Your liver is an extremely important organ. It is located on the right side of your stomach and represents your body’s primary filtration system. It detoxifies metabolites, converts toxins into waste products, cleanses the blood, metabolizes and balances nutrients, synthesizes proteins, regulates hormones, and produces biochemicals needed for growth and digestion. It is always working.
Due to the fact that your liver has so many vital jobs, it is of utmost importance to keep it healthy. At first, most liver conditions go unnoticed, but they may lead to more serious conditions, such as liver failure.
Luckily, there are various scientifically proven ways to prevent liver disease and boost your liver health and that is precisely what we will explore in this article.
What Is a Liver Detox and Does It Work?
Liver detox and cleanse products and recipes are currently trending. Both the market and the internet are flooded with diets, supplements, teas, and other products that are said to cleanse your liver, flush toxins from your body, and even help you lose weight.
But do these diets and products actually work? According to doctors and other experts, there is no magical substance that will detox your body. It is simply way more complicated than that.
First of all, liver detoxes and cleanses derive from the idea that toxins constantly accumulate in our bodies. However, the truth is that the liver does not allow potentially harmful toxins to build up. Instead, it flushes toxins out of the body itself.
Nonetheless, there are certain foods and behaviors that can support your liver health and thus assist in the body’s natural detoxification process. Sadly, for many of the allegedly detoxifying supplements and diets, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that they work. In addition, as these products are not regulated by the FDA, taking too much of them may even harm your liver.
Certain common ‘detox’ ingredients were shown to have positive effects on liver health. Milk thistle has been shown to decrease liver inflammation and turmeric seems to protect against liver injury. Still, there is not enough evidence to support this claim or to recommend the routine use of these herbs. As such, instead of taking some pills or teas, adopting a healthy lifestyle is a better way to help cleanse your liver and keep it safe.
Best Scientifically Proven Natural Ways to Improve Your Liver Health
While there may be no ‘magic pill’ that could cleanse your liver instantly, your lifestyle, behavior, and everyday choices definitely have a significant effect on your liver health. Therefore, it is important to know which habits can protect your liver and do your best to adopt them.
- Limit your alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption has been shown to have a major negative impact on the liver. Every alcoholic beverage you consume has to be processed by your liver. The more alcohol you consume, the harder your liver must work to flush it all out. In time, excessive drinking can result in alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), which causes alcoholic cirrhosis, acute alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic fatty liver disease.
To avoid such conditions, make sure not to exceed the recommended maximum intake of alcoholic beverages, which is one standard drink a day for women and two for men. A standard drink is 12 fl. oz. (0.35 L) of beer (with approximately 5% of alcohol), 5 fl. oz. (0.25 L) of wine (with approximately 12% of alcohol), 1.5 fl. oz. (0.04 L) of a distilled spirit with approximately 40% of alcohol, such as rum, whiskey, gin, and tequila.
Also, make sure not to mix alcohol and medication, as this will put extra strain on your liver.
- Protect yourself against hepatitis
Hepatitis is an illness that causes liver inflammation. While hepatitis A causes short-term symptoms, hepatitis B and C are both long-term diseases.
Hepatitis A spreads through contact with feces that contains the virus (usually by consuming contaminated water and food). To protect yourself against it, make sure to wash and sanitize your hands regularly, not to drink untreated tap water, not to eat unwashed foods, and get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B spreads through contact with infected blood, vaginal discharge, semen, and other bodily fluids. To protect yourself against it, make sure to practice safer sex, use a condom, don’t share personal items, such as your toothbrush, razor, or needle, before getting a tattoo or piercing, ensure that the needle has been properly sterilized, and/or get vaccinated.
Hepatitis C spreads through contact with infected blood. To protect yourself against it, make sure not to share needles, practice safe sex, and avoid contact with infected blood. Currently, there is no vaccine that can protect you against hepatitis C.
- Protect yourself against environmental toxins
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid any contact with environmental toxins. Nevertheless, you can limit it. As your liver must process all the chemicals that enter your body through your mouth, nose, and skin, make sure to avoid toxic household products that may damage your liver, such as aggressive cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fumes, etc. Whenever possible, opt for organic products and only use chemicals and aerosols in well ventilated (preferably open) spaces.
- Mind your use of medications
Just like all chemicals and alcoholic beverages, medications (both prescribed and over-the-counter) must also be processed by the liver. Medications are tested and regulated, therefore, taking medication as directed should be safe. Nevertheless, exceeding the daily recommended dose, taking medication too often, opting for the wrong type, or taking multiple medications at once may have a negative effect on your liver. Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about potential contraindications, especially if you are taking several drugs simultaneously.
In addition, make sure not to mix alcohol and medication.
- Mind your use of supplements
Any kind of supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and herbs must also pass through your liver. While natural supplements and remedies are considered safer than synthetic ones, they can still have a negative effect on your liver. According to a Gastroenterology & Hepatology article, performance-enhancing and weight loss supplements may be harmful to the liver. However, many other supplements can also cause liver damage, especially if you exceed the recommended daily dose. To stay on the safe side, consult your doctor about using supplements.
- Limit your sugar consumption
Your liver is also responsible for processing sugar and balancing your blood sugar levels. As too much sugar in the blood may put a strain on your liver, it is of utmost importance to cut it down. Make sure to keep your sugar intake to 20-30 grams a day or less.
- Drink lots of water
One of the best and simplest ways to flush out your liver is by drinking lots of water. Drinking enough water is the best way to flush your liver, kidneys, and the entire body. According to experts, men should aim to drink approximately 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water a day and women should drink 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water a day. Doing so will keep your liver in top shape.
Some other nonalcoholic and unsweetened beverages, such as herbal and green tea, sparkling water, fresh lemonade, coconut water, and coffee may also be harmless (if consumed in moderation). According to a 2013 study, drinking coffee even seems to lower the risk of liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer by preventing the accumulation of collagen and fat. Drinking green tea, on the other hand, is associated with improved blood markers of liver health and a lower risk of liver cancer.
When it comes to alcoholic and sweetened beverages, on the other hand, make sure to avoid them as much as possible.
- Stick to a healthy diet
Diet plays a vital role in liver health. As such, it is crucial to adopt a liver-friendly diet.
First of all, opt for food variety. Different foods have different nutrients, therefore, eating a balanced and varied diet will reduce risks associated with malnutrition and thus support your overall health. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Also, make sure to choose organic pesticide-free foods.
Certain foods have been shown to be especially beneficial for the liver, including:
- Lemons and other citrus fruits
- Prickly pear
- Beetroot juice and beets
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish
Fiber also plays an important part in keeping the liver healthy. Some of the best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
In addition, make sure to limit sugary, fatty, salty, fried, and foods, as they can have a negative effect on your liver function.
- Choose healthy fats
A diet high in unhealthy fats has been shown to contribute to fatty liver disease. As such, make sure to avoid unhealthy fats and replace them with healthy ones. The healthiest plant-based fats can be found in almonds, walnuts, coconuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Fatty fish and eggs are excellent sources of animal-based healthy fats.
- Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity offers countless amazing benefits for the entire body, including the liver. According to a 2018 study, both cardio and resistance workout prevents fat buildup in the liver, which is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The workout doesn’t have to be intense – a brisk walk, a yoga workout, and a bike ride will suffice. However, make sure to move your body at least 30 minutes a day, every day.
- Avoid obesity
Obesity causes fat buildup in the liver and inflammation. As such, it has been shown to significantly increase your risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and fibrosis. To prevent this major risk factor, make sure to lose your weight (if you are obese) and to maintain your body mass index in the normal range (18 to 25). You can do so by sticking to a healthy diet and with regular exercise.
Last, but not least, stress has a huge negative impact on your overall health. The stress hormone called cortisol can also put a strain on your liver. For that reason, it is essential to manage your stress. You can do so with meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, journaling, or counseling.
The Bottom Line
While some compounds may have a positive effect on liver health, currently, there is no supplement that will instantly flush and detox your body. Instead, you can support your liver health by adopting liver-friendly habits and an overall healthy lifestyle. Make sure to avoid hepatitis, environmental toxins, control your use of medications and supplements, limit your alcohol and sugar consumption, stay hydrated, choose a healthy diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy body mass index, and manage stress. Doing so will support your liver and assist in its natural detoxification process.