A Nine-Step Plan to Detox Your Liver
It’s not just about cutting back on long nights out
Two days ‘til the weekend.
But maybe you’re still recovering from last weekend.
Truth is, as you get older, the body gets a little slower and less efficient at helping you recover after a few days of excess.
So your liver needs a tune-up. And we’re here to help. We queried an array of health experts about diet, alcohol consumption, sleep, medication, supplements and even environmental conditions that could cause you and your liver serious damage.
First, the good news. “The liver has an amazing ability to regenerate itself,” says Dr. Keith Ayoob, a nutrition expert and Associate Clinical Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Other organs, like the heart, lungs and brain can’t do that.
Dr. Ayoob also offers the most common sense advice. “When ‘detoxing’ the liver, it’s best to give it a rest from the stuff that was stressing it in the first place.”
Thing is, that’s not just alcohol. It could be types of food or even something in your home.
Below, some tidbits we garnered from medical experts and dietary experts:
Watch for early signs
“You may need a liver detox if you’re suffering from abdominal pain, bloating, acid reflux and heartburn,” says Jeanette Kimszal, a registered nutritionist and dietician. Also look out for fatty, yellowish lumps around your eyes, blotchy or dark spots on the skin, acne or rosacea, excessive sweat with high body heat, sleep apnea and snoring.
It gets worse. Adds Kimszal: “Those with an over- or under-active thyroid, hypertension, high cholesterol and elevated triglycerides could indicate there could be something wrong with your liver. Mood swings and depression could indicate an over-toxified liver.”
“If you’re going to invest in a gym membership, make sure that the gym offers classes such as yoga or Pilates,” says Rebecca Park, a registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource site Remedies for Me. “These types of meditative exercises stimulate your circulation, lymphatic system and digestive system.”
Take milk thistle
An herb used for thousands of years, milk thistle contains silymarin, which has been shown to repair injured calls and slow down the progression of liver damage. It’ll also increase the amount of glutathione (an antioxidant that fights against liver injuries, cancer, dementia, and heart disease) by 50%. Take 140 milligrams three times per day, says Park.
Eat a proper diet
“Cut back on processed foods and added sugar,” says Kimszal. “Eat more whole fruits and vegetables. Eat antioxidant-rich foods with vitamins A,C, E and minerals selenium, along with beta-carotene. These help to heal the damaged cells in your liver.” So you’ll want to add lots of fresh raw colorful foods to your diet, including pumpkin, squash, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, apples and carrots. Also:
- Increase your consumption of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, legumes, etc.)
- Look for foods high in potassium or sulfur
- As far as spices go, turmeric has plenty of antioxidant fighting power.
Prep your food right
“Be careful not to produce more toxins by overcooking them or keeping them in chemically laden containers,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola, the author of Ketofast Cookbook. “Use coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil (preferably third-party-certified olive oil to ensure it hasn’t been adulterated with lower-quality vegetable oils).”
Before you drink, try some NAC
“N-Acetyl Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that promotes liver health,” says Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and creator of the low-sugar, anti-inflammatory Candida Diet. “If you plan on drinking alcohol, try taking some NAC before you go out. It will support your liver health, boost your detox pathways and get your body in the best possible shape for what’s coming. And take it the next day to help remove alcohol-related toxins like acetaldehyde, that could be causing your headaches, nausea, and other hangover symptoms.”
And yes, drink less
Our experts didn’t completely agree on a number, which ranged from teetotaling to cutting yourself off after four drinks per night. Whatever you’re drinking, cut it down, alternate booze with water, or do what you need to do to drink less. We’ll give the final word to Tinsay Woreta, M.D., a Johns Hopkins hepatologist, who says men shouldn’t consume more than three drinks per day and women should hold the line at two, to prevent the development of alcoholic liver disease.
But avoid more than just alcohol
“The worst toxins for the liver are medications you don’t need or drugs you are abusing, as well as alcohol excess,” says Dr. Ayboo. Certainly don’t take Tylenol and booze at the same time.
If you did go out, here’s your plan for the next day
First, don’t fast. And don’t do juice cleanses. “Going days without protein would be counterproductive to liver support,” says Liz Wyosnick, a registered dietitian. Her suggestion after a long night? “Plenty of water, a veggie scramble, a leafy green salad for lunch, and roasted broccoli with your dinner, followed by some milk-thistle tea at night.”
Not quite a bacon cheeseburger, but your liver will thank you.