As a new understanding of adrenal fatigue emerges, the role of the liver in overcoming this condition becomes clearer. How a liver cleansing diet helps Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is explained through the concept of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response model. The NEM concept incorporates a consideration of metabolic processes in the body, supplementing the stress-organ-specific, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis paradigm of conventional medicine when treating AFS.
The conventional medical understanding of the neuroendocrine stress response focuses on specific stress related organs like the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, and the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, both small structures inside the brain.
The NEM approach to healing from AFS includes attention to processes in other organ systems and the complex interaction between all of these organs and their metabolic processes. The important bodily systems of consideration in NEM are those involving inflammation, detoxification, and metabolism. The liver plays an important role in all of these functions. Supporting liver function and health is integral to healing AFS.
Designing a Liver Cleansing Diet for Healing AFS
There are a wide variety of foods that help the liver rest, repair, and detoxify. Eating all of these foods is not a requirement for a liver cleansing diet. Only those foods that you like and tolerate without any adverse reaction should be selected for a cleansing diet.
Eating lighter, smaller, and more frequent meals also takes strain off the digestive system. Drinking lots of water, with or without the addition of fresh lemon juice, and plenty of Wakame or Kombu sea vegetable broth throughout the day is also an aide in detoxification and a healthy habit in general.
Liver cleansing is also enhanced by drinking fresh vegetable juice made with leafy greens. Chlorophyll, the bio-chemical in plants that makes them green, is highly beneficial in restoring liver function and supporting many other metabolic processes. Liquid chlorophyll is also available as a supplement.
Avoid frying and sautéing foods. Use steaming and baking instead. Pureed foods are especially easy on the digestive system. To puree a food, boil it until it is tender, chop coarsely and put it in a blender with an equal volume of water or broth. Mix on low until smooth.
Avoid red meat, butter, most vegetable oils, and ghee, as well as stimulating foods like salt, hot spices, sugar, and caffeine. Eliminating refined, white flour foods, canned, and pre-packaged products is also recommended during a cleansing diet. Foods that are most beneficial for cleansing the liver are plant based foods. Eliminating all animal based products for a period of time is helpful for many people.
Specific Foods for a Liver Cleansing Diet
These are among the most helpful foods for improving liver function:
- Garlic is a food loaded with many important vitamins and minerals, including selenium, sulfur, and manganese. Manganese plays a central role in the adrenal glands. Many people view garlic as an herb to be used sparingly, but main dishes, with garlic as the central ingredient, are both delicious and helpful for liver and adrenal support.
- Leafy greens, of all kinds, are an important components in any liver healthy diet. Leafy greens include lettuce, kale, collards, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens, chicory greens, and asparagus. Leafy greens help by carrying away heavy metals, increasing the flow of bile, and removing waste products from the body. Bile is also an important digestive enzyme.
- Oats, barley, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are all grains easier to digest than wheat. Many people also have allergic sensitivities to wheat. These grains are nutritious alternatives. Look for barley in the hull and cook it in place of rice. Unhulled barley contains many vitamins as well as generous amounts of fiber. Fiber helps keep the bowels moving (another important factor in detoxification of the liver).
- Carrots and beets are both extremely high in plant flavonoids and the plant version of vitamin A. High levels of vitamin A from animal sources can be toxic to the liver and should be avoided when consuming a liver cleansing diet. Eating moderate amounts of carrots and beets provides lots of vitamin A in a form safer for the liver.
- Daikon radishes help absorb and eliminate fats from the body. They are best eaten raw and can be grated and added as a garnish on soup.
- Leeks are in the same plant family as garlic and onions and contain some of the same hard to get minerals provided by those foods. Leeks also aid in bile production and help avoid constipation. Leeks can be used in place of onions in many recipes or made into a cream soup with potatoes.
- Apples are a fruit high in pectin which helps cleanse the digestive tract. Conventionally apples are often exposed to high levels of pesticide application, so look for organic apples instead.
- Herbs and spices that are especially good for the liver include rosemary, thyme, and turmeric. Rosemary and thyme are most potent when fresh. Besides using them for flavoring in cooked dishes, they both make tasty tea. Turmeric is an orange-colored root and can be used fresh or as a dry powder. Turmeric is a main ingredient in curry powder and is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties.
- Green tea is strong in antioxidants called catechins which are beneficial for liver function. It is a good alternative for coffee, black tea, and soda.
- While most fats are best avoided when on a cleansing diet, cold-pressed, organic olive and flaxseed oils are healthy sources of fat when used in small amounts.
- Avocados are super foods that assist the body in producing glutathione, a bio-chemical that aids the liver in eliminating toxins.
- Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. All of these vegetables help in the production of glucosinolate which increases liver enzymes.
- Lemons and limes provide high amounts of detoxifying vitamin C. Fresh lemon or lime juice also stimulates liver activity.
- Walnuts are a good source of high quality protein, including the amino acid arginine and glutathione which help in detoxification of ammonia. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which lower bad cholesterol and support liver health.
Using all or some of these foods for detoxifying and restoring liver health can contribute to healing of AFS.