Did you know that the liver is responsible for over 500 functions in the body?
As the biggest gland in the body, the liver has many vital jobs to keep you alive and well. While we won’t list all the 500 functions the liver performs, it is important to note that the role of the liver is to:
Store vitamins and iron, convert stored sugar to usable sugar when the body’s sugar levels fall below normal, destroy old red blood cells and produce bile to break down and digest fats.
Most importantly, the liver helps to detoxify the blood to get rid of harmful substances.
These harmful substances are most commonly due to life-style factors such as alcohol, tobacco, beauty products and processed and fried foods, especially when consumed in large quantities. Other taxing chemicals are harder to avoid, like pollution, prescribed drugs, viruses and natural by-products of metabolism. The liver requires large amounts of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) to be able to perform its processes.
The good news is that the liver is remarkably efficient at renewing itself and so when given a chance the cells in the liver can regenerate and work as they should.
In the past decade the word ‘detox’ has become synonymous with the cayenne pepper, lemon and maple syrup concoctions of the juice cleanse. But detoxing the liver doesn’t have to be that extreme. A detox is essentially the process of removing toxins from the body, so the first step is to reduce your consumption of refined sugars, tobacco, alcohol and excessive coffee. Then by incorporating a selection of super-foods to your diet, you can naturally cleanse and protect this hard-working organ.
Tea is widely considered to be beneficial for health, but evidence has shown that it may have benefits for the liver. A study based in Japan found that drinking 5-10 cups of green tea a day was associated with improved blood markers of liver health. This may be down to a compound known to assist liver function named catechin. Green tea is packed full of this plant antioxidant. Just be mindful of green tea extract as it can have a negative effect.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
This includes, but is not limited to, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale. These vegetables are a major source of glutathione, which triggers the toxin cleansing enzymes of the liver. Eating cruciferous vegetables will increase production of glucosinolate in your system, which helps flush out carcinogens and other toxins.
In addition to its use as a spice and pigment, turmeric has been used in India for medicinal purposes for centuries. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, and it has powerful biological properties. This spice helps the enzymes that flush out toxins and contains antioxidants that repair liver cells. It also assists the liver in detoxing metals, while boosting bile production.
While also providing a big hit of vitamin C, citrus fruits stimulate the liver and aid the synthesizing of toxic materials into substances that can be absorbed by water. Grapefruit is particularly beneficial as it contains two primary antioxidants: naringin and naringenin. These may help protect the liver from injury by reducing inflammation and protecting the liver cells.
Beets also contain vitamin C and a healthy dose of fiber which are both natural cleansers for the digestive system. But more impressively, beets assist with increasing oxygen by cleansing the blood, and can break down toxic wastes to help them be excreted quicker. They stimulate bile flow and boost enzymatic activity.
Garlic is loaded with sulphur, which activates liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins. Garlic also holds high amounts of selenium. Selenium is an essential micronutrient that has been shown to help boost the natural antioxidant enzyme levels in our livers. Supplementing with selenium gives our livers even more ammunition in the fight against the damage caused by oxidative stress.
+ Want to know more? Read our article about 'Supporting your liver with the stresses of a modern lifestyle.'
Walnuts are a good source of glutathione, omega-3 fatty acids, and the amino acid arginine, which supports normal liver cleansing actions, especially when detoxifying ammonia.
8. Olive Oil
Although it is a fat, olive oil is considered a healthy fat. Cold-pressed organic oils such as olive, hemp, and flaxseed offer great support for the liver, providing the body with a liquid base that can suck up harmful toxins in the body. It has also been shown to decrease the levels of fat in the liver.
Want to learn how to take better care of your liver?
Here’s a handy fact sheet which explains how too much of a bad thing or a good thing can hurt your liver.
Reviewed by: Asha Hira/ BPharm