by Amanda Box, N.D.
“I can’t eat that! I’m on a detox.” You’ve probably heard this phrase by now. Detoxing and cleansing have become quite the trends lately. As natural health methods and healing become more mainstream, I partly find this exciting, but, I also want to roll my eyes.
I have found, for the most part, that people who are detoxing don’t fully understand why they are doing what they are doing. They blindly jump on the detox bandwagon because they hear it can help them lose weight.
Although detoxing can help you lose weight, there are so many more benefits to a good clean out. But, it is a process that should be carefully considered and taken seriously. Detoxification is far more than an attempt at weight loss. It is a process that can change your life.
Most detoxes and cleanses today focus on: eliminating something (e.g., sugar, gluten, etc.); weight loss (via fasting or juice cleanses); or colon cleansing. Although these are fantastic cleanses, they only scratch the surface of detoxification.
In the deluge of detoxes, one of the most important organs goes unnoticed: the liver. This large and overloaded organ truly deserves its turn at detoxifying.
The word “liver” is derived from the word “life”, and rightly so! Your liver literally gives your body life every single day by performing over 300 functions! Some of the liver’s functions include:
- Storing iron for hemoglobin production
- Filtering out bacteria and resisting infections by producing immune factors
- Helping to regulate blood sugar levels
- Contributing to digestion
- Regulating amino acids (building blocks of protein) in the blood
- Removing toxic compounds from the blood
- Removing and inactivating excess hormones
Signs of a Stressed Liver
Liver detoxification is essential for keeping your liver at optimal functioning capacity. Because the liver filters so many toxins day in and day out, it can become sluggish and struggle to work efficiently. You may begin to show signs of liver impairment like:
- Hormonal imbalance (PMS, Menstrual cramping, PCOS)
- Acne, rosacea or psoriasis
- Unexplained weight gain
- Joint Pain
- Digestion problems (diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating)
Chinese medicine recognizes some interesting signs when your liver is under stress.
The first symptom is waking up between the hours of 1 and 3 am every night. According to the Chinese medicine’s meridian clock, each organ has a 2-hour time segment in which it is most active. The liver belongs to the 1-3 am time frame.
Secondly, your face can also tell you if you have some liver impairment. Vertical lines between your eyebrows are often referred to as the “liver lines.” I personally saw my liver line fade dramatically after completing a liver cleanse.
Wrinkles aren’t just a part of aging. In Chinese medicine, the lines in our face tell a story of what is happening in our body! Broken capillaries and redness of your left cheek towards the bridge of your nose can be a sign of inflammation or congestion in the liver.
Lastly, your eyes can manifest symptoms of liver dysfunction. Many of you know that if the whites of your eyes change yellow, it is a sign of jaundice. The liver’s inability to properly break down bilirubin in the blood causes jaundice.
A white ring around your iris can be a sign of fatty buildup in the blood. Since the liver breaks down fat and cholesterol, this can also be an indicator that the liver isn’t working as it should.
Chinese medicine also assigns different emotions to different organ systems. Anger, frustration and resentment are emotions associated with the liver. If you often find yourself dealing with these emotions, your liver may need some attention. Beyond the relational, psychological, and spiritual reasons for not holding onto anger and resentment, there are real physical reasons as well. Carrying around these emotions can cause liver problems. Forgiving and letting go of these toxic emotions can keep you healthy physically and in every other respect!
Clean Eating for Liver Health
I believe that every adult could benefit from liver detoxification. We live in a toxic world and no matter how hard we try, we are exposed daily to chemicals and harmful substances. Our liver is the organ responsible for filtering these destructive components out of our body. It bears the brunt of these toxins to save us from being poisoned on a regular basis.
But the liver, being self-sacrificing, can become damaged from toxic exposure. It can also become congested from the massive amount of fat and cholesterol it has to process. Thankfully, the liver is an organ designed to regenerate.
The liver can reconstruct and restore healthy liver cells to optimal function if given the proper attention. This amazing process is the reason why liver detoxification can change your life!
Not every organ in your body can return to normal after being damaged or impaired. Giving the liver a healthy reboot can move you from a diseased state to one of good health.
Liver detoxification starts with what you eat. You cannot expect your liver to repair itself if it continues to be bombarded with toxic substances from the food you eat. Perhaps you have heard of Clean Eating. Clean Eating is a style of eating that truly encompasses its name. “Clean” means free from contaminates or unwanted matter. Eating a clean diet is one of the best ways to repair and rejuvenate the liver. To engage in a clean diet:[am4show guest_error=’noaccess’]
- Eliminate processed foods: This includes packaged, canned, and frozen meals. Also, avoid white flour, white sugar, and artificial ingredients of any kind.
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake: Adding two to three servings of veggies to each meal can boost your intake and fill you up. For a healthy snack between meals, choose fruit.
- Cut out unhealthy fats: This includes hydrogenated oils, most vegetable oils, and fried foods. You can, however, use olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil in moderation.
- Eliminate Alcohol Consumption: A glass a day of red wine is typically okay. However, alcohol puts stress on the liver and should be completely eliminated while detoxing.
- Exclude sugar and artificial sweeteners. Use other sweeteners like honey and stevia sparingly.
- Reduce your grain intake by at least half and cut out gluten completely. Instead of wheat, incorporate a little quinoa, rice, or oatmeal into your daily diet. Grains should be a small part of your daily food intake.
- Limit your dairy intake and only use organic or rBgh-free dairy products. Raw dairy from a local farmer is best. Using grass-fed butter is also fine. But while liver detoxing, lowering your intake of healthy fat can be helpful in giving the liver a rest.
- Consume only healthy sourced meats: Feedlot meats contain antibiotics and growth hormones. Not to mention, the conditions are dreadful and unsanitary. Find a local farmer, or quality meat at a local health food market. Farmer’s markets often have locally raised beef and chicken. Also, be wary of high mercury fish like salmon and tuna.
Herbs for Liver Detoxification
Eating a clean diet can dramatically benefit your liver by decreasing its toxic load. But, detoxifying herbs and supplements can take your liver from being exhausted, to rejuvenated! There are specific herbs that stimulate liver cells to regenerate, neutralize toxins, cleanse and unclog the liver.
I must note that you should never begin a liver detox before first cleansing the colon. If your colon is not cleansed, toxins on their way out of the body from your liver get stuck in your waste. When this happens, your system reabsorbs these toxins and you lose the progress you’ve made. Having a clean, functioning colon helps facilitate these toxins out of the body where they belong!
I recommend beginning your clean diet a week before starting a liver cleansing supplement regime. During this week, you can take supplements, which stimulate bowel movements and help clear the colon, readying it for the liver cleanse. One great supplement is Renew Life’s Cleansemore or Bowel Cleanse. You can continue colon-cleansing supplements after you begin to add the liver cleansing herbs. This will keep toxins moving efficiently out of the body.
There are 5 specific herbs that I recommend for liver detoxification.
This pesky weed is a very effective herb for your liver! It not only helps cleanse the liver, but also contributes to regenerating liver cells! Dandelion removes excess water from the body and increases bile production. Increasing bile boosts detoxification of toxic substances out of the body.
This herb is by far the #1 used natural remedy for the liver. In Europe, doctors prescribe milk thistle to treat hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and alcohol-induced liver damage. It has the remarkable ability to both protect the liver, as well as stimulate regeneration of damaged liver tissue. Milk thistle is also an antioxidant and protects the body’s cells from free radical damage. Silymarin is the active component in milk thistle. For optimum results, look for milk thistle containing at least 80% silymarin.
Primarily known as a blood purifier; burdock is also a fantastic liver cleanser. It stimulates bile flow and protects liver cells with its many natural antioxidant compounds.
Artichoke contains compounds called caffeoylquinic acids, which have liver restorative properties. They both protect liver cells and prevent further damage. Artichoke also stimulates the flow of bile, thereby helping the liver and gallbladder break down fats.
This bright orange spice is one of the most potent antioxidants available. It not only protects the liver, but also stimulates the restoration of healthy liver cells. Turmeric aids in liver detoxification and reduces inflammation. The active component in turmeric is called curcumin. Turmeric that contains at least 90% curcuminoids produces the greatest results.
Most quality liver cleansing supplements will contain at least three of these five powerful herbs. My personal favorite is by Enzymatic Therapy. I have used it several times and often recommend it to others. It contains all five herbs and is a two-week regimen that can be repeated, as necessary. Taking the time to cleanse and detoxify your liver can bring new life to your whole body!
Give your liver the restoration it needs by eating a clean diet and using liver cleansing supplements. Your skin will clear, your energy levels increase, and your digestion will be strengthened. Many also see their cholesterol and blood pressure drop to healthy levels after a liver cleanse. Don’t ignore your liver any longer! Begin your journey today towards a cleaner, happier, and healthier life!
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Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.
com/ for contact info.