Your liver works exceedingly hard, processing everything you take into your body, using what’s needed, and sending the rest to the proverbial dump.
The amount of toxins regularly ingested, inhaled, or absorbed is dependent upon lifestyle and environment. For many, the liver simply can’t keep up and gets backlogged, as it were, not working at optimal performance.
Think of it as the lint screen in a clothes dryer: after doing its job with a load of laundry, the filter is full of lint, dust, threads, and hair and skin particles.
If you don’t regularly remove the accumulated waste, you run the risk of fire and permanently damaging the appliance. Neither is a happy result.
Just as it’s simple enough to peel the gunk off the lint screen, if we’re mindful we can take steps to keep our liver working at its best.
What Does The Liver Do?
The liver is involved in all metabolic processes in the body (that is, over two hundred).(1) The “top 10” are below, though no one process can be deemed more important than the others.
- Produces protein needed for blood plasma
- Produces bile, which breaks down fats in the intestines and carries waste through the digestive tract
- Produces proteins and cholesterol that carry fats throughout the body
- Converts glucose (sugar) to be used for energy
- Regulates amino acids
- Processes blood hemoglobin
- Converts ammonia to urea for the body to eliminate
- Filters drugs and toxins from blood
- Assists in the regulation of blood clotting
- Removes bacteria from the blood and defends against infection
If the liver isn’t doing these things, there is serious risk to the entire body. In case of liver failure, the body will shut down in short order, progressing from jaundice to coma in as little as a few hours.(2)
How Will I Know?
Fortunately, the liver is remarkably adaptable and resilient. Your body will tell you when your liver needs help. If you experience some of the following conditions, you may need to detoxify your liver:
- Chronic upset stomach
- Recurrent headaches over the eyes
- Gallbladder attacks
- Light or pale-colored stools
- Chronic fatigue
- Bitter taste in the mouth
So Now What?
Feeding your liver the nutrients it needs to return to optimal performance is easy if you know what to eat. It’s also important to know what NOT to do: large doses of iron or vitamin A in the form of supplements (it’s hard to get too much through food); processed foods; cigarettes; over-the-counter, illicit, or prescription drugs; and high sodium intake all contribute to deterioration of liver function. In addition to diet, sufficient hydration and regular exercise promote liver function and all-around health.
Here are some specific foods to support liver health:
Fiber is important in the diet as it promotes the elimination of waste. Pectin is apple’s fiber that helps the liver–as the sanitation engineer of the body–to take out the garbage.
A superfood, versatile, rich in healthy fats and liver-supporting phytonutrients. Avocados contain high levels of glutathione, “the master antioxidant”. Glutathione is an anti-inflammatory that supports the immune system.
3. Beet and carrot
Studies have shown that beta carotene reduces liver cirrhosis(3) and these root vegetables are loaded with it.
Beta carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, which is necessary for healthy vision, immune system, and organ function.
Too much vitamin A can damage the liver, however, the amounts consumed in a balanced diet are exactly how much you need.
Allicin is an antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-cancer sulfur compound that is the major biologically active component of garlic, regulating fats.(4) Rich in the mineral selenium, garlic activates liver enzymes to flush out toxins.
Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C that stimulate production of enzymes that remove carcinogens and other toxins from the liver. The flavonoid phytonutrient naringenin promotes the burning of fat in the liver, rather than its storage.
6. Green tea
The antioxidant group called catechins reduces accumulation of liver fat and supports liver function.(5)
7. Leafy green vegetables
Vitamins, minerals, supportive phytonutrients, and fiber all contribute to a healthy liver by promoting the elimination of heavy metals from the body.
Natural probiotic filters, this type of vegetable in particular is efficient in removing any toxins found in the body, such as pesticides. There are so many from which to choose, mix it up and try something new!
8. Lemon and lime
Like grapefruit, these citrus fruits are full of vitamin C. In addition, the sour taste (caused by citric acid) stimulates liver enzymes. From a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food:
“The present study suggests that citric acid might find utility in treatment of toxic and inflammatory conditions of the brain and liver tissues…citric acid is naturally concentrated in citrus fruits with lemon juice and lime juice being rich sources of citric acid and intake of these has been suggested as an effective means of treating oxalate stones.”(6)
9. Olive oil
Another healthy fat, this fruit oil has been shown to prevent chronic liver damage by way of its antioxidant effects and metabolism support.(7) Specific to the liver, it reduces the collection of fat in the liver.(8)
Much of its efficacy is reduced with heat so drizzle it right from the bottle on to some of those yummy leafy greens. Be aware that not all oils labelled “olive” are genuine; do a little research before buying to make sure you’re getting the real thing.
Arhizome in the ginger family, this root’s benefits to human health are remarkable. Its medicinal constituent is curcumin, a phytochemical shown effective in protection from cancer in the blood, mouth, and organs.(9)
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, turmeric supports liver function through its quantification of boron, a mineral that protects proteins from oxidation.(10)
Its potency and bioavailability are supported when eaten with black pepper; piperene is an antioxidant alkaloid phytochemical that stimulates cells to absorb more of the nutrients in the foods we eat.
Take care of your liver. You have only one.