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It is a full service - a demanding job that operates 24/7.

DETOXIFICATION takes place primarily in the liver. The liver plays many vital roles in our bodies, and most of our organs rely on it to keep things neat and tidy.

Our liver is responsible for 'cleaning' everything we swallow, breathe in, and even touch. It is responsible for filtering blood and neutralising toxins that come in many forms. Alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods usually spring to mind, but there are also all the medications we swallow, pesticides in our food supply, pollution, household detergents, room sprays, lotions, plastics in our food containers, and chemicals and toxins in our drinking water.

Our oceans are littered with plastics and heavy metals and we can't possible avoid them all. Our bodies also produce hormones and waste products that our liver has to detoxify. It's a very high-risk job!

The modern diet is a combination of harmful substances as well as protective nutrients that most of us try to eat

Xenobiotics (harmful substances) come in many forms that are difficult to avoid and we are exposed to a multitude of them during our lifetimes'

These include food additives, pharmaceuticals, and environmental pollutants.

As individuals, we vary in the amount of chemicals we are exposed to (depending on where you live, the food we eat, the type of job we do) and our individual genetic profile also determines how efficiently our liver can detoxify these substances.

A simplified explanation of liver detoxification, is that it takes part in two phases. We are equipped with enzymes that deal with Phase 1 and Phase 2, and they are referred to as 'activators' and 'excretors'. Just to give an idea of how complex this process is, there are over 10 families of Phase 1 enzymes, with at least 35 associated genes. Phase 2 reactions are just as complex!

The Phase 1 enzymes are the first line of defence and this family is responsible for dealing with whatever comes their way. Once the substances have been 'activated' in Phase 1, they pass on to Phase 2. This second stage is overseen by a family of glutathione-S-transferase (GST) enzymes, and the 'activated' substances have to be made water-soluble so that they can be excreted through urine, bile or sweat.

Some of us may have a polymorphism (a genetic variation that can affect the function of the gene) in the GSTM1 and GSTT1 genes, which is usually called a deletion.

A deletion in any of the GSTM1 or GSTT1 genes results in the person not producing the enzymes required to effectively excrete toxins from the body.

Some of us have polymorphisms in our CYP genes (Phase 1 detoxification enzymes) and this may result in the presence of of a higher level of now 'activated' toxins.

The busy liver is often presented with a dilemma: some of these toxins are moving too fast and some them are moving too slowing, resulting in something like a traffic jam! That's where food steps in and has a vital role to play

CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES are named for their cross-shaped flowers.

They all contain a substance called glucosinolates. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and radishes are examples.

ALIUM VEGETABLES contain a substance called allicin. Garlic. onions, leeks and chives belong to this family.

We should be eating cruciferous and allium veggies at least four times per week. However, if you have variations or deletions in any of the detoxification genes, it's important to increase your intake.

There is strong evidence that these wonderful crunchy vegetables help to prevent cancer. Molecules found in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies activate the Nrf2 pathway, which in turn activates our internal defence system which works tirelessly to protect us from many diseases.

The active ingredient in broccoli (sulphoraphane) and the myrosinase enzyme that is produced when we crunch into it, is destroyed by heat, and of course, the microwave.

For this reason, try to eat them raw, or steam for not longer than 2-3 minutes


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