When you think Detox, Cleanse, or Detoxification…..which organ comes to mind first? Although you actually have 6 different systems that help with detoxification (liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, lymph, skin), your LIVER may arguably be the most burdened by this task.
Your liver is the ultimate multi-tasker with over 500 essential roles! It also happens to be the largest organ in your body.
The Liver’s Top 3 Roles (in my opinion):
- It helps clean your blood by both identifying and getting rid of harmful chemicals.
- It makes bile, which helps you break down fat from your food.
- It also stores glucose, which gives you a quick energy boost when you need it.
Without the liver, it’s impossible to have a properly working metabolism, healthy circulation, balanced hormones, clean blood, or a strong digestion. Daily life already exposes us to many different toxic substances that ultimately have to be processed through the liver. But when you add medications or intensive treatments, like chemotherapy, the liver has quite a job to do!
Let’s first take a look at all the things that burden and stress the liver. When you’re focused on helping your body detox, this list must be on your radar.
What Harms The Liver
Here are a list of the top “Liver Offenders”. Although you may not have control over all of these points, I encourage you to identify the ones you do have control over and make adjustments in your life to decrease your exposure. Also, remember that toxins get into your blood not just through your digestive tract but also through your skin and your lungs.
- Alcohol / Recreational Drugs / Smoking
- Toxic substances found in cleaning products, cosmetics, or even cookware
- Sugar & Refined Carbs
- Processed Foods
- Nutrient Poor Diet
- Food Sensitivities
- High Stress
- Hormonal Imbalances — the liver is responsible for detoxifying our hormones too
- Chronic Infections — this of course includes liver infections like hepatitis but also includes chronic GI infections or other infections like Lyme or Epstein Barr Virus
What Supports The Liver
The first step is to lower the overall toxic burden in your liver. The 2nd step is to fill your body with foods that actually help to build the liver and improve your detoxification pathways.
Use this list like a grocery list and include as many of these as possible in your diet every day. These foods, along with general liver support, becomes even more important when you’re going through cancer treatment or with long-term medication use.
- High quality, nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet: which is naturally full of fiber and antioxidants that directly improve liver function
- Bitter Foods: specifically probiotic-rich foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc), bitter greens (dandelion, arugula, endive, watercress, mustard greens, frisee, radicchio, etc), & apple cider vinegar
- Leafy Greens: kale, chard, spinach, mache, bok choy, etc.
- Cruciferous Veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.
- Sulfur-Rich Foods: onions, garlic, pasture-raised eggs, cruciferous veggies
- Grasses: chlorella, barley, wheat
- Other Plant Foods: carrots, artichoke, ginger, fennel, beets, apples
- Fresh Herbs: parsley, cilantro, oregano, turmeric, garlic
- High Antioxidant Fruits: berries, citrus (especially lemon, which helps to stimulate bile and push toxins out + grapefruit, which helps to boost detoxification enzymes)
- Healing Fats: specifically avocado, walnuts, coconut oil, & olive oil
- Liver Boosting Teas: green, turmeric, dandelion, stinging nettle, holy basil, milk thistle
Other liver supporting actions include:
- Removing Air Pollution: with indoor plants, essential oils, natural cleaning products, & even just by opening the windows to bring in fresh air
- Stress Management: stress affects all systems in our body and the liver is no exception
- Movement: helps to move blood & nutrients
- General Detox Support: epsom salt baths, saunas, intermittent fasting, etc.
What About A Liver Detox
If you follow the above advice, then the need for an actual “Liver Detox” is unnecessary. However there may be times when extra support is required. An extended fast or supplemental support could help quicken the healing and recovery of the liver but should only be done under the guidance of a qualified health provider.
Where To Start
Of course I want you to bring in as many of the foods and practices listed above as possible. The more you can do, the more your liver (& your health) will benefit. That said, I totally get that the list may be daunting. So…..here are 3 easy practices you can add in right now to start taking steps to protect your liver.
- Add a Morning Tonic — Start your day with a large glass of warm water and fresh lemon juice (1/2 of a lemon). You can get fancy and add some turmeric or ginger or apple cider vinegar to this drink if you want but even just the lemon will give your liver a boost.
- Add Leafy Greens — Out of all the veggies you can bring in, leafy greens will give you the most bang for your buck. They can easily be added into soups, stews, or sauces. You can also try adding in a daily green drink (smoothie or fresh juice).
- Ditch The Plastic — There are so many ways we are exposed to toxins but plastics don’t have to be one of them. Switch out your plastic containers for glass or stainless steel.
Take Home Message
The liver is the only organ that can regenerate! Did you know that?! I personally love this fact because this means you can actually heal, repair, and improve the health of your liver! When your liver is happy and functioning optimally here are just some of the benefits you can expect to see:
- Increased energy
- Clearer skin
- More regular menstrual cycles with reduced PMS
- Fewer infections and a stronger immunity
- Less digestive complaints with more regularity
- Fresher breath and oral health
- A positive mood and sharper mind
The most important 1st step is to get rid of as many toxins from your life as possible. Simply by reducing the burden on your liver, you can start to ignite the healing process and improve detoxification.
Next, fill your body with as many of of the foods and practices listed above to nourish and strengthen your liver. If you don’t like all the foods above, don’t worry, just include as many of the ones you do like and are willing to eat.
The more you take steps to protect (& love) your liver, the more this will trickle out into all aspects of your life and health.