The liver is responsible for many important functions which affect the entire human body. Some of these include cleansing the blood of harmful contaminants and breaking down exhausted hemoglobin cells, regulating hormones such as insulin which controls blood sugar and energy levels, storage of vitamins and minerals, production of bile for digestion of fats, and the processing of proteins obtained from food into usable form. Needless to say, when the liver is stressed or overworked, every other system is negatively affected.
Unfortunately, with all of the environmental toxins and hidden poisons which most of us encounter and absorb into our bodies on a daily basis, it is very easy for the liver to become toxic itself. For this reason, it is crucial to know how to aid this most important of organs in flushing unwelcome materials out of itself and out of the body. Take a look at the following 1o methods to naturally detoxify your liver.
1. Boost Your Glutathione
Glutathione is an antioxidant which the human body natural synthesizes from amino acids L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycine. This nutrient not only functions to prevent oxidative damage to cells, it also plays a key role in supporting many of the liver’s detoxifying functions. While our bodies produce a moderate amount of this important antioxidant, in most cases it isn’t enough to counter the amount of toxins to which we are exposed every day. For this reason alone, most people have a glutathione deficiency and that means a toxic liver.
One of the most important steps a person can take to detoxify and repair the liver is to bolster the body’s natural production of glutathione with supplements such as this one by Nature’s Answer or through changes in the diet (which are covered in depth below.)
For more information on the benefits and sources of glutathione, check out this post from Wellness Mama.
2. Take Time to Exercise
Physical activity isn’t just for weight-loss, it also improves the function of every organ in your body including the liver. Thirty minutes of vigorous exercise each day strengthens the circulatory system, facilitating more efficient transport of oxygen and nutrients to cells as well as the movement of toxic materials out of the body through the sweat glands and bowels.
Just be sure not to over-do it as excessive physical activity can actually cause an overload of oxidative damage which will exhaust the body’s supply of antioxidants like glutathione.
3. Remember to Stay Hydrated
In order to flush out toxins, your liver needs adequate water. (Think of it like rinsing out a sponge.) Water acts as a carrier for other materials, moving them from the liver, through the kidneys or out through the sweat glands. Keeping your body hydrated also increases energy levels which will boost your metabolism, allow you exercise more comfortably, and improve your overall health.
If you aren’t certain how much water you should be drinking each day, check out this hydration calculator on About.com.
4. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
In order to protect cells from oxidative stress which may result from a vigorous detox plan, you will want to include foods containing nutrients such as vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, B-vitamins, zinc, and selenium in your diet. In addition to being antioxidant, each of these vitamins and minerals also offers its own auxiliary benefit which will aid your liver in flushing out contaminants.
Vitamin A & Beta-Carotene
Vitamin A and beta-carotene (which our digestive enzymes convert into more vitamin A) trigger the activation of a nuclear receptor within human cells called the pregnane X receptor (PXR). This receptor senses and reacts to the presence of toxic foreign substances inside the body by increasing synthesis of the biochemicals (including glutathione S-transferase) responsible for removing these contaminants. Furthermore, PXR is one of the two receptors responsible for production and transport of bile, metabolism of fats, and regulation of inflammation within the liver. (source)
That said, eating foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, and beet greens is an excellent way to jump start your liver detox. Note that while many people advise eating raw veggies in order to take full advantage of their nutrients, lightly steaming foods such as dark leafy greens and carrots makes them much easier to digest. Also, because Vitamin A and beta-carotene are fat-soluble, consider adding a tablespoon of organic grass-fed butter or unrefined organic coconut oil to your greens and root veggies to further increase the bio-availability of these two important nutrients!
In addition to being an antioxidant, vitamin C provides cells with a boost of much-needed energy to fuel detoxification. Yellow and red sweet bell peppers, dark leafy veggies such as kale and spinach, as well as thiol-rich broccoli are all excellent sources of vitamin C.
Meat and soy products, as well as mushrooms, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and asparagus provide high concentrations of B-vitamins which help the liver neutralize toxic materials and process important nutrients while simultaneously shielding cells from free-radical damage.
Antioxidant zinc is required for over 100 enzymatic processes throughout the body, including many of those involved in liver detoxification. Boost your zinc levels by enjoying foods like cooked oysters, toasted wheat germ, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
In addition to protecting cells from oxidative damage, selenium aids in the production of glutathione and works to restore elasticity in hardened liver tissues. While selenium supplements are available, it’s best to up your intake of this trace element from foods such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, and lean meat.
5. Feed Your Body Thiols
Vegetables like garlic, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus all contain high levels of thiols – the sulfur-containing organic compounds which give these foods their signature and often pungent odors. Inside the human body, thiols act as chelating agents, meaning that they bind to toxic metal ions at a molecular level, rendering them inert, then transporting them out through the bowels and urinary tract.
Furthermore, protein-rich foods such as eggs, poultry, pork, and dairy products also contain high levels of the thiol L-cysteine, one of the three amino acids responsible for synthesis of the detoxifying antioxidant glutathione (discussed in #1.)
Remember, thiols are powerful compounds which maintain their funky smells as they pass through the body. Be sure to enjoy a variety of foods from both of the above-mentioned groups in moderation to give your liver the full spectrum of detoxifying organosulfur support without accidentally turning yourself into a living, breathing stink bomb!
6. Try Spirulina
Arthrospira platensis – the blue-green algae commonly known as Spirulina – is a single-celled microscopic organism which has long been recognized for its incredible liver-protecting capabilities. Not only is Spirulina a powerful anti-oxidant, it is also packed with nutrients, essential fatty acids, and chlorophyll, all of which contribute to the liver’s detoxifying activities. For more information on how Spirulina can help to protect your liver and improve your overall health, read up on these 10 Reasons Why Spirulina Should Be Added To Your Diet Right Now!
Want to try Spirulina for yourself? Try this raw, organic Spirulina powder available from here.
7. Consider Milk Thistle
While there are many herbs and herbal cocktails which claim to be able to detoxify the liver, milk thistle (also known as St. Mary Thistle) is considered to be the most effective. With a track record of over 2,000 years backing its hepatoprotective qualities, milk thistle may be able to give your liver the support it needs to flush out a major toxin overload.
As with any herbal supplement, milk thistle has the potential to negatively interact with other medications. If you intend to use it, you’ll definitely want to consult with your physician first.
Once you’ve discussed use of milk thistle with your doctor and received the “go ahead,” try this highly-rated supplement from Nuforma Naturals.
8. Have An Apple-a-Day
While they may not always keep the doctor away, eating fresh organic apples will make your liver happy. Apples are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients which aid the body’s detoxification efforts. Apples provide flavonoids which lighten the liver’s workload by assisting with its production of bile. Furthermore, apples are rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber which absorbs toxic metals and other contaminants from the blood stream, so the liver doesn’t have to process them.
Just be sure to get organic apples so you can avoid introducing any more pesticides into your body!
Further Reading: 21 Natural Ways To Rid Your Body Of Heavy Metals
9. Increase Your Arginine
During the detoxification process, you’ll want to be sure that your liver has the right tools in adequate quantities to handle all of the toxic byproducts that your body can throw at it. One of these crucial biochemical tools is arginine – the amino acid which aids the body in neutralizing and flushing out ammonia from your system. While the human body is capable of synthesizing L-arginine on its own, you may need to supplement your natural supply if your liver is in particularly bad condition.
If you aren’t certain about whether or not you need to increase your arginine levels, as always you should consult with your doctor.
When you’re ready to try arginine, you can purchase supplements here. This semi-essential amino acid may also be obtained from foods such as yogurt, whey protein, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and soy products. For more information, check out this list of Foods High in L-Arganine on Livestrong.com.
10. Cut Back on Fructose
Detoxification can be a strenuous process for your liver. With this in mind, you’ll want to do everything that you can to avoid adding to this hard-working organ’s to-do list. High-fructose foods like juice, soda, syrups, and other sweet liquids are not only taxing on the liver, processing these super-sweets also takes precedence over other functions such as detoxification. Give your liver a break by avoiding any foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, added fructose, honey, agave, and other liquid sugars.
Read more about cutting sweets from your diet in 10 Convincing Reasons You Need To Quit Sugar then pick up a few tips that will help you achieve this goal by reading 10 Tricks To Help You Quit Sugar In Two Weeks!
The information provided in this article, as well as that contained in any linked articles is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor before using herbal supplements or making major changes to your lifestyle. Your liver will thank you!