Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body. Responsible for over 500 functions, your liver performs essential roles in your metabolism, your immune system, your digestive system and your detoxification system.
The liver is most commonly known as the bodies main detox organ. Detox is short for detoxification. This is not a “buzz” word or something that was made up by diet professionals. It is a real, vital series of processes that keep your body healthy and free of disease through the removal of toxins. The liver filters every single quart of blood you have meaning that it is working all day and all night to protect your body from the damage that toxins can do to you.
Your liver is also responsible for filtering and processing all of your hormones. If your liver is not functioning properly it can lead to hormonal imbalances such as excess estrogens, faulty insulin production and more. If you are dealing with any kind of hormonal imbalance focusing some attention on your liver is essential.
What Are Toxins Exactly?
Toxins are substances that can cause harm to the body tissues. These are things like heavy metals, free radicals and metabolic end products. They can enter your body through food, air and water, as well as being produced within your body through chemical processes. In order to protect you from toxicity and cellular damage, the liver works in two phases to help clean your blood of toxins.
The liver detoxes your body in two phases:
Phase 1: In phase one, the liver will take a toxin and convert it into a less harmful toxin through either oxidation, reduction or hydrolysis. Simply put, the liver makes something that was once very toxic into something that is less toxic through a chemical reaction. This process does create other toxic byproducts that need to be neutralized through the ingestion of anti-oxidants and in phase two detox.
Phase 2: In phase two the liver attaches a buffer molecule to the toxin which makes it less toxic still. The toxin is then processed so that it becomes water-soluble which means that the body can now easily excrete it through the urine. Most toxins begin their journey in a fat soluble state which is very hard for the body to excrete.
Both phase one and phase two liver detox must be working optimally and in tandem for safe detoxification to happen. If you are not eating adequate nutrients, if either of the phases is working at a faster pace than the other phase or if you are over loading your system with toxins, you may run into troubles.
7 Reasons You May Need To Detox Your Liver
There are several reasons detoxing your liver may be a good idea. Here are my top 7 reasons to consider doing a liver detox of some sort:
1. Eating a Diet Rich In Saturated and Processed Fats: If you are eating a lot of processed foods that contain processed fats (think margarine, canola oil, corn oil and peanut oil), fried foods, or lots of non organic animal foods your liver will be working over time. That is because these foods all need to be processed by the liver and they are hard to break down and digest. They also produce lots of toxic byproducts when being digested.
2. Eating A Diet Rich In Processed Carbohydrates: In the same way that processed fats can over tax the liver, processed carbohydrate foods like white breads, white pastas, sugary drinks and candies all demand extra effort from your liver to keep your blood sugar levels stable as well as to remove the toxic substances these foods contain. Eating a processed carbohydrate rich diet will mean your liver is working over time.
3. Drinking Alcohol or Taking Prescription Medication: The liver has to filter every single substance you ingest, and alcohol and drugs are some of the hardest for it to filter. Consuming too many of these substances over a period of time can lead to liver damage, and even fatty liver or cirrhosis of the liver. These substances can actually inhibit the proper functioning of your liver, making them extra toxic.
4. Breathing Polluted Air: The air you breath can be amazing and pure, or stagnant and full of pollutants. If you are living in a city and are exposed to car exhaust, air conditioner, cleaning products, second-hand smoke (or first hand smoke), and other industrial byproducts your liver may need a boost. All of the toxins you breath in through your lungs must run through your liver to be processed. This means that toxic air can lead to an over loaded liver.
5. Not Getting Enough Sleep and Rest: In order for the liver to perform optimally, you need to be getting enough sleep. The liver is most active between the hours of 1 and 3 am. If you are consistently not getting to bed early enough so that you are in a deep sleep by the time the liver kicks in it is possible that it is not getting the time and space it needs to do its job properly. Adequate rest is essential for a healthy, optimally functioning liver.
6. Over Exercising: This one may surprise you, but did you know that working out causes the production of free radicals? Now, this is not to say that you should not work out in order to avoid free radical production. On the contrary, getting adequate activity is essential for pumping your blood and your lymph so that they move through the liver more efficiently which supports the detox process. However when you are over working yourself you will start to over produce free radicals that the liver may not have the resources to properly deal with in a timely matter. If you have been over training it is possible that you need to take a break and give a little love to your liver.
7. Eating A Nutrient Poor Diet Overall: As mentioned in the description of the liver above, both phases of liver detox reply upon essential nutrients to facilitate their function. For example phase one relies upon a steady supply of Vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin B3 and B6 and Vitamin E, just to name a few. Phase two requires that you are ingesting plenty of sources of essential amino acids like Glycine and Taurine, as well as Calcium. If you have been eating a diet that is low in nutrition (ie a diet rich in processed foods, or a diet that is just not providing you with adequate food and calories overall) you may need to detox your liver because there is a chance that it will be over run with toxins that it was not able to deal with due to the lack of nutrients.
3 Awesome Liver Detox Recipes
If you feel that your liver could use a boost, try adding one of these recipes to your daily diet for a few weeks.
1. Liver Boosting Beet Juice:
- 1 beet
- 1 carrot
- 1 lemon, peeled
- 1 handful parsley
Instructions: Run all ingredients through a juicer and enjoy.
2. Deep Green Liver Detox:
- 1/2 cucumber
- 2 cups kale
- 1 lime, peeled
- 1 cup swiss chard
- 1/2 lemon, peeled
Instructions: Run all ingredients through a juicer and enjoy.
3. Liver Detox Green Smoothie:
- 2 oranges, peeled
- 1/2 rib celery
- 1 lemon, peeled
- 1/2 cup dandelion greens (or other bitter green)
- 1/2 cup parsley
Directions: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Bonus Liver Supporting Foods and Herbs
Here is a list of foods that you can ingest on a regular basis to help support your liver and its detoxification processes:
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Sulphur rich foods like onions and garlic
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower
It is always a good idea to check in with a Naturopathic doctor, herbalist or other qualified health care practitioner before you start to use herbs as a treatment plan. If you have any questions or concerns, do check in with someone
Beet Root: Taken as a supplement, beet root can help to cleanse the liver of impurities.
Bitters: Bitters will help your liver to produce bile, an essential function in the digestion of fats. These herbs can help to support overall liver function.
Burdock Root: Burdock root is an extremely bitter root that is a powerful blood purifier. This will help to support your liver in its blood filtering work.
Dandelion Root: Dandelion root works to support the cleansing of the liver.
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle can work to cleanse and repair the liver tissues. This is most likely the most common of the liver supporting herbs.