Liver Enhancing Foods to Add to Your Diet
The liver is a powerful and very important organ. It is one of the three main components of the body’s detoxification circuit along with the extracellular matrix (ECM) and the immune system. It has an impressive job description ranging from producing proteins, cholesterol, and bile, to storing nutrients and carbohydrates. It also breaks down toxins from medications, alcohol, and digestion. It is very important to keep your liver in optimal condition to maintain proper health. One way to do so is with liver enhancing foods.
One of the most crucial systems in the body is the detoxification circuit. It gets rid of all the excessive and unwanted metabolites that are produced by the ordinary function of the metabolism. In other words, just operating your body produces metabolites, and the liver has to get rid of them.
And when you are under stress, even more metabolites are produced. The body is indifferent to where the stress comes from. Emotional and physical stress can both have the same effect on the body. If the detoxification circuit is dysfunctional, symptoms can be devastating and lead to many chronic illnesses such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).
There are ways to enhance liver function. The first step is to initiate a safe detoxification program in the body. Then, you will need to maintain a strict diet that includes certain liver enhancing foods.
Symptoms of Detoxification Problems
To better understand the liver and the detoxification circuit, we need to know a little about metabolites and how they work. Metabolites are the products of metabolism. As substances enter the body, they are broken down into small pieces in preparation for absorption and excretion. The body has a built-in detoxification circuit, in which the liver is the primary organ, to convert unwanted by-products into metabolites to be removed.
Problems arise when an overabundance of foreign or synthetic compounds are introduced to the body at a rate in which the liver can not properly metabolize them. Pesticides, pollutants, medications, and herbs can all contribute to this problem. Detoxification circuit dysfunctions can include:
- An increase in food sensitivities
- Gastric bloating
- Exaggerated responses to drugs
- Paradoxical reactions to medications
- Brain fog
- Migrating pain of unknown origin
- Autoimmune flare-ups
- Burning sensations in the mouth when under stress
- Heart palpitations
- Stress intolerance
- Electrolyte imbalances
In most cases, the build-up of toxins is temporary. However, an excess of metabolites can be extremely toxic to the body. Toxic metals such as mercury never leave the body on their own. They need external detoxification assistance.
What Causes Metabolite-Overload?
There are a number of triggers that can also cause excessive metabolites to form in the liver; they include:
- Excessive late nights
- Physical trauma leading to the breakdown of muscles
- Too much exercise
- Adrenal crashes from too much stress
- Turbulence from menstrual cycle
- Hormonal imbalance
- Excessive heat
- Slowing down of the gastric system
- Catabolic state
- Chronic and stealth infections such as candida, Lyme, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and H. pylori
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Excessive exposure to toxins in the air, water, and chemicals from processed food
- Excessive IV nutritional therapy and chelation
- Aggressive fasting
- Improper use of natural compounds such as herbs or glandular
- Prescription medications
- Recreational drug use, including medical cannabis
- Overaggressive chiropractic therapy or acupuncture
- Exposure to extreme changes in temperature
- Exposure to changes in weather conditions such as humidity
- Exposure to excessive EMF
- Pre and post menstruation
- Eating hard to digest foods
With all these sources of metabolites, it’s no wonder so many people have liver problems. Of course, the degree of damage depends on the quantity and frequency of exposure, and the current state of the body. We do have a built-in detoxification circuit that is designed to get rid of most of the unwanted metabolites and toxins in our body to a certain degree. However, if they are not removed quickly or adequately, the risk of accumulation in the body grows over time causing major health issues. It is important to eat liver enhancing foods regularly for the liver to operate efficiently and effectively.
Nutrients That Support the Liver
Some specific nutrients in liver enhancing foods are very helpful in reviving the liver and helping return it to a healthy level of detoxification. Below is a list of the most important vitamins and minerals to ensure the health of your detoxification system:
- B12 – 30% of all the B12 in the body resides in the liver, making it easy to see how insufficient amounts of this vitamin can result in damage. B12 is readily available in meats, cooked fish and eggs. B12 is a very stimulating nutrient and can provide a good supply of energy. The only drawback with B12 and adrenal fatigue syndrome is that this vitamin can be overstimulating for some individuals.
- Betaine – This neutral chemical compound is important in preventing the accumulation of fat in the liver, while simultaneously eliminating waste. Cruciferous vegetables are great liver enhancing foods and fall into this category, but they should be eaten with caution if you suffer from chronic illnesses such as advanced AFS or Ovarian Adrenal Thyroid (OAT) axis imbalance.
- Folic Acid – The liver requires folic acid for metabolism and fat lipid oxidation. A lack of it has been linked to liver degeneration and an inability to handle the amino acid methionine. Liver enhancing foods that are rich in this nutrient include asparagus, almonds, bananas, egg yolk, liver and kidney, split peas, soy, lentils, sweet potato, dried beans, beetroot, oranges, and peaches.
- Methylating Agents – Inositol, choline, niacinamide, folate, B12, and B6, the amino acids methionine, cysteine, and taurine, and pangamic acid and dimethylglycine – all are methylating agents found in liver enhancing foods that aid in the detoxification process. Methylating agents should be consumed through food instead of capsules or tablets for better absorption by the body.
- Selenium – This compound is essential to the breakdown of specific toxins found in the liver. Liver enhancing foods that are high in selenium include sardines, blue and yellow corn, anchovies, and herring.
- Sulfur – You can find this super nutrient in cooked cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, bok choy, broccoli, and kale, as well as red radishes, turnips, daikon root, garlic, and onion. Protein-bound sulfur can be found in eggs and meat.
All these nutrients can help support the liver and the detoxification process. However, there are some considerations to be aware of if you have a health condition, particularly a serious one like advanced adrenal fatigue.
Always consult with a specialist before beginning any new diets or starting any new supplements as the consumption of too many nutrients at one time can cause a release of toxins, causing additional health problems. The body must break down all nutrients, and this creates metabolites, and if your system is already congested, more metabolites can create a problem. A gentle approach is often best.
If you suffer from AFS, you may have a hard time digesting or metabolizing the sulfur in eggs or other foods. Health care practitioners who specialize in dietary needs can help you find a diet that can gently decrease the toxic load on your system without causing additional problems.
Liver Enhancing Foods
Here are some more common liver enhancing foods that you may want to toss into your grocery cart each week. Purchase organic foods as often as you can. This helps eliminate the consumption of preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, artificial ingredients, and food colorings, all of which are extra work for the liver to eliminate. Your liver won’t have to work as hard if it has to process fewer food toxins on a regular basis.
- Coffee – When it comes to liver health, one of the best things you can drink is coffee. Three cups of coffee a day has been known to protect people from liver diseases, inflammation, and cancers. The benefits stem from coffee’s ability to block the body from storing collagen and fat. Coffee also neutralizes free radicals by lowering inflammation and providing protection for our cells. Beware that coffee can be very stimulating and might not be the best for adrenal fatigue sufferers as it makes the adrenals work harder.
- Tea – Tea is well known for its health benefits. Studies have shown drinking green tea regularly can improve overall liver health. It reduces oxidative stress and deposits of fat in the liver and decreases the risk of developing liver cancer. Black tea was also found beneficial in reversing many negative effects from high-fat diets.
- Grapefruit – Grapefruit has two strong antioxidants that are known to promote liver health. Both naringenin and naringin reduce inflammation, protect liver cells, increase fat burning enzymes, and reduce the risk of developing a certain type of fibrosis.
- Grapes – Many varieties of dark-colored grapes have plant compounds that are very beneficial to health, the most important one being resveratrol. These liver enhancing foods have been found to lower inflammation, prevent damage to the liver, and provide high levels of antioxidants for the body.
- Prickly Pear – This edible cactus can be used to reduce the inflammation caused by a hangover and shield the liver from injury caused by consuming alcohol. Prickly pear is also used medicinally for woods, combat fatigue, heal ulcers, and prevent liver disease.
- Beet Juice – Although many assume they can receive the same benefits from consuming the beet itself, the real power comes from drinking beetroot juice. Research has shown beet juice to reduce liver inflammation, decrease damage caused by oxidation, and increase the enzymes needed to naturally detoxify the body of metabolites.
- Cruciferous Vegetables – Certain cruciferous vegetables are excellent liver enhancing foods. Broccoli sprout extract and Brussel sprouts can decrease oxidative stress and provide additional enzymes needed for detoxing the body.
- Nuts – Nuts have beneficial plant compounds that are extremely healthy. With their high healthy fat and vitamin E, eating nuts can improve enzyme levels, and decrease the chances of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Fish – The healthy fat found in fish, or omega-3s, are great at preventing the build-up of fat in the liver. They can also fight inflammation, increase the body’s ability to regulate insulin, and keep enzyme levels normal.
- Olive Oil – Consuming olive oil on a regular basis is wonderful for the liver. Just one teaspoon a day can improve blood levels of liver enzymes, decrease fat, and offer boosts in metabolism.
As with trying all new foods, always exert caution. If you have AFS or any other chronic illness, it is always best to consult with a specialized health care practitioner for all your dietary needs and questions.
Illnesses can leave the body in a very sensitive state in which you can easily have reactions to foods or drinks that once did not bother you. Typically, the more advanced the condition, the less the body may be able to tolerate certain foods, even though they may be in theory beneficial. Liver issues, in particular, can cause a build-up of toxins in the body, and because of the two-stage process the liver uses to clear out the toxins creates more between the stages, boosting liver activity can temporarily create more toxins than it removes. This is a problem if your body is unable to flush them out through the second stage of the process.
Over time, AFS sufferers may become dependent on an ever-increasing amount of nutrients such as B12 in order to stay energized, resulting in a state of feeling “wired and tired.” Like any chemical dependency, reduction of B12 can be very problematic due to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can trigger adrenaline crashes.
AFS sufferers in the late stages of the illness should stay away from coffee and green tea as the caffeine can overstimulate the body and cause crashes.
Your liver is responsible for a great deal of your health and plays an extremely important role in your body. It must be functioning optimally to maintain all the body’s operating systems and prevent future illnesses. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep your liver as healthy as you can. By consuming liver enhancing foods you can give your body the nutrients and power it needs to thrive.
© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Is a diet of liver enhancing foods safe if you have AFS?
Most liver enhancing foods are safe for AFS sufferers. However, it largely depends on the stage of your AFS. People with AFS can be unable to tolerate aggressive detoxification. It is always best to discuss your detoxification plans with a health care practitioner that specializes in nutrition before beginning any new regimens.