Magazines, health stores, integrative medical centers and almost everyone seems concerned with optimizing our metabolic detoxification processes, recommending various “cleanses” or “detox” programs in an attempt to help with illnesses from A to Z, from acne to zoster virus.
All protocols share something in common. They emphasize the liver’s ability to biotransform and detoxify our system, cleansing our bodies of harmful toxins and unnecessary biproducts of our metabolism. But how efficient is this process and how can it be optimized?
Liver– a Multi-Purpose Organ
Your liver is the size of a football, weighing roughly 3 lbs., and is the largest solid organ in your body. It is safely protected behind the ribcage on the right side of your abdomen, right below the diaphragm. (1) This organ is equipped to participate in over 500 functions (2), among which are:
- Manufacturing bile necessary for the elimination of waste and emulsification of dietary fats during the digestive process
- Creating cholesterol and specialized carrier proteins required for transporting fatty acids throughout the body
- Transforming glucose into glycogen, which it stores as an emergency energy source
- Production of blood plasma proteins
- Maintaining the blood amino acid levels
- Processing hemoglobin to utilize stored iron
- Controlling the clotting and coagulation of blood
- Enhancing immunity by producing essential immune factors and removing bacteria from your blood
However, the liver is best known for its central role in our system detoxification.
Liver– Your Detoxification Center
Imagine the delicious meal you just consumed, now being digested and broken down into smaller and smaller particles, which will then be transported through the portal vein to your liver. At the same time, oxygen-rich blood is brought to the liver by the hepatic artery. Inside the liver, your blood travels through smaller and smaller blood vessels that enter the 2 primary hepatic lobes. Each lobe consists of many small hexagon-shaped lobules. And each of these lobules is made up of liver cells, also called hepatocytes, which line up in rows along tiny blood vessels that diffuse your molecules from the blood stream into these liver cells. (3)
Hepatocytes inspect, separate and process the various molecules of food they receive. If necessary, they break these molecules into more bioavailable forms and then they release them back into the blood stream to be shared with the rest of your system.
However, toxins and waste products have a different fate. Once detected, your liver will biotransform them into water soluble molecules that can be excreted through your digestive system or your kidneys. This biotransformation process has two phases that are highly dependent on dietary nutrients.
The biproducts of your liver’s biotransformation are then removed from your liver cells and lobules and are carried together with the bile through a network of connected ducts that transport these toxins to the gallbladder. At the appropriate time, the liver’s waste products are eventually released into the small intestine from where they will be excreted when you have a bowel movement. (4)
Some of the waste products that have been rendered to be water soluble are filtered by the kidneys, where they are further filtered and eventually excreted through your urine.
As you can see, your liver functions like an efficient chemical plant that filtrates, separates, and eliminates toxins and waste products, thus purifying your system, while at the same time allowing beneficial nutrients to passthrough.
Improving Your Liver Detoxification
Did you know that a healthy liver will naturally “clean” and “detoxify” itself? It is hard to believe this if you see the multitude of liver detoxification products found in drug stores, health and grocery stores, and advertised inmost magazines.
Is this avalanche of “liver cleanses” and “liver detox” products necessary or is it just great business? And if you want to improve your hepatic detoxification, which one of these products or programs should you trust?
Before you spend money on some fancy juice fast or use expensive supplements with claims too good to be true, remember that your detoxification powerhouse is capable of extracting all of the necessary items from your diet. For this reason, what you feed your liver and how you protect it is far more important than you may realize. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will ensure that your liver will function at full capacity.
Feeding Your Liver
Your lifestyle habits will either help or hinder your liver function. Providing the nutrients needed for its proper function while simultaneously avoiding those things that dampen your liver’s ability to function is the most powerful way to detoxify and support your health. Incorporating the following foods and drinks into your diet will protecting your liver health in the long term.
What Should You Eat?
- Anti-inflammatory foods must be the cornerstone of your diet and should displace the inflammation-promoting foods like refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, and processed foods.
- Fresh vegetables and fruits that come in all of the colors of the rainbow, which are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, will help fight inflammation and function as antioxidants and cofactors for the hepatic biotransformation and detoxification reactions. When possible, choose organic produce over the conventionally grown variety. It would be helpful to become familiar with the Dirty Dozen Plus and Clean Fifteen lists. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
- High-quality plant proteins are the necessary building blocks used to maintain and repair liver structure. Organic beans such as Anasazi, adzuki, and black varieties are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber. They are a low-glycemic-load food and can be eaten whole or pureed into spreads like hummus. Cooked Asian mushrooms contain compounds that enhance your immune function and you can eat them in unlimited quantities. Never eat mushrooms raw, and minimize consumption of common commercial button mushrooms, including cremini and Portobello.
- Animal proteins (eggs, yogurt, lean meats, etc.) should be eaten infrequently, once or twice a week. Always choose organic, cage-free chicken and remove the skin and associated fat. Use organic, high-quality dairy products moderately, primarily yogurt and natural cheeses such as Emmental (Swiss), Jarlsberg, and true Parmesan. If you eat eggs, choose omega-3-enriched eggs (from hens that are fed a flax-meal-enriched diet) or organic eggs from free-range chickens.
- Healthy fats, especially those rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated or omega-3 oils that are found in walnuts, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil. Their rich polyphenols content reduces oxidative damage and promotes healthy liver function. Seafoods like wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, and black cod all contain anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
- Staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help your body effectively process and flush out toxins. Aim to drink about half your body weight in ounces of water each day, but not all at once. Make it a habit to drink about 6 oz. of water every 20-30 minutes.
- Teas and coffee can help fight inflammation, promote a healthy gut, and have beneficial impacts on your liver.(5) Teas are rich in catechins, antioxidant compounds that reduce inflammation. Purchase high-quality, organic and mold free tea and coffee for maximum taste and health benefits.
- Dark chocolate provides polyphenols with antioxidant activity. Choose organic dark chocolate with at least 70 to 80 percent pure cacao and have an ounce a few times a week.
What Should You Avoid?
When it comes to your liver health, what you don’t do may be just as important as what you do. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to keep your liver healthy and happy:
- Limit alcohol intake, since alcohol is technically a toxin. This explains why you feel drunk when you drink enough of it. However, your liver is well equipped with alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes that can occasionally break down a drink or two. Therefore, you may enjoy some red wine, which has a beneficial antioxidant activity, but do not exceed 2 glasses per week or it could have a detrimental effect on your liver.
- Limit the prescription and nonprescription medications that need to be processed by your liver. Take steps to improve your health in order to keep your liver from being overworked. However, some medications should not be discontinued. If you experience adverse reactions to the numerous chemicals, fillers, and binders found in your medicine, you may want to look into the “cleaner” medications such as those made by Genexa.
- Optimize your body weight to prevent fatty deposits in the liver, which will cause permanent scarring and damage. Being overweight will hinder your body’s ability to process sugar, fat and alcohol.
- Minimize exposure to toxins to minimize your liver’s workload.
Environmental toxins, also known as exotoxins, can be from air pollution, contaminated water and/or food, and chemical products. Here are some common offenders:
- Heavy metals: lead, mercury, and cadmium can be found in tap water, cookware, personal care products, and beauty products. (6)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which are toxic gases emitted from carpet, paint, furniture or cleaning products. (7)
- Pesticides used to kill insects, rodents, weeds, and other microorganisms in the agricultural industry. Unfortunately, the widespread use of pesticides has contaminated our soil, groundwater, and food, making exposure inevitable.
- Toxic Mold exposure occurs through contaminated food or from water damaged buildings.
- Phthalates & Parabens: These harmful chemicals are widely used in cosmetic products, personal care products, and cleaning supplies. (8)
- PCB’s: PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls are a class of highly toxic chemicals that were banned in the 1970s. Unfortunately, because they’re highly resistant to breakdown, PCB’s are still showing up everywhere, thanks to rampant environmental contamination. (9)
- EMF Radiation - Electromagnetic fields are emitted from electronics like cell phones, computers, and WiFi routers. They cause oxidative stress and act as harmful toxins to the body.
Endotoxins are toxins that are generated inside your body by microorganisms, as byproducts of your metabolism in response to stress or medications. Here are some examples:
- Intestinal Bacteria that populate your gut is made up of trillions of microorganisms that can provide various metabolic benefits by working in conjunction with your body. However, at times, this microflora may become imbalanced with a preponderance of detrimental bacteria overpopulating your gut, creating a toxic environment that allows systemic circulation of pathogens (i.e., lipopolysaccharides).
- Yeast Overgrowth, such as candida species, which can disrupt your healthy gut microbiota and may produce the powerful toxin acetaldehyde that is capable of damaging almost any part of your body.
- Hidden underlying viral or bacterial infections like Epstein Barr or Lyme disease can create havoc on your body, especially because they are often difficult to diagnose, and can exhaust your immune system over time.
- Chronic stress is one of the most overlooked toxins that can have a detrimental influence on your overall health. (link to other stress related articles)
As you can see, you are exposed to environmental toxins as well as toxins from within your own body and all of these toxins have compounding effects. For this reason, it is necessary to identify, remove and repair the damages caused by all of the toxins that you are exposed to or your progress will remain hindered. After all, if you’re sitting on two thumb tucks, removing one will not make you feel 50% better. Taking steps like using non-toxic cleaning products, filtering your air and water, and minimizing EMF exposure can help minimize your toxic load.
Best Liver Supplements
Always choose supplements based on the gaps in your diet or those that address metabolic imbalances detected by your diagnostic tests. Ask your physician to order comprehensive blood, urine, and even stool tests to help you decide which vitamins and/or supplements may be beneficial for you. Here are some of the most powerful supplements and vitamins for liver health, which you can find on our online store:
- Gut healing supplements - Since gut health and liver health go hand in hand, taking supplements that optimize your digestive system will indirectly improve your liver health. You may benefit from some of these supplements:
- GI Restore offers comprehensive support for optimum gastrointestinal health and function. The lining of the gut must have proper permeability and integrity so it can absorb nutrients and prevent toxins, allergens, and microbes from gaining access to the bloodstream.
- Optimized Digestive Enzyme Blend, Pancreas PAL, or Full-Spectrum Enzymes for improved digestion and nutrient absorption
- Probiotics such as Flora Supreme or Sibiotica can restore and maintain your gut microbiota balanced
- Enterovite is a blend of fatty acids intended to support the intestines and intestinal cell function. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate and propionate, are normal bacterial end products of complex carbohydrates and play important roles in intestinal microbial balance and function.
- AIM Phase I (vanilla) (vanilla, chocolate or chai) is a sugar, fructose, and stevia-free comprehensive medical food designed to support gastrointestinal function, improve detoxification and facilitate a balanced immune response by regulating essential fatty acids and cytokine metabolism.
- RepairVite, RepairVite-GT or RepairVite-SE are a suite of popular formulas intended to support intestinal cell metabolism and the intestinal microbial environment
- HistDAO, Histo-X and Hist Reset optimize histamine clearance reducing allergic reactions, calming inflammation and pain.
- Antioxidants such as Glutathione Supreme with NAC, Trizomal Glutathione, Ester-C Bio, Meriva 500-SF, ReveraCel, Resvero-SE can help support your liver in transforming toxicants into less toxic compounds to be utilized or excreted.
- Binders are used to sequester toxins and facilitate their excretion to lessen the workload for your liver. The most effective detox binders are Activated Charcoal and G.I. Detox.
- Liver and gallbladder support supplements: Liver-Gallbladder Support, Lypomin-LV, BileMin, Hepato-Synergy
- Medical food - AIM Ph I vanilla, AIM Ph I chocolate, and AIM Ph I chai are blends of ingredients calibrated to support healthy liver function, promote cytokine balance, optimized digestion, and protect liver tissue.
Applying the comprehensive approach outline here will enhance your hepatic detoxification capacity, which will positively influence all aspects of your health. An effective detoxification protocol does not have to be more complicated than making small dietary and lifestyle changes or adding a supplement to your daily routine. Your liver will love you for it.
1. How does the liver work? –InformedHealth.org – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
2. Liver: Anatomy and Functions | Johns Hopkins Medicine
3. Liver Anatomy (nih.gov)
4. What Does the Liver Do?| Children’s Pittsburgh (chp.edu)
5. Coffee and tea breaks for liver health – Journal of Hepatology (journal-of-hepatology.eu)