The importance of the liver…
The liver has the imperative job of detoxifying everything we put into and onto our bodies, day in and day out. The process of detoxification is happening in our bodies all day, every day. However, the Western diet and modern lifestyle encourages us to put more toxins into and onto our bodies than our liver is capable of detoxing, resulting in the symptoms below. As the largest internal organ in the body (second largest organ after the skin), the liver requires more attention than we give it, if we want to achieve optimal health. Detoxification not only involves the liver, but the digestive system, kidneys, urinary system, skin, lungs and lymphatic system. Our ability to detox depends on the function of these organs. If the functioning of these organs is compromised, we will not detox as effectively.
Environmental (external) toxins: alcohol, caffeine, smoking, medications, preservatives, chemicals, pollution, electromagnetic radiation (computers, TV and mobile phones), pesticides, heavy metals, cleaning products, perfume, chemical skincare products and cosmetics.
Endogenous (internal) toxins: excess hormones (e.g. oestrogen dominance) and leaky gut. This is when undigested food particles enter the bloodstream and the body does not recognise them as they have not been broken down into their simplest form.
Symptoms indicating your liver needs love…
• Roll of fat around the liver (upper abdomen or for women, just below your bra)
• Anger/short temper and mood swings
• Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and unbalanced hormones e.g. oestrogen dominance
• Flushed/red face
• Congested head and skin – including acne
• Brain fog
• Floaters in vision
• Waking between 2am and 4am each morning (time when liver detoxifies the most) – especially waking hot and bothered
• No appetite for breakfast upon waking and prefer coffee for breakfast
• High cholesterol (cholesterol is processed and eliminated by the liver)
• Bloating easily and difficulty digesting fats
• Fatigue/tiredness and feeling groggy/toxic
• Difficulty losing/managing weight
• Tight shoulders (carry stress in shoulders)
• White/yellow coated tongue
• Abnormally itchy skin
• Dark spots on skin (liver spots) – especially hands
• Bad breath (originates in digestive tract)
• Constipation (stools remove toxins from the body)
• Foul smelling stools
• Regular consumption of alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, refined sugar and synthetic substances
Natural ways to love your liver everyday…
- Leafy greens and green superfoods e.g. dandelion, spinach, silverbeet, spirulina powder, chlorella powder, wheat grass juice/powder and barley grass juice/powder.
- Chlorophyll is the coloured pigment that colours these vegies bright green. It has a multitude of benefits to the body, including blood purification.
- Eat at least 1-2 handfuls of leafy greens, plus 1 teaspoon of green powder or 1 shot of wheat/barley grass juice daily. More bitter = better for the liver!
- Brassica/cruciferous family of vegies e.g. kale, cavolo nero, broccoli, broccolini, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, rocket, bok choy, pak choy, watercress, mustard greens, radish, horseradish, mizuna and turnips.
- Compounds in these vegies balance hormones, including eliminating excess oestrogen, which can cause cancer of reproductive organs e.g. breast cancer. Decreasing oestrogen may also reduce PMS and mood swings.
- Eat at least one serve daily. Choose raw over cooked, as some of the beneficial compounds are lost during cooking.
Try my Colourful Kale Salad recipe.
- Vegie juices and green smoothies
- Easy way to squeeze handfuls of leafy greens into one meal/snack. More greens can be consumed in liquid form than solid, because it’s time consuming and tiring chomping through a huge salad! Juices and smoothies are convenient on the run when we don’t have time to sit down to eat.
- Drink one juice/smoothie daily. Mix up combinations for an array of vitamins and minerals…you are only limited by your imagination! Fresh vegetable juice is a delicious and convenient way to clean your liver – perfect for people who don’t own a juicer or have the time to juice regularly.
4. Grapefruit and lemons
- Grapefruit is such an effective liver detoxifier that it can’t be eaten while taking many medications because it makes medications (toxins) breakdown too quickly. Eat one grapefruit daily with breakfast.
- Sour and bitter are the two most important tastes for stimulating the liver to detoxify. Drink the squeezed juice from one lemon daily before breakfast.
- Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and eggs
- Sulphur is a mineral abundant in these foods, which is important for liver detoxification.
- Eat at least one sulphur-containing food daily. Less cooking is better, as some sulphur is lost with heat.
- Become flexitarian
- The liver prefers more plant food and less animal food, although ensure that you are consuming adequate protein from plant sources. Amino acids (building blocks of protein) are required for liver detoxification.
- Decrease quantities of animal products (meat, poultry and dairy) to reduce congestion and toxic load. Replace some meat dishes with vegetarian dishes. Choose dairy-free milk over animal milk. Continue to eat eggs and fresh seafood for their beneficial nutrients.
- Lengthen fasting time and shorten feeding window
- One reason why intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss is because it lengthens the amount of time the liver detoxes without interruption. Followers of this eating regime often eat within an 8 hour window (e.g. 11am-7pm), therefore, fast for 16 hrs (7pm-11am). Fasting enhances liver function, allowing it to concentrate on eliminating stored toxins rather than continuously processing new things coming in all day (because let’s face it, most people snack all day!).
- Aim for at least 12 hrs between dinner and breakfast. If you eat breakfast 30 mins later and dinner 30 mins earlier, your liver has an extra 1 hour to detox uninterrupted. If you eat breakfast 1 hour later and dinner 1 hour earlier, your liver has an extra 2 hours to detox uninterrupted.
- Support lymphatic system
- Full body exfoliate/dry body brush (towards the heart), exercise (best is bouncing on a rebounder) and massage, all circulate lymph flow. Toxins remain stagnant in our lymphatic system unless we stimulate it.
- In an ideal world we would exfoliate/brush daily, exercise daily and have a massage weekly! Realistically we should aim to exfoliate or body brush 1-3 times weekly, exercise 3-5 times weekly and treat ourselves to a massage at the beginning of every season, or maybe monthly if you’re lucky!
- Reduce liver loaders – including alcohol, caffeine (coffee and energy drinks), trans fats (vegetable oils and margarine), refined sugar and synthetic substances e.g. pesticides, medications and unnatural cosmetics
- Eat natural, whole and unprocessed foods for vitamins and minerals, as the liver demands many nutrients to detox. Drink plenty of water to promote flushing of toxins out of the body. Ensure you eat sufficient fibre from plant foods to prevent reabsorption of toxins from the bowel, as constipation causes toxins to be absorbed back into the bloodstream from the bowel, when they’re supposed to be on the highway out of the body.
- Eat organic if possible to avoid pesticides. Choose natural cosmetics – your skin absorbs everything into your bloodstream!
- Herbal Medicine and Teas
- Hepatoprotective herbs protect hepatocytes (liver cells) against toxic damage. These include Milk thistle, Globe artichoke, Schisandra, Andrographis, Bupleurum and Rosemary. Milk thistle and Globe artichoke are also Hepatotrophorestorative, meaning they restore integrity of liver tissue. These potent herbs are dispensed by qualified Herbalists. Herbs and doses is selected on an individual basis.
- Dandelion, chicory and green tea, or other liver/detox tea blends can be purchased by anyone wanting to support their liver. The guideline for herbal teas is generally 3 cups of strongly brewed tea per day.
- Check out my Liver Detox Tonic.