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3 Safe Ways to Detox Your Liver


In honor of Liver Awareness Month, publicity of detoxification diets escalates in October. Before embarking on a liver cleanse, learn what to avoid and which three detox approaches are safe and effective.

A majority of today’s health problems, including obesity, begins with a congested liver. As the organ that is responsible for cleansing our blood, the liver has a tremendous order to fill, especially since our bloodstream is inundated with toxins constantly. In hopes of helping decongest the liver from accumulated sludge, many health conscious people turn to a liver cleansing or detox program.

At one point or another, we have all heard references to ritualistic cleanses. However, not every ‘detoxification’ diet and cleansing supplement is safe and effective. Extreme food restrictions combined with laxatives may initially help someone shed several pounds, but is an example of a potentially dangerous and misaligned approach towards liver cleansing.

Despite some unhealthy practices being promoted as surefire solutions to detoxification and weight loss, the logic behind decongesting your liver is solid. Helping to reduce the amount of toxins your liver must process while supporting the liver in cleansing your blood will always have a positive health benefit. Whether you have advanced liver disease or are very healthy, including liver detox strategies into your life is a recipe for wellness and longevity.

The liver is overloaded by toxins every day, primarily from our food supply:

  • To increase shelf-life, appearance and palatability, thousands of chemicals are added to common foods.
  • Over 700 chemicals have been identified in approved drinking water.
  • Plants are sprayed with toxic chemicals to maximize crop yield and pest-resistance.
  • Striving to magnify size and production, animals are routinely injected with hormones and antibiotics.
  • Many foods are now genetically engineered and/or processed – seemingly technological feats that rob foods of vitamins and minerals in their natural state.

Although most agree that a well-functioning liver positively impacts all areas of health, different kinds of health experts seem to have varying ideas for how to help remove congestion from the liver. Listed below are several popular inclusions in a liver cleanse protocol that may be problematic for certain individuals:

  • Fasting – This is a temporary method of cleansing the body of waste products, but it may cause an excessively rapid release of toxins which can cause unpleasant, acute symptoms. This rapid toxin release can be dangerous for anyone who is pregnant, has a weakened immune system or a chronic illness. In addition, fasting over an extended period of time can slow metabolism, making it harder to keep excessive weight off.
  • Laxatives – Any over-the-counter laxatives or supplements with a laxative effect can cause dehydration, mineral imbalances and digestive system problems. While dehydration and mineral imbalances can be dangerous for most people, these side effects can be particularly debilitating to a pregnant woman, young or old person, or someone with a chronic illness.
  • Extreme Food Restriction – Limiting one’s food intake to just a handful of items over several days may be helpful for altering metabolism and lightening the liver’s detox load; however, this strategy starves the body of crucial vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Especially hazardous for anyone with who is vulnerable to malnutrition or who has a chronic health problem, interrupting the cells’ supply of building blocks can have devastating, long-term, negative consequences.

Thankfully, there are safe and effective ways to help ‘cleanse’ your liver. Listed below are three harmless ways to help reverse the toxicity and congestion known to hamper liver function:

  1. Morning Detox Water – Add a few dashes of hot pepper sauce and the juice from a lemon wedge to a warm cup of filtered water. The lemon has Vitamin C which eases liver inflammation and protects against oxidative damage, and the hot sauce contains capsaicin which boosts blood flow and activates enzymes that help with liver detox. If your digestive system is irritated by lemon and/or hot sauce, just stick to a glass of warm filtered water. Warm water aids digestion, is hydrating, encourages cell regeneration and helps lubricate the liver.
  2. Milk Thistle – This herb is the leading supplement used during liver cleanses. Milk thistle enhances the liver’s ability to break down toxins via the Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways. In addition, milk thistle is a potent antioxidant and strengthens the outer walls of liver cells protecting against damage. To get the most out of milk thistle, experts advise taking one that is standardized to 80 percent silymarin. For an even greater potency, milk thistle in phytosome form enhances absorbability for increased liver protection.
  3. Liver-Loving Nutrition – Construct your diet to include a wide range of liver-loving foods. Consuming many different kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein presents the liver with the ingredients to function well. In her book The Liver Cleansing Diet, Sandra Cabot, MD, advises us to eliminate processed foods, alcohol, sugar and saturated fats while concentrating on fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, free range chicken, fiber and water. Additionally, the American Liver Foundation recommends cutting down on deep-fried and fatty foods and avoiding smoked, cured or salted foods to maintain liver health.

Like any filter, the liver filter needs to be cleansed regularly. Wading through the variety of liver cleanse options can be overwhelming, but choosing a safe liver detox plan is relatively easy. Instead of opting for a yearly liver cleanse, make liver decongestion a daily priority by eating only liver-friendly foods, taking milk thistle and drinking warm water (with lemon and hot sauce, if desirable). Because our health depends on our liver’s ability to detoxify, everyone stands to benefit from these safe liver detox steps., Liver Restart #1: Drink Dr. Oz’s Morning Liver Elixir Daily, Retrieved September 15, 2013, Harpo, Inc, 2013., The Liver and Detoxification, Retrieved September 12, 2013, Liver Doctor, 2013., Liver Cleanse Safety, Bonnie Singleton, Retrieved September 12, 2013, Demand Media, Inc., 2013., Some Unconventional Ways to Detox Your Liver, J.D. Heyes, Retrieved September 12, 2013, Natural News Network, 2013., Natural Liver Detox Diets (Liver Cleansing), Retrieved September 12, 2013, WebMD, LLC, 2013.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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