the efficiency of the enzymes.
Phase 2 Pathway
Phase 2 takes the first phase a step further by adding molecules to the toxins to neutralize them even further, enabling them to be removed from the body via water or other fluid. Amino acids are the reigning nutrient in this phase.
If toxins get stuck in phase 2, the result is a buildup of fat-soluble toxins that can lead to migraines, infections, hormonal issues and more. That’s why it’s incredibly important to keep these pathways clear. Thanks to our chemical-heavy world, that means taking an active role in detoxing.
Then there are the actual routes by which we eliminate toxins, which are summed up in 3 categories:
- Bowel movements
There are other ways like via tears and mucus, but the above 3 are the most important “elimination stations.”
Signs Your Detox Pathways Are Blocked
If toxins can’t get out, they can re-circulate back through the body. This is known as “autointoxication.” I’ve even seen people use the term “retox.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s bad.
The result of congested detoxification paths can be devastating. In fact, many doctors believe autointoxication may be the culprit behind the growing chronic illnesses we see today.
Here are the symptoms that your detox pathways are malfunctioning or blocked:
- Brain fog
- Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema
- Unexplained cravings
- And more
I know those types of symptoms are pretty vague and can be indicative of so many things, but they’re all signs of a congested liver.
Speaking of vague symptoms, keep in mind that things like “fatigue” or “headaches” aren’t the problem, but a sign of a problem.
For far too long, our society has treated these symptoms as if they were the disease itself. That’s why we have dozens of over-the-counter pain killers and energy supplements.
However, true health is achieved when you get to the root of an issue.
More often than not, that root involves, at least in part, blocked detoxification pathways. That’s why detox as a whole is so important.
How to Open Detox Pathways
It’s important to note that supporting your detox pathways should be done before pushing your body to the point of actively detoxing – and by actively detoxing, I mean forcing your detox organs and systems to do more than the work they do behind the scenes every day.
Prepping these paths before any heavy detox is critical because of the risk of autointoxication that I mentioned earlier. Basically, you want to make sure your streams are flowing before you dump a lot of trash in them for filtering/processing.
Otherwise, you’ll be stirring up toxins that your body isn’t equipped to handle.
So how do you do that?
The best way is through a multi-faceted approach that involves each of the major detox organs and systems. Ultimately, however, the very first step in freeing up your body’s detox processes is to change your diet. The bad guys to avoid include refined sugar, grains, gluten and processed foods.
If you need help getting started, I have a free 28-day clean eating meal plan. It’ll be sent straight to your inbox and includes reference sheets for stocking your fridge and pantry!
Besides diet, there are several simple steps you can take to open and support these pathways. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I want to make this easy for you.
I’m going to break down a few actions steps for each organ, but don’t get overwhelmed and don’t feel the need to try them all at once. In the words of a dear friend, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Change happens one step and choice at a time. So start with the thing that’s easiest for you to work into your normal routine. Once settled, work in another one and so forth.
Ok, here are some actionable steps for clearing your detox pathways broken down by organ/system.
Your liver is by far the most important (and hardest working!) detox organ. I highly suggest starting your detox journey by supporting it first.
It has many functions, but one important one is to make bile, which is needed for digestion. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to absorb nutrients properly or move out toxins. Unfortunately, when your liver in overworked and congested with toxins, bile gets stuck.
So one of the most effective ways to keep pathways unblocked in the liver is to keep the bile moving.
Coffee enemas are one way to do this. You can read a great tutorial on that here.
Castor oil packs are another great way to support your liver and kickstart its processes. All you need is pure, high-quality castor oil, a flannel cloth and a heating pad.
This is the oil and cloth that I use, but any pure, cold-pressed castor oil will work. As for the flannel, you can technically get by with using an old t-shirt. Check out this tutorial for instructions.
The liver is perhaps the most important organ to support with added nutrients via supplementation. I’ll list the best supplements for liver support in the next section.
I’ll touch on kidney supplementation in a minute, but one of the easiest things you can do for your kidneys is to consume lots of water (preferably filtered to remove fluoride and other toxins).
Eating potassium-dense foods and drinking whey water is an easy fix as well.
Whey water is loaded with potassium and nutrients to support removal of toxic waste and hydration, which helps key our kidneys functioning as they should. You can usually find it in most health food stores, or you can make it yourself at home.
3. Lymphatic System
The success of any detox and opening of any pathways is often determined by the state of your lymphatic system. It works to clear the blood of toxins, keeps things moving like they should and helps de-stress and support other detox pathways.
If your lymphatic system is backed up, the rest of your detoxification system will be too.
My absolute favorite tool for lymphatic support is an infrared sauna – a Far Infrared Sauna to be exact. You can purchase sauna sessions at many gyms or chiropractor offices, or you can invest in one for your own home like I did. They can be pretty pricey, but it was worth it for my health.
For a more budget-friendly option, try a portable infrared sauna.
Another great tool is dry brushing. All you need is a simple bristle brush.
Brush your skin in upward strokes starting at your feet and working toward your heart.
Other tools include rebounding and lymphatic drainage massage.
A few more general tips for opening detox pathways include:
- Avoiding gluten, grain, sugar and processed foods
- Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir or these super tasty grass-fed beef sticks
- Taking regular walks and light jogging
- Getting routine chiropractic adjustments
- Drinking lots of water
- Doing Epsom salt baths
Supplements for Impaired Detoxification Pathways
I mentioned supplements before, but I wanted to keep everything nice and organized so you can find what you need quickly.
We just talked about action steps you can take. Now let’s talk about the nutrients your body needs to keep pathways open and flowing like they should.
Glutathione has been nicknamed the body’s “Master Antioxidant.” It got this name thanks to its role in maintaining other antioxidants like vitamins E and C.
Glutathione is an absolute essential part of cellular detoxification. It fights free radicals at the cellular level, working to clean up any left-behind mess before long-term damage can occur.
Other glutathione benefits include:
- Helps detox the liver
- Boosts energy
- Reduces brain fog
- Boosts athletic performance
- Eases muscle and joint pain
There are multiple forms of glutathione, but I only recommend one – acetylated glutathione. This form, specifically s-acetyl glutathione, is what I’ve personally taken ever since my Lyme diagnosis & issues with detoxing arose.
It’s the easiest to absorb, which is a big deal because glutathione breaks down quickly in the digestive tract. Taking an acetylated version helps ensure that it makes it to where it’s needed before being broken down.
Suggested Dosage: 200-400 mg, 1 to 2 times daily.
2. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle, also called silymarin, is by far the king of all liver supplements. It’s a powerful detoxifier, helping the body detox effectively while also protecting the thyroid and other vital systems from radiation damage.
And a super cool factoid – milk thistle actually boosts the regeneration of liver cells!
It’s also known to protect the liver from toxic chemicals such as ethanol and carbon tetrachloride. It’s even prescribed by physicians for liver conditions such as alcoholic cirrhosis.
Other milk thistle benefits include:
- Lowers cholesterol
- Balances blood sugar levels
- Boasts anti-aging properties
- Slows growth of certain cancer cells
When it comes to supplementing, I always suggest buying organic or at least non-GMO. When trying to detox properly, your body doesn’t need any added toxins coming from the very thing that’s supposed to get rid of them.
Suggested Dosage: 500-1000 mg per day.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid
ALA plays a unique role in detoxification in that it’s both fat and water soluble. These properties enable alpha lipoic acid to transfer to various organs, including the liver and brain. It’s known for protecting mitochondria from toxicity in a way that few other supplements can.
Being one of the most versatile supplements for strengthening detoxification pathways, its other benefits include:
- Strengthens blood vessels
- Helps maintain insulin levels/regulate blood sugar
- Protects gut lining
- Boosts liver detoxification
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces autoimmune activity
Suggested Dosage: 500-800 mg, 1 to 2 times per day.
4. Various Vitamins and Minerals
I mentioned earlier about Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification. In order to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble waste, your body needs to have sufficient amounts of certain nutrients.
More specifically, the nutrients needed for the phase 1 detox pathway include:
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
Phase 2 liver detoxification needs:
- Vitamin B12
- Amino acids
- And more
You can certainly supplement with each nutrient individually or alter your diet to include all these nutrients.
I personally find it easier to cover my bases with a whole food multi-vitamin with no added fillers, flow agents or synthetic ingredients.
My go to multi-vitamin is this Grass-Fed Organ Complex.
(Clicking the link above gives you an extra 10% off at checkout!)
Surprisingly enough, one of the best sources of liver-specific nutrients for humans actually comes from grass-fed beef liver. The same goes for other organs. Nutrients needed for proper kidney support can be found in grass-fed beef kidney and so on.
This Organ Complex contains grass-fed beef liver, kidney, brain and heart, and it covers my need for detox-specific vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more. What I don’t get from it, I easily make up for with a whole food diet.
When shopping for a multi-vitamin for detox pathway support, try to stick to natural, whole food-based supplements.
Synthetic vitamins extracted in a lab simply don’t absorb as well – not to mention the various toxins that come along with them.
There are certainly other detox supplements, but glutathione, milk thistle, alpha lipoic acid and a quality multi-vitamin offer a good place to start.
I hope this article helped you better understand your detoxification pathways and how you can support them. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to help any way that I can!