Do you really need to do a liver detox 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 like cleaning your laundry
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Liver detox powders & supplements
Liver 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.
Regardless of your decision to do, or not do a liver detox/cleanse, 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 so you can 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 (I love taking a “shot” of this stuff when I don’t have fresh beets on hand). 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!
NON- INFLAMMATORY PROTEINS:
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. One of my favorite ways to make this easy is to have bone broth and this kind of gelatin every day. But be sure to read this article, so you know how to dose it properly!
The liver is KING
Healthy detoxification to support liver health is absolutely essential to good digestion, metabolism and thyroid function. A good nutrition strategy goes a long way for overcoming poor detoxification without confusion and expensive supplements! So if your liver needs some TLC so you can experience more robust health without fatigue and digestive sensitivity, enter your email below to receive tips on how to nourish your body with nutritional therapy!
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.
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