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What Does It Mean To Detoxify: The Three Phases of Detoxification

Did you know that your body has its own 24/7 clean-up to keep you healthy? It gets rid of toxins that are not good for you? This process is called Detoxification. It is your body’s way of cleaning out the bad stuff that can make you feel sick. It’s a natural and complex process that happens in a cellular level.

In this post, we’re going to talk all about detoxing. So, if you’re curious to know how it works and how you can support your body’s own detoxification process, you should continue reading!

What Does Detoxifying Mean?

The word ‘Detoxifying’ probably makes you think of juice cleanses, strict diets, or maybe even fasting, right? But there’s so much more to it. Our bodies are naturally equipped to detoxify themselves. It’s not just about what we’re told to drink or eat for a short period. Our liver, skin, and even our lungs are hard at work every day, helping to clear out the things that don’t belong in our bodies.

So, when we talk about detoxing, it’s not all about those extreme diets or products you see everywhere. It’s really about supporting our body in what it’s already designed to do.

Detoxifying is actually a process in the body on a cellular level. To detoxify essentially means to remove toxic or harmful substances from a system or environment. When we refer to the human body “detoxifying,” we’re talking about the body’s processes to eliminate or neutralize toxins.

Our body has many built-in detoxification organs such as the liver, kidneys, skin, and colon.

The liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body – think of it as the “Grand Central Station” of your body because detoxifying foreign, hostile substances is a complicated physiological process.

The reason detox isn’t simple is because many of the most toxic substances behave like fats. Because our blood is principally water, and fats don’t dissolve in water, these fat-like toxins tend to “stick” in the body’s fatty regions instead of getting washed out and flushed away. So, they must be converted into substances that will dissolve in the blood. So they can be transported into the urine and stool and finally leave the body. The conversion is a chemical modification that makes the fat-like toxins look less like fats and more like water.

Our Body Has Three Phases of Detoxification

Phase 1: Transformation

Phase 1 of detoxification is like running a kitchen where all the ingredients (toxins) are being chopped up. During this phase, our body picks up all the dangerous, lipid-soluble molecules and starts the transformation process into less harmful, intermediate products that will be easier to get rid of.

The liver is the main chef in this kitchen. Specific enzymes known as cytochrome p450 come into play to facilitate this transformation. Picture these enzymes like the kitchen knives, slicing and dicing dangerous substances into less harmful ones through several chemical processes.

Dealing with the Mess

However, chopping up the ingredients (or toxins) can be messy and sometimes makes things more reactive, similar to how chopping onions might make your eyes water. This happens because these chemical changes can create charged particles called free radicals. If free radicals are not neutralized, they can lead to what you might call a kitchen disaster, or in our body: inflammation.

Just as how in cooking, chopped ingredients prepare for the next stage, in our bodies, Phase 1 is crucial for preparing toxins for Phase 2 of detoxification. The intermediate products here need to be further transformed in Phase 2, and if not, they can cause damage to our cells.

So, that’s Phase 1 of detoxification. It’s all about chopping up those nasty toxins, dealing with the messy and sometimes more reactive by-products, and preparing everything for the next step in this crucial bodily process. And like in a well-run kitchen, the right tools and a good clean-up crew are key for a successful operation.

Phase 2: Conjugation

What’s Happening in Phase 2?

In Phase 1, we’ve chopped up all the ingredients (toxins), and they’re a bit messy and sometimes more reactive. Now, it’s time for Phase 2 – this is where we pack them into neat little packets (make them water-soluble) so they can’t cause trouble and are easy to throw away.

The Liver’s Role

Phase 2 detox is where our body’s detoxification process involves some serious chemistry. The liver starts by taking the products from Phase 1 (now water-soluble) and attaches a “handle” to them through a process called conjugation. This handle is crucial because it makes the toxins easily graspable so that they can be efficiently removed from the body.

Types of Conjugations: The Handles

The liver uses different “handles” depending on the nature of the toxin and the body’s resources. Here are a few types:


This adds a ‘sulfur tag’ to toxins, which is like adding a handle to a bag so it’s easier to carry out. This pathway deals with toxins like certain hormones, BPA (found in plastics), and some chemicals found in personal care products.


It’s like wrapping up leftovers in cling film so they won’t spill on their way out. This important pathway is responsible for taking care of many hormones, some medications, and bilirubin (a waste product from the breakdown of blood).

Glutathione Conjugation:

This pathway is all about protection. It grabs things that could hurt our cells, like heavy metals or some really reactive byproducts, and wraps them up safely, just like you’d use bubble wrap to protect your breakables.

Amino Acid Conjugation:

Amino acid conjugation is like cutting out a piece of foam that perfectly fits around an item. It uses bits of protein (amino acids) to neutralize certain leftovers so they don’t cause any harm.


It’s like putting a fragile sticker on a package. It tells your body to handle this with extra care. It takes some of the chemical leftovers, like hormones or even some heavy metals, and seals them away so they can’t react with anything else.


Finally, acetylation is like those takeout containers you get when you want to bring food home. It’s good for various leftovers, but some folks might not have enough takeout containers, which means they can struggle with this part of the cleanup.

During Phase 2, adequate dietary protein is a necessity, but proper digestion of protein is also required. Along with protein, Phase 2 depends upon the availability of specific nutrients in your food. Missing these nutrients affects the effectiveness of your detoxification process, and a toxic load of substances builds up in the body and poisons your metabolism.

Phase 3: Elimination

Think of Phase 3 as the body’s garbage disposal team. Its main job is to escort those packets (now transformed toxins) out of your cells and eventually out of your body. This phase happens mostly in your intestines and also involves your kidneys a little bit. Your body uses special pathways, imagine them as exits, to move these packets to the gut where they can be safely removed from your body when you use the bathroom.

In this phase, your gallbladder and intestines are like the delivery team. The liver sends over the packed-up wastes (now in bile) to the gallbladder, which is like a holding area or waiting room. Upon eating fats, the gallbladder gets the cue to release bile into the intestines. Think of it as the delivery truck leaving the depot.

The Exit Strategy

Now for the exiting part – the ultimate goal! Here’s how the neat packets are thrown away:

Bile Highway: The bile, containing our packed-up toxins, moves through the intestines. Imagine this as a highway guiding the waste out of the body.

Stool Formation: Eventually, this waste makes its way into the stool, which is the body’s natural way of getting rid of garbage.

In short, this phase is the actual removal of the toxins. Water-soluble substances go to the kidneys to be peed out, and fat-soluble substances are packaged into bile and eliminated through the stool.

Why Do You Need To Support Your Bodies Detoxification?

Now, you might be asking yourself, “why do people need to detox if our body already has a natural detox system?” It’s a fair question. Every day, without a break, your body battles against harmful chemicals, known as toxins.

Our modern lives have exposed us to an unprecedented number of these harmful substances. From the pesticides sprayed on the fruits and vegetables we consume to the industrial chemicals found in the packaging of our food and even in the very water we drink—these toxins are almost inescapable.

Think about it—our air, the stress we’re under, and especially the food we eat, all contribute to the toxic load our bodies have to manage. For the average person, this could mean wrestling with over 14 pounds of pesticides, food additives, and preservatives every year. That’s a lot for our natural detox systems to cope with.

While it’s true that our liver, kidneys, and other organs work tirelessly to filter out these toxins, the modern world throws more at us than they can sometimes handle. The tricky part is, these toxins can build up in our body over time and can mess with our health little by little.

Final Word

Detoxification is far from simple. Our body’s innate system of recycling and taking out the trash is PROFOUND. Most of this occurs without any intervention, but with a world increasing in toxins by the second, our systems are becoming burdened. So, we need to support our body’s detoxification process.

If you want to learn more about detoxification, I made a video deep diving into DETOX, so you can understand what it’s all about. Check it out here.

Hi! I’m Dr. E, The NP with a PHD. Several years ago, my wife was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and the only options given to us were heavy duty medications.

We KNEW there had to be a better way. After a long search, we discovered functional medicine.

With functional medicine we found alternative ways we were able to manage her disease and get her back to feeling like her old self.

We discovered that this way of life not only helps people with various issues, including autoimmune, chronic issues and “I-don’t-feel-good-itis.”

Functional medicine drastically changed our lives and using it I developed The KNEW Method to help others who are suffering or not feeling optimal.

Let’s work together to get you to feeling like your old self again.

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