Research & Education

The Role of Soluble Fiber in Detoxification

Dietary fiber, such as glucomannan, may support liver detoxification and the successful elimination of toxins through healthy bowel movements. Liver detoxification is a process that mobilizes, transforms, and eliminates exogenous and endogenous toxicants from the body. The elimination action requires the aid of the kidneys, gallbladder, and intestines through the proper regulation and frequency of urine and bowel movements.

Bile is synthesized by hepatocytes in the liver and serves as the major excretory route for toxic substances. After being synthesized, the bile is moved into the gallbladder and is either stored or delivered directly into the intestines. Bile may then be reabsorbed in the intestines or eliminated through bowel movements. Although bile is approximately 95% water, it contains numerous waste products, including bile salts, bilirubin, cholesterol, amino acids, steroid hormones, enzymes, vitamins, heavy metals, exogenous drugs, xenobiotics, and environmental toxins.

Dietary fibers, or nondigestible carbohydrates, may support the body’s main detoxification organs, the liver and kidneys. The concept has given rise to terms such as the gut-liver axis and the gut-kidney axis. First, dietary fiber promotes healthy bowel movements and intestinal motility, thereby aiding in eliminating toxins from the body. Second, fiber may support detoxification through its systemic benefits in supporting healthy microbial environments, gut barrier function, healthy inflammatory and immune responses, and by potentially activating detoxifying enzymes in the liver, such as cytochrome P450 enzymes in phase I detoxification.

Glucomannan, a soluble fiber derived from the Japanese konjac plant, has been shown in human clinical trials to support occasional constipation by potentially increasing stool volume without adversely affecting the microbial environment. In one clinical trial (n = 64), pregnant women who were administered 4 g of glucomannan both in the morning and at night, along with a glass of water, reported at least six times more bowel movements when compared to the control group of participants who ingested magnesium hydroxide.

Han and colleagues performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (n = 122) on the effects of glucomannan on functional constipation in children. The children receiving glucomannan supplementation (approximately 2.52 g per day to 5 g per day) had an increased frequency of bowel movements. A previous systematic review concluded that individuals of all ages experiencing occasional constipation may have increased bowel movement frequency with higher consumption of glucomannan. Future large-scale studies are still needed.

Fiber is critical for the excretion of toxins in a timely manner. Glucomannan is a potent soluble fiber that may help with occasional constipation, potentially aiding in the liver final stages of detoxification.

By Danielle Moyer, MS, CNS, LDN