Have you ever done a “detox” to help cleanse or flush your liver of toxins after a weekend of bingeing on food or alcohol? Or maybe you believe a detox is necessary to maintain liver function or to help repair an already damaged liver. In any of those situations, a liver detox or cleanse is absolutely not necessary.
Avoid detoxing your liver
The largest internal organ of the body is your liver. Weighing a little more than 3 pounds, your liver performs more than 500 functions in the body and one of them is detoxification and neutralizing toxins. In other words, the liver already knows how to detoxify itself without your help.
For years, liver cleanses or detoxes have claimed to be a cure-all for daily liver health. They market themselves by boasting your body will recover faster after a big weekend, provide a health-kick, and boost metabolism for quicker weight loss. However, many of these detoxes require strict dietary changes such as drinking only juices or other liquids for several days or to buy a variety of products. Depending on each individual’s health status, following this regimen is not advisable.
Detoxes can also harm your liver. Herbal and dietary supplements, often used when detoxing, can cause liver injury. For example, green tea extract can cause hepatitis. Coffee enemas, used in some cleanses, can lead to infections and electrolyte issues leading to serious consequences.
It’s best to save your time and money and do your liver a favor by skipping these unregulated marketing schemes. The FDA has not approved any of them and they have not been tested in clinical trials for efficacy or safety.
Simple and safe steps to a healthy liver
The best way to achieve a healthy, well-functioning liver is to live a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise in the U.S. It is predicted that by 2030, more than 100 million Americans will have NAFLD.
NAFLD is when unhealthy amounts of fat build up in the liver that over time, can lead to swelling and scarring of the liver causing it to fail or result in liver cancer.
To keep your liver healthy and functioning properly and to protect it against NAFLD, there are steps you can take that do not involve buying a detox or cleanse. Below are the simple and safe steps for everyone on treating your liver kindly:
Avoid drinking alcohol in excess
If you only drink alcohol in small amounts occasionally, your liver can usually manage fine. It’s drinking alcohol in large quantities making it harder for your live to process it. When liver cells are worked too hard, they can become damaged. This damage can lead to fatty liver or fibrosis (scarring of the liver) and sometimes cirrhosis of the liver. Always limit your alcohol to no more than two standard drinks per day.
Avoid eating too much fat and carbohydrates
Foods high in fat such as barbecue ribs or greasy hamburgers, and processed, sugary carbohydrates like donuts, cookies, pastries, or chips, do a double whammy effect on the liver. After eating fat and carbs, your liver converts the sugar in the carbs to fat, and both are stored in the liver. The problem with this is it many never get out of storage. Fat buildup can happen fast in the liver.
The best solution is to choose foods with healthy fats such as salmon and tuna, avocadoes, and nuts like walnuts or almonds. When it comes to carbohydrates, eat more fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains that are minimally processed without added sugar.
Power up on polyphenols
Polyphenols are micronutrients naturally occurring in plants and are powerful antioxidants helping prevent or reverse damage in cells such as the liver. Examples of polyphenols include flavonoids like quercetin and catechins in fruits, capsaicinoids in chili peppers, lignans in vegetables in whole grains and vegetables, and resveratrol in red wine and ellegic acid in berries.
Including more polyphenols can be a boost to long-term liver health. Be sure to include other foods rich in polyphenols such as green tea, coffee, nuts like walnuts, cocoa power, flaxseeds and dried herbs and spices.
Set a carb curfew
Even if you’re eating healthy food, your daily calorie count matters. Weight gain is one of the biggest risk factors for NAFLD. One weight management strategy is to set a carb curfew. While your morning bagel has a good chance of being burned off during the day, sitting down with a sugary bowl of cereal as a bedtime snack, is more likely to become liver fat overnight.
Avoid weight gain
Maintaining a healthy body weight by eating and exercising on a regular basis significantly helps decrease your risk of developing NAFLD. That’s because being overweight or obese causes fat to accumulate in the liver. This leads to chronic inflammation and scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. If you are unsure on how to go about safe and effective weight loss, get a referral to a registered dietitian for their expert guidance on reaching a healthy body weight.
Being sedentary can be a contributing factor for NAFLD. Even if you’re not overweight, movement of any kind can help eliminate existing liver fat and prevent new fat from being produced and stored. Consider doing three or four 20- to 40-minute moderate intensity workouts a week and be sure to include both resistance and cardio training.
Next time you see your doctor, ask for a liver function test when you get your routine blood panel. A liver (hepatic) function panel is a blood test to check how well your liver is working. This test measures the blood levels of total protein, albumin, bilirubin, and liver enzymes. High or low levels may mean that liver damage or disease is present.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.