Detoxification is the job of a whole team of bodily organs. The main work is done by the liver with some help from the kidneys. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is important in elimination of the breakdown products, and elimination via the skin and lungs also occurs.


The liver filters blood, removing toxins found there.

The liver is a large organ in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. It actually has a number of jobs in addition to detoxification. A vein called the portal vein connects the digestive tract to the liver, allowing drugs, alcohol, and toxins found in food to be delivered this way.

Liver lobules are made up of individual liver cells formed into groups. In the liver cells, a host of enzymes work on the chemicals they find, helping break them down. In general, these compounds aren’t water-soluble, so they need to be converted into another form that’s both nontoxic and water-soluble to remove them from the body via stool or urine.

The enzymes use a set of chemical processes referred to as Phase I reactions and Phase II reactions. Both of these sets of reactions need to work properly for full detoxification to occur. When the products are broken down, they’re shunted to the bowel for elimination.


The kidneys filter blood and do the bulk of detoxification of blood-borne toxins.

Your kidneys reside just below the ribs on the back, one on each side; they’re shaped like kidney beans. Blood flows into the kidney via an artery, gets filtered in the tiny capillaries of the nephrons, and then flows back out via the veins.

Byproducts and water that have been filtered out get transferred into the ureter and flow to the bladder for elimination. In addition to doing the work of detoxification, the kidneys remove other metabolic waste and balance out pH of the blood. Because this whole system is based on fluid, keeping hydrated is important so the functions remain intact.


The GI tract does the work of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste, including what it receives from the liver.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract doesn’t really do any detoxification per se, despite what you may read in ads and see on the Internet. However, if it doesn’t work well, then the byproducts of detoxification get backed up, so keeping it working smoothly is still vital. Any malfunction (such as constipation or diarrhea) impacts the elimination of the toxic byproducts and impacts health.


Lungs are primarily involved with respiration. As part of the process, they also help maintain blood pH and expel chemical vapors under specific conditions.

One example is the sweet smell of a diabetic person’s breath in ketoacidosis, a severe condition. The excess ketones in the blood are partially expelled in the exhaled breath and can be picked up by their distinctly sweet smell. Keeping the lungs working well helps keep the detoxification processes working smoothly. In addition, conscious control of breathing patterns stimulates the immune system.


Technically, skin isn’t really part of detoxification because it isn’t capable of breaking down toxins into something harmless.

Excess fluid and a waste product called urea are excreted in the form of sweat. These two processes are vital to maintaining appropriate fluid balance and pH, so by extension, the skin helps to maintain the body in a detoxified state.