Liver detoxing is a common question I get after the holidays. Usually patients are well informed about the different types of cleansing and have experimented in the past. This article is meant to highlight my version of a gentle liver detox.
This is a cleanse that can be done without a reduction in energy, increase in headaches, body aches, etc.
My recommendations may be different than what is presented by other experts online. I don’t believe in aggressive cleansing (although intermittent fasting is growing on me).
I think “cleansing” should be a term used for a passive process of healing through providing the body the resources it needs for success.
When I think of “liver detox” I think about the requirements the liver has for metabolism, detoxification, glycogen storage, hormone production and breakdown, etc and actively pursue improved absorption of those nutrients while reducing inflammation and resetting the immune system along the way.
Here are my basic recommendations for a simple, gentle liver detox:
Make sure detoxification channels are open
In order to support the liver your body needs to be excreting toxins and metabolites the liver is processing. This can be done in a few steps:
- Break a sweat 2-3 times per week – the skin is a major detox organ and it needs to be releasing toxins via sweating. This can be done by cardio or sauna.
- Have a bowel movement every day – the liver pushes toxins into the stool via bile for excretion. Bowel movements support this process. Without a bowel movement detox cannot be complete.
- Drink plenty of water – the liver excretes urea (from the metabolism of proteins) via the kidneys. Staying hydrated is essential to detox.
- Deep breathing – During your cardio or deep breathing exercises carbon dioxide is excreted via the lungs and fresh oxygen is absorbed into the bloodstream. This is an important part of detoxification.
Focusing on the detox channels is a really important part of the process. If you aren’t able to maintain the four points above taking “liver” supplements won’t promote an increase in detoxification.
You will notice that each of these lifestyle components are not just necessary during a detox. They are normal actions that can contribute in a positive way to everyday health (including reducing the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer).
Consume B Vitamins & Antioxidants for Phase 1 Liver Detox
Phase 1 of liver detoxification requires B vitamins and antioxidants in order to function properly. These can be obtained via leafy greens, all fruits and whole grains (plus B12 from meat).
The different requirements in liver detox highlight the reason why mono food eating isn’t a great idea most of the time (exceptions in acute GI issues). We need a wide variety of nutrients for all organ function. The liver just very clearly uses certain nutrients to take toxins, hormones and other byproducts from phase 1 to an intermediate phase and other nutrients to complete to process and prepare the metabolites for excretion.
Eat Protein for Phase 2 Liver Detox
A range of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are essential for phase 2 liver detox. These can be obtained through eating meat or taking a vegetarian protein powder such as brown rice or hemp seed protein.
Amino acid supplements are now becoming more and more popular as well.
Points one and two simply highlight that we need a balanced diet in order to detox.
Do not forget about healthy fats. They stimulate the release of bile which will take byproducts of detox into the stool.
Intermittent Fasting for 72 Hours
Fasting has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation and improve weight loss. Intermittent fasting is relatively easy to do, doesn’t drain energy levels, still enables us to get adequate nutrients for detoxification but reduces the burden of over eating on bowel function and through the modulation of inflammation.
For 72 hours I would recommend doing sunset/sunrise fasting – circadian rhythm type. This simply means you do not eat when the sun is down. Try to fast for 13 hours per day and eating as you normally would the other 11.
Stop eating as close to sundown (within 2 hours) as possible.
Adopt a “Letting Go” Mindset
Focus on being in the moment and getting to know how your body responds to providing it what it needs for optimal functioning and to reducing caloric intake for a few days. It often feels very rejuvenating.
Cleansing and detoxing is about letting go and opening up room for more good in life. Something to contemplate while on this journey is what you can let go mentally while making such physical changes.
How can you re-frame old thought patterns to improve your likelihood of a positive mood, healthy mind and significant ability to cope with stress?
Recommended Gentle Liver Detox Protocol:
Below is my protocol for a gentle liver detox. Consider following everything for a combined 72 hours. Assess your results in the form of energy scores, immune function, digestion, hormones, muscle pain/tension and stress.
- BM – 1-2x/day – use ground flax, psyllium, magnesium, if necessary
- Sweat – 2-3x/week – cardio
- Water – 2L
- Deep Breathing – exercise or meditation
- B Complex
- Multivitamin – with vitamin A, C, E, Zinc, Magnesium, bioflavonoids, quercetin, NAC (options)
- Vegetarian Protein Powder
- Consume a wide variety of foods
- Fast 13 hours per day
- Practice “letting go”, getting to know your body and living in the moment
Do you regularly do a liver cleanse? What type of cleansing do you do? Have you tried a herbal version? Let us know in the comments.