10 Signs Your Liver is Sluggish and Tips to Help Detoxify
The liver is the biggest organ of detoxification in your body.
It’s what protects us from all the toxins we are exposed to from the environment, or the toxins we ingest such as alcohol, processed foods, refined sugar, etc.
So, if we consumed a bit more than usual of these substances over the holiday season, our liver would have gotten a work out.
Now is a great time to show your liver some love and help support it in doing its job. You can’t do a “liver detox or liver cleanse” as such, as the liver is always detoxifying every minute of every day. What you can do though is improve its function and efficiency by supporting the specific detoxification pathways, while reducing the load and stress you put on it.
Why is the liver important for health?
Your liver is like a factory that receives, filters and then repackages all substances for use in the body, or for the safe removal of those that are harmful. Any substance we take in via food, air, or skin goes through this pathway. The liver is also a vital organ for digestive function.
Your liver detoxifies harmful substances in two steps. The first step, called Phase 1 liver detoxification, is using enzymes and oxygen to burn toxins, partially breaking them down making them water-soluble for easier elimination. The second step, called Phase 2, combines these partially processed toxins with amino acids to make them less harmful and enable them to be removed from the body through watery fluids like bile and urine.
It is extremely important that both steps be in balance and are working efficiently. During Phase 1 free radicals are produced which, if excessive, can damage the liver cells.
If Phase 2 is sluggish, then these partially processed toxins aren’t eliminated causing build up in your body. These partially processed toxins are free radicals in nature, which are more damaging than the original toxins.
When you expose your body to high alcohol, smoking, processed foods, or environmental toxins (think pesticides, house hold chemicals, toxic make up, etc.), this second stage slows down and prevents the liver from handling the load, increasing toxin build up systemically.
Signs you may need to support your liver health
When your liver is overwhelmed with the burden of high toxin exposure you start to feel the effects in your whole mind-body.
Acute signs your liver is struggling include:
- Feeling sluggish, tired and fatigued constantly
- White or yellow-coated tongue and/or bad breath
- Weight gain – especially around the abdomen
- Cravings and/or blood sugar issues
- Poor digestion
- Feeling nauseas after fatty meals
- Intolerant to strong smells such as perfumes
- Pain in the right side of your stomach
- Skin breakouts; acne, rashes
If your liver is under stress for a long time a condition called fatty liver develops. Fatty liver is the build-up of excess fat in the liver. It’s a common condition in Western countries, affecting 1 in 10 people. Serious conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cirrhosis and cancer ensue after fatty liver.
Three tips to support liver detoxification
Remove foods that are especially harmful to your liver
- Eliminate all refined and processed foods such as simple carbohydrates and refined sugar. This includes all biscuits, cakes, white breads, soft drinks and baked goods.
- Substitute toxic and poor quality fats and oils like canola oil, corn oil, margarine and trans fats for good quality oils such as ghee, butter, coconut oil or rice bran oil.
- Decrease animal products, especially red meat and processed meats.
- Eliminate or greatly reduce alcohol. If you have experienced 3 or more of the above symptoms end immediately.
- Minimise/ Avoid coffee
Include foods into your diet that support liver and digestive function
- Eat fresh, seasonal, wholefoods, fruits and vegetables. Preferably organic if this is an option.
- Start the day with a big cup of warm water and fresh lemon juice. Drink enough water throughout the day – 1 cup every hour.
- Foods that support liver detoxification: Beetroot, turmeric, onion, garlic, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables (especially the bitter kind such as Rocket, endive, dandelion leaves), wheat germ, legumes, grapefruit, and lemon.
- A fresh juice of beetroot, ginger, carrot and celery daily greatly assists.
St Marys Thistle
St Mary’s thistle is also commonly known as Milk Thistle. It is the best herb to restore liver cells. The liver of course is the organ that can easily regenerate itself. Milk Thistle stimulates detoxification as its balancing for both phases of detoxification. It also helps the liver to deal with fat better. Research shows Milk Thistle is effective in treating fatty liver disease (Cacciapuoti, et al, 2013). It’s a potent antioxidant so protects the liver from harmful free radicals and chemicals.
Traditionally Dandelion root is used to clear a sluggish or congested liver. In modern medicine it’s been shown to increases bile flow. Increased bile flow supports the removal of the packaged toxins through phase 2 to be eliminated from the body more efficiently. Increased bile flow also assists in strengthening digestive function and helps to relive constipation. Dandelion leaves are eaten as a bitter green in a salad and the dried root also makes a tea and is often used a coffee substitute.
Author: Tegan Wallis
Holistic Health Practitioner