While our bodies are generally self-cleansing, sometimes in our toxic world, they need a helping hand.
Pollution, pesticides, food additives, fluoridated water, chemicals in our skincare and a whole host of other hidden poisons find their way into our bodies, every single day.
It’s no wonder our detoxifying organs – like the kidneys, skin and liver – become overburdened.
How do you know if your body – and more specifically your liver – needs a detox? And what can you do about it?
Keep reading to find out.
The Role of Your Liver
Before we get to the symptoms of an overworked liver, let’s look at the vital role the liver plays in the body.
One of our biggest organs, the liver converts the nutrients from food into materials that the body can use. It also stores and supplies cells with these materials when needed.
In addition, it regulates hormones and plays a vital role in detoxifying our body – it converts or excretes toxic substances so they don’t cause us harm.
So you can see why it’s so important that we keep our liver in tip-top shape!
Signs You Need a Liver Detox
If your liver isn’t working to the best of its abilities, you may be experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
Bloating or Abdominal Discomfort
Cramping or pain in the lower abdomen, excess gas or bloating can be early signs of liver problems. (Of course, these symptoms can signal a great many other issues too!)
Those with liver problem often develop ascites – a build-up of fluid between the lining of the abdomen and the organs. Large amounts of fluid can cause discomfort, pain and even shortness of breath.
If you notice your skin has suddenly taken on a yellow hue, is itchy, dry or has dark patches, then it could be a warning sign. These skin changes are thought to occur because the liver is not releasing toxins properly from the body.
Urine and Stool Changes
If urine becomes dark or stool is pale or tar colored then it could be time to see a doctor.
Chronic tiredness is often an early sign of a liver problem as your body is working harder to try to remove excess toxins from your body.
Confusion or Cognitive Problems
When the liver can’t filter blood normally, toxins build up and can make their way to the brain, a condition called hepatic encephalopathy.
Symptoms include confusion and difficulty making decisions and remembering things.
Mood Swings or Depression
When the toxins make their way to the brain, they don’t just affect your memory. They can also affect your mood.
If you notice you’ve been anxious, angry or even depressed, take note of any other symptoms you’re experiencing as it could be down to the condition of your liver.
Weight Gain or Inability to Lose Weight
When the liver isn’t working correctly, the body is unable to metabolize fat properly. You may notice you can’t lose weight, or you’re suddenly getting fat in places you never had it before – particularly around the abdomen.
Because the body can’t regulate fat levels, it can throw off your cholesterol balance too. This causes blood fats (triglycerides) and bad LDL cholesterol to rise, while the good HDL cholesterol drops.
If left untreated this can lead to blocked arteries, heart attack and stroke.
We know that the liver converts nutrients from our food into substances that our bodies can use. In other words, it makes these nutrients bio-available.
But when our liver is struggling, it can’t make these nutrients bio-available and so our bodies are unable to absorb them.
The liver produces bile – a bitter alkaline fluid which helps digestion. If the liver’s work is impaired, less bile can mean you have a harder time digesting fatty foods and alcohol.
You may also suffer constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux or heartburn.
The liver keeps blood sugar levels steady and constant. When it’s not working, we can suffer ‘sugar crashes’. These occur when blood glucose levels rise abnormally after eating, then within hours fall rapidly, leaving us feeling exhausted, irritable, confused and lacking energy.
Continuous blood sugar crashes can lead on to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Another role of our all-important liver is to regulate the sex hormones. Naturally, a dysfunctional liver can lead to imbalances in the hormones estrogen and testosterone, which can cause issues like a reduced libido or worsened PMS symptoms.
For more signs that your hormones are out of whack, see here.
If you’re catching every cold and flu that’s going around, it might be more than a lack of Vitamin C that’s to blame.
Believe it or not, the liver plays a huge role in our immunity – that is, our ability to fight foreign bacteria and viruses.
Excessive Sweating or Body Odor
According to Liver Doctor, excessive sweating and an unpleasant body odor are signs your body needs to cleanse.
Fox News says that liver disorders can also produce bad breath (although this generally only happens when the disease is advanced).
Sleep Apnea or Snoring
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects the way you breathe when you’re asleep. It causes a brief pause in breathing which can occur up to hundreds of times a night, causing you to be suddenly jolted from your natural sleeping pattern.
It’s a pretty unpleasant condition that stops you from getting into a deep sleep, meaning your body doesn’t have the necessary conditions to rest and repair itself.
Those with sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal liver function, and their livers are more likely to have scars.
How to Detox Your Liver
Follow these steps to boost your liver function and stave off more serious liver conditions:
Clean up Your Diet – Foods to Avoid
To help your liver recuperate and restore itself, stop eating foods that put extra stress and strain on your body.
- Take the advice of Mercola, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Axe and just about every other health professional out there – cut out added sugars. Not only do these contribute to fatty liver disease and an overburdened liver, but they cause cancer, obesity and so much more.
- Ditch the sodas, candy and these 25 surprising sources of hidden sugar, along with simple carbs like white bread, white pasta and pastries.
- Cut out trans-fats and cooking oils like corn, sunflower and safflower and choose coconut oil for cooking instead.
- Skip the alcohol too which will only heap further stress on your already tired liver.
- You’ll also want to avoid pesticides in your food. Opt for organic produce wherever possible (and it’s possible even on a tight budget).
- GMOs have got to go! By eating organic you’ll automatically be avoiding genetically modified ‘Frankenfoods’ too – which have been shown to cause liver damage in animal studies.
Clean Up Your Diet – Foods to Eat
The good news is that you can eat more foods than you need to avoid!
- Load up on every leafy green and colorful vegetable you can find, fresh organic fruits and whole grains like oatmeal, wholegrain bread and brown rice.
- For protein and healthy fats try nuts and seeds; beans and other lean protein sources.
- Include naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, raw apple cider vinegar and other probiotic foods. Learn how to ferment your own foods here.
- As you’ll be cutting out sodas and alcohol, you’ll need to hydrate with other drinks. Along with plain water, try some refreshing Matcha green tea or one of these other healing herbal drinks.
Clean Up Your Home
Reduce the amount of toxins you are exposed to in your home. These harsh chemicals quickly make their way into our bodies and need to be filtered out by our detoxifying organs, including the liver.
- Everything from plastic food containers in the pantry, to non-stick pans can contribute to the chemical load that our bodies have to face. Check out these 10 common sources of toxins in your kitchen and pantry, and find out how to eliminate them.
- Household cleaners can easily be replaced with natural cleaning methods.
- Even your drinking water is filled with the chemical fluoride – here are some alternatives that may be kinder to the liver.
- While we all like a beautifully fragranced home, it shouldn’t come at the expensive of our health. Scented candles and air fresheners are loaded with toxic chemicals. Make your home smell amazing with these natural ideas instead.
- Filter your indoor air with these air-purifying plants and invest in a Himalayan pink salt lamp or two.
Clean up Your Personal Care Products
Our skin is our body’s largest organ meaning that what you put on your skin goes directly into your body.
Dr. Mercola even claims that putting chemicals on the skin might be worse than actually eating them.
When we eat food, our saliva and stomach can break down what we’ve eaten and filter out some of the toxins. But chemicals on the skin go straight into the bloodstream without any filtering!
What can you do to reduce this chemical load on your body?
- Firstly, try to cut down on the amount of personal care products you use.
- Secondly, buy organic personal care products (here’s a big list of the best) or, better yet, make your own. Check out the natural beauty section for plenty of tips and recipes.
- At the very least, make sure to read the labels of shampoos, soap, cosmetics, lotions and shaving creams to avoid these 12 toxic skincare ingredients.
To really support and improve your liver health, check out these 10 Top Ways to Naturally Cleanse & Detox Your Liver.
Finally, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or suspect you have liver problems, be sure to consult your doctor who can carry out the necessary diagnostic tests and put treatments in place.