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Top Foods for Better Liver Health and Gentle Detoxification

An image of a liverYour liver is your body’s main clearinghouse. It helps your body get rid of toxins, metabolic by-products, and other unwanted substances. If it’s not working properly, these substances start to accumulate in your system, increasing the toxic load on your body and creating a host of problems. That’s why maintaining optimal liver health makes such a huge difference in your overall health.

Although the liver does a lot of the heavy lifting in detoxification, it doesn’t work alone. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is the body’s global response to stress - including the stress of toxins in your system. It is composed of six circuits of organs and systems that work together to fight stress. They are the Hormone, the Bioenergetics, the Neuroaffect, the Cardionomic, the Inflammation, and the Detoxification circuits. The liver is part of the Bioenergetics and Detoxification circuits. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the Detoxification Circuit.

Your Detoxification Circuit is composed of the liver, interstitium (extra-cellular matrix, or the fluid between your cells), and the immune system. To a lesser extent, it also includes your body’s secondary detoxification organs, such as the skin, the lungs, the kidneys, and the colon. The immune system is what attacks the unwanted substances, and it uses inflammation to do so. The interstitium is like a road system that allows substances to travel from the cells to the liver for neutralization.

And, of course, there’s the liver, which is the primary detoxification organ.


Learn More:

» Read our comprehensive long-read article on liver health and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
» Adrenal Fatigue FAQs
» Take our 3-minute test to see if you may have Adrenal Fatigue


Why Liver Health Matters

Your liver neutralizes most substances using a two-step process. In the first step, it turns fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble metabolites. Then, in step two, it takes these water-soluble metabolites and inactivates them. Some examples of substances it breaks down include alcohol, medications, and metabolic byproducts.

Your liver also aids your immune system by storing many immune cells, like lymphocytes, which can then be launched into an attack against toxins and pathogens.

On top of being a powerhouse of detoxification, your liver also helps break down carbohydrates to make glucose, which your cells then use to make energy. It stores excess glucose for later release, for example at night when you’re not consuming food, as well as other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. It helps produce proteins and cholesterol, and it creates bile, which your body needs to digest your food.

Just from this list, you can imagine what liver dysfunction could do to your health. Things like metabolic disorder, liver disease, chronic inflammation, and type 2 diabetes are serious issues that can come from poor liver health.

And you can damage your liver in sometimes surprising ways. For example, most people don’t associate eating junk food with liver problems. They associate it with obesity and heart disease. But actually, if you eat a lot of saturated fat, like French fries and burgers, you will eventually start to develop inflammation. And chronic inflammation can lead to cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver. But this doesn’t mean you need to stay away from all kinds of fat. Healthy fats, as we’ll see, are great for your liver health and part of a good adrenal fatigue diet.


The Effect of Stress on Liver Health

An image of a stressed manAdrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition you can develop if your body has been facing chronic stress – whether physical or emotional. Physical stressors include eating a bad diet, taking certain medications, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, taking recreational drugs, being exposed to toxins, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and bad sleep, to name a few.

You can probably already see many links to these stressors and declining liver health. Alcohol is a well-known liver stressor and a generally toxic substance for your body. But it’s not just each individual stressor that’s a problem for your liver, it’s also what stress does to your body overall.

First of all, it will make your adrenal glands, which are part of your NEM’s Hormone circuit, work to produce more and more cortisol, your body’s main anti-stress hormone. But too much or too little cortisol can increase your body’s inflammation levels, which can affect your liver badly.

On top of that, AFS puts your body into energy conservation mode. This will slow down other NEM circuits, including your Detoxification Circuit. A slow or congested Detoxification Circuit will then allow the accumulation of toxins in your system. This increases the toxic load and leads to more inflammation.

Other issues and symptoms of AFS include fatigue, sleep disturbances, weight gain, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, dry skin, hair loss, loss of libido, PMS, infertility, hypoglycemia, salt and sugar cravings, food and drug sensitivities, lowered immunity, heart palpitations, and estrogen dominance, among others.

This is why reducing stress and caring for your overall health is critical to restoring liver health.


Best Foods for Liver Health

We always like to start with diet when it comes to almost every type of recovery. And that’s because it will give you the biggest return on your investment. Even small, gradual changes to your diet will be beneficial. With our AFS clients, we adjust the more generic adrenal fatigue diet to their current state and their future goals. For example, if you’re an AFS sufferer that also needs to boost your liver health, we’d suggest some of the following foods:

Oats

Oats are a great source of fiber, which supports digestion and your gut microbiome. Gut health is central to your overall health as well as liver health. When your gut and microbiome are doing well, you have less inflammation, more hormone balance, and more nutrients and energy.

Oats are also rich in beta-glucans, which help modulate your immune system and reduce inflammation. Some studies have also shown that beta-glucans may reduce the fat stored in the livers of mice, although we don’t know if that translates to humans yet.

If you’d like to add oats to your diet, we recommend natural oats rather than instant oatmeal. This is to avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels from sugary, pre-packaged oatmeal. This is especially important if you have AFS.

Nuts

An image of a woman holding a jar of nutsNuts are a great source of unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E. They can help reduce inflammation and protect your liver against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And although they are high in calories, if you eat them just as a snack in smaller quantities, then you’re pretty safe.

With our AFS clients, we sometimes recommend they eat a few nuts and seeds as a pre-bedtime snack. That helps balance out their blood sugar levels during the night and ward off hypoglycemic episodes.

Olive Oil

Another excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids is olive oil. It’s also rich in antioxidants and may improve liver health and function. And, like nuts, it may be high in calories, but if you’re only using a little here and there on your salads or to sauté your veggies, then you don’t have to worry.

Fatty Fish

To continue with foods that contain healthy fats, the next food that packs a nutrient punch is fatty fish. Wild-caught salmon or other wild-caught fish are best. They are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a powerful anti-inflammatory. Amazingly, these fatty acids can actually lessen excess fats stored in your liver, reducing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease risk.

Fatty fish is the animal protein we recommend the most to our AFS clients. It’s satiating, nutrient-dense, and a great source of protein to help rebuild the muscles that may have been broken down during the course of the condition.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t see yourself eating fatty fish once or twice a week, then taking a good quality fish oil supplement can help. But we do advise you to be cautious with supplements if you have AFS or NEM dysregulation. Especially with a congested Detoxification Circuit. They may not be broken down properly and end up adding to the stress on your body. That’s why it’s always best to consult an adrenal fatigue specialist who can help assess what your best supplements plan is.

Fruits

Specifically -- grapefruit, blueberries, grapes, and cranberries. We’ll also include prickly pear fruits, which come from a cactus plant.

Berries, like blueberries and cranberries, contain a lot of antioxidants. Grapefruit is also rich in antioxidants. And, as we’ve seen, antioxidants are good for liver health and they also protect against oxidative stress. What’s great about these fruits is their low glycemic index, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar levels as other fruits do.

Grapes are another good source of antioxidants, but they also contain resveratrol, which is a very beneficial compound for the liver. But they are high on the glycemic index, so we don’t recommend you indulge in them too much, especially if you have AFS. You can opt for grapeseed extract instead, although more studies need to be done to see if that’s as beneficial for liver health as whole grapes are.

Lastly, prickly pears may help counteract some of the negative effects of pesticide consumption, so if you’re not eating fully organic, you may want to add them to your diet.

Cruciferous Vegetables

An image of fiber-rich vegetablesThese include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, and arugula, to name a few. These vegetables are not only rich in fiber, but they contain special plant compounds that can aid your Detoxification Circuit by increasing the liver’s natural detoxification enzymes.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices like oregano, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and curry can all support your liver.

They are also a great way to reduce your salt intake. Too much salt is not good for your liver. But the caveat here is that if you have AFS, your sodium-potassium balance may be a little off and you may actually require more salt. Another reason to seek expert guidance rather than trying to figure this out alone.

While there are also some herbal remedies and herbal extracts thought to help detoxification and liver health, these absolutely require the help of a naturopath or other natural health practitioner versed in herbal medicine.

Liquids

Drinking plenty of water is actually the most important way to support detoxification. Some other liquids known to help your liver include coffee and green tea. But if you have AFS, it may not be a good time to up your intake of caffeine, as your body needs to rest. Even increasing your water intake too quickly can have a negative effect on your electrolyte balance. So increase your water consumption gradually and assess as you go along.


Learn More:

» Read our comprehensive long-read article on liver health and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome
» Adrenal Fatigue FAQs
» Take our 3-minute test to see if you may have Adrenal Fatigue


Conclusion

Your liver is your body’s main detoxification organ. It’s part of your NEM’s Detoxification Circuit, which helps get rid of toxins and metabolic byproducts. Many people with AFS suffer from slowed detoxification and increased inflammation. So it makes a lot of sense to give some attention to liver health as part of an AFS recovery protocol.

The foods listed above can really help your body detoxify. These include healthy fats, wild-caught fish, cruciferous vegetables, antioxidant-rich fruits, and some herbs and spices.

Improving these conditions will require patience and an individualized approach. Not everything listed will suit your specific condition and needs.

It is important to remember that supplements, herbal remedies, and high glycemic index foods can have paradoxical reactions when you have AFS or liver problems. With detoxification in particular, it's easy to suddenly overload your body with toxins it can't remove. That’s why, if you suspect you have liver issues, it is best to consult a specialist who is also well-versed in nutrition and natural medicine. A gentle approach is almost always best.

Even if you don’t suffer from any liver condition and you just want to do some kind of detox, it’s better to be cautious and take it step by step. A one-size-fits-all approach to detoxing is never a good idea. Again, if you have any questions about this, you can reach us through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here. You can also get a no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

There are many foods that can help improve your liver function and detoxification. Different kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and healthy fats have unique nutritional features that support liver health. Find out if you can incorporate some of them into your diet today.

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