“Should I do a liver cleanse?” We get this question quite frequently this time of year. As we enter into the season of spring cleaning, it’s quite natural to turn to our bodies to see what we can do to better support our health. But before you turn to a juice cleanse or additional supplements, let’s take a deeper look into why a “spring clean” may be necessary and how to support your body’s own detoxification and elimination systems (hint: it’s not just about the liver!).
Detoxification & Elimination
The liver is our primary filtration system and is responsible for converting toxins into waste products and metabolizing nutrients and medications. The detoxification pathways in the liver require a wide range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and proteins to function optimally. This is one of the reasons we do not endorse juice cleanses or the “master cleanse” for detoxification. We NEED protein and a diverse array of micro- and phytonutrients for the liver to do its job.
Plus, detoxification is worthless without proper elimination. While the liver promotes detoxification, the kidneys, skin, digestive system, and lungs are all essential for excreting the waste products the liver generates. To truly gain the benefit of a liver cleanse, we need to support all of these organ systems, together.
How to Know If a Cleanse is Right For You
From heavy metals to phthalates to herbicides and pesticides, our bodies are exposed to an overwhelming amount of potentially unsafe chemicals on a daily basis. While the liver and organs of elimination do a pretty stellar job of dealing with these, they may need occasional support when the toxin exposure exceeds capabilities, or when one of these systems is not functioning optimally.
If you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis, your detoxification and elimination systems may need a little extra boost.
- Seasonal allergies
- Brain fog
- Acne or skin rashes
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
- Frequent gas, bloating, or constipation
- Bad body odor or breath
- Weight loss resistance
- Sugar cravings
- Itchy skin
How to Support your Detoxification & Elimination Systems
Starting with a balanced, whole food-based diet is key. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables for antioxidant support. Emphasize anti-inflammatory foods, such as salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and turmeric to keep the liver healthy. The following strategies will further help boost detoxification and elimination, while reducing inflammation and unnecessary dietary and environmental toxin exposure.
1. Increase cruciferous and allium vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, arugula, and kale all contain a group of nutrients called isothiocyanates that help to upregulate the detoxification pathways in the liver. Allium vegetables, such as garlic, onions, leeks, and scallions contain sulfur compounds that also support these detoxification pathways. Aim to include 2-3 servings of cruciferous and 1-2 servings of allium vegetables daily.
2. Reduce sugar and alcohol.
Sugar and alcohol can both become burdensome to the liver when consumed in excess. As part of a healthy, balanced diet, keep added sugars to a maximum of 4 to 6 teaspoons per day (16 to 24 grams) and alcohol to one drink for women and two for men per day. To support optimal liver function, try eliminating both for a few weeks to see if you notice a difference.
3. Include foods high in soluble fiber.
Lentils, beans, oats, apples, brussels sprouts, avocado, and sweet potato are all great sources of soluble fiber. This type of fiber is essential for binding waste excreted into the digestive tract and moving it along, which prevents it from being reabsorbed back into the system.
4. Identify food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities and intolerances can impact the health of our digestive tract in a number of ways. Identifying and eliminating potential food triggers can support a healthy digestive system by reducing inflammation, healing the intestinal lining, increasing microbial diversity, and ensuring optimal transit (and excretion) of food and waste products.
5. Stay hydrated
Ensuring adequate hydration is essential for supporting optimal digestive function and lymphatic flow, both of which will boost elimination pathways. Aim to drink approximately half your weight (pounds) in ounces of water per day. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces (9 cups) of water daily.
6. Break a sweat
One of the ways we eliminate toxins and waste is by sweating. Including daily exercise or using a sauna are both great ways to break a sweat. Bonus: Movement and contrast hydrotherapy (which you can do by rotating the sauna [or hot shower] with a cold shower) both stimulate lymphatic and circulatory systems, which also promote the elimination of toxins and waste.
7. Use targeted supplements.
While there are many products on the market advertised as “liver cleansers,” we advise caution when purchasing these products without the guidance of a healthcare provider. The liver is an incredibly valuable organ and there are certain medications and supplements that can damage it. Supplements that support liver health and/or detoxification include milk thistle, turmeric, chlorella, and activated charcoal. As always, consult your healthcare provider before introducing any new supplements to your routine.
8. Minimize toxic chemical exposure.
We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of potentially dangerous dietary and environmental chemicals each day. These can be found in our personal care products, cleaning products, drinking water, cooking equipment, food storage containers, and food sources. The Environmental Working Group has a number of resources to help you identify safer alternatives for many of these products and equipment. Many toxins are fat soluble, which makes the source of our animal products even more important. When possible, choose organic, wild-caught, grass-fed, and pasture-raised animal products. The Seafood Watch by Monteray Aquarium is a good resource for finding safer and more sustainable seafood options.
Ultimately, all of these strategies are part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, which naturally emphasizes detoxification and elimination. Making these strategies a part of your daily life creates sustainable habits and will ensure your liver and organs of elimination are working optimally each and every day.
Still not sure if you need more liver or overall support? Schedule a FREE 15-minute call with us to ask all your questions and get professional guidance.