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Q: He Doc… should I do a liver detox?  My wife says I should do this expensive detox with a bunch of juices.  What do you think?

A:  Well Mr. Patient….  Would you shower once a year?  Of course not.  We shower daily to stay clean on the outside.  And since the liver is your chief cleansing/ detoxification organ, like showering daily, you want to support your liver daily so it keeps us clean on the inside.  


So, let’s get to know the liver and discover how to take care of it, so that it can take care of you.  Next to the skin, the liver is thelargest organ in the body,and it has a super important job: To clean up our internal environment.  Consider our toxic external environment.  We’re regularly exposed to pesticides, pollution, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, medication, discarded pharmaceuticals that turn up in the drinking water, diesel exhaust and much more.  There are thousands of new chemicals introduced into the environment every year.  An FDA study performed about 10 years ago shows that 100% of us are contaminated with multiple toxic metals and chemicals.  If you’re over 50 you probably have mercury in your mouth and many of us, use personal care products with aluminum.  It’s the job of the liver to filter out these noxious chemicals and contaminants to keep our internal environment as clean as possible.

The liver keeps our internal environment clean and healthy through a process called phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification.  In phase 1, the liver converts noxious chemicals and substances into intermediate metabolites, that are often, even more reactive and toxic. In phase 2, these intermediate metabolites are further converted into substances that are less reactive which the body can more easily handle and excrete.  The liver does this nonstop through your lifetime; however, your lifestyle plays a big role in how effective this cleansing process works. 

Working around toxic substances, such as excessive vehicle exhaust, smoking, eating heavily processed foods, pharmaceutical drugs such as NSAIDS, too much sugar and other noxious substance can overburden the liver causing NAFLD (Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease).  Too much alcohol is a very big problem for the liver and can cause Fatty Liver Disease.  In these cases, liver function is compromised leading to a more toxic internal environment.  This can cause you to feel general malaise and brain fog and this overburden of toxic chemicals over time increases your risk of cancer, cognitive decline, and many other diseases.

Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins by cleaning up you work and home environment, using less harsh chemicals and more natural and organic products, quitting smoking and eating more heathy natural foods (preferably organic), will nicely reduce your toxic burden and acts as an everyday cleanse by reducing the burden on you liver so that it can more thoroughly clean your body.

Here are some more tips to support Liver Health

Stay hydrated: You should be drinking close to half you body weight in ounces.  That sounds like a lot, but I find that if I add some lemon to my water I can drink much more.  Staying hydrated aides, the liver during its phase 1 and phase 2 cleansing and washes these toxic substances out of the body.  Another perk of staying hydrated is you will likely feel better overall.

Attend to your microbiome:  A healthy gut, with healthy “friendly” probiotic bacteria, support a healthy intesti nal barrier which stops most toxins from entering our bloodstream.  On the other hand, if your gut contains too much pathological bacteria and yeast, you can develop a “leaky gut” which allows bacterial toxins to leak into your blood stream.  In fact, in an unhealthy gut, these unhealthy bacterial toxins make up a significant percentage of the chemical metabolites found in the bloodstream which can cause liver toxicity. 

To support the health of your gut, eat plenty of fruits and veggies and fiber rich foods which your friendly bacteria love, and cut down on the sugar which your unhealthy, pathological bacteria and yeast love.  You can also take a probiotic and eat fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

Sweat:  Sweating is an effective way for your body to excrete toxins.  Therefore, vigorous exercise (which makes you sweat) and taking a sauna are healthy ways to reduce your toxic load and take stress off your liver. 

Cruciferous veggies: Members of the Brassica family are the champion liver supporting/ cleansing foods. These include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and bok choy.  These foods are rich in glucosinolates such as sulforaphane which support the livers phase 1 and 2 detoxification.  Try to add these cruciferous veggies to your diet several times per week to support your liver and all the cells of your body.

Supplements for the Liver

Probably the best know liver support supplement is Milk thistle with active compounds known as silymarin.  Research shows that silymarin provides powerful antioxidant support to the liver protecting it from free radical damage as it performs the difficult task of detoxification, especially when it comes to alcohol and drugs such as acetaminophen.

Curcumin (from turmeric) generally reduces inflammation in the body and provides powerful antioxidant protection to all of organs.  This holds true in the liver reducing oxidative stress during liver detoxification.

GINGER, like curcumin is another anti-inflammatory nutrient.  As too much inflammation is generally bad for us, this also holds true for the liver.  Inflammation can play a major role in the pathogenesis of NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). Ginger and curcumin help to reduce excessive inflammation (especially TNF-a) which relieves the inflammatory stress on the liver as well as your muscles and joints.

“NAC” or N-acetyl cysteine is a direct glutathione precursor.  Glutathione is your bodies chief antioxidant.  Unfortunately taking glutathione directly doesn’t work well, as most of it is broken down in your gut, and therefore never gets absorbed.  Your body uses NAC along with protein to make glutathione which provides powerful antioxidant support to your liver and the rest of your body.

CHOLINE, a healthy fat, we also get from phosphatidylcholine, is a compound that makes up the structural component of fat.  It is present and helps maintain the structure and function of all our cell membranes and is especially important for our neurons. Choline is also particularly important for liver health as it is required for the proper transportation of fat from the liver to cells throughout the body.

Another of the major benefits of choline is its role in keeping the liver free from harmful toxic buildups.  It does this by preventing the accumulation of fat in the liver, which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Choline may even help to improve overall energy levels, mood, sleep cycles and recovery time after physical exercise. Because it is required for healthy muscle and nerve functioning, it may also be helpful in preventing fatigue and muscle aches or pains following exercise.

The Bottom Line

In our modern lives, we face exposure to toxins in the air we breath, the food we eat, the water we drink, the medicines we take, and noxious chemicals and metals which are ubiquitous.

By following the guidelines above, and utilizing some of the healthy nutrients mentioned, you are supporting your liver every day.  And just like a shower keeps you clean on the outside, supporting your liver daily will help to keep you clean and healthy on the inside.

So, take good care of your liver, so it can take good care of you.

Dr Neil Levin, DC 6/14/22