People tend to think cleansing is all about the colon. But the truth is that there are multiple organs that play a role in eliminating toxins and waste from the body—all of which deserve a little extra attention in our increasingly toxic world. Chief among them is your liver.
As the largest internal organ, your liver performs a long list of tasks in support of your overall health and wellness. For example, it works hard to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and protein to optimize digestion. It stores substances such as glycogen and fat-soluble vitamins for a readily available source of energy when you need it. And it constantly filters the blood to remove toxins and waste from the body.
Your liver is the main hub where toxins are transformed, dismantled and neutralized on the way to being eliminated. You can think of it as the manager of the entire detoxification process in the body. Every day it manufactures roughly 13,000 chemicals, maintains 2,000 enzyme systems, filters 100 gallons of blood and produces about a quart of bile to assist with digestion. Pretty impressive for an organ that only weighs about three pounds!
The liver is also the most resilient organ in your body, capable of continuing to work even after injury and inflammation. Did you know it is the only organ that can self-regenerate? It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but you can actually donate a small piece of your liver to another person and it will grow into a normal-sized, fully functioning liver.
WHY IS LIVER HEALTH SO IMPORTANT?
You’re probably starting to see the big picture here, but let’s look a little more closely at what the liver does and why it’s important to keep it healthy. A properly functioning liver is able to clear 99% of toxins from the blood before that blood is transported to the rest of the body, which means a weak or overburdened liver affects every other organ and system that impacts your health.
The liver is so central to the body’s overall functioning capacity that a basic tenet of naturopathic medicine is that many diseases can be treated by addressing an individual’s liver health. The word liver actually comes from an Old English word meaning life, so it makes sense that studies have linked the length and quality of life to healthy liver function.
What are Some Foods Good for Liver Health?
Good nutrition is one of the best ways to support a healthy liver. Your liver requires specific nutrients to function properly, and when those nutrients are provided the liver can do its job of converting them into substances the body needs for all those daily functions we talked about.
Not surprisingly, eating the right foods to support liver health can go a long way toward making sure this important organ obtains the nutrients it needs. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) recommends these general food tips to support a healthy liver:
- Eat a balanced diet with foods from all food groups, including grains, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, protein, legumes, dairy and healthy fats (such as fish-derived Omega-3 fatty acids).
- Eat plenty of high-fiber foods to support healthy cholesterol levels. This benefits the liver by preventing the need to process extra cholesterol in the body.
- Drink plenty of water. This prevents dehydration, which in turn helps your liver function better overall.
- Avoid foods high in fat, sugar and salt, along with fried foods including fast food restaurant meals. (More on this later in the blog.)
THE BENEFITS OF A NATURAL LIVER CLEANSE
While the human body was built to process everyday toxins to an extent, our modern world places increased stress on our detoxification channels—especially the liver. Along with consuming plenty of liver cleansing foods, a natural liver cleanse formula may help support healthy liver function even further.
Keeping your metabolic engines running and your body free of toxins is a 24/7 job. Much like the way your heart beats continuously to pump blood, your liver is always working to remove harmful chemicals and waste. Your body is actually in a constant state of renewal, with new cells replacing old ones in an ongoing cycle. The same way your body prefers fresh cells, it also likes to keep churning out new molecules and creating fresh supplies of beneficial compounds like hormones and proteins, which is why even “good” substances need to be broken down, reassembled and either recycled or eliminated as waste. And, as you may have guessed, your liver is orchestrating much of the process!
In addition to providing needed nutrients for healthy liver cells, Renew Life liver cleanse supplements and support formulas include specific herbs, antioxidants and natural ingredients known to support, protect, stimulate and detoxify the liver.*
Renew Life Liver Detox™ is a targeted, 2-part cleansing program for liver detoxification made with specially selected herbs and natural ingredients. It’s designed to assist with your body’s natural liver detoxification process and help protect your liver cells for better health and well-being.*
- 30 days
- Organ cleansing program*
- Supports liver health*
- Eliminates waste and toxins*
- Gluten Free
- Quality, purity, and potency guaranteed through expiration
For advanced support, our Extra Care Liver Support formula is a potent herbal detox formula that includes 600 mg milk thistle, an amino acid complex, vitamin C and herbs for potent liver support.* Its rejuvenating properties help enhance the function of your body’s primary detoxification organ so you can live a cleaner life.*
- Daily liver support and protection*
- Promotes liver detoxification*
- Includes amino acids, Vitamin C and herbs
- Gluten free, with no artificial ingredients
- Quality, purity, and potency guaranteed through expiration
Everyday Liver Support is an everyday herbal detox formula that promotes healthy liver function with triple-action care that helps detoxify, strengthen and protect your liver.* Natural herbs, including 400 mg of milk thistle, work in harmony to support your most important detoxification organ.*
- Daily liver cleansing support*
- Provides antioxidant protection*
- Helps eliminate toxins*
- Gluten free, with no artificial ingredients
- Quality, purity, and potency guaranteed through expiration
Why Renew Life Cleansing?
Our bodies come into contact with toxins every day—from the environment, our food, and even within our own digestive tract. Renew Life herbal cleanse and detox formulas work with your body to help re-establish digestive balance, eliminate toxins, and help you get back to feeling like yourself again.* Take a look at our 7-day rapid total body cleanse or our 3-day cleanse total body reset capsules.
New to cleansing? Check out the Body Cleanse & Detox section of our blog for answers to all of your questions!
Foods to Emphasize While Cleansing
A lot of folks ask us if there is a particular liver cleansing diet they should follow. This is actually a great question for any type of cleanse, because incorporating a wholesome diet can help you get the most out of your next herbal cleanse and detox program. Here is a list of foods our experts recommend:
- Live foods: Live foods support the body by providing more enzymes and nutrients that may be missing from boxed and pre-packaged foods. Good choices include raw, organic fruits and vegetables (veggies may also be lightly steamed), as well as fermented foods that contain beneficial probiotic cultures. These include plain yogurt, plain kefir (a fermented milk beverage), miso and tempeh. Opt for organic whenever possible, and always wash your fruits and vegetables well. You may also want to supplement with a daily probiotic.
- Lean proteins: Choose lean protein sources such as chicken, turkey, beef, game meats, fish, tofu, tempeh, hummus, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy and quality protein shakes. Buy organic, natural or free-range when possible.
- Grains: Grain sources such as millet, buckwheat, khorasan wheat, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, teff, rye, basmati rice, kamut, wild rice and brown rice provide an excellent source of fiber while cleansing. (Khorasan wheat, spelt, rye and kamut are ‘cousins’ of wheat and may contain gluten). Renew Life also makes several high fiber supplements.
- Healthy fats: In addition to the beneficial Omega-3 fats found in fish, other good-for-you fats include avocado, olives, walnuts, almonds, pecans, flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sardines, salmon, coconut and coconut milk.
- Water: Drinking plenty of water is essential during cleansing. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Choose purified, spring or filtered water if possible.
Unhealthy Fats Are No Friend to Your Liver
While healthy fats are encouraged, unhealthy fats can cause significant harm to your liver over time. A German study found that eating just one high-fat meal causes immediate changes in liver function that may pave the way for more serious problems in the future.
Researchers asked more than a dozen healthy young men to consume either a single dose of palm oil—the equivalent of a high-fat meal such as a greasy burger and fries—or a placebo. By the end of the study, the palm oil participants had experienced a 70% increase in glucose production in the liver and a notable decrease in overall insulin sensitivity.
The so-called “fat loading” also put added stress on healthy liver cells and made it harder for the liver to store glucose over fat. Over time, these effects may contribute to elevated blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes as well as liver disease.
WHY EVEN A LITTLE SUGAR AFFECTS YOUR LIVER
Love your liver? You may want to kick the sugar habit. Following a study on mice, scientists at Oregon State University found that too much sugar may make it harder for the body to repair liver damage caused by an unhealthy diet.
Researchers divided the mice into two groups and fed them either a healthy diet or a diet high in sugar, cholesterol and fat (much like the standard American diet). After only five and a half months, the mice in the sugar and cholesterol group developed liver damage, so researchers switched them to the healthy diet for an additional eight weeks to see what would happen. The change helped reverse some of the liver damage, but there was still some scarring left behind.
Researchers then repeated the experiment bumped up the sugar content significantly after switching the mice to a healthy diet. In humans, it would be like drinking four regular sodas a day, or about 600 added calories from sugar. As you might guess, the mice on the high-sugar diet were far worse off than their non-added-sugar counterparts and exhibited “significantly higher levels” of inflammation, oxidative stress and liver fibrosis (the buildup of scar tissue due to ongoing liver cell damage).
One More Thing about Diet…
A Medical College of Wisconsin study found that how often we eat during the day and what times we eat may be just as important as our food choices when it comes to supporting healthy liver function and reducing the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
They found that otherwise healthy adults who spread out their calorie intake into several small meals during the day, who avoided late night/early morning meals, and who ate more of their daily calories in the morning were less likely to develop fatty liver. In contrast, skipping meals was linked to a higher risk of NAFLD—up to 73% higher in some participants. Researchers believe it has to do with a shift in our natural bodily rhythms.
Other Ways to Support Your Liver
In addition to a healthy diet and herbal cleansing, there are simple things you can do every day to promote healthy liver function. Check out these 3 simple tips!
- Go organic. Many foods today are contaminated with pesticides, chemical additives, and even growth hormones and antibiotics—all of which put added stress on your liver. Opt for fresh, organic foods whenever possible, including meats from organically raised, grass-fed animals.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can damage healthy liver cells and may contribute to inflammation. While it’s best to avoid alcoholic beverages altogether, make it a point to be aware of how often and how much you drink, and limit alcohol consumption as much as possible. The ALF recommends no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
- Stay active. Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) has been shown to support healthy liver function by stimulating blood and lymphatic circulation, which in turn helps eliminate toxins from the body and supports healthy liver function.
Stress and Your Liver
We all experience everyday stress: at home, on the job, during our daily commute. And while we don’t often think too much about it, feelings of stress can have a profound effect on the body—especially the liver. Why? Because stressful situations can impact your endocrine, digestive and immune systems, all of which are tied to healthy liver function.
Prolonged stress can lead to an abnormal inflammatory response in the body, which in turn can damage healthy liver cells. Researchers in Scotland even found that frequent stress and anxiety can increase the risk of liver disease and may lead to a shorter lifespan. (The association between increased stress and liver health was seen even when factors such as diet, weight and alcohol and tobacco use were taken into account.)
For these reasons, you owe it to your liver to find ways to minimize stress in your daily life. Try these four simple tips for managing stress:
- Identify: The first step toward stress management is understanding the sources of stress in your everyday life. Make of list of the obvious ones, then carry a journal with you for about a week to help identify any other stressors you may have overlooked. By the end of the week, you should have a good idea of your main sources of stress.
- Reduce: Once you know what’s causing your stress, pinpoint the stressors you are able to eliminate or reduce. The least favorite item on your to-do list? Find a way to cross it off for good. Your late-night snacking habit? It may feel good in the moment, but you tend to regret it afterward. Do your best to recognize the behaviors that ultimately stress you out, and remember you have the ability to make a change.
- Eliminate: Just as there are healthy methods of dealing with daily stress, there are also unhealthy methods. Try to eliminate habits such as smoking, alcohol, overeating or taking your stress out on others and recognize that these practices are causing more damage than good. Start small—replace one unhealthy method at a time with a more positive technique.
- Manage: While you’ll likely be able to strip away a few, many sources of everyday stress cannot be changed. Fortunately, you can still change how you respond to those stressors. Simple stress management techniques include following a healthy diet, staying physically active, spending time outdoors, having a good support system, getting plenty of sleep, practicing mindfulness and making time for the things you enjoy.
Try this simple liver cleanse recipe!
Traditional recipes like this one utilize the power of known liver-supporting herbs. Between cleansing, try this simple tonic to promote healthy liver function.
Milk Thistle & Dandelion Root Liver Enhancer
1 cup purified water
1 tsp. dandelion root, dried and chopped
3 drops milk thistle extract (or one 210mg capsule)
Directions:Combine water and dandelion in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes. Pour into cup and add milk thistle. Stir and enjoy.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
A slowdown in healthy liver function is often referred to as having a “sluggish liver”. When this happens, your liver is unable to perform its many tasks, which could lead to a buildup of harmful toxins in the body. There are many potential causes of a sluggish liver, including the use of certain medications, too much sugar and processed foods in the diet, excessive alcohol consumption and certain diseases and infections.
BELOW ARE SOME SIGNS OF A SLUGGISH LIVER:
- Skin issues (sallow coloring, itching, rashes, liver spots, acne)
- Dark circles under the eyes, yellow discoloration of eyes
- Bitter taste in mouth
- Moodiness and irritability
- Excessive sweating
- Flushed facial appearance
- Red palms and soles (possibly with itching)
- Digestive issues (e.g., bloating, chronic indigestion, refluxand heartburn)
- Bad breath, coated tongue
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Gallbladder problems
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, especially if they are persistent, call and make an appointment with your doctor. In cases of severe abdominal pain, you should be seen immediately by a medical professional.
Healthy Liver, Healthy Body
Choosing to support a healthy liver doesn’t have to mean big changes in the way you live your life. Start slowly by adding more liver-friendly foods to your diet or reducing your alcohol intake. Choose an herbal liver cleanse formula to promote healthy liver function and assist with eliminating toxins and waste from your body. When you support the health of your liver, your whole body—from your gut to your brain—will reap the benefits.