banner
alive logo
foodfamilylifestylebeautysustainabilityhealthimmunity

Love Your Liver

Detoxifying from the inside out

Share

Love Your Liver

A poorly functioning liver may not always reveal itself to your doctor during a physical examination or through blood tests collectively called liver-function tests.

An old friend you have not seen in over 10 years tells you that she thinks you need to do a liver cleanse. Being an avid reader of alive magazine and a supporter of organic foods, health food stores, and nutritional supplements, you are both shocked and dismayed at her coffee-shop “diagnosis.” After a few depressing hours wondering what your friend was thinking, you consult your alive Encyclopedia of Natural Healing only to discover that you have at least 12 of the most common signs or symptoms of a toxic liver. Advance Warning A poorly functioning liver may not always reveal itself to your doctor during a physical examination or through blood tests collectively called liver-function tests. In fact, it may take years for an unhealthy liver to manifest a disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. What kinds of symptoms might warn someone that they need to detoxify their liver before disease actually sets in? While there may be many different health issues or conditions that signal potential liver problems, some of the most common ones include a history of exposure to toxic substances, heavy drug and/or alcohol use, or the pre-existence of various diseases or conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or chronic digestive disorders. A Critical Role What does the liver do, and why would it need to be cleansed? The liver sits in the right upper side of your belly and performs thousands of tasks vital to life. Its most valuable role is detoxifying the body after exposure to or ingestion of harmful foods, chemicals, and microbes. The liver’s role in detoxification is achieved through complex enzyme systems known as phase I and phase II detoxification pathways. These enzyme systems require a number of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytochemicals found in foods to work properly. There are well over 100,000 different toxins found in our food, water, and air, including polycyclic hydrocarbons found in various herbicides and pesticides (such as DDT, dioxins, 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D, and PCBs). The medical profession contributes its share of toxins to our bodies in the form of liver-stressing antibiotics, analgesics, narcotics, synthetic hormones, tranquilizers, and thousands of other damaging drugs. In addition to detoxification, the liver is critical for many aspects of digestion (breaking nutrients down) and assimilation (building up body tissues). It stores many essential vitamins (B12, A, D, E, and K) and minerals such as iron and copper. Red blood cells, responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, are also produced in the liver. The Kupffer cells in the liver filter bacteria and small foreign proteins out of the blood and help the body fight infections. Hormones and blood-clotting factors are also metabolized in the liver. With its multitude of biochemical roles, it is easy to see how the liver can get into trouble either as a result of nutritional deficiencies or an overtaxing of its detoxification functions. What can you do to help your liver? Periodic liver cleansing can be of value to even the healthiest of individuals. Diet for a Healthy Liver While there are dozens of different liver cleansing programs, they all include basic dietary changes and some health-enhancing supplements. Drink plenty of water (6 to 12 cups/ 1.5 to 3 litres per day) because water helps the kidneys flush out toxins. Avoid multiple vitamins containing iron and high doses of preformed vitamin A, as these too can stress an unhealthy liver. Regular vegetable-juice fasting with beets, celery, and carrots is ideal, but if juice fasting isn’t possible for you right now, emphasize high-fibre fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes in your diet. Include foods that support the liver detoxification pathways (see sidebar). Avoid animal products (meats, fish, and all dairy products), saturated fats, refined sugar, drugs, and alcohol. Heat It Up Your fat and muscle cells can store up to five grams of toxic environmental chemicals, drugs, and thousands of other poisons. Collectively, these have been termed xenobiotics (chemicals foreign to the body). Some of these are toxic to the liver, the immune system, the nervous system, or the kidneys. Some xenobiotics mimic hormones like estrogen, and some cause cancer. These toxins eventually damage all your organs, including the liver. No diet, coffee enema, colonic irrigation, chelation therapy, or nutritional supplement alone can clear these out of your system. However, sauna heat mobilizes these toxins out of the fat and muscle cells into the skin, which then sweats them out of the body. People who do not tolerate the conventional steam or dry sauna due to heart or circulatory problems usually do well using infrared saunas, which don’t stress the cardiovascular system nearly as much. To achieve an effective cleanse, combine exercise and sauna treatments (at least half an hour daily) for two weeks. This should be done under the supervision of a health-care provider familiar with detoxification. It’s a Toxic World Out There While following a very healthy diet–eating only organic foods and drinking spring water–is ideal, in the real world most of us are still exposed to thousands of chemicals and drugs in our daily lives. Our only reasonable defence is to get sufficient antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Lipotropic agents remove fats from the liver and improve bile flow, thereby aiding detoxification. Those suffering from weight-control difficulties, digestive problems, and high blood-fat levels would especially benefit from using the supplements. Liver cleansing need not be done forever, and most healthy people can do an excellent cleanse following the guidelines outlined in this article for a period of two to three weeks annually. For those suffering from hepatitis, cancer, autoimmune disease, or other serious health challenges, liver cleansing will take considerably more time, depending on the individual. Check with your natural health care practitioner for further information and advice on detoxifying the liver. With the improved energy and health you’ll gain from maintaining a healthy liver in a toxic world, you’ll want to thank that old friend who first mentioned you could use a liver cleanse. Do You Need to Detoxify Your Liver? The following signs, symptoms, and diagnoses may indicate that your health would benefit from a liver cleanse.

  • acne, skin rashes, eczema, psoriasis
  • auto-immune diseases
  • benign skin tumour(s) known as hemangiomas
  • cancer
  • chronic depression
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • chronic food, chemical, or environmental allergies
  • chronic headaches
  • chronic indigestion, bloating, and gas
  • chronic insomnia
  • cirrhosis of the liver
  • constipation
  • Crohn’s disease or colitis
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatty liver
  • fibromyalgia
  • gallstones or gallbladder removal
  • heart problems
  • heavy metal toxicity
  • hepatitis A, B, or C
  • high cholesterol/high triglycerides
  • jaundice
  • liver failure
  • liver parasites
  • long-term hormone replacement therapy
  • long-term use of birth-control pills or anabolic steroids
  • low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • low energy
  • low sex drive
  • migraines
  • multiple chemical hypersensitivity
  • osteoarthritis
  • overweight in excess of 20 lbs (9 kg) or obesity
  • past surgery on intestines
  • recreational drug and alcohol use
  • senility/dementia
  • thyroid problems
  • type 1 and 2 diabetes
  • yeast overgrowth (candida)

Foods, Herbs, and Spices That Support Liver Detoxification

  • apples
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • brown rice
  • brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • caraway seeds
  • carrots
  • dandelion greens
  • garlic
  • oat bran
  • onions
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • turmeric, cinnamon, licorice
  • walnuts
Reversing Liver Damage Use one or more of the following herbs and other nutrients.
SupplementDaily dosage
Silymarin (milk thistle extract)500 mg or more
N-acetylcysteine500 mg, 3 times daily
Alpha lipoic acid300 mg, 3 times daily
Coenzyme Q10100 mg, 3 times daily or more
Curcumin500 mg, 3 times daily
L-taurine (prevents or breaks down gallstones)500 mg, 3 times daily
S-adenosyl-methionine/SAMe (boosts phase 2 liver detoxification pathways)400 mg, 3 times daily
Ginger root herb tea (note: may interact with anticoagulants)2 or more cups (500 mL)
Dandelion tea2 or more cups (500 mL)
Burdock tea2 or more cups (500 mL)
Licorice root herb tea (note: may elevate blood pressure in susceptible individuals)2 or more cups (500 mL)
Schisandra tea (especially effective for hepatitis)2 or more cups (500 mL)
Lipotropic Agents Lipotropic agents remove fat from the liver and improve bile flow.
AgentDaily dosage
Choline (from lecithin)1,200 mg or more
Betaine100 mg or more
Methionine500 mg or more
Hempseed or flaxseed oil (helps replace bad fats with healthy essential omega-3, -6 and -9 fats)1 Tbsp (15 mL) or more
Antioxidants to Prevent Liver Damage
AntioxidantDaily dosage
Beta carotene10,000 IU
B complex (must contain folic acid and vitamin B12)50 mg or more
Vitamin C1,000 mg or more
Vitamin E400 IU
Bioflavonoids1,000 mg or more
Zinc25 mg
Selenium200 mcg
Ad
Advertisement
Advertisement

READ THIS NEXT

The Most Vegan and Vegetarian-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

The Most Vegan and Vegetarian-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

alive Editorial

alive Editorial

The 10 Best Prebiotic Foods for Any Diet

The 10 Best Prebiotic Foods for Any Diet

alive Editorial

alive Editorial