How does the liver detoxify?

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Toxins enter the body in food, water, through the skin and by inhalation. These toxins – such as pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals and water-borne pollutants – end up in our bloodstream, and our liver filters the blood to remove them. Toxins are also created by biochemical reactions in the body. Toxins affect us in many ways, from drunkenness caused by alcohol to the side-effects of certain medication.

The liver transforms fat-soluble toxins into a water-soluble form. This enables them to be released through the kidneys for elimination in urine, or into bile for elimination through the colon. Enzymes chemically break down toxins which have been absorbed through the intestines. The toxins are either neutralised, or converted into a more chemically active form which is then neutralised, to be safely excreted.

A healthy liver will manufacture approximately one litre (1.75 pints) of bile per day to transport toxins out of the body. If the liver is sluggish, toxins can build up, causing inflammation and oxidative stress. Toxins which are not eliminated return to the bloodstream and are eventually stored in fatty tissues where they pose less of an immediate threat. In the longer term, however, the slow release of these toxins back into the bloodstream can lead to a number of diseases.