The liver is quite a remarkable organ. It is mostly associated with detoxification, but it does a lot more than that; it’s involved in bile and hormone production, glucose metabolism, protein and cholesterol synthesis, storage of some vitamins, decomposition of blood cells, and more.
When we talk about detoxification from a physiological standpoint, we’re mostly talking about pathways that occur in the liver whereby compounds are processed into other compounds that are less aggressive to the body and more readily excreted. (There’s more to that, but that’s where we’ll leave it so that we can get to the other stuff.)
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver organ is responsible for making sure that Blood and Qi flow smoothly through the body, and gets affected easily by stress. When there’s an imbalance in the Liver organ, symptoms such as constipation, frustration, irritability, redness in the skin, tightness in the muscles, and more can manifest in the body. A prime example of this is when a woman is about to have her period (especially if it’s late), or during a stressful time when you might break out or have a short fuse.
Because it plays such an array of vital roles in the body, it’s important that we support our liver by decreasing the toxic load on our bodies (less drinking/smoking/drugs, avoiding pesticides and environmental toxins etc.) and by indulging in activities and foods that are good for it.
The most important thing to remember is that foods and activities that are supportive of your physical and mental well-being – vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, fibre, good-quality protein, herbs and spices, and whole-food carbohydrates, stress management, deep breathing, proper sleep, exercise etc. – will benefit your liver.
1) Lemon Water
One of the easiest and simplest things you can do to help your liver is drink some warm lemon water. Lemon water has an alkalinising effect in the body (counteracting acidity), and it will instigate the secretion of gastric juices and bile into your digestive tract (which will help with digestion). Plus, drinking water will help support your kidneys, blood, and skin – bonus!
Turmeric supports your liver’s detoxification pathways, plus it’s a great anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting spice. Combining turmeric with black pepper increases its absorption in the body.
(Check out this delicious and healing ‘Golden Milk’ recipe using turmeric and black pepper.)
3) Burdock root
Not many people know burdock (aka lappa) – you might’ve had some at a Chinese restaurant or seen it at a supermarket as a very long root. Burdock tastes delicious when baked or sautéed or decocted for a tea and is tremendously supportive to the liver. It is called a blood purifier and not only does it support the liver, but is also great for the skin, kidneys, and lymphatic systems.
4) Green tea
Green tea has a high number of antioxidants, especially catechins. These compounds not only help neutralise cellular waste and other toxins, but also help support healthy fat metabolism in the liver.
5) Cruciferous vegetables
Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts have compounds that help with enzyme production in the liver to help the body get rid of potential carcinogens. The best way to eat these foods is by cooking them slightly (perhaps with some garlic!).
Other foods like dandelion root, garlic, walnuts, leafy greens, globe artichoke, grapefruit, milk thistle, (and many more) are great for the liver as well.
BONUS LIVER SUPPORT
Rub the acupressure/acupuncture point called Taichong aka Liver 3 – this helps promote smooth flow of Liver Qi. It can be found on the top side of your foot where the big toe bone meets the bone of the second toe (approximately an inch lower than the web between these toes). It might be quite sore!
Sex also helps course Liver Qi… just saying!