Spring Cleaning The Liver
Looking at my yard, I see the dandelions are full force and it reminded me of the many herbs that clean the liver. Not many of us think about our livers, but, if you drink coffee/tea/Pop/alcohol or any stimulant this article is for you! The liver is responsible for over 500 different functions such as detoxifying and breaking down drugs, chemicals and hormones, converting cholesterol properly to be utilized for energy, lipoproteins, hormones, cell membrane structures and other chemical reactions, storing iron and Vitamin A, D, E, K and B12 and converting carbohydrates, protein and fat into energy for our bodies. Therefore, I really try to have everyone clear their liver each spring to maximize it’s function.
The most impacting step to minimize the impact of the toxins in our environment, self-induced or not, is eating a healthy diet. A good start is focusing on veggies, fruit, seeds, non-gluten grains (such as quinoa or brown rice) and fish (wild salmon, halibut, herring and sardines) for at least 2 weeks with dark green leafy salads. These clean foods lessen the load on the liver, so, it can perform all the other functions more effectively and start to clear itself. Along with that, you want to be drinking ½ your weight in ounces, so, if you are 140 pounds, you should be drinking at least 7 glasses of water or herbal tea per day. Your body needs water to flush out toxins into your bowel movements and urine. We blend a liver cleansing tea here that stimulates the liver to produce bile that helps flush out toxins.
Addition to this, you can add lots of garlic, onions, leeks or shallots to your cooking. These have phytonutrients that break down fatty deposits in your body, such as plaquing on vessel walls in atherosclerosis, reduce cholesterol and have the added benefits of removing any harmful viruses, bacteria and fungus.
Include Indian curry vegetable stir-fries. The main spice is turmeric, which is the yellow-orange colour in curry dishes. It decreases cholesterol, prevents cancer, lowers inflammation in the body and protects the liver from free radical damage. These are highly reactive molecules that damage healthy cells. You can also add it to soups, stews or when cooking brown rice or quinoa.
Stop all added sweeteners, including sugar, honey, molasses, cane sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup or brown rice syrup for at least 2 weeks. This re-trains our taste buds to the real taste of food without added sweeteners and minimizes the craving for it. Too much sugar in the diet can cause the liver to accumulate fat and eventually can lead to a fatty liver, which lessens the ability to detoxify. Sugar also increases inflammation in the body by up regulating the JNK1 enzyme and acidifies the body. This does not allow the cells to detoxify and increases the strain on the liver. Minimal sugar is one of the best things you can do for your body and your liver will thank you for it!
Consider adding a few leaves of young dandelion to your salads instead of removing them from your lawn. Dandelions are natural medicinal powerhouses that have been shown to regenerate and repair liver cells. This is of course is assuming you don’t spray them or have pets that use your lawn. Dandelion can also be taken as a capsule or liquid extract.
Supplementing with milk thistle extract contains concentrated silymarin which protects the liver, inhibiting damaging substances and helps to re-build liver cells. It also prevents the depletion of glutathione, the main substance used by the liver for detoxification. Glutathione is depleted by alcohol, stimulants and other chemicals, including synthetic ones in packaged food, soil and air.
So, I usually suggest a combination liver clearing capsule with milk thistle, dandelion and other useful plants like artichoke, black radish, beets, rosemary, broccoli and nettles.
Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland, BC.