The liver is easily one of the most important organs in the body and is used in a wide range of functions. These include:
- Removing toxins from the blood
- Converting lactate into energy
- Metabolizing of alcohol
- Producing and excreting bile
- Destroying old blood cells
- Activating enzymes
- Regulating protein, carbohydrate and fat in the blood
- Detoxifying the blood
- Storing vitamins, minerals and glycogen
But, one of the most important things the liver is responsible for is breaking down substances that could harm or poison the body. This constant use of the liver can cause a large amount of stress to be exerted on the organ, which is why it’s one of the most commonly injured.
It should go without saying that taking care of your liver is a worthwhile use of your time. Unfortunately, this is often an overlooked area and, in many cases, a lot of individuals look to pharmaceuticals or prescription drugs to improve liver health. (1)
However, improving the health and proper function of your liver can be done through implementing a good diet that is rich in nutrients that help in fighting inflammation and cell damage. Nearly all the foods we consume are associated with the health of the liver. (2) Taking small steps in substituting some foods, or changing your eating habits can go a long way in ensuring that your liver functions at its highest possible level.
Symptoms of Impaired Liver Function
If you’ve noticed any or a combination of the symptoms listed below, you may be suffering from impaired liver function.
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor appetite
- High blood pressure
- Acid reflux
- Dark urine
Below, we lay out the 10 simplest ways of using diet and lifestyle to take care of your liver and reduce damage to the vital organ so you can stay healthy and fit.
10 Simple Ways To Detox Your Liver
Drink raw, vegetable juice
Most people would have a hard time eating 4-5 servings of vegetables in one meal, and in order for your liver detox to be effective, you would have to be consistent with that level of intake for at least a few days. Juicing is your next best bet, as vegetable detox juice is much easier to consume than a heaping bowl of detox salad.
Juicing has the added benefit of easier digestion, which makes it easier for the body to absorb and assimilate. The fiber content hastens the elimination of toxins in the body, while providing support to the digestive tract. It’s important to note that the vegetable juice has to be raw in order to be effective, as processing can destroy some of the essential vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.
Vegetables to include in your liver detox juice are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumber, beets, carrots and other greens. You can also add mint, parsley, lemon and lime for flavor.
Decrease Visceral Fat
As mentioned above, one of the functions that the liver can serve in the body is to store excess fat around the organ. This fat is known as “visceral” or “deep fat.” Visceral fat is a term used to describe deep fat that surrounds any organ, such as the heart and liver. This is in contrast to ‘subcutaneous’ fat, which sits under the skin and gives a ‘flabby’ or overweight appearance
Try to pinch the skin on your stomach and see how thin or thick it is. If you have a wide, bulging waist but thin skin, then you’re likely to have more visceral fat than say, someone with thin skin and a small waist. This is because visceral fat is stored in the midsection in between the organs, which can make the waist appear wider or thicker.
Contrary to what some may think, visceral fat can actually be far more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. According to researches at the University of Illinois, TRIP-Br2, a regulatory molecule found in cells, is produced in response to certain proteins, leading to higher circulating levels of inflammatory cytokines. (3)
Utilizing a detox diet that reduces total caloric intake can go a long way, especially if you have history of liver disease within the family.
Increase Your Intake of B Vitamins
B vitamins are used for helping the cells process and produce energy. This includes assisting the breakdown of fats and sugars by cells, including those in the liver. (4)
By increasing B Vitamins in your diet, you can help make your cells more efficient at breaking down nutrients to produce energy and can help prevent fat accumulation around the liver, which, as explained above, can cause a host of health issues.
Alongside the above benefits, increasing B Vitamins can also help reduce fatigue and daily lulls in energy.
Increase Your Intake of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight inflammation. This gives Vitamin C a significant advantage if you’re looking for nutrients that will help you protect organs like your liver from toxins and free radicals. (5)
However, many people do not get adequate amounts of this nutrient in their usual diet. Vitamin C is easily broken down in the body, so there is no risk in taking in amounts that are over the recommended levels. Increasing your intake of this nutrient can go a long way in protecting your liver.
Consume Potassium-Rich Foods
For males and females, 2,000 milligrams per day is the recommended intake. (6) If you’re like most adults nowadays, you probably have a hard time hitting this number through your intake of whole foods. Potassium intake is important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, lowering bad cholesterol, and lowering systolic blood pressure.
Bananas are a popular source of potassium, but sweet potatoes contain more potassium per gram, not to mention its rich beta-carotene and fiber content. Other potassium sources include tomato sauce or pasta, spinach, beet greens, and blackstrap molasses.
Employ Intermittent Fasting
Another, more unconventional means of keeping all of your organs functioning optimally is to implement Intermittent Fasting. This method of dieting requires food intake to be reduced to zero-calorie items, such as tea or black coffee for a set period, before eating is returned to normal for another set period.
Intermittent Fasting has been studied more and more over the last few years and has been shown to provide a number of health benefits.
These include simple benefits, like reducing body fat, and more complex benefits, such as helping regenerate stem cells, which are used to create cells and tissues in a number of organs, including the liver. (7) The liver can benefit from this, as it undergoes regeneration more than most organs in the body.
Employing simple timeframes where your daily eating takes place, such as the popular leangains style of Intermittent Fasting where eating is restricted to an 8 hour window, could go a long way in keeping you healthy.
Increase Your Consumption of Iron
Iron is a key nutrient in the development of red blood cells, which are important for transporting oxygen in the body. The liver is also where excess iron is stored and the liver also plays a large role in how much iron is released into the body. (8)
If your diet is deficient in iron, this can cause the liver to reduce its stores. However, if excessive amounts of iron are taken in, this can cause inflammatory chemicals to be released into the organ, causing a large degree of liver damage. If this continues, it can progress into liver dysfunction and diseases such as steatohepatitis, cirrhosis or liver scarring, fibrosis, or even liver cancer.
So, while not taking in enough iron can cause health issues, such as anaemia and low energy levels, taking in excessive amounts of iron can be very detrimental to the liver. Make sure to follow the recommended amounts of this nutrient to ensure healthy liver function.
Avoid processed foods and refined sugar
The best and easiest way to give your liver a break is to avoid any refined sugars and processed foods for a time. These foods contain preservatives, synthetic ingredients and chemicals that can overwhelm your system, making it progressively harder to function properly. Simply eliminating nutrient-devoid foods from your diet will offer your liver immediate relief.
Cleanse Your Blood with Digestive Enzymes
There are several ways to cleanse or reduce toxic build-up in the blood to ease the burden off the liver, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to take digestive enzymes with meals. Within minutes, these digestive enzymes will begin stimulating immune cells to consume circulating immune complexes. Circulating immune complexes are compounds that settle in different parts of the body, which can cause tissue damage and inflammation, or even contribute to certain cancers. (9)
According to studies, people with autoimmune diseases have a high number of immune complexes. Enzymes are effective at eliminating these, subsequently decreasing inflammation and offering support to the immune system. Digestive enzymes also assist in breaking down lactose, casein, and gluten, which can greatly improve IBS and other stomach discomfort, in addition to taking stress of the liver.
Drink Detox Water
Detox water such as lemon water can provide support to the liver and has been shown to reduce inflammation, DNA fragmentation, brain lipid peroxidation, and liver damage. (10)
This natural remedy is a good line of defense against increased reactive oxygen species and free radicals due to the presence of citric acid in lemon juice. Citric acid was associated with antioxidant effects in the liver and brain in doses of 1-2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
As you can see from above, changing some elements of your diet can make a substantial impact on your overall health and the functioning of your liver, as well as helping to keep you free from illness and disease.
Considering the wide range of functions that the liver can serve, keeping it at optimal health and functioning can have a list of benefits in helping energy levels, keeping you fitter and improving your wellbeing.