Your liver is your best friend: Keep this organ clean for better health

The liver is the largest and heaviest internal organ in the body – and for good reason. It’s responsible for a lot of things: It makes proteins, helps with blood clotting, produces bile, converts glucose into energy, and manufactures triglycerides and cholesterol, among other functions. And, in light of the amount of work that it’s tasked to do, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s also prone to different diseases. In particular, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – the build-up of excess fat in the liver – is a condition that’s becoming increasingly common, with nearly half of adults in the U.S. having the condition. NAFLD also contributes to impaired liver function, which can lead to other health issues such as “leaky gut” syndrome and autoimmune disorders.

Fortunately, NAFLD is a condition that can be addressed early on, thanks to functional medicine and its approach that promotes liver detoxification.

Do we really need a liver detox?

Detoxification is a controversial topic – most conventional hepatologists would discourage the practice. However, with people being regularly exposed to harmful pollutants and toxins, a lot of them could benefit from getting a liver detox. In a day, the liver breaks down toxins that come from processed foods and GMOs – which are full of trans fats, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, to name a few – and those that come from environmental sources like synthetic pesticides and heavy metals. Aside from clearing the toxins that come from external sources, it’s also responsible for processing and disposing of naturally occurring waste products (like ammonia and bilirubin) and eliminating old and worn-out red blood cells. (Related: Five reasons your liver is begging you to detox.)

If you think that’s everything but the kitchen sink: The liver is also responsible for bile production, which is necessary for breaking down fats, producing essential proteins and cholesterol, and storing essential vitamins. For the most part, the liver does its part efficiently; however, being regularly exposed to all these toxins can take a toll on it, making it unable to carry out these essential functions. People who regularly consume too much alcohol aren’t doing their liver any favors, either: It increases their risk of liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Once this happens, a person with an impaired liver function may experience:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Digestive problems, including heartburn, nausea, and constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Easy bruising

People who suspect they have impaired liver function should consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management plans.

Natural ways to promote liver health and detoxification

It’s never too late to start taking care of your liver. Here are some natural and herbal supplements that improve the liver:

  • Betaine – This amino acid helps break down and eliminate excess fats from the liver. Find it in quinoa, bulgar, wheat bran, beets, and spinach.
  • Milk thistle – An effective herb for clearing the liver of heavy metals and toxins from medication. Much has been said about the liver-protective properties of its active ingredient, silymarin.
  • Dandelion greens – This natural diuretic allows the liver to flush out toxins efficiently. Plus, it also helps with the production of bile.
  • N-acetyl-cysteine – This derivative of the amino acid cysteine improves glutathione levels in the body. It’s also been given to people who have overdosed on acetaminophen to protect against liver failure.

You could also add the following foods into your diet to help protect your liver.

  • Potassium – This mineral is essential for liver health and can be found in sweet potatoes, bananas, beet greens, and spinach.
  • Leafy greens – The chlorophyll in vegetables like kale binds itself to toxins and heavy metals, which allows the liver to dispose of these effectively.
  • Carrots – The beta-carotene in carrots aren’t just great for the eyes, it also helps remove toxins from the liver.

Learn more ways to show your liver some love at

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