Are you feeling sluggish, bloated, foggy-headed, tired, irritable or experiencing skin eruptions, high cholesterol levels, difficulty with digestion or unbearable premenstrual syndrome? These are all signs that your liver may be a little overworked and overloaded.
Given the liver’s instrumental role in producing bile for digesting food, clearing and activating hormones, storing glucose for energy, metabolising proteins and fats, and breaking down toxins, we want to ensure that we are giving the liver the tender loving care that it deserves.
There are many foods that can help cleanse the liver naturally by stimulating its natural ability to clean toxic waste from the body. I have highlighted my favourite liver friendly foods below.
1. Dazzling Dandy.
When it comes to the liver, my motto is that “bitter is best”. Greens such as arugula, rocket, radicchio, rocket leaves, dandelion, spinach, chicory and mustard leaves are wonderful liver toners. They will help to increase the creation and flow of bile, the substance that removes waste from the organs and blood. These bitter greens will also assist you in digesting your meal, hence their consumption is ideal just prior to meals. If you really want to get the maximum benefit of bitters in your daily diet, munch on a few leaves before your meal, and they will act as a great aperitif.
2. Glorious Garlic.
I cannot over-emphasise the incredible healing power of garlic, both on the liver and immune system. Garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that are known to activate liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins. It is particularly rich in allicin and selenium, two natural compounds that aid in liver cleansing and play an integral role in the protection of the liver from damage. The enzyme which activates allicin is deactivated when garlic is cooked, and is activated when crushed so you need to eat your garlic chopped/crushed and raw in order to get its benefits. If you find it hard to get down raw (chopped in small pieces in a shot of water does work for some) you can crush it and add it to some olive oil and a teaspoon to your meal/salad or experiment with exotic garlic-based dips such as toum (a Middle Eastern garlic dip) or garlic aioli.
3. Crunchy Cabbage.
Cabbage is very rich in sulforaphane, a molecule which works by stimulating the production of glutathione, the body’s most important internally produced antioxidant which plays a role in liver detoxification and may also play a role in inhibiting tumour growth. Cabbage is also high in fibre which provides it with excellent cholesterol-lowering benefits. The fibre-related components in cabbage do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed so steam your cabbage rather than eat it raw.
4. Awesome Avo.
Avocados have been shown to naturally protect and repair your liver. Containing a high amount of glutathione-producing compounds, avocados can actually help boost the ability of the liver to cleanse itself. Research has also shown that consuming one or two avocados per week for as little as 30 days can make a significant difference to the state of your liver health. Try adding in some fresh avocados to your next salad or whip up a quick avocado guacamole with just three simple ingredients – avocado, lemon juice and olive oil.
5. Great Globe.
Made primarily of a compound called caffeylquinic acid, the globe artichoke has powerful liver regeneration properties, similar to the super liver herb St Mary’s thistle. Globe artichoke has a powerful effect on the production of bile and fat-digesting enzymes, stimulating liver function and lowering cholesterol levels by reducing absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, with less cholesterol being synthesised in the liver and more being eliminated. A Mediterranean homemade recipe uses fresh artichoke leaf juice mixed with wine or water as a liver tonic. You can add artichokes to your salads or make your own artichoke antipasto by storing in olive oil and vinegar.
6. Beautiful Beets.
Beetroot is a blood-purifying tonic that is also capable of absorbing heavy metals. It is also packed with iron, calcium, betaine, B vitamins and antioxidants making it an excellent liver tonic. Beets also improve liver function by thinning the bile, allowing it to flow more freely through the liver and into the small intestine. The colour pigment in beetroot (and other purple foods) strongly binds electrons and hydrogen and with this can also reactivate the production of cellular oxidative energy which is often low in those with cancer or chronic fatigue syndrome. Avoid eating canned beetroot as it is often full of sugar and processed. My preferred way to eat beetroot is raw and grated with carrots and apple cider or balsamic vinegar. Eating beetroot raw ensures its glycaemic index is kept low and its nutrients are kept intact.
7. Splendid Sprouts.
Rich in antioxidants, one cup of Brussels sprouts has more than 150 percent the RDA of Vitamin C and more than 200% the RDA for vitamin K. Vitamin K deficiency is a common cause of liver problems. Broccoli and alfalfa sprouts are also good sources of vitamin K. Vitamin C also protects the liver and other organs against free radical damage.
8. Trusty Turmeric.
If we bear in mind the Doctrine of Signatures (the theory that a plant will “show” us its functions through its form), when we look at Turmeric’s bright yellow color, we may think of the sallow complexion of someone with liver problems presenting jaundice. Turmeric has been shown to effectively treat liver congestion, jaundice, and is often used in chronic hepatitis. Turmeric also increases the production of bile and improves gall bladder function with normalising and long-lasting effects. Taken in medicinal doses, it can be used to help flush the gall bladder of stones and sediment. Add a teaspoon of turmeric to your daily smoothie, porridge or to your main meal. If you require a therapeutic dose, please ask me about the supplement I would recommend.
9. Lovely Lemons.
The juice of half a lemon first thing in the morning is a time-honoured way to start the day, and is an excellent wake up call for the liver. The sourness of lemons triggers nerve and hormone activation to the liver and digestive system. It is also very helpful for those who suffer from sluggish bowels. Some experts, such as A.F. Beddoe — who wrote the book Biological Ionization as Applied to Human Nutrition, have also stated that the liver produces more enzymes in response to water with lemon than to any other food.
10. Super St Mary’s.
St Mary’s is truly a saintly herb when it comes to the liver. It has the ability to regenerate and heal the liver and is such a gentle, beautiful herb that it can be recommended for long term use. It is packed with antioxidants and has been clinically proven to lower specific liver enzymes often tested in standard blood tests that indicate liver damage. With more research in modern western herbal medicine our understanding of Milk Thistle’s clinical use has widened to include reducing cholesterol, stabilizing blood glucose levels, treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver damage from alcohol and drugs. Milk thistle tea can be consumed daily, however if you require a therapeutic dose, please ask me about the supplement form I would recommend.