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Five Ways to Spring Clean Your Liver


Because your home is not the only thing that gets clogged up over the winter, include your liver in this year’s plans for spring cleaning.

Officially known as the vernal equinox, March 20th is the celebratory date that ushers in spring. The tradition of spring cleaning our homes for spring’s arrival is our way of clearing out the debris that collected over the darker, chillier winter months. Much in the same way, health advocates suggest a spring cleaning of the liver in order to get rid of the congestion that has accumulated there since autumn. To meet this goal, five specific practices will help cleanse a sluggish, toxic liver so it can function more efficiently.

Spring approaches when the days get a little longer, the sun warms us up a bit more, and nature begins its regenerative process. It is the perfect time to sweep away any waste that collected in the months of less light and colder temperatures. For many, opening the windows and breathing the fresh air of springtime is a welcome change. Likewise, spring is the ideal time to nourish and cleanse the liver; especially if already living with some type of liver condition.

The largest and one of the most important internal organs, the liver must function for us to live. Responsible for over 500 jobs, several of the liver’s responsibilities include metabolizing fat, carbohydrates and protein, manufacturing hormones and enzymes, storing vitamins, making and releasing bile for digestion, producing blood clotting factors and detoxifying our body from harmful substances.

In addition to impairing its ability to perform its metabolization, production and storage duties, a congested liver is lethargic and unable to detoxify toxins at a healthful pace. This slowed down processing causes toxins to accumulate in the bloodstream. There are many potential causes of liver congestion, including:

  • A hepatitis virus
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Emotional stress, anger or anxiety
  • Inactivity
  • Eating inflammatory or toxic foods
  • Medications
  • Chemical exposure

Because the winter is frequently spent indoors, with a less-than-ideal amount of physical activity, taking medications for colds or infections and consuming rich, heavy food, internal spring cleaning is ideal for the liver. With the goal of nourishing the liver and clearing out stagnation, consider instituting the following five practices this spring:

  1. Avoid liver inflammatory foods – Although inflammation-inciting foods may be comforting during a long, isolated, frigid winter, they do not serve the liver well. Foods to avoid or at least minimize include sugar, white flour and high-glycemic starches, fatty cuts of red meat, processed food, fried food and creamy food. All of these types of food can contribute to liver inflammation.
  2. Take milk thistle – Because its main ingredient (silymarin) protects liver cells from damage, consider taking milk thistle this spring. In addition, silymarin prevents the depletion of the nutrient glutathione, a key antioxidant needed for liver detoxification. For enhanced effectiveness due to a higher absorption rate, supplement with milk thistle in the phytosome form.
  3. Load up on green veggies – Typically coming into season in the spring, most green vegetables support liver health. Chives, parsley and cucumber help clear out liver stagnation; while kale, dandelion, artichoke, collard greens and watercress all assist with liver detoxification; broccoli and brussels sprouts stimulate liver activity; and asparagus and avocados help the body make glutathione – a necessity for detoxification.
  4. Lemon water – Drinking plenty of water helps to keep liver cells hydrated and flush out toxins. Adding some freshly squeezed lemon to your water helps stimulate the liver to produce bile – which both enhances digestion and helps flush out toxins.
  5. Go outside and get active – Breathing in fresh air oxygenates and revitalizes your body’s cells, helping with optimal function. To clear out stagnation and get fresh blood flowing through the liver, nothing beats being physically active. Whether it’s going for a walk, biking, playing catch, taking a hike, practicing yoga, paddling a canoe or simply stretching, physical activity is one of the best ways to boost circulation and enhance overall liver function.

Besides sprucing up your home, take advantage of the vernal equinox by spring cleaning from the inside out. By avoiding inflammatory foods, taking milk thistle, eating greens, drinking lemon water and going outside for physical activity, you can help clear your liver up for a healthful spring., Spring Liver Cleansing, Retrieved February 17, 2013, Mary Ann Copson, Eventstar, 2013., Spring Cleanse Your Liver: 6 Foods, Nutrients, and Herbs, Michelle Schoffro Cook, Retrieved February 17, 2013, Discovery Communications, LLC, 2013., Spring Clean Your Liver, Peter Bennett, MD, Retrieved February 17, 2013, Alive Publishing Group, 2013., Spring Cleaning: 10 Steps to Bring New Life to your Liver, Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, Retrieved February 17, 2013,, Inc., 2013., 5 Superstar Spring Foods for your Liver, Kate Sciolino, Retrieved February 17, 2013, MindBodyGreen, 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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