NOTE: For an updated version of this article, see “Fast Track Liver Detox.”
After more than two decades working as a nutritionist specializing in weight loss and detoxification, I am still completely in awe of the liver. As far as I’m concerned, this amazing organ, nestled away in the right side of the abdomen, has more than earned its name, which derives from an Old English word for “life.”
Your liver is your largest internal organ, and it’s responsible for an astonishing variety of life-sustaining and health-promoting tasks — including those that make healthy weight loss and weight management possible. Integral to countless metabolic processes, the liver supports the digestive system, controls blood sugar and regulates fat storage. It stores and mobilizes energy, and produces more proteins than any other organ in the body. It also regulates your blood flow and, if you’re a woman, keeps your menstrual cycles running smoothly.
One of your liver’s most important functions, though — and the one most crucial to your weight loss — is chemically breaking down everything that enters your body, from the healthiest bite of organic food to the poisonous pesticides that linger on your salad; from the purest filtered water to a glass of wine or a cup of coffee; from your daily vitamin and mineral supplements to your doctor-prescribed blood-pressure medication.
It’s your liver’s job to distinguish between the nutrients you need to absorb and the dangerous or unnecessary substances that must be filtered out of your bloodstream. But when the liver is clogged and overwhelmed with toxins, it can’t do a very effective job of processing nutrients and fats. So if you’re concerned with managing your weight, remember this important point: The more toxic your body becomes, the more difficulty you’ll have losing weight and keeping it off.
Before you begin the One-Day Detox, it’s essential that you prepare your body by strengthening your liver and colon for the work ahead. If you don’t do this, you might end up more bloated, constipated and “toxic” than you were before. You may also inadvertently put the brakes on desired weight loss.
Fasting releases toxins that were previously lodged in your fat cells and shuttles them into your bloodstream for filtration and transport through your body’s elimination channels. But without prior liver and colon support to help these toxins clear your system, the poisons may simply get relocated within the body, settling into any number of sensitive organs and making you feel tired, anxious, headachy and more fatigued than when you started. So if you want to avoid feeling unnecessarily lousy, and if you want to maximize weight loss, follow this simple, six-step program for seven days before you embark on the one-day, liver-flushing juice fast:
1. Each day, for seven days, choose at least one serving from each group of the following Liver-Loving Foods:
- Crucifers, such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccoli sprouts
- Green leafy vegetables and herbs, like parsley, kale, watercress, chard, cilantro, beet greens, escarole, dandelion greens and mustard greens
- Citrus, like oranges, lemons and limes (avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice, which contain a compound called naringen that can interfere with the liver-cleansing process)
- Sulfur-rich foods, like garlic, onions, eggs and daikon radish
- Liver healers, such as artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery, dandelion-root tea, whey and nutritional yeast flakes
2. Each day, choose at least two of the following Colon-Caring foods: powdered psyllium husks, milled or ground flaxseeds, carrots, apple, pear or berries.
3. Each day, drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered or purified water.
4. Each day, make sure you have at least two servings (the size of the palm of your hand) of protein in the form of lean beef, lamb, skinless chicken, turkey or fish, or, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, at least 2 tablespoons a day of a high-quality blue-green algae or a spirulina source (available in natural-foods and health stores).
5. Each day, make sure you have 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the form of olive oil, flaxseed oil or a “woman’s oil” (a flaxseed oil-black-currant oil blend).
(For specific serving sizes and more detailed guidance on choosing Liver-Loving Foods, see The Fast Track Detox Diet.)
6. Avoid the following “detox detractors”:
- Excess dietary fats, especially trans fats
- Any form of sugar, including honey and maple syrup
- Refined carbohydrates, including white rice and products made from white flour
- Gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and all their related products, such as packaged cereals, macaroni and cheese, pizza dough, pasta, tortillas, pancake/waffle mixes and cookies, as well as in many “low-carb” products, vegetable proteins, some soy sauces and distilled vinegars
- Soy protein isolates, found in many protein energy bars and processed soy foods
- Alcohol, over-the-counter drugs and caffeine
Prepare the Miracle Juice (for complete recipe and preparation instructions, see The Fast Track Detox Diet):
- Cranberry Water — unsweetened cranberry juice or unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate diluted with filtered water (be sure to use 100 percent pure, unsweetened cranberry juice that has no sugar, corn syrup or other juices added)
- Freshly squeezed orange juice
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Stevia (a sweet-tasting herb that is widely available at natural-food stores) to taste
Directions:1. Bring Cranberry Water to a light boil; reduce the heat to low.
2. Place cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg into a tea ball; add to the Cranberry Water. (For a tangier juice, add the spices directly to the liquid.)
3. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes; cool to room temperature.
4. Stir in the orange and lemon juices. Add stevia at this time, if desired.
Upon rising and at the end of the day, take one serving of a colon-caring supplement, chosen from among the following:
- Powdered psyllium husks (1 to 2 teaspoons mixed in 8 ounces of water or Miracle Juice)
- Ground or milled flaxseeds (2 to 3 tablespoons mixed in 10 to 12 ounces of water or 8 ounces Miracle Juice)
The Three-Day Sequel
Following your One-Day Detox, it’s essential that you follow this sequel program for three days straight. Otherwise, your reentry into normal eating may leave you feeling bloated, constipated and more toxic than before.
Fasting without follow-up support means that toxins released into your bloodstream during the fast may remain in your system, making you feel tired, anxious, headachy and fatigued. Skipping the Three-Day Sequel also sets you up to regain lost weight. So support your body’s natural detox process and seal in the results of your One-Day Juice Fast by following these simple steps:
1. Each day, choose at least one of the following probiotic food sources to restore “friendly bacteria”:
- Sauerkraut (1/2 cup). You can either make your own or buy an organic, raw variety. Most store-bought sauerkraut is processed with heat, which kills the naturally occurring enzymes and microflora, so check the label carefully.
- Yogurt. Nonfat, low-fat or whole-milk yogurt are all fine, but look for plain yogurt whose label reads “live, active cultures.”
2. Before each meal, take one or more tablets of hydrochloric acid in a formula that contains at least 500 to 540 milligrams of betaine hydrochloride with at least 100 to 150 milligrams of pepsin, and at least 50 milligrams of ox bile extract (such formulas are widely available at most health and nutrition stores and at many natural groceries).
3. Follow steps 1 through 6 of the Seven-Day Prequel.
Meet Your Liver
Sure, you’ve heard of it – but how well do you know this important organ? The liver is your largest internal organ. It can be found in the upper right part of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above the stomach. The liver works very hard to keep your largest external organ (the skin) looking good! How? Well, it regulates and removes toxins from our blood, processes nutrients so our body can use them, makes bile to breakdown fat, and most notoriously, metabolizes and clears alcohol from our system.
Removing these impurities on the inside of the body is crucial for maintaining a clear and healthy glow on the outside. Registered dietitian, Sarah Greenfield, warns about these other symptoms of sub-optimum liver function:
“A poorly functioning liver can lead to things like bloating, gas, constipation, low energy levels, decreased appetite, heartburn, difficulty losing weight and high blood pressure.”
Why Is the Liver Important?
Before we dive right in and explore how to detox your liver naturally, let’s touch on what exactly this incredible organ really does.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ and it can be found in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.
Besides detoxifying the body, the liver has many other significant functions:
- It produces cholesterol, proteins, and clotting factors
- It metabolizes nutrients and coverts them into forms to be used within the body
- It controls what enters the bloodstream and adjusts the composition of blood
- It stores many essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and iron
An unhealthy liver can wreak havoc on the rest of your body.
Excess alcohol intake, a poor diet, viral hepatitis, and drug use can all place immense amounts of stress on the liver, eventually leading to chronic liver damage.
Love Your Liver
Commonly dubbed the most important metabolic organ in the body, it’s vital that we keep our liver happy. Give it what it needs and it will continue to cleanse and detox your body for you.
Above all else, stay hydrated, minimize alcohol intake, and eat a nutrient-dense diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Your liver (and the rest of your body) will thank you.
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What Does Your Liver Do for You Anyways?
There are so many functions that this oval-shaped, 3-pound bag of tissue performs in your body (some experts say over 400!) that it would take an entire book to describe them all. In a nutshell, the liver plays a major role in both metabolism and detoxification. It breaks down nutrients from food into forms that can be used in the body. It also stores these substances and supplies the cells with the specific nutrients that they may need at just the right time.
The liver is vital for the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. In carb processing, it helps ensure that glucose levels stay balanced. In the breakdown of proteins, liver cells help convert amino acids from food into substances that can be used as energy. And in fat metabolism, liver cells do basically the same thing – with the help of the gallbladder, it breaks down fat particles into energy.
The liver also has intricate relationships with several other organs. Blood that comes from the digestive system flows through certain areas of the liver bringing nutrients. The liver also works with the kidneys. Ammonia is a byproduct of the breakdown of proteins, carbs, and fats. Liver cells convert this potentially-toxic substance into urea, which is ammonia’s more benign form, which is then transported to the kidneys to be passed out of the body as urine.
And of course, the liver’s function is vitally connected to the gallbladder, which is a small organ located underneath the liver. The gallbladder’s main job is to produce bile needed for the breakdown of fats.
Liver Function, Fatty Liver, and Liver Cancer
Although we now know enough about the liver to understand that it is crucial for the health of the entire body, science is still learning about its connections to specific nutrients, mechanisms, and disease process. For example, new research is now discovering the link between magnesium deficiency and liver cirrhosis (extensive scarring of the liver) as well as magnesium deficiency and fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease, or Hepatic Steatosis, is a condition that is of special concern in this day and age. At one time, fatty liver disease was mostly connected to alcoholism. Over the last decade, however, the number of individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has grown exponentially.
NAFLD occurs when the liver is not able to metabolize fats efficiently. According to a 2015 analysis conducted by Thomas Jefferson University “there is a worldwide epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)…” According to the American Liver Foundation, roughly 25% of the U.S. population is effected by NAFLD in some way.
Thomas Jefferson researchers call NAFLD a “clinical entity related to metabolic syndrome.” Conventional medicine often connects NAFLD to genetic predisposition as well as obesity and diabetes, although not everyone who is diagnosed with the condition are overweight and/or struggling with diabetes.
More forward-thinking researchers are now making the connection between NAFLD and environmental and pharmaceutical toxins. Chronic use of certain pain killers as well as the use of certain chemo drugs may be contributing factors for NAFLD.
In addition, a 2017 investigation published in the journal Nature: Scientific Reports made the definitive link between NAFLD and the consumption of GMO foods, especially those that have been sprayed with even the smallest amounts of the pesticide Roundup.
If the connection between chemically-produced toxins and NAFLD is correct, then it is no surprise that as these chemicals continue to pervade every aspect of our lives, the incidence of not only NAFLD but also Cirrhosis, liver failure, and even cancer of the liver will continue to rise as well.
According to the American Cancer Society, the number of liver cancer deaths have increased by three percent every year since 2000. In 2017, 40,710 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the liver.
Detox Your Liver, Detox Your Body
In this age of increased toxic load on all levels, it is imperative that the liver be cleansed on a regular basis. According to both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions, transitional points of the year (such as the weeks right before the winter and summer solstices) are great times to give your liver a hand in order to detox and refresh on a deeper level.
Each of the cleanse modalities listed below can be utilized from one to three weeks. If you are fairly healthy, you should be able to support your liver in these ways while at the same time maintaining a regular schedule. Although, it may be a good idea to focus on healing as much as possible by keeping extra activities to a minimum during the first few days as your body flushes out extra toxins buried deep within the organs.
In addition, if you have been diagnosed with NAFLD or any other health condition, it would be wise to consult with your health practitioner prior to embarking on any kind of concentrated cleanse.
#1: Use Gentle Herbals. Certain herbs can have a profoundly strengthening effect on the liver. Three such herbs that have been used for centuries are milk thistle, dandelion root, and Holy Basil. Organic dandelion root and Holy Basil can often be found at health food stores (or in your own back yard). Milk thistle is often sold in supplement form and can be a great boost for the immune system as well.
Quality liver detox supplements that synergistically combine multiple herbs for overall cleansing can be very effective as well. One such supplement, Detoxx by Organixx combines Holy Basil, fennel, cardamom, turkey tail mushroom, and other key herbals for an overall cleansing effect not only for the liver but for the digestive system too.
#2: Coffee Enema. Enemas have been used for centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners and some of today’s top natural health experts say that regular coffee enemas are a “must” for a toxic world. Administering an enema with organic, pesticide-free coffee can be an instant energy-lifter and here’s why: blood runs though the liver every three minutes.
Retaining coffee in the bowels for just 15 minutes allows it to seep through the intestinal wall and into the “portal vein” of the liver, where it will stimulate the gallbladder. Coffee also provides the body with the phytochemicals kahweol and cafestol, which can lower inflammation, activate glutathione production, and encourage cellular detoxification. Coffee enemas have also been shown to stimulate apoptosis, or cancer cell death, in some studies.
#3: Try a liver-cleansing “shot.” It’s not an injection nor does it have anything to do with tequila (except that you might want to do this the morning after you’ve had “one too many”). A liver-cleansing shot is simple to put together and fairly easy to “down.”
Just combine one whole organic lemon, cut into pieces (rind and all), 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of cayenne in 6 ounces of pure water. Blend at high speed until thoroughly mixed. Then strain and drink. You can also sip this infusion throughout the day for a gentler cleanse; just make sure to wait at least an hour before eating.
#4: Don’t forget the gallbladder. The liver-cleansing “shot” mentioned above is great for the gallbladder too, which is a good thing. In order to really cleanse the liver, you also must take the health of the gallbladder into consideration. To help your gallbladder and to prevent painful gallstones, stay away from trans fats and processed foods, and make sure to drink plenty of water.
The liver plays a major role in both metabolism and detoxification.
The liver’s function is vitally connected to the gallbladder, which is a small organ located underneath the liver.
Fatty liver disease (Hepatic Steatosis) is a condition that is of special concern. Over the last decade the number of individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has grown exponentially.
Chronic use of certain pain killers as well as the use of certain chemo drugs may be contributing factors for NAFLD. GMO foods sprayed with the pesticide Roundup have also been linked to NAFLD.
In this age of increased toxic load on all levels, it is imperative that the liver be cleansed on a regular basis.
Cleanse modalities include:
- Gentle herbals
- Coffee enema
- A liver-cleansing “shot”
- Don’t forget the gallbladder
How to keep your liver happy all year long:
- Get sufficient amounts of vitamins K, D, A, B12, B6,C, and magnesium
- Drink half your weight in pure, fresh, filtered water
- Go easy on your digestive system
- Move your body
- Practice stress management techniques
- Take care of yourself emotionally
- Consider going on a deeper cleanse whenever you experience signs of toxic overload
How To Detox: The Correct Order To Cleanse Your Entire Body
Many people I talk to seem to think that detoxification means drinking some off-the-shelf fiber drink or detox product from a health-store. While these products may help a little, they are just scratching the surface of what it means to do a thorough detox.
For best results, always detox in the correct order.
Detoxing your body step-by-step in the following order will lead to a more efficient and thorough cleanse, produce better results and avoid unwanted side-effects:
- Gastrointestinal detox / colon cleanse
- Liver / gallbladder detox
- Kidney detox
- Lungs detox
- Lymphatic system and skin detox – concurrently