The liver is a multitasking organ, working to keep your blood clean, metabolism functioning and digestion system strong. It’s also responsible for filtering out the nutrients that are available in the foods you eat and spreading them throughout your body by way of your bloodstream, and then eliminating the toxic waste that’s left behind from this process.
In addition to these vital roles, the liver regulates blood supply by ensuring there’s enough blood stored, allowing the blood to clot, and breaking down damaged blood cells so that they can be eliminated from the body through urine or stool. (1)
Clearly, the liver plays an important role in our health, and when it doesn’t function properly, we are at risk of experiencing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and digestive issues. It’s important to note that liver issues don’t only occur in people who drink alcohol heavily. They can also affect people with a poor diet, those who are under high amounts of stress, anyone exposed to air pollution and environmental toxins, and people on prescription medications or antibiotics. And since that just about covers everyone walking the planet right now, it’s also important to note that a good liver cleanse can help to get this hard-working organ back on track.
Symptoms of a Malfunctioning Liver
When your liver has too much to handle, it can begin to malfunction, so if you notice any of these common symptoms, your body may be telling you that it’s time for a liver cleanse:
Bloating and Constipation: When your liver is overwhelmed with handling a poor diet, prescription medications or environmental toxins that enter the body, this impacts your digestion. Remember that your liver is like the body’s digestive control center and when it’s slowed down or damaged, you will notice digestive symptoms like bloating and constipation.
Fatigue: It is common for people with liver damage to experience fatigue. Research suggests that this occurs because of changes in neurotransmission within your brain. And when toxic substances build up in your blood due to a malfunctioning liver, you may also experience a number of cognitive issues like confusion and mood changes. (2)
Dark urine and yellow skin: Jaundice, which causes a yellow discoloration of your skin and dark urine, occurs when you have abnormally high levels of bilirubin in your bloodstream, which may be a result of improperly functioning liver cells. When your liver can’t metabolize your blood cells as they break down, this causes the buildup of bilirubin, which ultimately leads to jaundice. (3)
Hormonal imbalances: Your liver is responsible for breaking down and removing excess hormones, helping to balance your hormones naturally. But when your liver isn’t functioning properly, you can experience hormonal imbalances that lead to health issues like mood swings, high cholesterol, and irregular periods.
6-Step Liver Cleanse
If you notice any of the symptoms of a damaged liver—or you’ve been exposed to some of the causes of liver malfunction, like medications, pollution, and environmental toxins—you may want to try this 6-step liver cleanse:
- Remove toxic foods from your diet: Processed foods, sugary foods and drinks, fast foods, hydrogenated oils, excessive alcohol, refined grains, and chemically sprayed fruits and vegetables put a heavy toll on the liver and can damage liver function. As part of a liver cleanse, stick to healthy foods like organic leafy greens, fresh herbs, cruciferous vegetables, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar.
- Drink raw vegetable juice: Juicing with a variety of raw vegetables will help to ensure that you’re getting all of the veggies you need to boost the health of your liver. Juicing vegetables also makes them easier to digest, taking stress off of the liver and making nutrients more readily available for absorption.
- Eat high potassium foods: Potassium helps to cleanse the liver, so loading up on potassium-rich foods is key. Some of these foods include sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, wild-caught salmon, bananas, and white beans.
- Do a coffee enema: A coffee enema will aid detoxification and help to relieve symptoms of liver malfunction like fatigue and constipation. To do a coffee enema, combine 2 tablespoons of organic ground coffee with 3 cups of filtered water and bring it to a boil. After letting it simmer for 15 minutes and allowing it to cool, strain your mixture with a cheesecloth and use it in your enema kit.
- Take liver-cleansing supplements: Some of the best supplements for cleansing the liver include milk thistle, turmeric, and dandelion root. These supplements support healthy liver tissue, strengthen the cell walls in the liver, and promote detoxification.
- Eat liver (or take beef liver tablets): Organic chicken or beef liver is full of important nutrients that will work to boost the health of your own liver. If you’d rather not consume the nutrient-rich food (it can definitely be an acquired taste), then try taking beef liver pills instead.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Read his full bio here.