A Happy Liver: How to Support Your Liver During Detox

By Dr. Rick Santimaw, ND

The Bucket Analogy

Here is an easy way to envision how the body’s detoxification systems work. Think of your body and its detoxification systems as a bucket. At the bottom of your bucket is a drainage hole representing your organs of excretion (skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys). A filter that precedes the drainage hole will represent your liver as it regulates what stays in your bucket and what is drained out. Now, when you are very young, your bucket is filled up with to a certain level due to your genetic make-up, vaccinations, childhood illnesses, etc… Then, as you age, your bucket continues to fill up in the form of environmental toxins, allergens, life stressors (relationships, work, etc…), poor diet, drugs and alcohol, or lack of exercise (just to name a few). In a normal healthy person, the hole at the bottom of your bucket will drain out the “toxic water” faster than it can be put it. Thus, the bucket will never overflow!

However, when we are not living a healthy, balanced life or there is something wrong with our drainage hole or filter, our bucket will start to fill and fill until it eventually overflows. When our bucket overflows it usually presents as musculoskeletal pain, skin problems, and/or fatigue (physical or mental). This is our body’s way of telling us that it is not happy and that things are not going well.

As you can see the skin, bowels, lungs, lymphatic system and kidneys are all involved in the detoxification process. However, since the liver (filter) decides how quickly and efficiently toxins are drained from or body, it is critical that we support the liver while we detoxify.

How Do We Support Our Liver?

Now we can better understand how the detoxification process works and that a healthy liver is key to a successful detox. A healthy liver requires energy in the form of certain vitamins and minerals along with supportive herbs in order to function properly. Therefore, popular water or juice fasts are not beneficial because they deplete the body of the essential nutrients required for healthy detoxification. In fact, these fasts can have many adverse health effects, including decreased energy production, breakdown of muscle instead of fat, increased oxidative stress, and unbalanced detoxification. Instead of decreasing nutrient support during detoxification, we should eat a diet full of high quality proteins, which will provide the amino acids needed to run the detoxification process smoothly.

Nutrients and Herbs That to Support Liver Function

  • Cruciferous Vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, bok choy, broccoli and similar green leaf vegetables) contain indole-3-carbinol, which helps remove toxins and excess hormones from our system.
  • B-Vitamins support energy production and help to break down toxins.
  • N-Acetylcysteine helps to create Glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant that also helps in thedetoxification of heavy metals.
  • The amino acids Glycine and Glutamine are also used to create Glutathione
  • Vitamin B12, Folate (B9), Methionine, and Choline
  • The herb Milk Thistle contains silymarin; it protects the liver as well and improves its overallfunction. Silymarin also increases glutathione and is therefore a strong antioxidant
  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is another liver-protectant herb, which also provides a strong antioxidant effect.
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