Whilst the word ‘detox’ may elicit thoughts of juice cleanses, laxative teas or God forbid, a cotton ball diet- our body’s naturally detox every day. Our liver is the metabolic powerhouse of our body and is an important organ for detoxification.
It receives nutrients, toxins, drugs from our blood and must process, detoxify, and eventually release them for excretion.
The liver is also involved in other bodily processes including bile production and storage of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and glycogen. Hence, you can appreciate how hard our liver works trying to juggle all its roles whilst also helping our body detoxify.
Is detoxing necessary?
In a healthy body, our liver can perform all its tasks. But an excess of environmental stressors such as high alcohol intake, a poor diet, chronic toxin exposure, and food additives can add pressure on our liver and affect its function. Thus, any of us can benefit from supporting our liver’s detoxification pathways. Signs of poor liver health include nausea, indigestion after consuming fatty meals, yellow skin, fatigue, and anger (Kwon, Kim and Chung, 2020).
So how do we support the liver?
Through food! By consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and liver-supportive foods we can support our body’s natural ability to detoxify (no juice cleanses included!). Read on for our top picks to support liver health.
Dark leafy greens such as rocket, kale, and arugula help encourage our liver to produce and release bile. Bile carries out wastes in our body to be eliminated (Boyer, 2013). I recommend eating a dark green salad as a side with your main meals especially if you struggle with indigestion frequently.
Cruciferous vegetables (including bok choy, cauliflower, and broccoli) contain glucosinolates which upregulate our liver’s detoxification enzymes (Nho and Jeffery, 2001). Add more cruciferous vegetables into your diet by baking broccoli and bok choy with some extra virgin olive oil, making kale chips in the oven or enjoying a side of coleslaw as a side to your main meals.
Dandelion. Dandelion is a powerful hepatoprotective (“liver-protective”) herb and has a long history of use for liver disorders. Studies have found the dandelion extract to significantly reduce liver toxicity marker enzymes and oxidative stress (Fatima, Bashir, Naseer and Hussain, 2018). One of the easiest ways to enjoy dandelion is to have it as tea! Dandelion root tea has a similar bitter taste to coffee and many individuals often consume it as a caffeine-free alternative to coffee.
Turmeric. Turmeric is a superstar herb for its anti-inflammatory actions. Ways to incorporate this brightly coloured plant into your diet is grating fresh turmeric into your stir-fries, curries and stews or making a warming turmeric latte by blending turmeric coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
Globe artichoke has a long history of its use as a liver remedy (El Sayed et al., 2018). Globe artichoke contains cynarin, a phenolic acid that promotes bile secretion from the liver (Gebhardt, 2005).