Nutrition for Improved Liver Function | The Detox Food Plan

Food can support health or be harmful. In particular, many foods can upregulate the body’s natural processes of eliminating chemicals, toxins, and drugs. In the modern world, everyone is exposed to a mixture of chemical compounds daily.

IFM’s Detox Food Plan focuses on the foods that support the biotransformation and elimination of endogenous and exogenous toxins. For instance, an emphasis on cruciferous vegetables supports phase I cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and phase II conjugation enzymes.1-2 As another example, soy has many effects on the CYP enzymes.3 For patients without allergies, soy is included in the Food Plan. In a randomized controlled trial of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a low-calorie diet including soy resulted in significant improvements in liver enzymes, even when compared with other low-calorie diets.4 In one case study, IFM’s Detox Food Plan improved liver function as well as improving gastrointestinal and other symptoms.5

In addition to adding foods that support biotransformation, another emphasis of the Food Plan is to reduce exposure to toxins from food. This includes limiting or eliminating certain foods to reduce the total intake of toxins, such as the hormones found in many dairy products,6 pesticides in fruits and vegetables,7-8 and mercury from certain types of fish.9-11

As a short-term intervention, the Detox Food Plan can benefit patients suffering from a high toxic load, or who need liver support. Richard Mayfield, DC, CCN, DACBN, an IFM educator, expands upon how the Detox Food Plan works, and why:

Dr. Mayfield holds national board certifications in nutrition from the American Board of Clinical Nutrition and from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition as a certified clinical nutritionist (CCN) and diplomate of nutrition (DACBN).

Learn more about SUPPORTING effective biotransformation at the Detox Advanced Practice Module


  1. Hodges RE, Minich DM. Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application. J Nutr Metab. 2015;2015:760689. doi:1155/2015/760689.
  2. Walters DG, Young PJ, Agus C, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption alters the metabolism of the dietary carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) in humans. 2004;25(9):1659-1669. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgh164.
  3. Ronis MJ. Effects of soy containing diet and isoflavones on cytochrome P450 enzyme expression and activity. Drug Metab Rev. 2016;48(3):331-341. doi:1080/03602532.2016.1206562.
  4. Kani AH, Alavian SM, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P, Azadbakht L. Effects of a novel therapeutic diet on liver enzymes and coagulating factors in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a parallel randomized trial. Nutrition. 2014;30(7-8):814-821. doi:1016/j.nut.2013.11.008.
  5. Schott S, Minich D. Challenging case in clinical practice: implementation of a functional medicine detox food plan results in lower levels of alanine transaminase enzymes and resolves chronic gastrointestinal symptoms related to gastro-esophageal reflux disease [published online June 8, 2018]. Altern Complement Ther. doi:1089/act.2018.29172.ssc.
  6. Malekinejad H, Rezabakhsh A. Hormones in dairy foods and their impact on public health – a narrative review article. Iran J Public Health. 2015;44(6):742-758.
  7. Hu Y, Chiu YH, Hauser R, Chavarro J, Sun Q. Overall and class-specific scores of pesticide residues from fruits and vegetables as a tool to rank intake of pesticide residues in United States: a validation study. Environ Int. 2016;92-93:294-300. doi:1016/j.envint.2016.04.028.
  8. Mnif W, Hassine AI, Bouaziz A, Bartegi A, Thomas O, Roig B. Effect of endocrine disruptor pesticides: a review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8(6):2265-2303. doi:3390/ijerph8062265.
  9. Pirkle CM, Muckle G, Lemire M. Managing mercury exposure in northern Canadian communities. CMAJ. 2016;188(14):1015-1023. doi:1503/cmaj.151138.
  10. Burger J, Gochfeld M. Mercury and selenium levels in 19 species of saltwater fish from New Jersey as a function of species, size, and season. Sci Total Environ. 2011;409(8):1418-1429. doi:1016/j.scitotenv.2010.12.034.
  11. Lowenstein JH, Burger J, Jeitner CW, Amato G, Kolokotronis SO, Gochfeld M. DNA barcodes reveal species-specific mercury levels in tuna sushi that pose a health risk to consumers. Biol Lett. 2010;6(5):692-695. doi:1098/rsbl.2010.0156.

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