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How to "Detox" Your Liver Quickly, Say Physicians

Expert explains what to know about a liver detox and why you need one.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It's common to hear people say they want to do a liver detox after a night of partying too much or eating a bad diet for a while, and there's a slew of products promising you'll have a healthy liver again in no time. But how safe and effective are liver detoxes? And should you do one? Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Ravi Chandiramani, NMD – Naturopathic Doctor; Soul Surgery who shares what to know about liver detoxes and if they're beneficial. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About the Liver


Dr. Chandiramani explains, "The liver is the largest internal organ in the body, weighing in at about 3 pounds in an adult on average. The human liver performs over 500 vital functions. 

  • Bile is produced by the liver to aid in the digestion and absorption of consumed fats. Bile also allows for the absorption of vitamin K from dietary fats.
  • The liver is also our primary blood filter, allowing for the removal of toxins, byproducts and other harmful substances from our blood. 
  • The liver creates blood clotting factors using the same vitamin K absorbed with the help of bile. 
  • The liver removes excess glucose from the bloodstream and stores it as glycogen. The glycogen can then be broken down again when glucose is needed by the body. 
  • The liver stores significant amounts of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and B12 along with iron and copper. 
  • The liver produces albumin, a protein that keeps fluids in your bloodstream from leaking into surrounding tissue(s).
  • The liver metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates and fats so your body can use them."


Why Some People do a Liver Detox

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Dr. Chandiramani says, "Diets high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates such as processed foods and "fast" foods are not healthy for your liver and your body in general. You may be a candidate for a detox if this is how you eat the majority of the time or if you have been overindulging in such foods over a shorter period of time. 

Lifestyle: The liver has to process all the toxins you put into your body so if your lifestyle includes smoking tobacco or anything else, consuming alcohol over established safe guidelines of one drink (12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine or 1 shot of liquor) a day for women and two drinks a day for men, using recreational or illicit drugs, etc., you may be a candidate for a liver detox.

Environment: Again, the liver has to process all the toxins that enter your body even if they enter your body unintentionally. Think carbon monoxide exhaust from vehicles, pesticide exposure, paint fumes, off-gassing of solvents from new cars, carpet and furniture. Therefore both the choice of living environment and the choice of job may carry a greater risk of exposure to environmental toxins. For example, big city dwellers may have greater environmental exposure to carbon monoxide but non-organic farmers may have greater exposure to pesticides. Both may be good candidates for liver detoxes. 

Genetics, viral hepatitis B and C infection and the overall state of one's health also factor into the functioning of your liver."


How Beneficial and Safe are Liver Detoxes

mature woman experiencing stomach pain from fatty liver disease

Dr. Chandiramani tells us, "The relative safety of a liver detox depends largely on the nature of the detox itself and the individual's tolerance of the detox.  The safest detoxes are the ones that improve upon one or more of the "controllable" variables of diet, lifestyle and environment.

Poor diets can be improved by reducing the intake of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates in favor of unsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates respectively. Adding in fresh fruits, vegetables, green leafy plants and nuts will take this dietary modification to the next level. Garlic and turmeric are excellent seasoning agents and therapeutic spices that can easily be incorporated into yummy recipes that make your food your medicine. Water is the key to it all. Staying hydrated with plenty of water is paramount in any detox effort and in general. Flavor with lime or lemon if necessary.

Limiting alcohol intake, cutting back on smoking, abstaining from the use of recreational or illicit drugs, preventing hepatitis infection by not engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and intravenous drug use are all essential components to any detox effort. Engaging in any kind of movement, whether formal exercise or not, is yet another key component to lifestyle modification. 

While you may not be in a position to drastically change your job or living environment, you can take steps to reduce exposure to harmful environmental toxins by wearing a mask with one or more filters, gloves, long sleeves, protective eyewear and other personal protective equipment as appropriate.

Instead of only engaging in these modifications temporarily or intermittently, the goal should be to incorporate these changes to diet, lifestyle and environment permanently. If that means that they have to be incorporated gradually in order to make them part of the routine, that's ok too."


Signs You Need a Liver Detox

liver disease

According to Dr. Chandiramani, "Symptoms of an unhealthy or diseased liver may include:

–Jaundice or a yellow hue to the whites of the eyes and skin due to high levels of bilirubin, a waste product of red blood cell breakdown.

–Easy bruising due a problem with the production of blood clotting factors

–Edema or swelling or fluid retention in the legs and/or ankles due to a problem in the production of albumin.

–Pain in the abdomen, most commonly on the right side of the body towards the bottom of the rib cage where the liver is located in most people.

–Itchy skin due the excess buildup of bile salts under the skin.

–Darker colored urine than normal and/or pale colored stool than normal.

–Confusion or loss of orientation due to high ammonia levels in the blood that then travels to the brain and other organs.

–More subtle signs of an unhealthy liver may include feeling tired all the time, memory and focus issues, variable sleep patterns, feeling bloated, lack of appetite, more aches and pains than usual and dry mouth and eyes." 


How to do a Safe Liver Detox

woman holding liver

Dr. Chandiramani suggests, "Instead of spending a lot of money on the latest and greatest juices, teas, supplements, not all of which are healthy or safe, focus instead on incremental change in diet, lifestyle and environment.

In addition to the suggestions under #3, there are some additional "toxins" to consider and while these toxins may not affect your liver directly, they may well be triggers to maladaptive behaviors such as the abuse of alcohol as a coping mechanism.

What causes you stress? The answer usually falls into one or more of three categories; people, places or things. If there are any steps that can be taken to mitigate these factors, take them.

Correlated to this is taking a relationship inventory. Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns, relationships that serve you and relationships that do not serve you. Every relationship in your life must be placed in one of these columns. If you approach this exercise with a truthful lens, you will have a better understanding of toxic relationships in your life and then you can make informed choices."


Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather