Your liver has a big job to do. It’s responsible for building proteins, producing hormones, producing biochemicals such as bile which are necessary for digestion, plays a major role in metabolism, and stores several important substances such as glucose and various vitamins and minerals. On top of all that, the liver also has an important role in detoxification. It breaks down insulin, hormones, and various other substances in the body. But it also has the job of filtering the blood and breaking down or converting any toxic substances, including medications and supplements, so that the body can safely eliminate them.
Our modern diet, with its excess of sugary foods, alcohol, pesticides, food preservatives, artificial colors, growth hormones and antibiotics put our livers under even more strain to carry out the all important detoxification process. It’s no wonder then that so many of us suffer from the myriad symptoms that signal an overloaded and congested liver.
Theoretically, if your liver were completely clean and functioning perfectly you would be disease free. Of course, this is an impossible goal considering the level of environmental toxins that we are exposed to. But there are things you can do to support your liver, even if you aren’t able to remove all the toxins it has to deal with.
First, do as much as you can to reduce the harmful substances you may be putting into your body. This includes sugary, processed, and deep-fried foods, food preservatives, additives and artificial colors. Choose organic produce, meat and dairy products where possible to avoid pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics. Avoid alcohol and consume only fresh, high quality oils, such as extra virgin olive oil. As much as possible, avoid the use of drug medications (always consult with your medical practitioner before making changes to any medications you are on). Remove as many environmental toxins as possible by switching to non-toxic household cleaners skin care and beauty products.
Eating the following foods and herbs will help to heal, stimulate and support your liver:
- Apples: Fresh apples are detoxifying and help to stimulate a sluggish liver.
- Asparagus: Both the roots and shoots of asparagus have a stimulating effect on the liver. Asparagus root can often be found in health food or Asian food stores as a dried herb more commonly sold under it’s Latin name, Astragalus. Besides supporting the liver, Astragalus tea also supports the heart, kidneys and immune system. It can help prevent viral infections, raise vitality and promote healing and tissue regeneration.
- Beets: Fresh beetroot juice is a superb liver and gallbladder cleanser. It can be mixed with carrot and other vegetable juices. If you are not able to make fresh juices, at least try to have beetroot twice a week. Try grating some beetroot to add to a salad, or coleslaw.
- Burdock: The bitter elements in burdock root help to stimulate digestion and cleanse the liver. It’s also been used traditionally by herbalists as a blood purifier.
- Celery: Increases bile flow.
- Carrots: Stimulate the liver.
- Dandelion Root: The liver healing properties of dandelion root have been known by herbalists for centuries. The bitter properties of dandelion root tea stimulate the digestion, liver and activate bile flow, making it a great liver cleanser and tonic.
- Green Vegetables: Fresh green vegetables are a great blood tonic, they help to increase the flow of bile in the liver. They also make the body more alkaline, bringing it back into a more natural, healthy state.
- Lemons: Lemons are a superfood that should be included in everyone’s daily diet for many reasons. But focusing specifically on the liver, a daily glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon will promote healthy bile activity, and help to alkalinize and cleanse the body.
- Olive Oil: Organic oils are essential for increasing bile action. Have at least one tablespoon daily.
- Turmeric: Useful for treating liver and gallbladder problems, relieving liver damage, and increasing bile production. Turmeric also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
A quick, easy, and tasty way to incorporate many of these foods in your diet is to make a salad with lots of fresh leafy green vegetables, celery, carrots and grated beetroot. If you have tender, fresh asparagus shoots available, finely slice and add them as well. Make a salad dressing from extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, lemon juice and shoyu or tamari to taste. Toss them together and you have a healthy, delicious, powerhouse of liver-supporting foods in one meal.
Nice to see that without realizing it, my diet includes many vegetables that help the liver to function properly.
If people would only see how they can make a salad so much more interesting and healthy by including a wide variety of green leaves. Include lettuce but don’t let it dominate.
Spinach, chard, rocket, tatsoi, beets and watercress can all be added and will give the liver a beneficial boost.
Hi Dawn. That’s so true what you say about salads. It’s so easy to make them exciting, yet even in restaurants most of the time I’m surprised how plain they are.
Thanks for the informative article. I will pass is on to those that I know affected with liver diseases.
I love fresh carrot juice but which blender/juicer do you use, and do you chop/pulp them first?
Hi Beryl, I have a champion juicer, which has been going strong for 30+ years. It has a fairly narrow neck for feeding stuff in so anything too big to fit I slice up so it will. I’ve also found that if I chop celery stalks in pieces about an inch long it doesn’t get clogged up so bad and it’s much easier to clean the graters. But I have a friend with a Juiceman which can handle anything whole… sounds like an airplane engine revving though 😉 and a couple friends with Greenstar twin auger juicers which are meant to produce the best quality of juice. I find them very slow to use and it seems they require things cut in much smaller pieces. I love David Wolfe’s answer to the question he often gets asked about what’s the best juicer… he says, “the ones that’s sitting in your cupboard”… so in other words, if you already have one, or can borrow one -use that. Whichever one you find for sale that’s affordable for you, use that. It’s better to be having fresh juice daily, or as often as possible, rather than waiting while you save the money to buy an expensive juicer. If money is not such an issue, do a little research and see which fits with whatever your priorities. If you don’t have much time to prepare and juice, find one like the Juiceman which can take pretty much anything you throw at it and juice it at lightning speed and is quick to clean. There will be others like that too that are similar, I just know that brand because my friend has it.
It’s possible to juice with a blender too. A powerful blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix would work best, and then you want a good quality nut milk bag to strain the pulp and squeeze the juice through by hand.
Thanks for the advice – I had a Magimix juice extractor but the carrots demolished it!!