4 min|Rhiannon Lockhart
Natural Liver Detox With These Important NutrientsWellness, Nutrition
Here’s your new mantra: love your liver! Our liver is a powerhouse organ that is necessary for our overall health.
Before we continue on, it’s important to understand that our body has a multi-phase detoxification system. Learn more about the different phases of detoxification here. Simply put: phase I and phase II detoxification both happen in the liver, and there are many nutrients we can utilize to support each process.
Most people can use a liver detox sometime through the year. Often, we recommend saving any strong detoxification protocol for the spring months when our body is naturally ready to shed. However, there are simple practices and foods you can utilize to optimize your liver health throughout the year.
6 nutrients to include for natural liver detox
1. Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C)
This is a glucosinolate found in cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. I3C acts on detoxifying enzymes found in liver cells to promote optimized liver function. (1)
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3’s have shown significant support for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) since it supports reduction of inflammation. (2)(3) Omega-3s are best absorbed from fish or algae (if you are vegan or vegetarian). If you like fish, aim to consume wild-caught fatty fish about three times per week or make an omega-3 supplement part of your routine. Fatty fish include: salmon, anchovies, mackerel and sardines. If you don’t consume fish, aim to get your omega’s from an algae-based supplement.
Flavonoids are compounds found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. They are frequently studied for their positive impact on NAFLD. Sources of dietary flavonoids include: berries, onions, kale, tea, citrus, soy (for some people), parsley, dark chocolate and red cabbage. (4)(5)(6)
4. B-vitamins (especially folate)
B-vitamins are often used in treatment for NAFLD, especially B12 and folate to aid in the prevention/delay of disease progression. This is because they block the negative impact that homocysteine plays on our liver function. (7) Foods highest in b-vitamins include: meat (especially liver), dairy, seafood, poultry, legumes, leafy greens, nutritional yeast, and fortified foods.
The goal of antioxidants is to reduce oxidative stress on the liver. Studies show that the antioxidants, found in green tea and curcumin especially, can have strong impacts. (8) However, you can find antioxidants in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, coffee and tea, nuts and seeds, spices, beans and legumes. In fact, most flavonoids have antioxidant components, so you are giving yourself a bonus by eating these foods!
6. Amino acids
When we think of a liver detox, most people reach for vegetable-rich, low-protein meals or even juice cleanses. However, amino acids, which make up protein, are essential for detox in our body. Amino acid use has been shown to be beneficial in various liver diseases. (9) If you don’t eat animal protein, be sure to pair vegetarian sources of protein appropriately throughout the day to consume an array of amino acids.
Along with adding in certain nutrients, it is important that we remove anything that may be causing more damage to our body. Typically, this is going to include anything that contains chemicals that can impact our detoxification system, alter our hormone balance or increase oxidative stress.
Try taking inventory of your lifestyle and the products you use that may impact your liver’s ability to detox.
We know that higher-risk alcohol consumption (3 drinks/day for men; 2 drinks/day for women) and regular binge drinking can lead to liver-related diseases like fatty liver and inflammation. However, your liver is always at work with any amount of alcohol. If you are looking to do a detox, remove alcohol completely during that period.
Liver detox or not, one of your goals should be to give up smoking altogether.
Take some time to review your prescription and over-the-counter medications with your practitioner. In some cases, medication may be impacting your liver health and discussing options with your practitioner can help.
4. Skin care & hair care
A lot of products on the market in North America contain chemicals that our body needs to work to remove. This adds to our overall toxic load. Luckily, a lot of “clean” beauty products are easily available.
5. Cleaning supplies
Opt for naturally scented or simply use clean ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and water!
Finally, consider your emotions! According to Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with anger and depression. An imbalanced liver may be connected with feelings of repressed anger, resentment, frustration and irritability. Connect with your emotions and consider speaking to someone to help you better manage.
Do you think you need a liver detox? Talk to your practitioner today.
Rhiannon is the Registered Holistic Nutritionist at Integrative. She has a passion for making healthy eating easy, accessible and fun, loves getting outside, and enjoys spending time with her dog, Chloe!