Detox: How to give your liver a much-needed rest
It’s a tough job being a liver in the 21st century. A diet and lifestyle laden with processed foods and alcohol can put our largest organ under extreme stress.
As bodily parts go, the liver – a large meaty organ that sits on the right side of our belly – more than earns its keep.
The more than 500 essential functions it performs include processing the nutrients in our digestive system, breaking down fat, eliminating toxins and balancing hormones.
Basically anything we eat or drink, even medication, has to pass through the liver to be processed – which, when you think about it, is quite an ask.
Perfect timing for a liver detox
With the festive period over, it’s an ideal time to check with our bodies and particularly the liver, says accredited practising dietician Babette O’Mara.
“This organ is usually under a little extra stress over Christmas and summer, so it is a great opportunity to lighten its load and provide it with some extra nourishment,” Barbara, of Perth-based Essence of Eating, says.
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Why alcohol is bad for your liver
With Febfast in full swing, some of us are already planning on eliminating, or limiting, one of the liver’s major stressors – alcohol.
If we drink too much alcohol, or drink it too quickly, our liver cells struggle to process it. This can lead to damage, causing permanent scarring, as well as harm to the brain and stomach lining.
While giving up for a month is a good start, we should also try to drink less in our day to day, advises Babette.
“Perhaps try a low-alcohol beverage or alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, dilute wine with soda water, and aim for two alcohol-free days each week going forward,” she says.
Key nutrients to keep your liver healthy
What we put into our bodies is vital to liver health, and Babette says we should be ensuring we get enough of the following key nutrients:
That’s whole grains, vegetables, fruit, lentils and legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin A: Sweet potato, carrot, milk, egg yolks, offal
- Vitamins C: Citrus fruit, kiwifruit, broccoli, spinach, capsicum
- Vitamin E: Avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils
- Copper and zinc: Seafood, lean meat, nuts, milk
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, mushrooms
- Glutathione: Avocado, broccoli, kale, garlic, egg, whey protein
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit
- Anthocyanins: Berries, eggplant
- Isoflavonoids: Soy beans, tofu, lentils
Get more Omega-3s in your diet by eating oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, scallops and mussels; nuts and seeds like walnuts, hemp seeds and chia; and plant oils including canola, soybean and flaxseed oil.
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Drink plenty of clean, still water to keep you hydrated and help your liver flush the body of toxins.
Other ways to love your liver
“I’d also recommend avoiding having vitamin A and iron consumption above the recommended daily intake as they can accumulate in the liver and causes toxicity,” Babette says.
“Cut down on excessive sugar, fat and salt, quit smoking and keep moving!
“Exercising mobilises carbohydrate and fat that is stored in the liver and strengthens the body’s antioxidant defences, which in turn boosts our immune systems and improves the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body.”
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Babette says just a few tweaks to our daily routine can make a world of difference.
“Increasing our intake of wholesome fibre and nutrient-dense foods, limiting alcohol consumption, and moving our bodies more will not only improve our liver function, but support total physical, emotional and social wellbeing,” she says.
Try this quick and easy liver-boosting recipe
Wholesome Savoury Muffins with Spinach and Sunflower Seeds
Recipe courtesy of Essence of Eating.
Written by Liz McGrath.