As we transition from the holiday season to the New Year (hello, 2024!), health-related resolutions take center stage and marketers capitalize on our renewed motivation for healthier habits. They promote various diets and cleanses that “promise” to boost our overall well-being such as a liver detox or cleanse. But is it necessary for you?
In this article, we examine the idea of a liver cleanse, identify signs that may suggest you need one, and offer food recommendations and recipes featuring liver-cleansing foods to initiate your path to better health.
DECODING THE LIVER’S CRUCIAL ROLE IN YOUR WELL-BEING
As the body’s largest organ, your liver plays an essential role in eliminating waste products and foreign substances from the bloodstream, maintaining blood sugar levels, and producing vital nutrients.
It also plays a crucial role in metabolism and digestion. Responsible for filtering the blood leaving your stomach and intestine, it breaks down poisonous substances such as alcohol and drugs. Your liver also produces bile, a fluid stored in the gallbladder that gets released during digestion to break down fats and carry away waste.
As an organ and gland undertaking hundreds of vital functions essential for sustaining human life have you ever wondered if your body is signaling a need for a liver cleanse?
WHAT IS A LIVER DETOX?
In its essence, a liver detox is the process of cleansing, detoxing and/or flushing toxins out of your body. There are different ways to approach this. There are liver detox products which promote claims to help you remove toxins from your body, and are usually coupled with weight loss and health benefits. They suggest that they can help remove toxins from junk food and alcohol binges, help improve liver function, and some go as far as claiming to treat and prevent liver disease.
In reality, there are toxins everywhere and when we’re healthy our bodies are capable of filtering out these toxins naturally but there are steps we can take to support healthy liver function. Sheri Berger RDN says “Although the liver is capable of regenerating and cleaning itself, it doesn’t hurt to take extra care and steps to support this process with healthy lifestyle choices.”
TO DETOX OR NOT TO DETOX: UNRAVELING THE LIVER’S SECRET CODE!
How do you feel now, compared to when you felt your healthiest? If you haven’t felt 100% lately or feel low on energy, bloated, or having trouble losing weight these may be signs you need a liver detox.
Dr Menka Gupta, founder of Nutra Nourish shares the signs that someone may benefit from a liver cleanse which include,
- Yellow skin
- Itchy skin
- Feeling or being sick very often
- Bloating and digestive issues
- Difficulty losing weight
- Unexplained fatigue, feeling very tired and weak all the time
But it’s not just about looking at the symptoms. A comprehensive evaluation of whether someone could benefit from a liver cleanse also includes “looking at their family and health history, lifestyle, potential exposure to toxins, and functional testing to see how well the liver is working,” says Dr. Gupta.
An effective liver cleanse isn’t about buying detox supplements or products because these products aren’t based on evidence and aren’t regulated. Instead, Dr Kevin Huffman, CEO & Founder of Ambari Nutrition, suggests we “approach a liver cleanse thoughtfully and healthily to prevent undue stress on the liver and to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that it’s appropriate for your personal health circumstances.”
FOODS THAT SUPPORT LIVER HEALTH
A healthy liver is important for good health. Maintaining and optimizing liver health starts with a diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole, unprocessed foods. Incorporating these foods into your diet can improve liver enzymes, prevent fat accumulation, and decrease inflammation and oxidative stress on the liver.
Here are four categories of liver supporting foods to add to your diet:
1. FRUITS AND CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES
One of the easiest ways to improve your diet is to eat more fruits and vegetables which are full of fiber, vitamins, and anti-inflammatory substances. Healthy suggestions include broccoli, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, and a variety of berries including blueberries and raspberries.
2. FATTY FISH
The presence of omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish makes them a good source of healthy fats, contributing to inflammation reduction and a lower risk of heart disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends two to three servings of fish as part of a healthy diet for most people. Good omega-3-rich fish options include salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel and herring.
3. NUTS AND SEEDS
A great source of protein, nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and fibers, contain unsaturated fats and other nutrients that provide a protective health effect. They are also antioxidant powerhouses that can combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals and protect your cells against the bad LDL cholesterol. Commonly found nuts and seeds to add to your diet include almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
4. HERBS AND SPICES
Herbs and spices have been in use for centuries both for culinary and medicinal purposes to enhance the flavor, aroma, and color of dishes. There is now evidence that they possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering activities that affect cognition and mood. Spices to add to your cooking include garlic, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, and cinnamon.
DELICIOUS RECIPES FOR A LIVER CLEANSE
Ready to incorporate more healthy liver recipes into your diet? Try our favorite recommendations below from Dr. Gupta,
REFRESHING FRUIT SMOOTHIE RECIPE
- ½ cup mixed frozen berries
- ½ cup fresh pineapples
- ½ cup sliced banana preferably fresh-frozen
- 1 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
- fresh mint leaves
- Process all the ingredients in a blender until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
EVERYDAY KALE SALAD
- 4 oz curly kale leaves
- 4 oz cooked beets, diced into ½ inch cubes
- 4 oz carrots julienned
- ½ avocado, sliced
For the lemon dressing:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine salad ingredients in a small bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix together extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Drizzle over the salad then toss to combine and serve.
LIVER SUPPORTING HERBAL TEA
- ½ inch fresh ginger
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric powder
- Pinch of black pepper
- ½ lemon, optional
- Peel, wash and slice ginger into thin slices.Then add it to a small saucepan together with 1 ½ cup of water, turmeric, and black pepper.
- Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Strain and add lemon, if desired.
FINAL TAKEAWAY ON LIVER CLEANSES
Although there are a lot of marketing hype around liver cleanses and products to help you detoxify, there is no need to waste your money on these unproven supplements. A healthy diet will naturally support a healthy liver.