The liver is hugely important in maintaining your health. It performs the vital functions of blood sugar regulation, the breakdown of toxins in the body, the production of bile which emulsifies and absorbs fat in the small intestine, and regulating cholesterol and other hormones important in weight maintenance. If your liver is overwhelmed by toxins (and let’s face it, who doesn’t overload their body even just a little bit at this time of year), or if it lacks essential nutrients, it will not function efficiently. What’s more, if the liver does not produce enough bile, fat may be stored in the liver, instead of processed.
A few weeks of poor eating and not enough exercise can harm the liver, causing liver inflammation and an increase in the amount of fat found in the liver, reducing the liver’s effectiveness.
Tell-tale signs of liver stress
- Skin problems, rashes, acne, premature ageing
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Weight problems such as uncontrolled weight gain and binge eating
- Fatigue and sleepiness
- Digestive problems – frequent constipation, chronic heartburn, indigestion, bad breath
- Irritability, depression, mood swings, poor memory, feelings of helplessness
The list could be used to describe the symptoms of a number of other conditions of course, but if you do suffer from a couple of these, (or even if you don’t) it is worthwhile considering giving the liver a bit of TLC by consciously including foods in your diet which will give your liver a lift, and by maintaining a consistently active lifestyle. You don’t need to go into full detox mode, but if you do want to go the whole hog, don’t jump into a detox programme cold turkey. You need to ease into it, gradually reducing toxins over a period of a week, or else you are likely to have a very severe reaction.
Liver Cleansing Foods
- Lemon. Start the day with the juice of half a lemon in warm water. This will help with the digestive process before food gets anywhere near your liver.
- Dandelion. Leaves can be eaten fresh in salads and dandelion root or leaf can be consumed as tea. Dandelion teabags are available in most supermarkets. I add milk, but it’s your preference. Whilst it looks a little like coffee, don’t treat it as a coffee substitute as you may be disappointed. Value it for it’s own sake! Also be aware that dandelion does have a diuretic effect, so make sure you drink plenty of water as well.
- Filtered Water. Important not only for the liver. In the summer months, particularly if you are exercising, you need plenty of it. There seems to be very little actual evidence supporting the standard 8 glasses, or 2 litres of water a day theory, so how much is enough? You should drink enough water so that you are passing clear (or almost clear) urine. Be aware that eating beetroot, and over supplementation of B group vitamins can change the colour dramatically!
- Taurine containing foods such as animal protein and invertebrate seafood (basically anything from the sea which doesn’t have a backbone). Vegetarians and people with multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities should consider supplementing their diet with 200 to 500mg of taurine daily.
- Globe artichoke
- Barley Root
- Raw Vegetables (especially leafy greens)
- Raw Fruits (but stick to no more than 3 serves of fruit per day due to the high fructose levels in fruit)
- Olives and olive oil
- Garlic and onion – which contain phytochemicals that break down fatty deposits in the body
- Tumeric – very high in beta carotene which helps protect against the damage caused by free radicals. Also helps the liver to metabolise fats
- Flaxseed and Flaxseed oil (flaxseeds need to be crushed prior to eating otherwise they are likely to pass through the intestine undigested.
- Psyllium 3-4 gms prior to meals
Foods to Minimise or avoid
- Fast foods
- Processed foods
- Artificial food additives, colours and preservatives
- Synthetic sweeteners
- Sugars, especially fructose and high fructose corn syrups such as those found in soft drinks.
Remember, if it comes in a pack, put it back!