Spring symbolizes new beginnings, a time for movement and upward growth. Therefore, it is not surprising that several healing systems such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine consider this season the best time to cleanse and rejuvenate the body, specifically the liver and gallbladder. So before gearing up for the annual spring cleaning, why not detox your liver first? After all, it’s always best to start cleaning from the inside out.
When is it time for a liver detox?
A liver detox also referred to as a liver cleanse, is a program that aims to take toxins out of the body, improve digestion, and get the bile moving. By cleaning the liver, cell efficiency is enhanced, and the channels between liver cells are also cleared. This allows toxins to exit the body better since the liver is our main detoxifying organ. Other routes for detoxification are the lymphatic system, kidneys, bowel, lungs, and skin.
- Excessive belly fat and bloating
- Pain or discomfort along the area of the liver
- Chronic fatigue and lethargy
- Irritability or behavior changes
- Bad skin and profuse sweating
- Pruritus or intense itching
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Brain Fog
- Bad breath
These early signs of liver issues may or may not be immediately picked up by routine lab tests that are often more reflective of liver damage than the efficacy of liver function. The liver is a very resilient organ with a profound ability to heal itself. Therefore, even if your liver enzymes and proteins are considered normal, it does not mean that your liver is working as well as it should. So if you have a few or all of these signs, it is high time for liver detox.
What Causes Liver Toxicity?
Regular exposure to sources of toxins and harmful chemicals requires regular liver cleansing. As the organ works hard to break down and remove toxic compounds, the liver is bound to be full of toxins over time.
Common sources of toxins include:
- Chemicals from personal care and household products
- Farm chemicals (herbicides and pesticides) ingested through food
- Medications (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Food additives and preservatives
- Air and water pollution
Natural metabolic processes can also be sources of toxins. One example is the production of uric acid when the body processes purines (a substance found at high levels in foods such as meats, fish, alcohol and processed sugars). Bilirubin, the byproduct of blood cells breaking down, is another type of metabolic toxin that the body must expel. This waste is excreted from the body through the bile, the liver, and the bowels. Accumulation of bilirubin may cause jaundice and pigmented gallstones.
Individuals with gallbladder concerns would also greatly benefit from a liver detox since gallbladder issues are really more about the bile than the gallbladder. In the same way, a liver detox cleanses the bile more than the organ itself.
How to Detox Your Liver: Five Tips for Liver Cleansing
There may be a lot of factors that cause liver toxicity. However, many of these causes can be addressed and avoided easily by consciously taking time for a liver detox. You can commit to a 7- day liver cleanse, a 21-day or choose one simple method from our 30-Day Liver Detox Challenge every few months, depending on your lifestyle and schedule.
Below are five tips to remember while doing a liver detox:
Tip #1 Hydrate, but be mindful of what you are drinking.
Drink plenty of water.
Water is crucial for human survival because it hydrates the cells, regulates body temperature, and helps with oxygen and nutrient circulation. Water is beneficial during detox as it helps you to flush the toxins your body is trying to release. It also helps you control your food intake because drinking plenty of water supports appetite control and allows you to feel fuller for a longer time.
Drinking water helps stimulate the production of certain hunger-regulating hormones such as motilin and leptin. Gastrin, pancreatic polypeptides, and vasoactive intestinal peptides are also affected by water intake. Aside from playing crucial roles in bile movement and gallbladder emptying, these hormones are associated with hydrochloric acid and insulin secretion.
Add lemon to your water.
Aside from making your drink a bit more exciting, studies suggest that lemon juice has liver-protective effects on alcohol-induced liver injury in mice. The antioxidant-rich lemon in your water may help counter the destructive effects of chronic excessive alcohol consumption. Other studies using a mouse model also suggested that lemon water can help reduce uric acid levels, breaking it down and promoting the elimination of this metabolic toxin through urination.
Avoid alcoholic drinks.
While some articles recommend limiting alcohol intake, avoiding it altogether during a seven-day detox or the 30-Day Liver Detox Challenge would be best to rid the liver of as much waste as possible. Chronic alcohol abuse destroys liver cells and may lead to liver cirrhosis (scarring), alcoholic hepatitis, and liver cancer. So if you are a heavy drinker, while on a detox, staying away from alcohol for a while will be highly beneficial for liver recovery. Alcoholic drinks are also under the ‘do-not-eat’ list of the Gallbladder Diet.
Limit coffee intake.
There is no definitive response to the question – ‘Is coffee good or bad?’ For patients suffering from gallbladder attacks, coffee intake is discouraged. On the other hand, various studies suggest that coffee supports the liver and the bile and may prevent gallstone formation. This is in moderation, of course.
However, to detox the liver, it is recommended that coffee intake be limited since caffeine is a chemical compound that still has to be processed by the liver. Caffeine might interfere with the natural detoxification process. Moreover, sugar and cream that go with coffee are some foods that must be avoided with gallbladder problems and especially during a liver cleanse. If this drink is a must for you, a freshly brewed cup of black coffee without dairy or any sweeteners would be best.
Tip #2 Only consume foods that will help detox the liver – but only if your gallbladder is at a point where it can handle these things. (Do not eat cruciferous vegetables during an acute phase of gallbladder problems.)
While certain foods may cause liver toxicity, there is a long list of fruits and vegetables that are considered excellent to detox the liver.
Green, leafy cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, bok choy, and many others are best for liver health. These sulfur-rich vegetables are crucial for the production of glutathione. Glutathione is one of the most potent natural antioxidants and detoxing agents produced by the body.
Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in nitrates. Aside from supporting cellular metabolism and energy balance, this compound also prevents non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in animal models.
Lastly, the chlorophyll in green, leafy vegetables has strong antioxidant properties. It helps purify the blood of heavy metals.
One caveat for those people who are actively suffering from gallbladder or liver pain: cruciferous vegetables can induce such a powerful detox that they can occasionally increase pain or bring on an attack. If you think this applies to you, we recommend that you approach each cruciferous vegetable with caution, eating them in small amounts until you know how each one will affect your body. For some people, eating broccoli can cause pain and cabbage does not; for others it can be the opposite. That’s why it is important to learn exactly how your unique body will respond before indulging in large quantities of these powerful detoxing vegetables.
Foods rich in glycine
Foods rich in glycine like pumpkin, kale, cauliflower, cucumber, kiwi, and banana are also good for the liver. Glycine is useful for detoxifying the liver from food preservatives, salicylate drugs, environmental toxins, and carcinogens. This amino acid also helps protect the liver from alcohol-induced damage by keeping alcohol from reaching the liver. Low levels of glycine have also been implicated in the development of NAFLD. Therefore, eating glycine-rich vegetables during liver detox will significantly support its natural rejuvenation.
Avoid nightshade plants
Not all edible plants are suitable to eat during a liver cleanse. Patients with liver disease are advised to avoid plants under the Solanaceae family, also known as nightshades. Examples are eggplant, peppers, pimientos, tomatoes, and potatoes. In various animal studies, nightshades are considered hepatotoxic when used in high doses.
Try juice cleansing
If it’s challenging to fit eating all those fruits and vegetables into your busy schedule, juicing is a great alternative. Juicing will give you your daily dose of polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals without the hassle of sitting down and preparing meals. Smoothies (without added milk of any kind) can provide concentrated nutrients as well.
A five or seven-day juice fast is often done to lose weight quickly. But during a liver detox, losing weight is not the primary goal, but rather, it is an effect of eating clean and avoiding unhealthy foods.
Foods to avoid during the liver detox
Sugar or sugar substitutes, refined, and packaged foods should be avoided regularly, especially when you are trying to cleanse your liver from toxins.
Fatty foods, particularly industrially processed oils, are also hard on the liver (as well as the rest of the body). Overloading the body with fat alters energy metabolism and may lead to a fatty liver and other chronic diseases. It also limits the body’s ability to cleanse. So if you are committed to your liver detox program, do your best to avoid oil and fat in any form. Avocados, fresh coconuts, and cold-pressed olive and flaxseed oils, in limited amounts, are a few exceptions that can be gentle on the liver and the rest of the body.
Common allergens such as corn, soybean, peanut, wheat, and dairy must also be avoided during a liver cleanse. Taking these may prompt inflammation or trigger an adverse immune response.
Animal meat such as pork, beef, and turkey is also hard on the liver. So during liver detox, it is best to stick to a plant-based diet. Select small portions of lean white fish and/or small fish such as sardines and mackerel and choose skinless white meat chicken if you cannot avoid animal proteins.
Tip #3 Move and exercise
While exercise is commonly associated with weight loss, it is also an integral part of detoxing the liver. According to numerous studies, aerobic exercise or progressive resistance training helps reduce liver fat and improves enzyme markers indicating liver health. Whether an individual loses weight or not, exercise improves the management of liver fats and cirrhosis. Regular physical activities with moderate intensity also lower the risk of liver cancer by 60%.
Moving and exercising during a spring liver detox may also help reduce stress and improve mood, supporting a complete mind-body detoxification.
While working out during a detox diet is safe, it is crucial to take it slowly. Some individuals on a strong liver cleanse may experience flu-like symptoms while their bodies are getting rid of toxins and adjusting to a new lifestyle. This might make exercising more challenging so pace yourself accordingly.
Tip #4 Relax and meditate.
The first few days of the liver detox will be the most difficult. Relaxation and meditation can help you get through them. Whether it is through yoga, prayers, deep breathing, or simply listening to your favorite song, practicing meditation can help cleanse your mind while cleaning your body.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also very important for liver health. According to various studies, patients with cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and other liver conditions sleep significantly less well than healthy subjects. Sleep apnea is also associated with liver injury. The lack of good sleep affects digestion, metabolism, glucose balance, immune function, and much more. To help your liver heal and recover during a detox, ensure you get enough rest.
Tip #5 Support your liver detox with natural supplements.
Another option is to take some supplements with your regular diet. Supplements alone are always a helpful step, but not nearly as potent as following the tips above and adding in the supplements.
- Curcumin (only if you have determined that it doesn’t cause you pain)
- Any good milk thistle extract (seed, silybum or silymarin)
- Activated charcoal (use with caution if you are taking other medications)
- Dandelion (root and/or leaf)
- Globe Artichoke Leaf Extract
- Cinnamon Bark
- Beet Root
- Liver Detox Kit
- Bile Salts Booster with Taurine
- Gallbladder ND
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