Natural Ways to Improve Liver Health

In a world filled with toxins, we need to work on keeping our bodies healthy--and one of the best ways to do that is to improve liver health.

Today we're going to talk about many ways to do that so that you can feel your best.

computer image of liver inside male body

Today I am sharing daily detoxification strategies to help you deal with the constant onslaught of toxins we encounter each and every day.

There's a lot of talk about gut healing these days, but did you know that you really can't heal your gut if you're not detoxing well?

Here are some other posts about gut health:

So it only makes sense that in order to succeed with overall health including your gut, the lymph and liver need our daily attention. To that end, today we are talking about how to improve liver health.

 

Chemical Onslaught

The amounts of chemicals we are exposed to are unprecedented in history.

  • The average American consumes 10 pounds of chemical food additives each year.
  • Add to that the chemical burden caused by food sprayed with pesticides and from air and water pollution, you can see that our chemical burden is considerable.
  • There are 82,000+ synthetic chemicals in use in the U.S. alone.

The Liver's Functions

The liver has over 500 known functions. 

The liver is perhaps the most important organ in the body and is involved with:

  • digestion
  • the endocrine system
  • controlling blood sugar
  • protein metabolism and
  • fat metabolism
  • cleansing the system of toxins
  • metabolizing proteins
  • controlling hormonal balance, and
  • producing immune-boosting factors.

Many of these functions are essential to your overall health. For example, the liver synthesizes fibrinogen and other blood-clotting factors to protect you when you are injured.

So it's crucial that we learn to improve liver health if we want to have optimal overall health.

Some say that our liver and kidneys do everything we need to help us detox. Others say that our bodies are overburdened and we need to help our liver and kidneys in every way that we can.  Regardless of what you think, it makes sense to support these organs that have such important jobs.

Let's look at a few of these up close and personal :).

Converting Toxins

The body has systems designed to eliminate waste and detoxify poisons. The liver chemically converts toxins to be eliminated by the kidneys. Detoxification is an ongoing process--the sheer volume of chemicals in the environment and in our diets has caused many people to reach their threshold of tolerance, which adversely affects their health.

Basically, our bodies are getting overwhelmed.

When the body is more burdened with more chemicals that it can detoxify efficiently, chronic health problems can occur.

Problems like allergies, skin problems, digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, joint pain and a variety of ailments can be caused by chemical exposure.

Fat Metabolism

Each day your liver produces about a quart of a yellowish-green liquid called bile, which is stored in your gall bladder. Bile is essential for proper fat emulsification and is also a major route of elimination for the body. Bile contains water, bile acids and pigments, cholesterol, bilirubin, lipids, lecithin, potassium, sodium and chloride. The liquid is stored near the liver in the gallbladder, then it's transported to the intestine as needed during digestion.

As the liver becomes more dysfunctional, the gallbladder will become more and more compromised. The gallbladder stores the bile and when stimulated by the appropriate response (fat and protein in the GI and from the influence of a hormone called cholecystokinin) contracts and pumps bile into the lumen of the GI tract. However, a couple of conditions exist that greatly impact the function of the gallbladder.

Mild liver damage due to fatty deposits within the functional units of the liver itself can greatly impact the production of bile. This leads to a situation called biliary insufficiency. Some of the common causes of biliary insufficiency include changes in metabolism within the liver itself. This is most often caused by the consumption of excess hydrogenated or trans fatty acids, excess refined foods, oxidative stress, and low-fat diets. Other causes include overt liver damage due to hepatitis, chemical damage to the liver and liver cirrhosis.

The liver metabolizes not only fats but also carbohydrates and proteins for use in your body.

The organ has a triple role in carbohydrate metabolism.

  1. It converts glucose, fructose, and galactose into glycogen, which it stores.
  2. When your blood sugar level drops and no new carbohydrates are available, the liver converts stored glycogen into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream.
  3. If your diet is regularly low in carbs, the liver will convert fat or protein into glucose to maintain your blood sugar levels.

The liver converts amino acids from food into various proteins that may have a direct or indirect impact on your weight. Many proteins, for example, transport hormones through the bloodstream. Hormone balances are crucial to avoid water retention, bloating, and cravings, as well as other health problems. Proteins also help transport wastes, such as damaged cholesterol and used estrogen and insulin, to the liver for detoxification and elimination through the kidneys.

Detoxing

Perhaps the liver’s most important function, and the one that makes it the most vulnerable to damage, is to detoxify the myriad toxins that assault our bodies daily.

A toxin is any substance that irritates or creates harmful effects in the body.

Endotoxins: Some toxins, called endotoxins, are the natural by-products of body processes. For example, during protein metabolism, ammonia is formed, which the liver breaks down to urea to be excreted through the kidneys.

"Voluntary" Toxins: Other toxins you consume by choice, such as alcohol, caffeine, and prescription drugs. Still, others are the thousands of toxic chemicals we breathe, consume, or touch in our environment: pesticides, car exhaust, secondhand smoke, chemical food additives, and indoor pollutants from paint, carpets, and cleaners among others.

Under ordinary circumstances, your body handles toxins by first, neutralizing them, as antioxidants neutralize free radicals, and then by transforming them, as fat-soluble chemicals are transformed into water-soluble ones, and then eliminating them through urine, feces, sweat, mucus and breath. Working with your lungs, skin, kidneys, and intestines, a healthy liver detoxifies many harmful substances and eliminations them without contaminating the bloodstream.

Detoxification Pathways infographic

The detoxification process has two phases that should work in close synchronization.

Phase 1: A group of enzymes break apart the chemical bonds holding the toxins together. Known as hydroxylation, phase 1 makes some toxins more water-soluble and temporarily more chemically active.

Phase 2: (conjugation).  The liver intermediates (attaches other enzymes to the chemically altered toxins), producing substances that are non-toxic, water-soluble, and easily excreted.

Do you see how it's crucial to improve liver health if you want to experience overall good health?

How To Support Basic Daily Detox

Hydration

We have to be properly hydrated to keep the body flushing appropriately, moving bowels and urine regularly. Proper hydration keeps the blood fluid so that toxic material may be delivered to the lymph and liver. Water flushes toxins and removes wastes.

Make sure that the water you drink is pure filtered water (free of chlorine/fluoride, chemicals/metals/pathogens). Lemon water is great to support liver detox. 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day plus electrolytes (a pinch of good quality sea salt in each glass of water will do).

Alternatively, cran-water (4 ounces of pure organic cranberry juice in 28 ounces pure water). This mixture eliminates water retention and cleanses accumulated wastes from the lymphatic system and also helps to clean up cellulite.

Start each day with a mug of hot lemon water using half a lemon to assist your kidneys and liver.

Diet

Note that some think that processed lifeless foods are seen by the body as a toxin.

  • Remove all food sensitivities
  • Avoiding sugar/caffeine/alcohol will take a burden off of your liver. Eating plenty of liver-loving foods in your diet -including LIVER itself. Some say that coffee is good for your liver, but drinking it in moderation is key.
  • Add In Liver-loving foods
    • Add the following to your diet:
      • Beets (a healthy bile builder)
      • Cruciferous Vegetables - these contain substances that improve liver health by allowing the liver to detoxify harmful chemicals and pollutants (source)
      • Inulin Foods (if you tolerate them)
  • Fiber
    • If you're on a grain / bean-free diet, removing grains/legumes from the diet removes a lot of fiber. It's critical to consume plenty of vegetables at every meal along with supplementing with fiber.
    • Flax (soaked or sprouted – Go Raw is a good brand of sprouted) and chia seeds are great options. They need to be ground as you use them since they go rancid quickly after grinding. Buy only in whole seed form and grind as you need (purchase sprouted flax seed if possible since this is a more digestible way to consume flax). If you do choose to grind a bunch at once you will need to keep them in the freezer. Note that you must consume them ground to get the benefit or you will just excrete them out whole in your stool--not a good way to boost your nutrition :).
    • Low glycemic veggies are great for this. Eat as many as you want and with every meal if possible. Some people with gut issues don’t tolerate raw veggies well(as in cases of IBD/IBS with diarrhea)– cooked veggies are fine in that case, but consume plenty.
  • Detox Cocktail
    • Try this Daily "Detox Cocktail" to increase elimination and balance hormones.
      • Mix 1 tablespoon of ground organic flax or organic chia seeds in about 8 ounces of water or cran water.
      • Mix quickly and drink immediately or use a straw. I like to do one dose in a smoothie. You can also try doing a daily dose in a glass of kombucha if you enjoy kombucha.

(*NOTE- If you're taking exogenous hormones or medications, take them at least 45 minutes before or after your flax or chia drink. The fiber component can interfere with the absorption of medications). If you don’t tolerate these seeds – just be sure to include sources of fiber in your diet that you do tolerate.

computer image of liver inside male body | liver health

Supplements To Support Detox & Improve Liver Health

At the very least I recommend just using a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement. During times of stress, you may want to increase your mineral intake, as stress causes you to burn through your minerals more quickly.

  • Nettle Tea: One way to get natural vitamins and minerals daily would be with Nettle Tea. Nettles are a wonderful overall support tonic and could be considered an excellent food-based multi-vitamin. Nettle stimulates the lymph, boosts immunity, helps with GI disease, IBS and constipation and much more. Loaded with minerals, b vitamins (assimilable forms) and quite a good source of vitamin K – nettles are a very balancing food for health. Read here for more on the benefits of nettle.

    Recipe: Steep 1 cup dried nettles in 2 quarts boiling water for 1-4 hours. Strain, add more water to equal a full 2 quarts, sweeten to taste. The longer you steep it the more nutrients are drawn out, but the taste also is more grassy/earthy/herby. Try my Cranberry Nettle Tea for a slightly sweetened and flavorful way to enjoy nettles along with the added benefit of cranberries for detox support. Or my DIY Kool-Aid (you will love it and so will your friends and family).
  • Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids – I recommend everyone take both daily at least in a maintenance dose. Vitamin C has many detoxifying jobs -it’s like a kind of universal anti toxin. 4000-6000 mg daily and half that in bioflavonoids daily. I like the Mixed Ascorbate powder from Biotics and Bio-FCTS (make sure whatever brand you purchase is allergen-free/corn protein-free/gluten-free etc…). Another good form of C to look for would be sodium ascorbate. I actually prefer a Liposomal form of Vitamin C – you can purchase this online; this is a good one - Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C. OR, you can make your own at home. Liposomal is the most absorbed form of C and actually goes straight to the liver and you won’t need as large of a dose with this form.
  • Vitamin E – very protective against free radical damage and cell membrane damage. The process of detoxification can create dangerous molecules and they can do more harm than the original toxin. Vitamin E protects against such effects. The daily dose should be a minimum of 200 upwards to about 1200 IU. We as a culture are very deficient in all our fat-soluble vitamins. I love Biotics Emulsion formulas and that is the one I’d suggest for getting your vitamin E, very effective! Bio-E-Mulsion. Also, a brand called 'Unique E' and Carlson ‘E-Gems Elite’ (specifically).
  • Liver/Gallbladder support - Beta TCP from Biotics is a great support. This is also a critical addition in detox because it helps to emulsify the bile and get toxins out of the body. The last thing you want when detoxing is sludgy bile.
  • Liver glandularCytozyme LV by Biotics (used for liver congestion/toxicity/liver dysfunction, general). Optional, but helpful.
  • Herbs – Milk Thistle and Dandelion are great. Try Dandy Blend as a coffee replacement – great liver supportive herbs. It’s a gentle but effective liver balancer for those with elevated liver enzymes and/or those who have overdone alcohol, sugar, trans fats, Ibuprofen, and medications for lowering cholesterol. Use the herbs in dried form in tea, or find tinctures or make them. Start with one herb and get used to it for a month before adding another. Stop if any side effects or discomfort arise. This Homemade Coffee Substitute is great & Milk Thistle Tea.
  • Chanca Piedra - This herb is said to be great support for the liver.

Game Plan To Improve Liver Health

First off, let me state – I do not recommend a SERIOUS liver cleanse or detox until you have spent about 3 months or so working on the foundations of digestion. All elimination pathways need to be clear (no constipation, regular daily bowel movements), sleep needs are regulated, blood sugar needs to be stable and then a deeper cleanse can be more manageable.

The following tips/strategies would be a good way to support general detoxification and improve liver health.

  • A 30-Day Clean Diet is a way to reduce inflammation and address so many things and is a great idea to do perhaps several times a year.
    Avoid all gluten grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley), dairy, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine (coffee, black teas, sodas), soy-based foods, sodas, fruit drinks, conventional pork or cold cuts--all meats that contain hormones/antibiotics (use only hormone/antibiotic-free or pastured grass-fed), canned tomato products (most contain common allergens, some even contain gluten) fresh tomatoes or organic canned with no additives are good, avoid refined oils/fats, all refined sugar products and any foods you are currently intolerant to.
  • Exercise daily – even if it’s only a brisk walk or something minimal. Daily movement is very important to keep your lymph moving.
  • Sweat Daily- this should occur if you are getting daily exercise, however you can head to a sauna as well.
  • Move the lymph – dry skin brushing or saunas, rebounding or just movement with sweat. Rebounding is great.
  • Clean out the toxins in your home. Check your cosmetics and natural personal care products, your cleaning products, how much plastic your foods are in (switch to using more glass), never microwave in plastic, consider using a toothpaste without fluoride, (ask your dentist about this first) and at the very least get a water filter for ALL water you drink or cook with and a quality shower filter.
  • Detox Showers or Baths – Detox baths or even showers are an excellent way to promote cleansing and can be done regularly -even daily. Any form of chronic illness, allergies included, is a sign of a sluggish and overloaded liver. You can assist elimination of toxins through the skin with detox baths in a gentle, non-invasive way. It’s as simple as adding 1 cup of Epsom Salt to your bath. Here are some links/articles with How To’s and more info on Detox Baths.
  • Castor Oil Packs- Castor oil is effective in helping remove cellular waste products. When Castor oil is absorbed through the skin, it helps increase the lymphocyte count of the blood, and improves the lymph flow throughout the body (can even reduce swollen lymph nodes), as well as helps with the general overall improvement in organ function and a lessening of fatigue and mood issues.
  • Coconut Oil Pulling – Oil pulling is thought by some to be effective for pulling toxins out of the body. The chewing action done during oil pulling can trigger enzymes that draw toxins from the blood. It is important to note that you should always spit this oil out and not swallow it.
  • Consume Probiotics Daily -through food or supplements. Probiotics help to neutralize toxins, break down and prevent the synthesis of bacterial toxins. They also help to break down bile acids.  Read The Straight Poop About Probiotics for more information.

After 30 days of implementing some of the above daily detox tips to improve liver health, you should experience more regularity, 2 or more stools per day that come with ease. You should also experience more energy, clearer skin, radiant eyes, less pain and inflammation, and even smoother digestion.

Detoxifying diets like the Whole30, GAPS & GAPS Intro, SCD, and the Paleo Autoimmune protocol are some options if you want to detoxify daily, improve liver health, and continue to resolve gut issues.

Spend 3 months really cleaning up your diet, getting your bowels moving regularly and removing the toxins from your life.

If you are still having acute or chronic health conditions consider taking on a deeper detoxification plan, getting liver testing done, and preferably working under the supervision of an experienced practitioner.

Further Articles, Recipes & Info to Improve Liver Health

beet juice blood cleaner and liver tonic

How to Get Started

  1. Identify 3 specific ways you can work to improve liver health (ex: buy a dry brush and start using it, drink lemon water each morning, juice, herbal tea, beet kvass, milk thistle tonic, dandelion root-based coffee substitute…..)
  2. Implement at least ONE of the 3 ways right now -today!
  3. Find one or two things in your life to ditch that are not good for your liver. Such as caffeine, too much alcohol, toxic personal care products, toxic home care products….. Work on getting those out of your life over the next week, and replace them with healthier alternatives.
  4. *NOTE: Forced detoxification is not recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding because breast milk is a detox pathway. The best way to improve liver health while pregnant/breastfeeding is to support your entire digestive system, stay well hydrated and include plenty of daily movement. As well as avoid toxins in your home, food/water….
  5. I would love to hear from you!
Lydia Shatney from Divine Health From the Inside Out


Share in the comments what insights you have gained, what questions you might have for me about how to improve liver health, and the ways in which you applied this information. Thanks!

Please note - Adrienne is not a health practitioner.  The information in this post is not meant to be medical advice, so please consult with your physician before making changes to your diet, supplements, or exercise program.

What will you do first to improve liver health?

[Sources for this post: 'Signs & Symptoms Analysis From A Functional Perspective', Dicken Weatherby, '7 Day Detox Miracle', Course Notes from NTA]

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32 Comments

  1. As well as health issues, I have choice issues also, my question to you is: Does the process of ridding your body of a specific toxin take a minimum amount of time, or in the processes you have explained is there a method that can be used to speed up the cycle of detoxification. Any prior forms of research employed by myself and references to back them seem to be from uneducated freestylers that will say anything to be heard, lol. Please respond asap, if at all possible, time is of the essence. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and understanding.

    Sincerely,

    Garry McDaniel

  2. Hi! This is an amazing and fascinating blog! I'm hooked now. I am doing research and came across this article. 2 years ago, immediately after my daughter was born (when I was ignorant to research-based nutrition practices, while foods, and also ended up with a c-section), I had severe stomach issues and was almost coerced into gallbladder removal surgery. The numbers on my HIDA scan were only off from "ideal" by 2%, so I declined and researched and have come a long way, health wise. That being said, I'm fairly certain my gallbladder is flaring up again now. The symptoms I'm feeling are textbook. Is there anything specific you or Lydia recommend to heal a gallbladder and avoid removal? Is that something that's even possible from your experience? Thank you for any input you may have! My daughter still nurses so I've been hesitant to do any detoxes, but we are in the weaning process (but it's a slow one!).

    1. Hello there. Thanks for the kind words. I suspect Lydia is too busy to comment, but I can try to reach her. As for the gall bladder, I can't medically advise, but I will say that I thought I had some gall bladder issues and I ended up adding freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice to my daily diet and it went away. I have a blogging friend who wrote a post on her gall bladder. She used lemon oil and beet and tomato juice to support her gall bladder, if I remember correctly.

      I would go here for oils. Their purity standards are unmatched: https://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/natural-remedies/announcing-the-best-essential-oils-company-and-a-great-sale/

    1. HI there. Charcoal is thought by some to interfere with supplements and food, so there is possibly that concern. Fulvic is a very interesting topic. I recommend this brand as it's batch tested and fulvic is known to have heavy metal contamination so testing every batch or every other is important and you should be able to see a COA (certificate of analysis) that is recent, on lab letterhead and with a signature. I have a coupon code for that fulvic if you would like. Just reach out at adrienne@wholenewmom.com.

      If you would like something to make a mask with or add to a bath, I recommend the same company's shilajit paste as it has quite a bit of fulvic in it plus other benefits and this is also batch tested.

      1. I use activated charcoal on a detox (and give it to my patients too), but with clear instructions to take it 30 minutes or more before food or supplements, or 2 hours or more after food or supplements. This will help it not be in the gut at the same time as nutrients you're trying to absorb, so you won't have the problem of the charcoal adsorbing the useful nutrients when what you're going for is binding with toxins so they can be carried out of the body.

        Hope that clarifies how to use it,
        Dr. Deborah Epstein, ND (naturopathic doctor)

  3. Wow! This is alot of great information. I am working on this right now-there is an excellent article I found on castor oil packs- on 20somethingallergies' site. There is a testimony on there about fibromyalgia, sleep, and castor oil packs. Basically, the castor oil packs along with diet changes really helped this person's insomnia! I am working on finding a way to wear the castor oil packs, so that I can wear them during the day, because I don't like to lay flat for that long. 🙂

    1. Hi there. Sorry for replying late. I have been swamped and need to make sure links are OK b4 approving them. I can't wait to post more on castor oil packs!!

      1. Hi Adrienne! I am still doing castor oil packs! I definitely feel they are beneficial for me. I now use an ace bandage over my hot towel which is over waxed paper which is over the flannel. And then I have an old t-shirt on over all of that. Now I can do computer work while I detox. 🙂

        1. That's just like me but I have cotton instead of flannel b/c I didn't make it to the store. I need an icky sweatshirt too b/c it's cold! You don't really used waxed paper, do you? Doesn't the wax melt?

  4. This is very important, useful, helpful information. In addition, I am concerned about the mostly deafening silence about the continuing radioactive contamination of our air, food, and water from Fukushima. I hope more people will spread the world about it, and demand that our governments test air, food, and water for radioactive contamination, and help Japan stop the continuing radioactive contamination from Fukushima, whether TEPCO wants help or not. https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/keep-harmful-radioactive-1.fb26?source=c.fb&r_by=7470505

  5. Thanks for sharing this important info.
    "The amounts of chemicals we are exposed to are unprecedented in history." -This is true, and yet the number of ppl who know it seems pretty low. I'm spreading the word. Thanks again for all the important work you do to help us in this education journey.

  6. This is an excellent post. I would ask: since detoxing removes ALL metals, you should not take any minerals while doing, but I’ve never really seen how long you must wait if you are going to replenish those minerals? Do you detox one day, then take minerals the next? Or can you take minerals an hour after detoxing? or a week? I don’t want to be detoxing and then just removing all the good minerals I’ve just taken, especially since they aren’t cheap!
    I’ve often wondered the same about if you MUST take antibiotics, how long to wait until you can re-build the good bacteria in the gut?

    Also, a bit off topic, anyone tried to make a comment on the link to hawkeshealth where you make your own liposomal C?
    I can’t figure out the answer to the “random question” of 'in gardening the opposite of organic'. I’ve tried EVERYTHING! Just wanted to mention there about the replacement for soy lecithin of sunflower lecithin: I contacted a supplier of the sunflower lecithin, and it is extracted using hexane: VERY BAD!!!
    I think in this case I’d rather use the non GMO, organic soy rather than the nasty hexane extracted sunflowers.....
    Again, thanks Adrienne for a great post!

    1. You are so welcome Carol! I will see if Lydia can pop by w/ a response. I have heard you can take probiotics 2 hours away from antibiotics in most cases. Different detoxes will remove different things. The zeolite in my store does not remove beneficial minerals from all that I have read. I should add that to the post.

  7. My husband's liver enzymes were high the last two times he's had blood work. He's going to have an abdominal ultrasound this week. Thanks for all the info in this post! We needed it! 🙂

    1. So glad to hear that. I will pray for you - please keep me in the loop if you have the chance. I will say I have tried a number of the things in this post and really can say they work for me.

          1. My husband is going to a GI doctor today. I'm not sure what they'll do at this visit. His ultrasound showed signs of fatty liver and also maybe some hypertension in the liver or the valves(?). We're praying everything is clear. Also, I'm curious about the liver support that you sell. We're planning for my husband to do a liver detox which is 5 days long. Would you think that he should start taking the liver support after that detox?

            1. I can't medically advise, of course, but I think it's a great product. I personally use it while I am detoxing as well as at other times. I found it helpful when I was doing heavy metal work and now that I am working on other things (cleansing in nature) I continue to use it. I hope that helps. The instructions say to use 1 tablet 3 x per day up to 3 tablets when you need heavy duty support (my words - not theirs :)). And again, you need to consult w/ a physician prior to using supplements. Sorry, but I need to add that ;).

              1. Thank you! He works with fuel so I'm sure taking this all the time would be great for him. We are working with very limited funds right now so I'm trying to wait to get anything until we know what's going on, but I'm thinking that the supplement would be ok. At the GI yesterday they said he needs a cat scan...so more waiting.

  8. Hi Lydia,

    Thank you for sharing this information with us. Very valuable information!

    I have a question for you, I had my gallbladder removed because the tube was blocked by gallstones and was very inflamed. It never occurred to me until your article that the gallbladder produces bile, which is very important to digestion. I just needed relief because of pain that mimicked a heart attack! And my diet was quite clean for about 10 years by that point of my life according to your list.

    What additional things would a person without a gallbladder need to do for liver and body health?

    Blessings,

    Joanne

    1. You're welcome Joanne!

      Sorry about your gallbladder - I hear this ALL the time and it's very sad.

      The gallbladder stores the bile (liver makes it) and also sends out hormone messages to help with fat digestion in the small intestine. Without a gallbladder folks need to be wary of fatty acid deficiency.

      Two basic things - first do what you can to help your liver out, if your gallbladder went you likely have issues with your liver. Second, support yourself with bile acids.