Your liver is the key detoxification organ in your body. Along with removing toxins from the body, your liver processes food nutrients and helps to regulate body metabolism. This is why when your liver is damaged you start to accumulate harmful toxins in your body, you do not process food nutrients as efficiently, and your metabolism can really take a hit.
How to Really Detox Your Liver
So how do you really detox your liver? There are many products available on the market that claim to help with detoxing the liver. There are also many diets that propose the same. The problem with many of these products and diets is that they are often expensive and not sustainable. As soon as you stop taking the product or following the diet and return back to your usual lifestyle you will find the same problems occurring with your liver. To simplify the process of ‘cleaning out’ the liver I find the best strategy is to follow this three-step process:
Remove Toxins – the toxins that most often damage the liver are alcohol and common medications like paracetamol. Reduce the amount of these to within safe limits. The amount of liver damage will determine whether your physician will recommend you abstain from alcohol for a period of time to allow your liver to regenerate. Additionally, be cautious with the amount of caffeine you are consuming. Although in amounts up to 200 mg in adults (about 3–4 cups of coffee or tea) caffeine is a stimulant of liver function. Amounts of caffeine consumed above this can also cause some liver damage.
Clean Up Your Diet – along with reducing alcohol, the other dietary changes that you need to make to clear out your liver is to reduce the amount of processed foods and drinks you consume. Processed foods and drinks are often high in toxic fats such as trans fats and/or sugars, which are both equally damaging to the liver, but also contain preservatives, additives and artificial colourings. As these have no nutritional value at all but are seen as toxins, the liver has to work hard at eliminating them. Processed foods include items such as cakes, pastries, some cereals, biscuits, desserts, packaged fried foods and confectionary. Fresh is always best when it comes to the majority of foods we should be consuming. Processed drinks include soft drinks, energy drinks and flavoured milk drinks. Try and get used to drinking plain water.
Support Liver Function – there are a few foods as well as natural medicine items that can help with supporting liver function. These include vegetables from the ‘brassica’ family –broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage. The protective effect of the brassicas is due to their high content of something called glucosinolates. Once these vegetables are chewed and digested, glucosinolates are converted into two types of highly reactive compounds, which work together as powerful stimulants of the liver’s detoxification pathways. Eating a serve of these types of vegetables regularly will help give your liver a boost. You can also purchase the brassica extract in tablet form. I personally feel, however, that nothing is a substitute for the real thing when it comes to food items, but this in an option for those of us who have significant liver damage and/or do not eat enough of these types of vegetables.
The other natural medicine item that is available on the market with evidence indicating liver support is ‘silymarin’ (also known as ‘St Mary’s Thistle or milk thistle). This is an approved substance used in Europe for liver disease and can be taken even if you have mild liver disease. Always consult your physician, however, before taking any new substance, to ensure correct dosage and effects on with any other substances you may be taking.
Finally, as the liver and gut are intrinsically linked you cannot truly support liver function without supporting optimal gut function.