How to detox your liver this January
You might be asking “How do I detox my body in 2023?” or “how to do a liver cleanse”. These are common questions many people ponder on after an indulgent month, when another New Year rolls around. We’ve put this blog together to help you understand how to detox your liver and we promise you, it doesn't entail going hungry or depriving yourself of good meals.
Detoxification is an area that gets a lot of attention online with some not so good and even false and unsafe advice being given. As functional medicine and nutrition science experts, we pride ourselves on being able to provide correct and safe information when it comes to health, including what a detox actually is.
In this blog, we will explain what ‘detoxification’ actually means and why it should be a consideration all year round, not just in January. We will then explain how your liver detoxifies and what support it needs from you for it to do a great job.
What exactly is “detoxification” and how does your liver do it?
The term ‘liver detox’ usually brings up thoughts of a 7 day liver detox or cleanse where you drink nothing but celery juice for a week. This couldn't be further from the truth of what a liver detox actually entails.
Detoxification is the process of breaking down and eliminating toxins from the body, which primarily takes place in the liver. Any and all toxic compounds must first be broken down or ‘metabolised’, transforming them into safe compounds that can now be removed from the body via urine, stool or sweat.
Toxins are created internally in your body as a result of the many metabolic processes constantly occurring in your body. They can also come into your body through ingestion of things such as alcohol, heavy metals, drugs, medications including the oral contraceptive pill, artificial sweeteners, tap water and pesticides. Toxins can also be absorbed through your skin and lungs for example in the form of air pollution and chemicals found in skin, hair and household cleaning products.
Detoxification and healthy hormone balance
Once your hormones have been used by the body, e.g. oestrogen, they need to be processed by the liver and then permanently eliminated from the body (in stool, via a bowel movement). For this reason, used hormones can be thought of as toxins once they’ve been used. This is why your liver’s ability to detoxify is extremely important for hormone health and reduction of hormone related cancer risk.
There are two phases of detoxification that occur in your liver. Within each phase there are complex pathways that all need to be working well in order for detoxification to occur efficiently. It is NOT a process that happens once a year, but rather 24/7, 365 days a year, as toxins are CONSTANTLY being filtered through the body, not just in January after an over-indulgent festive season!
The two liver detoxification phases require specific ‘co-factor’ nutrients to support them to happen and happen well. These key nutrients include folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 and B6, zinc, magnesium, iron, choline, manganese, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), amino acids (from protein foods) and omega 3 fatty acids, DIM and sulphoraphane (cruciferous green vegetables) and various polyphenols and antioxidants from herbs such as curcumin and rosemary.
The third and final phase of detoxification is a bowel movement, which needs to occur at least once per day and be a healthy, fully formed stool.
Any so-called liver detox plan or liver cleanse that doesn’t include 3 well-balanced meals per day made up of these nutrients, plus plenty of fibre to support phase 3, is NOT supportive of detoxification and should be avoided!
Top tips to support your liver to detox all year round
Eat quality protein with every meal
Remember, amino acids (from proteins) are key co-factor (helper) nutrients for your liver’s two phases of detoxification. Protein foods, such as fish, organic, grass fed red meat, organic eggs, tofu, tempeh, quinoa and edamame (soy) beans are great sources of ‘complete’ proteins, which means they contain all 20 amino acids. Some of the 20 amino acids are what’s known as ‘essential’, meaning they cannot be made from the body and so must be ingested. This is why including complete protein sources in your meals is so helpful as incomplete proteins, such as beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds may limit your ability to get all of the essential amino acids into your meals. Mixing and matching ‘incomplete’ sources mentioned here can increase your exposure to all of the amino acids; however, the more sources of protein you include in your diet the better.
Increase cruciferous vegetables
The cruciferous family of green vegetables contain key plant compounds that support the efficient and safe breakdown of used oestrogen by the liver. Increase your intake (daily) of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, watercress, rocket and bok choy.
Include ground flaxseed daily
Ground or milled flaxseed is a great source of fibre, that’s been shown to possibly bind specifically to detoxified (by your liver) oestrogen in the bowel, pulling into your stool for permanent removal from your body via phase 3 of detoxification (daily bowel movements). Aim for 1-2 tablespoons per day for example in a smoothie, porridge, natural yoghurt and sprinkled over salads and other meals.
Other great sources of fibre to support phase 3 include all vegetables and fruits (especially berries). Dark and leafy greens such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower are great foundational vegetables to include daily, plus plenty of plants from the other colour categories such as reds, yellows, purples, browns/whites and oranges. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats and buckwheat are also great choices.
Stay well hydrated
Once broken down in the liver, toxins leave the body via the gut and kidneys (plus lungs and skin). Staying well hydrated is necessary for encouraging the permanent elimination of toxins via bowel movements and urine. The colon needs to be kept hydrated in order to be able to push waste through the intestines and into the bowels for excretion and likewise your kidneys need help to flush out toxins in urine. Plenty of filtered water, herbal teas and JUNIUS juices and shots are great sources of hydration.
Add a daily dose of the SPA juice and shot
Our SPA cold pressed juice and shot contains various green plants that support the detoxification pathways and, used alongside a well-balanced diet, can help you further boost your liver detoxification processes. Hero ingredients in our SPA range include bile flow-supportive artichoke, cruciferous and folate-rich broccoli and kale, chlorophyll-rich spinach and antioxidant and folate-rich parsley - making the SPA juice and shot great liver detox drinks to incorporate into your daily routine.
We hope you’ve found this information helpful and most importantly, motivating and inspiring! The best approach is always to go slow. Slow and steady always wins the race in the end, as that's how you implement healthy habits that stick. Pick one or two of these tips that resonate the most with you and start there. Then, come back to this blog at regular intervals until you have implemented all the tips and made them second nature. This way, you’ll no longer need to arrive in January wondering “How do I detox my body?” or “how to do a liver cleanse”, because you’ll be doing it everyday, all year round.