Over the last three years I’ve discussed the detox setback that some people encounter after being on a low vitamin A (vA) diet.  The typical pattern of the low vA diet experience is that people first see a significant improvement in their health and overall sense of well-being. But, then, after about say 3 – 6 months, they start to see those improvements regress. In some cases they regress even more and sometimes even end up being worse off than before they started a low vA diet.  The percentage of people encountering the setback is somewhere around 30% – 40%, with a wide range of various degrees of severity. 

Of course, it would be fantastic if most people could take on this diet and just reliably see their health slowly improve.  Then, regardless of how long their health recovery takes, the low vA diet would be far more acceptable. Although a slow steady recovery has been the experience for many people, it’s too unpredictable and too random. As I’ve stated before, I consider the detox setback the biggest obstacle to the low vA diet gaining more interest and being widely accepted. I consider it being so serious that for the last three years I’ve been very reluctant to promote this diet change.  That does not at all mean that I am losing confidence in the low vA diet. Actually, it’s the opposite, I am completely committed and 100% confident that we are absolutely on the right track. But, asking people to take on a low vA diet and then seeing some of them develop worse health is quite unacceptable.

We’ve had several theories about why the detox setback develops. Some are:

  1. With a significant reduction in vA intake the liver is finally given a break from needing to store it, and then starts to detoxify its own cells and begins expelling extra toxic bile.
  1. The diet just ends up being so restrictive that people develop deficiencies in other nutrients.
  1. A B vitamin deficiency develops because of the additional carb consumption ( too much white rice, etc).

We now know for a fact that the first of those above theories is correct and that the liver is dumping more toxic bile as time goes on. We know this from people who have been doing regular vA serum level checks and sharing their results. What’s happening is that after a while of being on the diet their vA levels actually go up. There’s only a few possible sources of that extra vA. It’s mostly coming from the liver, and to a lesser extent from a reduction in adipose fat. 

The other two theories about deficiencies are probably partially correct too.

Now, I’ll add a few more theories to the list.

  1. Some people take a B multivitamin that includes niacin. It turns out that niacin significantly promotes the release of the fat stored in the liver. With that people start to endogenously poison themselves with even more extra toxic bile.
  1. Some people have taken supplements, such as lactoferrin, that hugely promote the dumping of bile. Obviously, that is highly dangerous. People need to be exceedingly careful with any and all supplements.
  1. Some people already have compromised / partially obstructed bile ducts leading to cholestasis. Then when the liver begins dumping the now extra toxic bile they simply can’t deal with it. In this condition taking any supplement that promotes even more bile dumping is going to be disastrous.
  1. A reduction in soluble fibre will cause an increase in the amount of toxic bile reabsorbed in the enterohepatic circulation cycle.

Okay, so what can we do about it?

Since I’m past the point of being able to experiment on myself, I’ve been taking a wait and see approach to what other people find as potential solutions to preventing the detox setback. One of the reasons and motivations for doing the community surveys was to see if we could spot a pattern that could give us more insight as to who encounters the detox setback and those who don’t. Unfortunately, nothing of significance has been gleaned from the surveys in this regard. As far as the community efforts by others to find a solution goes, there have been a few suggestions, but nothing really concrete.


One suggestion is that choline is a key factor needed to combat the excess vA and retinoic acid. There’s some good scientific basis for this and I’ve been really hopeful that it proves out. There’s a long running thread on the forum discussing it. 

Eggs as part of Vitamin A reduction

Please check it out and apply your own critical thinking to it. Personally, I’m taking a wait-and-see position on it.

I do agree that choline would most certainly help capture circulating vA and RA molecules and sequester them back into the liver. If effective, that would go a long way in reducing the severity of the detox setback. Although using choline to help scrub vA and RA from serum is good, it would be much better if we can prevent the extra vA from entering into the serum in the first place. So, maybe using choline combined with other measures will be more effective. However, the concept of getting the additional choline by eating whole eggs is not one that I can personally get on board with. Sorry, I just have too much hatred towards the vile toxic yellow molecule.

Have we been overthinking it?

Yes, I think so.  Additionally, just taking a wait-and-see what develops approach and hoping that others will share their findings has not worked out. It’s time we got back to basics and applied logical thinking to it.

Let’s start with what we do know:

We know that the biggest factor is that as people start reducing the amount of vA they take in, the liver starts detoxifying itself, thus releasing extra toxic bile. I consider bile to be a very toxic yellow sludge. Since about 85% of bile released into the intestine is reabsorbed, people then start to endogenously poison themselves. Here’s a good video describing the enterohepatic circulation process.

Obviously, capturing as much of that toxic bile sludge as possible and preventing it from getting reabsorbed is clearly critically important.

One question I’ve been asking myself is why didn’t I encounter the detox setback (at least not severely)? Additionally, I have some friends (and of my vintage) who have taken on this diet, and they have also not encountered the detox setback. Why? What was common between us? We all used activated charcoal and maintained a reasonable amount of soluble fibre from beans. I wrote about activated charcoal in my eBooks and about how it is commonly used to rescue people and animals from acute poisonings. Well, we now know that having a surge of extra toxic bile being reabsorbed is exactly that; an acute poisoning. Except it’s even worse for us because our now acute poisonings are happening almost everyday.

I used activated charcoal for about the first year of my own diet. I was taking about a ¼  teaspoon of it every 2nd or 3rd day. I wasn’t super consistent about taking it, but I do think what I did take was helpful.  My big mistake was not continuing to use it much after that first year. I now think my overall recovery would have been considerably faster if I had kept taking the activated charcoal.

How about this for a strategy for preventing the detox setback?

  1. Taking activated charcoal is probably not optional, but rather it’s required. And, continue taking it for a good long while, or at least until you’re sure it’s not needed or it’s not working for you.
  1. People need some source of fibre while taking on this diet.  I know a lot of people don’t tolerate beans, so they’ll have to use another source of fibre. Apples would be a good choice, or some supplemental fibre that works for them. Taking too much fibre can obviously also be a problem. So, start slow.
  1. Consider making plasma donations.
  1. Do NOT take any supplements that promote bile dumping or liver “detoxing.”
  1. Be super careful with other supplements. Health is not found at the bottom of a pill bottle.
  1. Be aware of high niacin content foods such as peanut butter. For the same reason, don’t take a B multivitamin.
  1. Keep your mental stress as low as possible (stress causes bile dumping).
  1. Don’t take on strenuous / extreme exercise. Be gentle on yourself. Taking it slow and steady wins the race here.
  1. Carefully self-monitor your progress and setbacks and adjust accordingly.
  1. Be super careful of taking anyone’s advice (including mine of course). Always think for yourself.

The discussion thread for this post is here: