When I mention the word 'liver' to my clients, I'm faced with the blank stare of "what's my liver got to do it". Well, your liver has a lot to do with your overall health. It's pretty much the powerhouse of your body and it's constantly working hard to allow you to function harmoniously. So lets chat about why and how we can show it a little more love...
The liver filters and detoxifies roughly 2 litres of blood every minute, processing hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone, cortisol, dopamine, histamine, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Not to mention drugs and xenobiotics (foreign substances) such as the oral contraceptive pill, alcohol, penicillin, heavy metals, steroids, aspirin and paracetamol.
Look at it like your own personal receptionist – the liver's sorting through every piece of information, sending messages where they need to be sent, storing away necessary data and throwing out unwanted waste.
There are three main phases involved in liver detoxification. Phase I is responsible for assessing and neutralising compounds. Whereas phase II breaks down and packages up hormones, old blood cells, chemicals and toxins etc., ready for removal. When phase I is being overloaded via high amounts of toxic exposure, phase II has a hard time keeping up, causing an influx of toxic by-products. Phase III is responsible for pumping toxins out of the cells for excretion/removal via urine, faeces, and sweat.
Liver support is crucial for overall health. The liver is constantly detoxifying – that’s its job. The best way to encourage this process is to ensure we’re consuming adequate water, eating whole foods and ensuring excretion pathways are functioning optimally (e.g. bowels, and kidneys). Phase II is highly nutrient dependent, thus adequate dietary consumption of amino acids, vitamins and minerals are effective in facilitating optimal detoxification.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, which play a specific role in helping the body process toxins. Cysteine, glycine, glutamine, methionine and taurine are specific amino acids involved in cleansing the body – they do this by neutralising toxins, making them water soluble which can then be efficiently excreted from the body.
Best sources for cleansing the liver: fish, nuts, eggs (free range) and legumes
Water consumption is always critical, however, during the detoxifying process, it is vital we are consuming enough water to allow the body to excrete and remove toxins. Aim for 3L per day. If you struggle with getting adequate water intake, here are some handy tips:
✓ Consume one glass of water as soon as you wake in the morning. This will help you to avoid mistaking hunger for thirst
✓ Always carry a water bottle with you
✓ Add berries, lemon or lime to enhance the taste
✓ Leave a glass or stainless-steel bottle in the car, office and/or next to your bed
✓ Herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated, just don’t overdo it. Water is best!
✓ Sip on the water throughout the day, avoid consuming large amounts in one hit ✓ Avoid drinking 15min pre and post meals (this interferes with food digestion)
Caffeine is processed via phase I and phase II of the liver. Whilst we’re aiming to reduce the load on the liver, removing or limiting coffee may be necessary.
Replacement suggestions: ✓ Dandelion root latte ✓ Herbal teas ✓ Turmeric latte
Foods To Avoid/Limit
Sugar – sweets, cordials, soft drinks, juices (unless freshly squeezed with added water)
Processed foods (packaged foods), processed meats
Dairy (Greek yoghurt ok – unless existing dairy allergy/intolerance)
Wheat – bread, pasta, baked goods
Gluten (caution with gluten-free substitutes as they’re often high in sugar)
Limit animal products – beef, pork, chicken. Incorporate at least 2 vegetarian meals per week
Saturated fats – fats sold at room temperature (margarine, nutlex, hard cheeses)
Canola, vegetable, palm oil
Store bought condiments such as tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, chilli sauce, bottled dressing, mayonnaise, relish etc.
Just remember, everything in moderation. Have the treat, and enjoy it! Just make it a 'sometimes food' (or beverage) and make up for it in your day-to-day life balance.
Author: Grace Pettitt (BHSc Nut Med)