Do you've the 'sluggish liver' genotype?

Do you've the 'sluggish liver' genotype?

Margie GanderMay 21, '19

Genomics has definitely changed the way that we look at the liver.

I remember, when I did high school biology in the 1980s, the liver was our detox organ and believe me during my slightly wild university days, I held onto this fact on those mornings when I felt hungover from too many "buy one and get one free shooter nights"! In truth, I naively believed that my liver would clear out all these bad choices so that I could just visit the nightclub again the following week!

Genomics changed all of this for me. Seeing my detox genotype empowered me to take charge and make better, more considered detox choices daily. Not to say that I don't enjoy a glass of champagne BUT I do it with a lot more nutritional and lifestyle support than ever before. Here's why. 

How does it work? 

You are exposed daily to toxins. Some of these come from your environment, personal care products, medications, food, and water. These toxins are referred to as exogenous. You may be surprised to know that you also produce toxins inside your body. Hormone metabolites and oxidative stress are given off as by-products from cellular functions. These toxins are known as endogenous toxins. 

The problem with toxins that are not metabolised efficiently is that they wreak havoc in your body. Toxins are disruptors; upsetting your GUT microbiome, endocrine system while triggering oxidative stress and inflammation.  

The detoxification process in the body has two phases. The enzymes involved in phase 1 detoxification are known as ‘activators’ - they activate the substance that needs to be removed, allowing the next phase to proceed. Phase I enzymes are encoded by a super-family of genes called the CYPs. Activated compounds in phase I are potentially harmful and need to move through to phase 2 quickly and effectively. The problem is that not all of us are the same when it comes to our phase 1 detox genotype. Some of us have 'wonky' phase 1 genes, meaning that we are slow to convert a toxic chemical into a less harmful chemical. The danger is if these reactive molecules are not further metabolised by Phase II conjugation, they may cause damage to proteins, RNA, and DNA within the cell. You can see why knowing what your genetic variations are for this phase is so important!

The enzymes that take over from phase I are called ‘excretors’ because they catalyze reactions leading to the excretion of toxins from the body. These enzymes bind the chemical compound glutathione to the ‘active’ toxins from phase I, making them water soluble so they can be excreted through bile, sweat or urine. Decreased activity or deletion of the genes that encode for phase 2 liver detox has been associated with cancer and other diseases. 

The most important takeaway from understanding the working of the liver is that detox support is a daily choice and action, instead of a once-a-year, detox weekend!

What is the relationship between a sluggish liver and GUT health?

When the flow of bile is stagnant or sluggish due to a slow phase 1 and/or 2 liver detox ability, then your GUT shifts towards a state of dysbiosis, where unfriendly flora dominate and constipation is common. This phase is often referred to as phase 3 liver detox. The toxins from bad bacteria then block detoxification pathways in the liver as well. With the resulting imbalance of flora and dysbiosis, excessive gas and bloating may be experienced after eating.

When the liver is under stress, individuals may find themselves more reactive to chemical exposures and seasonal pollen allergies may worsen, and food sensitivities may increase. The liver is responsible for breaking down excess histamine, and if it is sluggish, histamine may build up in the body resulting in an allergy flare up.

So your GUT microbiome does affect your liver and vice-a-versa!  Too much of the wrong bacteria – can cause inflammation in the gut. This inflammation can result in a leaky GUT, a condition which allows larger molecules than normal into the circulation eventually results in inflammation in the liver because there is a direct route from the GI tract to the liver via the portal vein. This portal vein allows undesirable content in the gut to be deposited directly into the liver. Not good!

You can order The Leaky GUT test here:




Signs that you could have a sluggish liver

If you don't know what your liver detox genotype is, it is important to be aware of the signs of toxic burden. These include:

  • sensitivity to caffeine or medication
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • skin problems (acne, rashes, or psoriasis)
  • difficulty with fatty foods (nausea, headaches, or heartburn)
  • excess body odour
  • food allergies and sensitivities
  • difficulty losing weight
  • hormonal disturbances, estrogen dominance
  • mood disruption
  • anxiety
  • memory problems
  • brain fog
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • inflammation

Why guess?

When coaching, I often see what people with what I call "the sluggish liver genotype". By testing the key genes involved in the liver detox pathways, you'll be able to determine your unique detox profile and be empowered to personalise your nutrition, environment and lifestyle choices for your DNA up!

These are the key genes involved in liver detox:

 Gene Phase  Support | Co-factors DNA Test
CYP17A1 1 DNA Estrogen
CYP19A1 1



CYP1A1 1

    DNA Estrogen


    CYP1B1 1

    DNA Estrogen


    CYP3A4 1 VitaFEM
    COMT 2

    DNA Estrogen


    GSTP1 2

    DNA Estrogen


    GSTM1 2

    DNA Estrogen


    MnSOD | SOD2 2 DNA Estrogen
    SULT1A1 2

    DNA Estrogen


    NQO1 2 DNA Estrogen
    NAT2 2



    UGT1A1 2 VitaFEM


    This diagram sums up the above



    How can I check my toxic exposure?

    If you are concerned about your past and current toxic exposures, there are a variety of biochemistry tests available to help you determine your current levels for key toxins and metabolites. This real-time view is very useful if you have active cancer or autoimmune disease.

    Biochemistry Test  Tests for 
    Heavy Metals & Xenoestrogens
    • Arsenic
    • Bromine
    • Cadmium
    • Lead
    • Mercury 
    Parabens & Phthalates 
    Phthalate and paraben toxicity from plastics and body products.
    The DUTCH Complete
    • Estrogen
    • Progesterone
    • Testosterone
    • DHEA-S
    • Cortisol - daily free cortisol patterns to provide insight into ‘adrenal fatigue’ or symptoms of chronic stress
    • Melatonin (6-OHMS)
    • Oxidative stress marker: 8-Hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG)
    • Six organic acid tests (OATs) including markers for vitamin B12 (methylmalonate), vitamin B6 (xanthurenate), glutathione (pyroglutamate), dopamine (homovanillate), norepinephrine/epinephrine (vanilmandelate) and serotonin (5-hydroxyindoleacetate)


    What to do - how to optimize liver function?

    When coaching, I encourage clients to break their DAILY choices down into 2 main categories:

    1. reduce and control what is coming in from the outside
    2. remove what is inside
     Manage toxins coming in   Support toxins coming out
    Limit alcohol Exercise - 30 mins of cardio daily
    No smoking Saunas
    Choose non-toxic beauty and home products Nutrition packed with fiber, phytonutrients, phytoestrogens, antioxidants, B vitamins & key minerals
    Limit caffeine  Supplements
    Limit over-the-counter medications Hydration 
    Avoid toxic garden products and paints Sleep before 10 pm in a dark room 
    Avoid processed foods with preservatives and colourants Quell inflammation
    Avoid water in plastic bottles Ensure a healthy GUT


    Once you have determined what type of detoxifier you are, you may wish to book a Functional Medicine Health Coaching session to help you put it all together and personalise your daily food, supplementation, environment and lifestyle choices.




    Today, whenever I think of my liver I visualize the simple equation of "what goes in, must come out". Knowing that I have the sluggish liver genotype makes it really easy for me to limit the toxins coming into my body because I now know that I am slow at getting them out. Instead of putting unnecessary pressure on this incredible organ, I try to make choices that help, not hinder, its function. 

    Written by:
    Marguerite Doig-Gander
    BA (Speech, Hearing & Lang Therapy) Hons | FMCHC | ReCODE Coach


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