Why loving your liver is the ultimate wellness weapon
Whether you can actually cleanse your liver is open to debate, but these simple and easy diet tweaks can help keep it stronger for longer.
It is probably something you give only a passing thought after a big night out on the town or a fatty food binge, but your liver deserves far greater attention.
The superstar of your digestive system – the second-largest organ after your skin – is a dedicated multi-tasker that plays a part in more than 500 activities in your body.
Among them are removing toxins, clearing medication from your body, managing blood sugar levels and storing vitamins, dietitian Lisa Renn says.
“Basically all of the blood in your body has to pass through the liver to be processed,” the author of Body Warfare – The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss says.
The liver also adjusts cholesterol levels, builds proteins and makes bile, which helps you absorb fats and regulates hormone levels. A shirker it isn’t!
What can harm the liver?
Alcohol, smoking, a poor diet and obesity can all harm your liver, says The Liver Cleansing Diet author Dr Sandra Cabot.
Dr Cabot says Australia and many parts of the globe are seeing what she describes as “an epidemic” of fatty liver disease.
“This build-up of fats in your liver can cause damage and lead to serious complications, including cirrhosis, where liver cells are replaced with extensive scar tissue,” Dr Cabot says.
“Many people with fatty liver aren’t even aware they have a problem because the symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain that you can’t account for, are usually gradual.”
- Silent disease: How to reverse fatty liver disease
Keeping your liver healthy
Although it has an amazing ability to repair itself, you’ve probably already worked out there are some giant pluses to loving your liver.
And experts say it doesn’t have to be complicated.
“To have a well-functioning liver you have to eat healthy foods and limit consumption of substances like alcohol that cause it to work harder,” University of Sydney obesity expert Dr Nick Fuller says.
Lisa says our body has “the most amazing inbuilt detox machine, the liver and the kidneys, assisted by the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and the immune system”.
“The best way we can detox is to help them do their job with a nutritious and balanced diet, plenty of water and exercise,” she says.
She suggests increasing wholegrains and dietary fibre and cutting back on fatty and sugary foods to start with.
Dr Cabot recommends plant-based carbohydrates, such as vegetables and legumes, as well as healthy fats found in seafood, cold-pressed olive oil, eggs, raw nuts and seeds.
Liver-friendly items for your shopping list include:
Studies show the bioactive agent betaine found in beetroot may protect against the fatty build-up associated with liver disease.
Extra virgin olive oil
Research published in 2020 revealed that a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can be used to fight non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.
A Japanese study in people with NAFLD found drinking green tea high in antioxidants for 12 weeks improved liver enzyme levels. It might also help reduce fat deposits and oxidative stress in the liver.
“Caffeine in moderate amounts – so around three cups a day – certainly has some benefits,” Lisa says.
Scientists have shown drinking coffee many help reduce the risk of developing a common type of liver cancer and has positive effects on liver disease and inflammation.
- Cut back: Best ways to give your liver a rest
Written by Liz McGrath.