Nutrition for Improved Liver Function | The Detox Food Plan

Food has the power to promote health as well as the potential to harm. 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.

Nutrients and Foods That Optimize CYP Function

IFM’s Detox Food Plan focuses on the foods that support the biotransformation and elimination of endogenous and exogenous toxins. As a cautionary note, individuals on prescription medications should consult with a clinician, as nutritional inhibition of these enzymes can change the duration of effect for various drugs.1 

Most cruciferous vegetables support phase I cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes and phase II conjugation enzymes, increasing biotransformation rates.2-3 Nutrition can dramatically affect the expression of CYP genes, changing the rate of biotransformation.4 Polyphenols also affect CYP metabolism, supporting biotransformation processes—particularly of estrogen.5 A key consideration is dose; with many foods and compounds, at one level of intake, CYP activity may be upregulated, but at another level, it will be downregulated.2 

As another example, soy and soy isoflavones have many effects on the CYP enzymes.6 For patients without an allergy, soy is included in the Detox 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.7 

In one case study, a patient using IFM’s Detox Food Plan showed improved liver function as well as improvements in gastrointestinal and other symptoms.8

Foods to Avoid 

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,9 pesticides in fruits and vegetables,10-11 and mercury from certain types of fish.12-14 As one research article stated: 

It is sometimes bantered about in environmental health science circles that the three most important principles in addressing the problem of widespread toxicant exposure are ‘avoid, avoid, and avoid.’15

Where possible, reducing exposure to toxins can positively impact health. Yet toxins are unavoidable, so helping patients to support biotransformation when their history demonstrates a high potential toxic load can be extremely important.

IFM’s Detox Food Plan

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 certified practitioner (IFMCP) and 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 Biotransformation Pathways and Toxic Exposures

  1. Wilkinson GR. The effects of diet, aging and disease-states on presystemic elimination and oral drug bioavailability in humans. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 1997;27(2-3):129-159.
  2. 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:10.1155/2015/760689
  3. 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. Carcinogenesis. 2004;25(9):1659-1669. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgh164
  4. Murray M. Altered CYP expression and function in response to dietary factors: potential roles in disease pathogenesis. Curr Drug Metab. 2006;7(1):67-81.
  5. Korobkova EA. Effect of natural polyphenols on CYP metabolism: implications for diseases. Chem Res Toxicol. 2015;28(7):1359-1390. doi:10.1021/acs.chemrestox.5b00121
  6. 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:10.1080/03602532.2016.1206562
  7. 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:10.1016/j.nut.2013.11.008
  8. 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. Altern Complement Ther. 2018;24(4). doi:10.1089/act.2018.29172.ssc
  9. 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.
  10. 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:10.1016/j.envint.2016.04.028
  11. 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:10.3390/ijerph8062265
  12. Pirkle CM, Muckle G, Lemire M. Managing mercury exposure in northern Canadian communities. CMAJ. 2016;188(14):1015-1023. doi:10.1503/cmaj.151138
  13. 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:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.12.034
  14. 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:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0156
  15. Sears ME, Genuis SJ. Environmental determinants of chronic disease and medical approaches: recognition, avoidance, supportive therapy, and detoxification. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:356798. doi:10.1155/2012/356798

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