The liver has several very important functions that are vital to well-being. For digestion it secretes bile, a fluid that is needed for the break-down of fats and the absorption and assimilation of several nutrients. One of the factors that puts strain on the liver is a high-fat diet.
The liver also acts as a detoxifier. It is needed to get rid of natural byproducts, such as ammonia, but it also acts to eliminate harmful foreign substances that are introduced into the body such as pesticide residues, drugs, alcohol and chemicals. In the liver these toxic substances are combined with less-toxic substances. They then need to be eliminated through the kidneys and bowel. If there are too many chemicals and other toxins then the liver cannot detoxify properly.
The liver also plays a role in healthy blood sugar levels, energy production and proper thyroid function. Supporting liver health by eating a healthy diet, making wise lifestyle choices and even using herbs can help to maintain a well-functioning organ over the years.
Eating for Support
To improve the well-being of this organ eat less processed foods, red meat, starchy foods, sugary foods and fried foods. Take a break from dairy products once in awhile to give the liver a break. An overall low-fat, high-fiber diet is very important for liver health. Try switching to vegetable protein two to three times a week and eating fish twice a week.
Excellent foods to make a part of your healthy diet include:
- Sea greens
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruits
- A variety of whole grains
- Raw nuts
- Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
Also important is to drink eight glasses of water each day as well as fresh juices such as apple, cranberry, carrot and cucumber. Try having a green drink once a day.
Detox diets can be very helpful for revitalizing the liver. If you are in good health consider doing a one to three day juice cleanse every one to three months.
Lifestyle Choices Affect Your Liver
A healthy, low-fat diet is essential but there are other factors that play an important role in liver health. First, toxins — smoking, drinking and the overuse of over-the-counter and prescription medications all have a negative effect on the liver. It is important to take medications that your doctor deems as necessary, but keep in mind the extra support your liver requires if you are taking many drugs.
You can also reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. Choose organic foods whenever possible to limit the pesticide and herbicide residues that you are exposed to. Use natural and homemade cleaning products instead of conventional cleaning supplies.
Getting clean, fresh air will help to keep the liver (and the entire body) well-oxygenated. Try walking outside every day. If possible spend time near trees or the ocean.
Herbs can also help to support the liver. Some help to detoxify the bloodstream, others stimulate the flow of bile and other herbs are nourishing. The following are helpful herbs that you can consider adding to your diet.
- Burdock root
- Red clover
- Milk thistle (this herb is most effective in supplement form)
- Red sage
- Rose hips
Try drinking a cup of herbal tea once a day to benefit the liver. Herbal supplements can also be helpful but be sure to purchase from a trusted source. Rotate the botanicals that you choose to use. Dandelion, burdock and red clover are all cleansing herbs. Dandelion and milk thistle support liver function. Red sage, rose hips and horsetail are all excellent sources of nutrition.
Always talk to your doctor before adding herbs to your diet, especially if you have a medical condition, are taking any medications or if pregnant or nursing.
Knowing how to improve liver health you can support this organ, thereby supporting overall well-being. A healthy diet is paramount, reducing toxin intake is very important and herbs can add that extra help that the liver may need.
Balch, Phyllis A. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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