By Isadora Baum
Most of us don’t think about our liver much, except as a punchline after a night of too much wine. But detoxing is a hot topic, and the two go hand in hand.
The liver filters blood from the digestive system and helps get rid of bacteria and toxins, processes nutrients, and metabolizes drugs. A healthy liver helps keep the body clean, and in turn, you need a clean system to keep the liver functioning well. “Over toxification of your body can cause inflammation and eventually cirrhosis of the liver, in which fatty deposits have accumulated, impairing liver function,” says registered dietician Keri Glassman, founder of Nutritious Life.
Here are 5 ways to keep your body’s natural detox engines humming along.
DRINK LESS ALCOHOL
It’s no secret that excess drinking can cause liver disease. It also can hinder digestion and immunity. According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you drink more than 1.5 to 2 oz. of alcohol a day, you could be at risk of liver damage, specifically fatty liver disease.
If you’ve had a particularly booze-soaked vacation, or that once-in-a-while cocktail habit has become several every day, give your liver a break by abstaining for a week or so to detox. Doing so will help you feel better as well as allowing your liver’s cells to regenerate, Glassman says, which can go to full completion in about two or three weeks.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
“Stay away from packaged, highly processed snacks and packaged foods, and foods that have been shown to cause inflammation in the body, and therefore force your liver into overdrive,” Glassman says. Such examples might be baked goods, sugary drinks, and chips.
Some inflammation in the body is necessary to heal and fight infection, but too much can lead to chronic illness such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. It also can stress the liver and interfere with normal functionality and digestion. Because processed foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and other additives, they can put the body at risk for various diseases and cause the body to work harder to function properly, she explains. Unhealthy fats also can damage blood vessel cells, causing inflammation.
TRY MILK THISTLE
Milk thistle, a type of weed, may improve liver health and help rid the body of toxins, Glassman says.
“Whole, natural, organic plant foods are high in antioxidants with anti-inflammatory ability,” she says. “Milk thistle has long been touted in ancient medicine to have the ability to assist in reversing damage done on the liver.”
Try milk thistle tea as a simple way to get it.
DRINK WARM LEMON WATER
Add warm lemon water to your morning routine for an even simpler liver cleanse, advises nutritionist Lola Berry. She recommends squeezing half a fresh lemon into a mug of warm water first thing in the morning. “This helps to stimulate bile secretion, and it also helps increase stomach acid, so it’s a great way to help aid digestion of a meal,” she explains. Rinse your mouth with clean water after the lemon water to protect your teeth from the acid in the lemon (don’t brush teeth for at least 30 to 60 minutes; doing so can strip away enamel).
An apple also can help. Apples are high in pectin, a soluble fiber, which removes heavy metals and other toxic elements from the body, Berry says.
EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Not that you need another reason to eat leafy greens and crucifers like broccoli–but they’re an excellent source of the pigment chlorophyll, which can help purify blood and detoxify environmental pollutants and food additives, says Robert Glatter, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital.
Beyond chlorophyll content, “cruciferous vegetables also contain phytochemicals, which have the unique ability to help fight cancer,” he adds.
If you don’t like raw greens, try sautéing spinach with garlic, which is high in vitamin C and antioxidants to improve liver function.