It’s A New Year… Is It Time for a Liver Detox?
The fresh start of a new year feels like the ideal time for a bodily detox.
Since the liver is the body’s primary organ for eliminating toxins, it begs the question: Could a medically-guided liver cleanse hold the key to a clean start to the new year? From your skin to your immune systems, your overall health stands to benefit from a little TLC for the body’s most detoxifying organ. “The liver is the key to overall digestive, metabolic, immune, and hormonal health,” says Dr. Nadia Musavvir, ND, a Los Angeles- and Chicago-based Naturopathic doctor.
Bioaccumulation: The Build-up of Toxins in the Body:
Some skeptics argue that cleanses are unnecessary because the body is designed to do the job on its own. But naturopathic doctors work with the body, empowering their patients to bring about balance and optimal functioning. Plus, we are living in a much more toxic world than the one we originally evolved from. “A detoxification program can [still] be beneficial because we are introduced to a high amount of toxins on a daily basis. Though we are designed to deal with them, [toxins are being introduced] at a much higher rate than ever before,” she points out.
Exposure to toxins arises from within, as is the case with inflammation due to food sensitivities, infections or biotoxins (i.e., Lyme disease, mold), and even emotional trauma. But the bulk of toxic build-up comes from external, environmental exposure to things like pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, household cleaning products, personal care products, EMF’s, medications, alcohols, food additives, and more.
The residual buildup of toxins over time is referred to as bioaccumulation, when, “there are less nutrients available for our innate detoxification pathways to function efficiently [and] detoxification can be slowed down.” This is the point at which point we may begin to experience bodily dysfunction and adverse health symptoms.
“Signs [of toxic bioaccumulation] can be very vague,” Musavvir says. “They are often common ailments that have been accepted as normal, or even ignored.” Among them? Fatigue, headaches, congestion, joint pain, brain fog, nausea, hormone imbalance, PMS, ringing in the ears, mood changes, acne, dark circles, eczema, rashes, bad breath, weight changes, chronic infections…and more. Even early menopause and difficulty balancing can be attributed to toxic buildup.
Choosing a Medically-Guided Liver Cleanse:
But before starting a liver cleanse, it is important to select a program that is expert-approved. Musavvir typically looks for a “cleanse curriculum” that consists of nutrient formulations to support the body’s innate detox, binders that attach to the toxins so you can eliminate them, and sufficient protein; juice cleanses and teas are not enough. Since the point of the cleanse is to eliminate toxins, you will want to minimize your toxic load for its duration. This means adhering to a clean, organic, whole food diet to avoid exposure to pesticides and chemicals. “The goal should be to properly transform and eliminate toxic chemicals out of the body,” she says.
Vitamins and Foods for Liver Health:
There are vitamins, supplements, herbs, and foods that can help maintain the health of your liver under the guidance of your doctor, which may include: N-Acetyl-Cysteine, glutathione, resveratrol, coQ10, choline, and PQQ. As with all supplements, quality, sourcing and bio-availability are key. As an example, Musavvir points out that glutathione must be liposomal or acetylated if taken orally in order to be properly absorbed. If you consider a supplement with a liver extract, make sure you look into the sourcing first. “The only brand I trust for organ supplements is Heart and Soil Supplements,” she says.
Because “food as medicine” is a hallmark of naturopathy, Musavvir provides some general pointers. She identifies antioxidant-rich foods, leafy greens, and mineral-rich food sources as being beneficial for liver health, as well as garlic, onions, flax seeds, brazil nuts and seaweed. “As a general rule in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), bitter foods are great for the liver, so incorporating more bitters and greens into the diet can be a good idea,” she says, referencing examples like radishes, dandelion greens, burdock root, bitter melon, radicchio, and arugula.
“There are also ‘liver foods,'” Musavvir says of beets, asparagus, artichoke, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. She warns that these foods are only beneficial if your system can tolerate them, however. “Someone with SIBO, for example, could create more damage by toxins produced from the bacteria in the small intestine when eating these foods.” (Incidentally, this is also an example of how toxins can be introduced from within the body.)
If you are thinking of trying a liver cleanse, be sure to discuss it with your doctor first. None of the information contained in this article is meant to be taken as medical advice, or practiced in lieu of your medical regimen. To shop some of Dr. Nadia’s top recommendations for liver support supplements and cleanses, you can do so at her online dispensary.