17 Signs of impaired liver detoxification

17 Signs your body is not taking out the trash! | Butter Nutrition
Do you really need to do a detox cleanse or is it just a trendy way to ignore your body’s needs? If the following describes YOU, your detoxification system might be trying to tell you something!

  • History of alcohol/drug use or hepatitis
  • Long term prescription drug use
  • Sensitive to chemicals (tobacco smoke, fumes, perfume, cleaning agents, etc.)
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Stomach upset by greasy foods
  • Greasy or shiny stools
  • History of nausea, motion sickness, or morning sickness
  • Light or pale colored stools
  • Headache over the eyes
  • Gallbladder attacks
  • Bitter taste in the mouth (especially after meals)
  • Become sick or easily intoxicated if drinking wine
  • Easily hung over
  • Pain under right side of rib cage
  • Hemorrhoids or varicose veins
  • NutraSweet (aspartame) consumption
  • Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia

So if this is you– read on, learn how your detoxification system works, and how to support it!

Just  as nature intended, your body has the ability to “spring clean” naturally on a daily basis if your diet adequately supplies for the process (no special juice cleanse needed)! Natural liver detox (without powders and supplements) is much safer, effective and gentler than a supplemental detox diet. WHY? Because eating whole foods, rather than supplements and powders gives your body well-rounded nutrition with a wide spectrum of nutrients to DRIVE detoxification flawlessly!

An analogy: Liver detoxification is cleaning your laundry

  1. FILTRATION. First a good baseline of nutrients allow the liver the ability to filter the blood; identifying good things (food and nutrients) and bad things (toxins and harmful substances). This is similar to finding stains in your laundry.
  2. PHASE 1 DETOXIFICATION. Next  the body uses enzymes and nutrients to transform the bad guys (toxins, used hormones, RX drugs, food additives, etc). The goal of this phase is to begin neutralizing a toxin and start to make it into a water-soluble compound that is able to leave the body. However at this half way point, toxin reactivity actually increases, and can cause problems if it does not continue to phase 2 right away. Think of phase 1 detoxification as a pre-wash cycle.
  3. PHASE 2 DETOXIFICATION. Phase 2 acts upon phase 1 as the final transformation stage on the toxin, making it water-soluble for removal from the body. Amino acids (building blocks of protein) DRIVE this stage, as they attach to the toxins to further neutralize and escort them out of the body. Phase 2 is like the main wash cycle that removes dirt and debris leaving your clothes clean.
  4. ELIMINATION. Lastly, the toxins are eliminated out the digestive track via bile, or via the kidneys in urine. Much like the drain and spin cycle.

Does your body have the nutrients to take out the trash? | Butternutrition.com
Detox powders & supplements

Detox supplements (protein powders included) are often of low quality, contain irritating additives/fillers, and most of the raw materials are imported without strict regulation regarding safety and purity. These foods are also “refined” with many of the nutritional value stripped out during processing. Empty foods such as these can compromise your detoxification abilities, causing your body to retain toxins rather than excrete them.

Alternatively, when you invest in whole foods, your body is energized with nutrients to support liver detox. Your system is ultimately the product of your daily habits and what you choose for eat, NOT what you do or don’t consume for 16-48 hours. I like to focus on the bigger picture: learning to fuel and meet your body’s needs on a daily basis! Your daily diet should support the liver detox process– not through a ritual you do 1-2 times a year. Society seems to be very focused on eating “less” and “dieting” (cleanses/detox diets can reinforce that) and I find people actually end up needing far MORE food than they think (and that nutritional deficiencies actually down regulate the appetite further). Because in the end, we want our bodies to FUNCTION better, and detox more efficiently. This is achieved when we give our body what it needs on a DAILY basis, not when we play restrictive, limiting games.

Liquid fasts and cleanses
From my perspective, it’s hard to make a blanket recommendation on cleansing (without knowing a person’s health/dietary history), but my general recommendation is against it. Because proteins DRIVE the detoxification process, cleanses based on juices, fruits or vegetables do not make a lot of sense.

Also, any time you partake in a fast or cleanse (with the exception of when you have the flu!) you are forcing a regimen on your body, and often that means ignoring your own bio-feedback, cravings, and intuition. “Any craving is a good starting point, because we have several biological mechanisms for correcting specific nutritional deficiencies.” -Ray Peat. For example: if someone is in a hypo-metabolic state (slowed metabolism), the body naturally holds on to more water in tissues,  craves less water, and craves more salt and solid food. Partaking in a cleanse of a liquid diet would do much more harm than good for this person.

So whether you decide a detox or cleanse is right or wrong for YOU, don’t ever forget that your body is always talking to you about what it needs. Learning to listen is an amazing tool to build your nutritional wealth and empower your body’s natural detoxification system!

The liver detox foods you’re not eating

The vitamins and minerals in fruits drive phase 1 of detoxification! Costly detox diets and cleansing routines are a waste of money, because organic fruits and fruit juices fuel this first phase of detoxification so much more efficiently!

Choose ripe fruits that are high in vitamin C for maximum antioxidant protection. Some great choices are organic oranges, pure orange juice (without additives), kiwis, berries, papaya, and pineapple.

Beets are an amazing liver detox and beauty food. They have the ability to help thin your bile, which allows the body to detox more efficiently.  A common problem is sluggish/stagnant bile flow. After toxins are neutralized in the liver,  they are dumped into the bile (bile duct is a river for toxins to move out of the body) and when the bile gets too thick,  toxic matter can’t flow out of the body quick enough (leading to fatigue, low energy, constipation, PMS, toxicity & disease)! Regular beet consumption (and a wealthy diet) can help strengthen this process naturally!

Buy beets and shred them in your food processor. Have a little beet slaw (with lemon or apple cider vinegar, salt and olive oil) daily or as often as you like to help fuel your natural detoxification system!

The body needs a certain balance of amino acids (building blocks of protein) to support bodily functions, particularly liver detox. The very balance we need is achieved when we eat “the whole animal” and ALL of its parts. When we eat just “muscle meats” regularly be it- chicken, pork, beef, lamb, etc. we tend to create an amino acid balance in the body that favors inflammation, and starves the liver! Balancing the amino acid profiles we take in are key. Non-inflammatory proteins such as eggs, fish, gelatin, dairy products (milk, cheese), shellfish, and organ meats are excellent choices to increase in your diet to better support your detoxification capabilities.

Try having muscle meats every other day if your intake of non-inflammatory proteins is low.

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17 Signs your body is not taking out the trash! | Butter Nutrition

Peat, Raymond. Nutrition for Women. Eugene: 1993.
Trash Can Clipart:  Used with permission from Microsoft.
Weatherby,  Dicken. “Liver and Gallbladder.” Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Nutritional Therapy Association, 2004. Print.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, or as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult with your advising physician before starting any treatment for a medical condition. Butter Nutrition, LLC shall not be held liable or responsible for any misunderstanding or misuse of the information contained on this site or for any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by any treatment, action, or application of any food or food source discussed in this site.
About Catherine

As a nutritional therapist, my passion is education. It is my purpose to help people re-align their lives and environment to support a lifestyle where health is never a stressor, and you can truly live life without your physical body getting in your way. My goal is to help guide you to improve your nutrition through strategic eating (not dieting) and without expensive supplements! Because when you know better, you can feel better!


  1. I love your philosophy – probably because it aligns sooooo closely with my own. thanks for such an informative article too :-)

  2. Not that I’m disagreeing with what you’ve written, I’m just wondering what sources you got this information from? I’d love to read the journal articles (or whatever sources) on my own.

    • Hi Eryn,

      I didn’t use a lot of references on this particular article. It is more a combination of my personal research and learning over the last 10 years (as well as clinical experience with clients). Dr. Ray Peat’s books & articles are a great place to look for further research on the liver and detoxification. Is there a particular aspect of the article you are looking for information on (ie. supplement quality, liver detox pathways, metabolism, etc)? I would love to help direct to further reading.


  3. Hi Catherine,

    I’m brand new to your site and love it! Wow, what a wealth of knowledge. I’m trying to figure out if my issue is liver stagnation, lack of stomach acid, lack of digestive enzymes, etc. but my biggest problem is not being able to digest many veggies ESPECIALLY raw veggies. They wreck havoc on me and send cramps all the way up through my rib cage. I thought of asking you this because beets give me pain/bloating when I eat them but I love them. Is this because my liver is “clogged?” Or does it sound like it’s an enzyme/stomach acid thing? I’ve been drinking a lot of ACV and lemon water to help detox but I just haven’t pin pointed the exact source. The beets made me think of this so I’m curious if you had any thoughts on that, please?

    Many thanks!


  4. Great stuff Catherine! Our bodies never lie, so it’s always a good idea to listen to your body when it feels run down. A detox diet can help you feel physically and mentally fit after just a 1 – 15 day programme.

    • I would like to do a detox program can you help with this what do we do? what can we eat?
      I had hep B when 16 and many drugs (medications) that i think have left me with liver problems (long story). Any help would be greatly appreciated.
      Thanks Tania NZ

  5. Hi Catherine!

    I use a non-denatured whey protein supplement that uses glutathione as its major detox agent, and then once a month do a 2 day mineral cleanse. I’m sure you’re busy but would love you to check it out for me and see if you think it holds any validity! It’s been amazing for long-term energy so far.

    Thanks! Great article!

  6. Beets are high in oxalate, which has been shown to be a major cause of many health issues. Do the benefits u the possible negatives? How much beet do u recommend?

  7. Do you support an intermittent fast? Also, you stated that the liver needs animal protein to detox, so are vegans detoxing improperly?

  8. Thanks for the links. Do you think intermittent fasting on a daily basis can detox the body properly? Besides intermittent fasting, do you think it’s necessary to also do 24-48 hours fasts on occasions? Is there a big difference between intermittent and 24-48 hour fasting?

  9. Heather P says:

    Do you know what the implications are for detox if you don’t have a gallbladder? My gallbladder was removed after my first son was born 7 years ago. I have felt my health declining since and have not been able to lose weight. I’m had doctors say gallbladder isn’t necessary, others say I have to take supplements for the rest of my life. I can’t find any good clear help.

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