Your liver, roughly the size of a football (!!!) is our largest internal organ and is responsible for detoxifying your blood; producing the bile needed to digest fat; breaking down hormones and storing essential vitamins, minerals and iron. It has a number of other functions but in essence, one’s health, wellbeing and longevity are intricately entwined with a healthy-functioning liver.
For most people, constant exposure to environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals put our liver under undue strain. Our day-to-day lives put us in constant exposure to toxins either orally, topically or via inhalation and once inside our body, these toxins get stored in tissues and cells. The consequences of toxic overload are far-reaching and there has been study after study on the accumulative effects of toxicity from chemicals, including cancerous, reproductive, metabolic, respiratory and mental health effects to name but a few.
Some of the signs you are in need of a liver cleanse include:
Reflux / heartburn
Trouble digesting fatty foods
Halitosis (bad breath)
Low energy and hypoglycaemia
Overheating and/or excessive perspiration
Aches and pains
Abdominal fat, unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight
Allergies, skin rashes and acne
Mood swings, depression, poor concentration and a foggy brain
Hormonal imbalances, PMS and pronounced menopausal symptoms
In addition to these signs of liver malfunction, some of the risk factors related to impaired liver function include:
Heavy alcohol abuse
Intravenous drug use
Recurrent viral infections and autoimmune disease
Overuse of prescription medication
Blood transfusions prior to 1992
Exposure to certain industrial chemicals and environmental toxins (dyes, cleaning agents, nailpolish, petrol, smoke, etc)
Obesity and a heavily processed diet or one high in saturated fats
Tattoos and/or body piercings
High blood triglycerides
So if you haven’t been giving your liver the TLC it needs or the festive season has taken its toll, consider a liver cleanse and notice changes in your body within a matter of weeks.
STEP 1: Tidy up your Diet and Lifestyle
Remove from your diet the following: packaged and processed foods, including foods with trans-fats; foods with colourings, additives or preservatives; gluten (incl. wheat), dairy and red meats; alcohol, soft drinks, packaged juices and caffeine; refined sugars and deli meats. Preferably you even cut out non-organic produce or if this is not an option, at least consider reducing foods from the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables (a quick Google search will help you out here).
Substitute with fresh, preferably organic vegetables and some fruits; raw juices (to reduce overall acidity in your body) and depending on your physical activity levels, some organic proteins (the liver still needs protein in order to be able to detoxify).
Look carefully at your lifestyle and replace any known toxins with natural alternatives - think bathroom products, makeup and hair care products, laundry products, cleaning agents and so on. Consider exercising at times of the day when pollution levels are at their lowest (early morning) and reduce electrical exposure around the house.
STEP 2: Boost your Diet with Nutrient-rich Foods
Increase your intake of the following:
Raw vegetable juices: As mentioned, these reduce the overall acidity in your body.
Liver detox drinks (lemon, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, grapefruit and aloe vera): A combination of any of the listed ingredients in purified water, sipped throughout the day, in order to promote increased digestive enzyme secretion and enhanced digestion.
Foods rich in potassium (sweet potatoes, organic tomato puree, spinach, beet greens, white/kidney/lima beans, molasses, avocados and bananas): This vital nutrient helps with liver cleansing, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and helps support a healthy heart.
Foods rich in sulphur compounds (organic eggs, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots) and cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts): Sulphur aids in phase II liver detoxification, whilst cruciferous vegetables assist both phase I and II detoxification.
STEP 3: Supplementation
The critical supplements to take during a liver cleanse include:
St Mary’s Thistle, or Milk Thistle: A beautiful herb for its liver regeneration properties
Globe artichoke or Dandelion root: Alternative herbs for liver detoxification
An antioxidant such as L-Glutathione, Alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol or green tea or other polyphenol-rich compound: Assists in minimising free radical damage.
Activated charcoal: This substance has a drawing effect upon toxins in the body, though take it away from other foods or supplements as it will diminish the effect of other substances concurrently in the gut.
STEP 4: Other Ideas
Though there is a great deal more you could do in your cleanse, here are some final pointers:
Break a sweat every day to stimulate your circulation and lymphatic system, both important systems in detoxification.
Partake in dry skin brushing, again boosting your lymphatic and circulatory systems.
Take an epsom salt bath to assist detoxification.
Practise yoga as certain poses are known for their detoxification, digestive or circulatory effects.
Breathe deeply to encourage toxin elimination, boost circulation and drain the lymphatic system.
Even simply instigating just a few of these changes will have a marked effect on your health and biological markers, though if this Christmas was one of complete overindulgence, do your body a favour, plan well and start your cleanse without delay. And make sure you let us know about your new and improved self!
*Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional when conducting a liver cleanse, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are on medication/s.
Author: Samantha Kirton