Liver Detox and Diet

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 2:39pm

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

Your liver plays a complex role in many critical functions in your body. A one-word summation of its task could be "detoxification." If there are nutritional deficiencies in your diet, your liver will have difficultly eliminating toxins, which will in turn increase the amount of toxins produced by your body.

Toxins and your liver

Toxins come from variety of sources. They come from the environment, the content of our bowels, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. If you are exposed to chemicals or cigarette smoke, it is your liver's job to clean up the toxins before they do damage.

The liver removes toxins in three ways:

  1. It filters the blood.
  2. It neutralizes toxins by excreting fat-soluble toxins with cholesterol through making bile.
  3. It breaks down toxins with enzymes in a two-step process usually referred to as phase I and phase II detoxification.

A good diet helps your liver detoxify

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To support proper liver function, it is important to eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of vegetables, which provide a wide range of essential nutrients. Your liver needs these nutrients to perform its duties. Some of the best things you can do for your liver include:

1.   Eat a high-fiber diet to eliminate toxins

Fiber binds to the bile in the large intestines, which helps to transport it out of the body. This is one of the ways the body eliminates fat-soluble toxins from the body.

2.   Include variety in your diet to protect the liver

Eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, including foods high in antioxidants (vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin E) and high in B vitamins, calcium, and trace minerals to protect the liver from damage and help it do its job.

3.   Watch your B vitamins to improve the liver

Make sure to get enough choline, betaine, methionine, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. These special nutritional factors are needed to promote liver decongestion, improve liver function and metabolize fat.

4.   Use a medically supervised fast to aid in detoxification

A fast can quickly increase elimination of waste and enhance your body's healing processes. Fasting is not right for everyone, however; talk to your doctor to learn what fast is appropriate for you.

Important nutrients for your liver

A diet high in fiber includes a wide variety of plant-based foods. The best way to increase fiber is to eat more vegetables, beans and fruit. Foods that contain vitamins C and E are important as antioxidants to protect and treat a damaged liver. B vitamins are often depleted when the liver is overworked from alcohol consumption or toxic exposure. Methionine and cysteine are sulfur-containing proteins that are known to protect the liver and aid in converting fat-soluble toxins to water-soluble substances that can be eliminated through the urine. Choline is needed to metabolize fats in the body. Foods that contain these vitamins include:

  • Vitamin C. Rose hips, kale, parsley, collard greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, papaya, spinach, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, asparagus, mangos, peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Vitamin E. Almonds, filberts, sunflower seeds, avocados, asparagus, walnuts, tomatoes, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.
  • B-complex. Nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, buckwheat, wild rice, and brown rice.
  • Methionine and cysteine. Egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sesame seeds, whole grains and beans.
  • Choline. Soybeans, egg yolks, nutritional yeast, fish, peanuts, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, lentils, chick peas and brown rice.

Making specific dietary changes to aid your liver in detoxification can be simple. Eating a wide variety of organic vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans and whole grains gives your body the fiber and the nutrients it needs to protect and support healthy liver function.