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Liver detoxification1, also known as a liver cleanse or liver detox, is a program that claims to flush toxins out of the body. In this article, we will find out whether or not liver detoxification helps you lose weight or improve your health by promoting liver health and healthy liver function.
Before getting into the details of liver detoxification, it is important to learn more about the liver and its functions in our body.
1. About the Liver:
The liver is the biggest solid internal organ of the body. It is reddish brown, cone-shaped, and weighs about 3 pounds. The liver is located in the upper right-hand section of the abdominal cavity, beneath the diaphragm2, and on the top of the stomach, right kidney, and intestines.
Liver health is very crucial since it has a lot of functions in the body. The liver’s main job is to filter the blood from the digestive tract before passing that blood to the rest of the body. Not only this, liver health is important because the liver is directly involved in detoxifying chemicals and the metabolization of drugs.
The liver secretes bile3, which helps digest food in the small intestine. The liver is involved in the formation of proteins important for the process of blood clotting and other functions.
People go on liver detoxification for different reasons. Many believe it will help them with liver diseases. Others think it will help them lose weight.
Many hope liver detoxification will cleanse their liver and remove toxins after heavy drinking or eating unhealthy food. In the following article, you will learn how much of this is true, including what is liver detoxification.
2. About Liver Detoxification (Liver Fact Versus Fiction):
As we learned, the liver is the body’s natural cleanser/ detoxifier. A healthy liver is capable of detoxifying almost everything that it encounters regularly. A healthy liver naturally cleanses itself.
However, when the liver is diseased, it can’t filter out toxins as efficiently. The symptoms shown by the body, in that case, are itching, yellow jaundiced skin, swelling, diarrhea, fatigue, gallbladder stones, blood vessel problems, and nausea.
Many medical websites, supplement companies, and natural health practitioners believe that the liver accumulates toxins during the filtering process over time, ultimately affecting the liver’s health. They argue that these toxins may cause many diseases, including cancer, over time. However, there is not much evidence to prove that harmful chemicals accumulate in a healthy liver without specific exposure to large amounts of these chemicals.
Generally, in liver detoxification, you are asked to do one or more of the following things:
- Eating a liver-friendly diet.
- Consuming dietary supplements designed to flush toxins out of the liver.
- Avoid certain foods that may harm liver health or hinder the process of liver detoxification.
- Going on a juice fast.
- Cleansing the colon and gut with the help of enemas.4
Many medical practitioners say that a healthy liver does not need liver detoxification and warn that liver detoxification can turn out to be dangerous or may increase your risk of liver disease.
As discussed earlier, a healthy liver naturally cleanses itself. An unhealthy liver will not get better alone via liver detoxification. A person suffering from liver disease will require proper medical supervision and treatment along with dietary and lifestyle changes.
3. Health Risks Related to Liver Detoxification:
Liver detoxification comes with many other health risks. One of them can be enemas. Enemas can be dangerous and even life-threatening due to the damage they cause. Poor or improper administration of enemas can damage the intestine, which can be life-threatening.
Often liver detoxification diet does not offer balanced nutrition, which means it may not contain all the nutrients a person needs daily. Over time, this can lead to deficiencies or malnutrition, especially in children, pregnant women, and people suffering from diabetes and other medical conditions.
Not to forget, liver detoxification does not at any cost replace proper medical treatments, especially in the case of liver disease. A person relying on a liver cleanse instead of medical treatments may escalate liver malfunctioning. Also, serious underlying medical problems related to the liver can go untreated in such cases.
4. Can Liver Detoxification Help in Weight Loss?
Many practitioners believe that liver detoxification can lead to weight loss. They think liver detoxification helps flush out toxins, improving a person’s metabolism. However, there is no solid proof to support this claim.
It is shown that very low-calorie diets may slow the body’s metabolism. This happens because the body adjusts itself to the low nutrient intake by absorbing nutrients at a slower pace. And liver detoxification is very low in calories. So, liver detoxification may do the opposite of what you need in this case.
Some liver detoxification diets will ask you to consume a few calories for several days. This can result in temporary weight loss, but most of that weight is just water weight. Alas! That “weight” will return once a person begins to eat normally again.
5. Can Liver Detoxification Cure Existing Liver Damage?
Until now, there is no solid proof that liver detoxification can cure any existing liver disease. However, there are other treatments available for it. For instance:
- For hepatitis A, B, and C: Hepatitis A, B, and C are caused by A, B and C viruses, respectively. Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination. However, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. Avoiding contact with contaminated blood is the best way to prevent hepatitis C. Highly effective oral medications in the form of tablets for patients with hepatitis C or chronic hepatitis B infections are available.
- For alcoholic liver disease: The first step in treating alcoholic liver disease is to stop all alcohol intake completely so that the liver gets the best chance for recovery. The liver can regenerate to cure itself once the active injury is ceased.
- For nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: The most effective way to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is weight loss. It is shown that weight loss decreases the amount of fat in the liver and hence the inflammation caused by the fat.
6. Does Liver Detox Help Your Liver Heal from Alcohol Intake?
Until now, there is no solid proof to ensure that the liver detoxes, cleanses, or removes toxins from your body. Also, it is not proven that they make you healthier to many extents.
Doctors say that liver detoxification is not necessarily important for your health. It also does not make your liver more efficient. No proof indicates liver detoxification helps eliminate toxins after drinking alcohol heavily or overindulging in unhealthy food.
There is a chance you may feel better while you are on liver detoxification. This is because while on liver detoxification, you aren’t eating highly processed foods with solid fats and processed sugar (these foods are generally low in nutrition and high in calories).
The liver has a limit regarding how much alcohol it can handle at one time. It has to work extra hard when you drink too much. Over time, due to this, your liver may face inflammation, scarring, or even cancer.
The best way to ensure the best liver health is to follow moderation. Limiting alcohol intake is the first step toward better liver health. Besides limiting alcohol intake, limiting unhealthy food is a prime step toward better liver health.
The liver can heal from minor damages caused by alcohol in days or weeks. However, more severe damages can take months to heal. After a long period, such injuries can become permanent. Health professionals recommend giving your liver a break from alcohol intake for at least 2 days in a row.
7. Prevent Liver Disease Naturally:
Your overall health and genetic makeup (genes) affect your liver health. Besides, diet, lifestyle, and environment also affect your liver health. Liver detoxification neither prevents nor cures any liver diseases.
One of the best ways to naturally prevent liver diseases and ensure optimal liver function is to bring lifestyle changes to your daily life.
The following steps are very important for your good liver health, especially if you have a regular alcohol intake or have a family history of liver disease:
- Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Increase protein intake.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Incorporate working out into your daily routine.
- Be responsible and reduce dangerous acts that can lead to infectious liver diseases like viral hepatitis.
- Avoid recreational drugs.
- Avoid sharing basic daily life tools like razors, toothbrushes, or other household items is always wise.
- Always get tattoos from a sterile shop only.
- Do not have unprotected sex with people you don’t know.
8. Do supplements help your liver?
Milk thistle5 is a known herb for its effect on liver health, as some claim. Milk thistle contains a compound called silybin. People believe that it can help treat liver disease as well. But just like liver detox, there isn’t much data for milk thistle that suggests that milk thistle or extracts make your liver healthier.
Turmeric, also known as the “golden spice,” can boost your immune system and may help you protect against many diseases, including liver injury. Turmeric’s main active ingredient is called curcumin. It is the curcumin that gives the spice its yellow color.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a viable treatment for several health conditions. However, there’s not enough research to claim it can be used regularly for prevention.
There is no guarantee that these supplements are 100% effective or safe. Health concerns should be discussed with your doctor before taking any supplements.
9. Foods That Support Liver Health:
You can add many foods to your balanced diet to support liver health. Some of them are:
Coffee is one of the best beverages for liver health. It has been repeatedly proven that the intake of coffee helps lower the risk of cirrhosis 6or permanent liver damage in people with chronic liver disease. Coffee decreases inflammation. Apart from this, coffee also increases the levels of the antioxidant glutathione.
Grapefruits are rich in antioxidants that naturally protect the liver. The two main antioxidants present in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin. Several studies done on animal shows that both protect the liver from injury. Grapefruit protect your liver in two ways- by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
3. Cranberries and blueberries:
Both cranberries and blueberries contain anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are the antioxidants that give berries their distinctive colors. They are also associated with many health benefits. Animal studies suggest that whole cranberries and blueberries or their extract or juices can help keep the liver healthy. Additionally, blueberries help increase the liver’s immune cell and antioxidant response.
Red and purple grapes contain various beneficial plant compounds. The main one is resveratrol. Resveratrol has many health benefits. Research suggests that grapes can have numerous benefits, preventing damage, including lowering inflammation and increasing antioxidant levels.
5. Prickly pear:
It is commonly known as barbary fig and scientifically known as Opuntia ficus-indica. It is a popular type of edible cactus. It is commonly used in traditional medicines for treating liver disease, wounds, fatigue, and ulcers. Prickly pear fruit and juice are consumed. A study done on rats showed that the juice helped decrease oxidative damage and liver injury after alcohol consumption. It also keeps antioxidant and inflammation levels stable.
6. Beetroot juice:
Beetroot juice is rich in antioxidants called betalains and nitrates. Many studies on rats have shown that beetroot juice helps reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver. It is also linked to increasing natural detoxification enzymes.
7. Cruciferous vegetables:
Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and broccoli are rich in fiber and have distinctive taste. Animal studies suggest that Brussels sprouts and broccoli sprout extract help the body increase the levels of detoxification enzymes and protect the liver from damage. A survey of human liver cells showed that these effects remained intact even when Brussels sprouts were cooked.
Nuts contain antioxidants, vitamin E, beneficial plant compounds, and fats. This composition has many health benefits and is highly beneficial for heart and liver health. This is suggested by a study done in 2019. The study says that a diet rich in nuts decreases the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Another secondary observational study showed that men who ate more amount of nuts and seeds had a lower risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease than men who ate a lesser amount of nuts and seeds.
9. Fatty fish:
Fatty fish has omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that help reduce inflammation. They are also associated with a lower risk of heart disease. A study done in 2016 discovered that omega-3 fatty acids helped reduce liver fat and triglyceride levels in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (it is an advanced stage of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
It is a fact that omega-3-rich fatty fish is beneficial for your liver. However, it is very important to remember that the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats is very crucial. An Imbalance in the ratio may harm the liver.
However, you should consult your health professional and address your concerns before incorporating these into your diet.
- Grant, D. M. “Detoxification pathways in the liver.” Journal of inherited metabolic disease 14 (1991): 421-430. ↩︎
- Lemon, Willis S. “The function of the diaphragm.” Archives of Surgery 17.5 (1928): 840-853. ↩︎
- LaRusso, N. F. “Proteins in bile: how they get there and what they do.” American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 247.3 (1984): G199-G205. ↩︎
- Mackenzie, J. W. A. “The nutrient enema.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 18.93 (1943): 22. ↩︎
- Abenavoli, Ludovico, et al. “Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.” Phytotherapy Research 24.10 (2010): 1423-1432. ↩︎
- Pinzani, Massimo, Matteo Rosselli, and Michele Zuckermann. “Liver cirrhosis.” Best practice & research Clinical gastroenterology 25.2 (2011): 281-290. ↩︎