Whether you’re recovering from a bout of overindulgence or simply looking for a lifestyle change, it’s very important to take care of your liver.
The importance of a healthy liver
The liver is an extremely important organ. Not only is it the largest in the body, but it does a whole range of crucial jobs. These include cleaning the blood, controlling cholesterol, fighting infection and destroying toxins such as alcohol when they enter your system. It gets rid of old red blood cells, produces bile to break down and digest fats and stores vitamins and iron.
This is why it’s so important to take care of your liver all year round. Your body is a remarkably resilient system, but organs such as the liver will only take so much abuse before failing. When we talk about abuse, this can mean anything from drinking too much alcohol to eating too much refined sugar and not getting enough exercise - as obesity is often linked to liver damage.
Why you should avoid an extreme detox
Many people go on extreme diets or health regimes when they feel they’ve overindulged. This often happens right after the Christmas period, coinciding with health-related New Year’s resolutions being made.
These kinds of ‘detox diets’ promise weight loss, ‘detoxing’ and health improvement, but they can potentially be harmful. At best, some extreme ‘detox’ products or programmes have no effect on your health, weight or the condition of your liver. In worst-case scenarios, they can actually harm your health - particularly if you’re using laxatives, diuretics or certain vitamins and minerals without first seeking reliable medical advice.
Extreme solutions are hardly ever the answer. It’s far safer, healthier and more sustainable to make small but essential changes to your eating habits and lifestyle. The crucial factor is whether you can keep these improvements up as part of daily life, or whether you’ll go back to old habits in just a month or two. So let’s look at how you can ‘detox’ safely.
5 tips for a healthy liver
If you’re looking to kickstart a new plan for healthy eating and regular exercise, here are some excellent tips to try. Your liver, and the rest of your body, will thank you.
1. Limit alcohol consumption
Your liver is very good at repairing itself when damaged, but excessive drinking can cause severe damage to liver function. Too much alcohol can cause a build up of fat, as well as inflammation and scarring. This can stop your liver from functioning properly, which means being able to filter toxins and waste (including alcohol) from your body. You don’t need to be an alcoholic to damage your liver, as drinking too much on a regular basis (even if you only drink at weekends, but drink a lot when you do) can be harmful.
The best way to successfully detox is to give your liver a nice long break from alcohol. You could have at least a few days off alcohol each week, or why not sign up for ‘Dryanuary’ or ‘Sober October’ to see if you can go alcohol-free for a whole month?
2. Drink lots of water
Many of us don’t drink enough water, even though it has so many benefits for our bodies and our health. In the case of your liver, water can help to transport waste products out of your system. Drinking lots of water is essential for a detox, but as with anything - be careful not to take it to extremes. The NHS recommends drinking around 6 to 8 glasses of fluid (which includes all your drinks, even tea and coffee) a day.
3. Regular exercise and healthy eating
This is another tip that’s not only good for your liver, but for your overall health and wellbeing. You are more at risk from liver disease if you’re overweight or obese. A sustainable programme of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI), which is a measure that works out your weight in relation to your height.
4. Cruciferous vegetables, green tea and superfoods
Some foods are believed to be better for your liver than others. Cruciferous vegetables are those of the family Brassicaceae such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables. Even if they don’t make a significant difference to liver health, it certainly can’t hurt to get more of the vitamins and minerals we need in our diets. Again, it’s all about moderation and making sensible dietary choices.
Some people believe that green tea, which contains antioxidants, is good for liver function. This is also the case for other foods containing antioxidants, such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and kale. These foods are believed to be great for flushing out toxins. You could increase your consumption of so-called ‘superfoods’ too, such as turmeric, garlic, oily fish, eggs, walnuts and avocado. These are all understood to be good for liver function, as well as offering other health benefits.
5. Get More Quality Sleep
Again, this is no revolutionary tip, but improving your sleep patterns could actually turn out to be life-changing. Getting more and better quality sleep has all sorts of health benefits, from helping with cognition and mental health to better calorie regulation and even a lower risk of heart disease.
For the liver, it can help with the removal of toxins - one of the liver’s most important jobs. With more good quality sleep, your body has a greater opportunity to remove toxins, waste and byproducts which can accumulate throughout the day. As for how much sleep you should be getting, experts recommend around 8 hours. Sleeping habits can also play a part in the quality of sleep you get, as can some health conditions such as sleep apnoea.
So, avoid the blue light of your phone and steer clear of caffeine before bed, spray some lavender scent on your pillow and settle down for a relaxing night’s sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, make an appointment with your doctor for advice on solutions for improving your sleep.
We recommend you consult your GP before beginning any new diet or exercise regime.