Your liver is your best friend and superhero. Knowing how to look after it is the key to your health. Liver dysfunction plays a part in most diseases. Your liver is a multi-tasker performing over 500 functions which help keep your body in balance. The modern stressful lifestyle, alcohol, environmental chemicals, medicinal drugs, processed foods and fats can all damage your liver. A liver detox can go a long way to help reduce symptoms of an overworked or damaged liver.
What does your liver do?
- Helps metabolize the fats, protein and carbohydrates from your diet.
- Balances blood sugar by releasing glycogen when blood sugar is low.
- Stores nutrients such as Vitamins A,D, E, K, B12 and the minerals iron and copper.
- Filters your blood removing harmful viruses, bacteria, yeasts, and foreign substances.
- Creates proteins needed for blood cells and the immune system.
- Breaks down and detoxifies excess and old hormones to maintain balance.
- Filters and breaks down unwanted compounds produced during metabolism.
- Detoxifies chemical toxins by converting them into substances that the body can eliminate in the bile and urine.
- Produces 1 quart of bile daily which enables you to digest fat, absorb the fat soluble vitamins and detox toxins. Without it, cholesterol levels rise and many digestive disorders can result.
Your liver relies on a number of nutrients to work efficiently. If you do not eat the right kinds of foods to provide the liver with everything it needs for the elimination of the extra toxins you are exposed to daily your health will suffer.
Some of the signs that your liver may be struggling are:
- A slow digestive system
- Inability to digest fats
- Slow or sluggish metabolism
- Irritable bowel
- Abdominal bloating
- Food and chemical intolerance
- Feeling moody, depressed
- Foggy head
- Frequent headaches
- Unstable blood sugar levels and sugar cravings
- Coated tongue and bad breath
- Immune system problems
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Premenstrual tension
Doctors often recommend a liver function blood test to see if your liver is damaged. It may show raised enzyme levels that could indicate a liver infection or alcoholic liver but it cannot tell you anything about your liver’s detox function.
There are however, specialized tests used by functional medicine or naturopathic doctors that can assess your liver’s detox capacity. Problems in the liver detox pathways can show up long before the standard liver function blood tests show any abnormalities.
A two step detox system
Your liver has 2 main detox pathways or routes called Phase 1 and Phase 2. In Phase 1 a complicated process of enzymes breaks down toxins into forms that can be either be safely eliminated by your body or can go through Phase 2 . Here they are attached to other molecules that escort them out of the body through kidneys or bile.
Excessive amounts of toxic chemicals such as pesticides can disrupt the enzymes system of Phase 1 by causing over activity of it. This will result in high levels of damaging free radicals being produced which damage the liver cells.
Substances that may cause over activity during phase one are caffeine, dioxin, saturated fats, organophosphorus pesticides, paint fumes, sulfonamides, exhaust fumes and drugs. In order to get rid of or reduce these free radicals, you need foods that contain a lot of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
The antioxidants Vitamin A, C, E, selenium and many different phytochemicals are found in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A balancing act
There has to be a balance between the functions of Phase 1 liver detox and Phase 2 or a backlog of toxins can occur which also damage tissues. In some cases the chemical toxins modified by Phase 1 are more dangerous than the original if not dealt with by Phase 2. Researchers have discovered that your diet has a strong effect on liver detox and certain foods can help to balance Phase 1 and Phase 2.
How you can improve Liver Detox:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts kale and cauliflower. Eat a variety of orange, yellow, purple, and red colored fruits and vegetables.
- Asparagus, watermelon, broccoli are good sources of glutathione, an important substance involved in liver detox. Papayas and avocados help the body to produce glutathione. Other sources are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy, cress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas (swede), kohlrabi, red beets.
- Include bitter foods like dandelion greens, mustard greens, bitter melon, Romaine lettuce and can help in cleansing the
- Use dill, caraway seeds, tumeric, garlic and onions in cooking.
- Drink at 6 – 8 x 8 oz glasses of filtered water a day.
- Try the lemon liver detox drink every morning
- Omega-3 fats are very helpful. These fats are found in cold water fish such as wild salmon, sardines, and halibut. (avoid high mercury fish) Other sources are flaxseeds/oil, hemp seeds/oil, pumpkin seeds/oil and walnuts. Always make sure you buy very fresh nuts and seeds and store them in a cool place.
- Use cold pressed oils and do not use them for cooking. Only a little butter or coconut oil should be used for cooking. Cooking with olive oil is still controversial. If used then do not heat it to a high temperature.
- Avoid damaged fats such as hydrogenated fats found in many processed foods.
- Eat organically produced foods as much as possible to avoid toxic chemical residues.
- Avoid artificial flavorings and preservatives.
- Avoid excess saturated animal fat like fatty meat, sausages, bacon, salami, hot dogs, high fat dairy products like whole milk, ice cream and cheese.
- Alcohol is known to be a powerful toxin that will damage the liver.
- Take Silymarin (Milk thistle) a potent antioxidant that protects the liver by increasing its ability to detoxify numerous toxic substances, including pesticides and heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic). Help to regenerate liver cells.
- Take a good Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement that contains specific nutrients and antioxidants that support liver detox. I recommend Body Health Complete+ Detox.
- Make sure your bowels move at least twice a day and do a colon cleanse if you have not done so already. Toxins from the bowel make the liver work harder and use up the nutrients that are needed to detox chemicals.
- Get some exercise. You liver depends on good circulation to function efficiently.
Proper functioning of the liver’s detox systems is very important for the prevention of cancer. Up to 90% of all cancers are thought to be due to the effects of environmental pollutants from food, water, and air, combined with deficiencies of the nutrients the body needs for detox and immune system function. High levels of exposure to cancer causing substances together with slow detoxification enzymes significantly increases susceptibility to cancer. Take care of your liver and it will take care of you.