Hopefully the suspense of how to take care of your liver properly has not been driving everyone crazy! I forget how busy the fall can be with getting back into our regular schedules.
The liver with its many tasks of breaking down toxins and allowing them to be excreted by the gastrointestinal tract and the kidney sometimes needs more support. If you are living in an environment with a great deal of toxic exposure, have been eating highly chemical-laden foods, are exposed to additional hormones (either through plastic, water, meat, or synthetic in hormone therapy), or have had a great deal of pharmaceutical medications recently or in the past you might need to help out your liver. That includes most people!
To support the liver, you do not necessarily need to do a detoxification program. There are biochemical processes in the liver that detoxify and can be supported gently as the liver uses certain nutrients to help move things out of the body. Detoxification is a concept that the modern world has changed, is not always done safely and so I will focus on the nutrients that can help the liver in less extreme ways. Many times I do see detoxification used as an excuse to starve one’s self, and that is not the purpose.
Gentle but effective ways to support your liver
Involved in so many biochemical processes in the formation of red blood cells, iron retention, and hormone production that are all done in the liver and so you want to be sure to be giving more B vitamins rather than less in this situation.
*As an aside for those of you actually looking for hangover support for your abused livers, thiamin or B1 is the first vitamin lost with alcohol consumption and interestingly, in the consumption of raw fish for sushi lovers!*
Involved in cholesterol formation, coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinol is a fat-soluble enzyme that can be relied upon more heavily in a liver that is laden with too many chemicals to breakdown. Used as an energy source in our cells, supplemented CoQ10 helps to ease the pressure on the body from making its own (especially when it needs more).
Milk thistle (silybum marianum)
Hands down, milk thistle is one of the unsung heroes for the liver. It acts like a little house cleaner, and goes around each hepatocyte (liver cell) and cleans out the “gunk” and makes way for the new. It is so helpful that it can be taken for those with fatty liver syndrome, alcoholism recovery, autoimmune hepatitis, hepatitis B and C to name a few conditions. This can even be consumed as a tea!
A derivative of the amino acid cysteine, N-acetyl cysteine or NAC is involved in production of the molecule glutathione, a vital part of the biochemical pathways involved in detoxification.
Alpha lipoic acid
Known to support liver disease-induced alcohol damage, metal toxicity and poisoning, a nutrient that is known to help with liver recovery.
Castor oil “packs”
You do not have to drink this! An old remedy used to assist with constipation (it can really get the bowels moving), castor oil is not only anti-inflammatory but does help with circulation. Applied on the liver borders (on the skin, not internally!) and covered with heat, castor oil can gently increase liver circulation.
Aside from supplementation, dark leafy greens and beets (fresh and steamed are better than beets-in-a-jar) are the liver’s favourite foods. If you have trouble getting them fresh in the fall, juice them or throw them in a smoothie. Your liver will thank you!