How to Naturally Support Your Liver's Health After the Holiday Season
Experts explain what to eat and what to avoid.
The word "detox" is omnipresent in the health and wellness industry. It makes sense; after all, the idea of detoxification is enticing. I mean, who wouldn't want to rid their body of harmful substances, ushering their liver into a pure, high-functioning state? It's what health and wellness dreams are made of, which is why there is a seemingly limitless number of products, pills, and programs that promise to do just that. But what if I told you that you don't necessarily need any of those things in order to detoxify your body? What if I told you that your body has a natural, built-in detoxification system that, if supported, can do all the work for you? That built-in detoxification system is your liver.
"Our bodies possess a natural detoxification process through the liver that is designed to eliminate harmful toxins," says natural health physician and author Dr. Fred Pescatore. "The liver breaks down substances like drugs and alcohol and processes nutrients to absorb into the body."
Since we're still in the first days of a brand new year, there's no better time to talk about (and support) the liver than the present. It's likely that our bodies have endured a long holiday season spent indulging in one too many alcoholic beverages and sugary confections, both of which impede the liver's natural function. "When the liver is under stress from an overload of toxins or illness, it makes it more difficult to process and filter substances," explains Dr. Pescatore. "Drinking alcohol can cause this overload and can lead to the common 'hangover' effects many are familiar with. A detox regimen supports your body's natural processes to draw out toxins more effectively."
Do detoxes work?
Here's the thing about detox programs, though. Not all of them are effective, much less healthy. In fact, according to Dr. Pescatore, if not done correctly, they can have the opposite effect on the liver, causing problems rather than fixing them. "Some cleanses can be harsh on your system, and juicing can be full of sugar and cause you to miss essential nutrients from your diet if they're not done correctly. Excess sugar and stress from these programs can lead to more inflammation, having the opposite effect on your liver."
What supplements are good for the liver?
Dr. Pescatore tells his patients to try options that support liver health naturally, with antioxidants and supplements shown to support the body's natural detoxification function. One of those natural supplements is French oakwood extract, "an antioxidant which research shows to boost the liver's natural detox function."
Dr. Pescatore recommends Robuvit French oakwood extract, since it has "potent liver-protective effects that help the liver recover after alcohol consumption." It even helps normalize liver enzymes and reduce oxidative stress. "A recent study shows that supplementing with Robuvit improves symptoms of temporary hepatic damage, including fatigue, nausea, and mild liver enlargement," he says.
What foods are good for your liver?
While supplements can certainly help liver function, diet is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting natural liver health. One of the ways you can do this is by starting with water. Dr. Pescatore recommends drinking eight glasses of water each day. Then, add healthy food options to your diet. Alana Kessler, registered dietician, yoga instructor, and founder of the holistic lifestyle program Be Well, recommends reaching for foods that are "high-fiber, bitter, and sour." Think "non-starchy vegetables, especially green vegetables," such as dandelion and mustard greens; lemon; artichokes; apple cider vinegar; kimchi; and bok choy.
What foods are bad for your liver?
Just as important as foods to eat are foods not to eat. According to Kessler, those include "fried, processed foods; high-fat meats; sugar; and simple carbs, along with packaged foods." Basically, avoid anything heavy and salty, since "these can cause extra stress on your liver, making it work even harder to filter out toxic substances," Dr. Pescatore says.
In short, detoxifying your body isn't necessarily something you have to do. Your body, and your liver specifically, is already doing it for you. Support it with a healthy diet full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and a healthy amount of water consumption, and leave those strict detox programs in 2020.