All About The Liver & Signs You Need a Detox!￼
ByKatarina Meister, ND •October 12, 2022
The liver is the 2nd largest organ in the body! It performs over 500 functions and is one of our main organs of detoxification. The liver is responsible for detoxing drugs, alcohol, fatty acids, steroid hormones, ammonia, environmental toxins and allergens. Toxins are ubiquitous- from your food (pesticides), household cleaning products, to the air we breathe and the water we drink. Detoxification is something we must always be thinking about optimizing, especially if you’re looking to balance your hormones. Our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), and female hormones (estrogen) all need to be detoxed to clear them out of the system.
Causes of Liver Stagnation
- Excess environmental toxins (BPA, Pesticides, Heavy metals… etc see EWG for a full list)
- Alcohol and drug use
- Medications (antibiotics, and oral contraception – among others)
- Air and water pollution
- GI dysbiosis or constipation (self-intoxication)
- Oxidative stress
Signs of Liver Dysfunction
- Chemical sensitivity
- Seasonal allergies/chronic sinusitis
- Brain fog
- Menstrual irregularities / symptoms of hormone imbalances
- Learn more here.
Liver function test
Routine screening helps identify any imbalances in liver function early and helps assess how well a person is detoxing. To check the overall health of your liver, I often order a liver function screening test called a complete metabolic panel (CMP). Within a CMP I look at a person’s liver enzymes: Alanine transaminase (ALT) and Aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Ideally, I want to see liver enzymes ALT and AST below 20 for optimal liver function. Another parameter I look at is the ratio of ALT to AST. Ideally the ratio should be <1. If the ratio is higher, or there are other imbalances in the CMP, it may indicate liver disease.
When your liver works optimally to detox chemicals and toxins out of your body, your body is better able to balance hormones and digestion. Better detox also results in better energy levels. Start by supporting your liver at home!
The liver has 2 phases of detoxification:
- Phase 1 is all about neutralizing a toxin, converting a toxin into a less harmful chemical and making it fat soluble.
- Phase 2 is all about conjugation which makes the toxin slightly more neutral – water soluble so it can be excreted through bile, urine, or stool.
- Supporting each phase is important when you are considering a detox… keep reading!
How to support your liver at home:
- Eliminate or reduce alcohol intake to less than 4 drinks per week. Alcohol is such a detrimental toxin that it literally stops all other functions of the liver in order to work on detoxing alcohol out of the body.
- Reduce environmental toxins.
- Support your diet with my top liver superfoods.
- Garlic– contains allium that helps to catalyze or speed up phase II detoxification.
- Cilantro and parsley – these herbs help to bind or chelate heavy metals and get them out of the body. See this recipe we made at one of our Lakeside Detox Workshops!
- Turmeric – protects against heavy metal- induced liver damage, acts as a liver protective, is anti-inflammatory, inflammation modulating, and even increases glutathione (our most potent antioxidant)! Sprinkle turmeric on anything and everything (eggs, roasted veggies, soups).
- Broccoli sprouts – which are rich in sulforaphane, which supports phase 1 AND 2 detoxification. Sulforaphane also helps to push estrogen down the protective pathway to protect against breast cancer, fibroids and other estrogen dominant symptoms.
For a deeper liver detox, I often support a person’s liver with botanicals.
Please note: Before adding any new supplement or botanical medicine to your routine always talk to your naturopathic doctor to make sure there are no interactions with any of your medications and to ensure you are taking the proper dose!
- Milk Thistle: Supports phase 1 detoxification, protects the liver from damage, prevents insulin resistance, and has been shown to regenerate injured liver cells.[i] It is used in a variety of conditions from supporting a liver detox to various chronic liver diseases. Learn more here.
- Dandelion Root: Dandelion is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a bitter herb. It tastes similar to that of coffee and is often used as a coffee alternative (Dandy Blend). With its bitter properties it is used for a variety of liver complaints, and is liver protective, and anti-inflammatory.
- Burdock: Another bitter herb that is great for your liver. (*Fun fact bitter herbs are typically indicated for the liver due to their effects on the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder in supporting digestion/elimination). Burdock has been shown to reduce liver injury/damage with lead[ii] and acetaminophen.[iii]
- Schisandra: One of my favorite botanicals is Schisandra! Not only does it help with your liver, it is also a great stimulating adaptogen, helping the body adapt to stress more appropriately. Schisandra has been found to increase liver metabolism, improve liver detoxification, and accelerate liver repair.[iv] Schisandra has a protective effect on alcohol- induced liver damage.[v]
It is well known that our world is toxic! As a Naturopathic doctor, I work with my patients to identify the root cause and can assist you in a liver detox to restore balance.
[i] Mukhtar S, Xiaoxiong Z, Qamer S, Saad M, Mubarik MS, Mahmoud AH, Mohammed OB. Hepatoprotective activity of silymarin encapsulation against hepatic damage in albino rats. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2021 Jan;28(1):717-723. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2020.10.063. Epub 2020 Nov 5. PMID: 33424359; PMCID: PMC7783827.
[ii] Alhusaini A, Fadda L, Hasan IH, Ali HM, El Orabi NF, Badr AM, Zakaria E, Alenazi AM, Mahmoud AM. Arctium lappa Root Extract Prevents Lead-Induced Liver Injury by Attenuating Oxidative Stress and Inflammation, and Activating Akt/GSK-3β Signaling. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Nov 24;8(12):582. doi: 10.3390/antiox8120582. PMID: 31771282; PMCID: PMC6943639.
[iii] El-Kott AF, Bin-Meferij MM. Use of Arctium lappa Extract Against Acetaminophen-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Rats. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2015 May 27;77:73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.curtheres.2015.05.001. PMID: 26543508; PMCID: PMC4564434.
[iv] Mills, S. and Bone, K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy . Churchhill Livingstone, New York, NY. 2000, p. 177.
[v] Yuan R, Tao X, Liang S, Pan Y, He L, Sun J, Wenbo J, Li X, Chen J, Wang C. Protective effect of acidic polysaccharide from Schisandra chinensis on acute ethanol-induced liver injury through reducing CYP2E1-dependent oxidative stress. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Mar;99:537-542. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.01.079. Epub 2018 Feb 20. PMID: 29902864.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.