If there is one organ that is overworked and underpaid, it is the liver. Our liver keeps us safe by clearing out the toxins we voluntarily (and involuntarily) ingest each day, protecting us from that blur of a wine-y weekend, that hormone-fueled junk food high, or even the on and off cycles of antibiotics we sometimes self-diagnose. But with each of these binges, we are slowly damaging our precious livers. With the holidays creeping up on us and the countless sweets, cocktails, and OTT holiday parties tempting us, our bodies may be feeling the need for some TLC, so let’s show them some love.
The liver’s main function is detoxification, so let’s support this vital function however we can. To clarify: this is not detoxification as we have come to know the term with the overload of marketing gimmicks trying to sell us on a “detox”. The liver works on finding substances in the body that can be harmful to you when accumulated and converting them to a less damaging form to excrete from the body. Our liver supports our energy, vitality, skin, fat-burning capacity, sleep, and sex hormone balance.
There are two phases to the liver’s very important job (bear with me for a mini health lesson): in the first phase, the substance (whether it be estrogen, alcohol, cholesterol) undergoes a round of transformation, and in the second phase that substance exits the liver through pathways, completing the detoxification and releasing the substance. The problem is, after years of putting our liver through the ringer, we have corrupted those pathways of release, causing the body to release the slightly changed form back into the bloodstream with nowhere else to go. A healthy liver cleanses itself naturally, but continuously putting it in overdrive may leave your liver in need of its own little detox.
Now I am going to tell you something that we all know, but don’t like to hear: alcohol consumption makes it hard for the liver to do its job. When we drink too much, our livers are so preoccupied with converting the alcohol that it leaves little time for other things to be broken down. Since alcohol is a serious threat to our body and cannot be excreted as-is, the liver converts it into acetaldehyde: the form in which it can be excreted and, coincidentally, also the culprit of that hangover headache the next day. Most health organizations recommend at least two alcohol-free days a week just to give your liver a chance to get back on its feet.
So, this may burst your bubble a little, but the most effective way to give your liver the break it needs is a whole healthy lifestyle, not just a couple of days cleanse here and there. I’m not saying cleanses don’t work, but a few days a month of bone broth and green juice are not enough to maintain the health of one of your most vital organs. Here are some foods to incorporate into your diet if your liver needs a little extra TLC:
Milk Thistle: one of the most well-known supplements for liver cleansing, with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to eliminate the buildup of heavy metals and environmental pollutants.
Turmeric: a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that goes after free radicals. It also aids in efficient estrogen and cholesterol metabolism. Unblocking accumulation in the liver can be assisted with this Turmeric based Fat Belly Liver & Gut Detox Tonic from Anima Mundi. *
Dandelion: helps maintain the proper flow of bile within the liver. Dandelion can be rather bitter, but some supplements out there mix it into their elixirs for taste. Try Urban Moonshine Healthy Liver Bitters for the digestion and liver function support your body may need.
Fermented Foods: Sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, kimchee and many other fermented foods are loaded with good bacteria to bring a balance in our digesting organs.
Beets: include betaine that help the liver cells eliminate toxins, and pectin, a fiber aiding in the clearing of toxins removed by the liver so they do not find its way back into our system, and betalains, pigments with high-inflammatory properties needed for the liver’s detoxification process.
When our livers are running how they should be, you see the benefits of weight loss, a boosted immune system, increased energy and even brighter skin. So let’s give that liver a helping hand.
* Over the counter liver cleanse supplements are not regulated by the FDA and have not been clinically tested for effectiveness.