Head to any chemist or health food store and you’ll likely find shelves full of detox products promising to cleanse your body of toxins. The internet too, is awash with detox programs—but is it really necessary to take these measures?
Detoxification is a process that happens inside of us all day every day. If it didn’t, we would die—simple as that. While there are other organs involved, the primary one associated with detoxification is the liver. The structure of some substances that you ingest and some that you create inside yourself, some that you absorb through your skin or inhale, need to be transformed before they can be incorporated into your urine or faeces and eliminated from your body. Put simply, detoxification is a necessary step for artificial substances or substances that if they were to accumulate inside you would be harmful to you. The liver has to change them into a version that is less harmful before they can leave your body.
Do you need to actively do anything to make this process happen? No. Can you do things to support this process happening more efficiently? Absolutely.
Loving your liver
There are two approaches to supporting your liver. One is to reduce your exposure to potentially problematic substances. I call these guys liver loaders and they include:
- Synthetic substances such as pesticides, artificial sweeteners and colours, and those commonly found in medications, skincare and household cleaning products
Already today, we are exposed to thousands more problematic substances than our grandparents were just from the pollutants in the air. Then when you add the regularity with which we consume alcohol, caffeine, non-essential medications, use conventional skincare and makeup products that contain synthetic ingredients and eat packaged foods laden with preservatives and additives—you tend to create a recipe for a liver that might gradually over time, struggle to keep up with its tasks. Reducing your intake of these substances alone can make an incredible difference.
If you couple that with the second approach—amping up your intake of whole, real foods, especially bitter foods (like vegetables) that the liver loves—you can significantly contribute to better supporting your detoxification potential. Foods the liver really loves include:
1. Brassica vegetables
They contain not only vitamins, minerals and fibre, but also substances unique to this botanical family — substances known as indoles and glucoraphanin, which gets converted into the ultra-superstar sulphoraphane. These substances support the optimal functioning of some of our most important biochemical pathways: those of the liver, and particularly those needed for estrogen and pesticide detoxification. Brassicas include broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
A powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that mops up free radicals and supports liver detoxification to aid efficient estrogen and cholesterol metabolism, meaning they are not recycled back into the bloodstream. When we recycle cholesterol it can lead to elevated blood levels and recycled estrogen is linked to a whole range of menstrual cycle challenges such as PMT, heavy, clotty, painful periods as well as swollen, tender, congested breasts. Turmeric can also assist with immune function, relieving stiff joints and muscles, eczema and other skin-related issues.
3. Globe artichoke
Supports bile production from the liver to assist with the detoxification of estrogen, pesticides and other fat-soluble substances. More efficient bile production can also lead to better digestion and relief from bloating.
Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) is one of Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemists, a best-selling author and speaker.