Detox Genes: Personalize Your Liver Detoxification

You’ve read my treatise on the liver, or not, and you’re wondering how to make it more relevant to you and what you’re known for. You know already that I’m a lover of the 4 “P’s” in my medical practice: make it personal, make it predictive of your health, make it aggressively preventive, and make it participatory. It’s like a pretty quilt.


Here it is: details on how to understand more personally your liver and its long, windy, circuitous path to continuous and sacred detoxification. I’ve taken the example of three genes coding for Phase 1 detoxification. Now that you’ve had the equivalent of mini-medical school on the liver from my previous post, I thought I’d offer a dessert you can eat on this cleanse: more data!

There’s a great test offered by Genova that examines your genetic programming for how your liver behaves in its detox job: the DetoxiGenomic Profile. Several other labs offer this type of testing but I like the robust explanations that Genova (formerly Great Smokies Lab) provides.

Keep in mind that your genetic programming can be significantly influenced by your nutrition, lifestyle and environment. More details are available at many online sites, such as Gene Cards. Let me know if you find other good resources in the Comments section.

This test can be particularly helpful to folks who have adverse reactions to drugs, as this is commonly due to a decreased capacity for clearing drugs from the body. Problems with Phase 1 clearance causes toxic overload in the body. Increased clearance of Phase 1 but without increased clearance in Phase 2 can lead to the formation of toxic intermediates, and in some cases, the intermediates are more toxic than the original toxin. Oh, no! Better to be on top of this.

Phase 1 involves the following SNPs or polymorphisms in the genes your inherited from your parents. You have inherited one of three conditions:

  1. you inherited the perfect level of the enzyme (homozygous normal – the optimal genomic potential)
  2. you inherited one bad allele and one good allele (heterozygous, usually a 30-50% decrement or increase in enzyme activity)
  3. you inherited both bad alleles, one bad one from each parent (homozygous, usually with a 70-90% reduction or increase in the activity of that enzyme).

CYP1A1 – This enzyme detoxifies polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as exhaust fumes and charbroiled meats. Mine sucks – I have a 70-90% reduction in this enxyme. CYP1A1 converts estrogens to 2-hydroxyestrogens, which are protective against breast cancer if methylated, but which may be carcinogenic if not. CYP1A1 also activates many environmental xenobiotics to pro-carcinogenic intermediates. A CYP1A1 polymorphism is associated with increased CYP1A1 enzyme activity. Whereas the polymorphism MspI variant has been associated with both decreased and increased risk (in smokers) of breast cancer, the I462V variant has been linked in several studies with increased risk of cancer, especially in smokers and women exposed to PCBs.

CYP1B1 – Important guy for the 4-hydroxylation of estrogen; that is, CYP1B1 takes your garden-variety estrogen and converts it to 4-hydroxyestrogen.  4-hydroxyestrogen is a potent estrogen that may, in turn, be oxidized to carcinogenic compounds. A polymorphism is associated with increased enzyme activity, therefore increased production of these potentially harmful metabolites.

CYP2A6 – Detoxifies nitrosamines and nicotine. Nitrosamines are chemicals that arise from certain reactions such as making bacon, and some of them are carcinogenic. I have a problem with this one too. I don’t wig out around smokers because of the how they damage the respiratory lining, kill cilia, and cause cancer; I wig out because I cannot detoxify cigarette smoke and it makes me incredibly anxious. Here’s more info from Gene Cards.

This is a review of just 3 of the many gene polymorphisms that affect your ability to detoxify. Contact Genova if you’re interested in ordering the test from your local doctor, or join my next Dr. Sara’s Detox Challenge right here.

Happy cleansing! As always, share questions, concerns, clarifications, corrections, additional info on Facebook. Thank you!