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The liver and kidneys are always hard at work in removing waste from the body and filtering out the buildup of toxic by-products from chemicals, compounds, medications, and other things we put into our body. They have to put up with a lot to keep us alive, and for the most part, they go about their job without too much trouble. But they can become overwhelmed and this can have catastrophic effects on our health.
First off, the body and its systems are already very much capable of detoxifying when healthy, but we eat (or don’t eat), and supplements we take can impact the rate of detoxification and improve the health of the liver and kidneys. One of the most popular supplements for helping the liver is milk thistle, but there are a few others might not have heard about!
What are the main functions of the liver?
The liver has remarkable regenerative capabilities and is tirelessly removing toxins from the blood, helping break down hormones, produce bile to digest the fat from our diet, and also store vitamins such as B12 as well as iron.
When the liver is not working at full capacity, it can really affect the rest of the body and the way you feel.
Here’s a breakdown of what the liver does:
- Cholesterol synthesis – The liver helps produce the cholesterol we need which helps build our cells and produce various hormones
- Processes and transforms – The liver is capable of transforming various compounds into more bioavailable compounds so they can be better absorbed by the body.
- Produces proteins – Albumin constitutes around half of the serum protein, which helps bind and transport hormones, fatty acids, among other functions.
- Breaks down medications – P450 enzymes are responsible for the process many common medications.
- Stores nutrients – The liver is able to store minerals like iron, as well as vitamin A and vitamin B12.
- Breaks down alcohol – Alcohol is toxic in high amounts, and the liver has to break it down.
- Produces bile – Bile emulsifies fats and is produced in the liver, where it is then stored in the gallbladder and secreted into the small intestine.
One of the most common diseases that affect the liver is liver cirrhosis and is often brought on by consuming too much alcohol. However, alcohol isn’t the only cause. Medications, poisoning from toxic compounds, viruses, starvation, among other things can also cause liver damage. Consuming too much EGCG (the main compound found in green tea) can also damage the liver.
Signs of liver problems
- Yellowing of white part of the eye
- Yellowing of the skin (a condition called jaundice, and should not be confused with excessive carotenoid consumption).
- Swelling of the feet and ankles because of fluid retention
- painful tummy just under the right rib cage
- Feeling generally unwell
What are the main functions of the kidneys?
It’s not often that people think about cleansing the kidneys, but they are just as important and also function to filter blood and extreme waste products in the urine.
Here’s a breakdown of what the kidneys do:
- Filter – The kidneys help filter minerals, waste materials, toxic substances and other substances like urea from the blood.
- Flud balance – Fluid balance is important in the body to maintain proper homeostasis.
- Creates hormones – The kidneys are responsible for producing hormones which help regulate blood gases and also stimulate the production of red blood cells.
The kidneys are part of the urinary tract and can also be affected by kidney stones as well as bacterial infections. There are two problems which can be mitigated by using supplements and changing your diet.
Signs of kidney problems
- Producing small amounts of urine
- Swelling of your ankles and feet
- Shortness of breath
How to detoxify the liver in 4 simple steps
Let’s begin with looking at some foods, herbs, and supplements which can help detoxify the liver and help it metabolize substances better.
1. Take control of your diet by removing processed foods and adding fresh foods
The best thing you can do for your health by far is to simply start removing foods from your diet. If you have a terrible diet, then your cupboard and fridge might well be empty by the end of it. But that’s okay! out with the old, in with you new, as they say!
When you consume processed foods that have been altered either chemically or by extreme heat, this can make it harder for the body to process and break down. Processed foods high in sugar, trans fats and additives can be very bad for your liver health. Get rid of them and your body will love you for it.
Next, you need to start shopping more in the fresh food section of the store. For the most part, you can’t go wrong with fresh fruits and vegetables, these should be the staple of your diet.
Eating whole plant-based foods will put less stress on your liver and help lower inflammation, reduce cholesterol and even increase the ability of the liver to process substances and remove them.
Include cruciferous vegetables in your diet as they are able to induce activation of important liver enzymes and help induce phase 2 detoxification enzymes which help remove harmful substances (safely) from the body.
If you’re missing out on some comfort snacks, why not try out some dried fruit, nuts, and seeds? Almonds, raisins and dark chocolate is a nice little snack.
Include some of these foods in your diet which is known to help protect and boost liver function.
- Green tea – According to research, the compounds in green tea are able to protect the liver from toxic substances and improve liver function in those at risk or those who have developed a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. One caveat with green tea is that more is not always better. Taking high dose supplements of EGCG can harm the liver.
- Carrots – Rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, they can help protect against liver toxicity as it acts as a powerful antioxidant.
- Broccoli Sprouts – Foods which contains significant amounts of DIM and Sulforaphane can support liver function by decreasing inflammation, improve stress response and regulating genetic pathways to reduce damage by increasing intracellular antioxidant enzymes. Sulforaphane may also help reduce DNA damage in the liver.
- Avocado – Avocado helps reduce cholesterol and also increases the production of glutathione. This enzyme allows for better detoxification.
- Beets – These have a reputation in natural medicine for liver health, and studies do show that eating beets can increase antioxidant enzymes in the liver, reduce short-chain fatty acids, and increase long-chain fatty acids. The positive effects of beets on the redox homeostasis in the liver is a good reason to make beets a food that you consume on a regular basis for liver health.
- Olive oil – Olive oil contain polyphenols and good fats which protect protection against oxidative stress and alter lipid composition in the liver in a beneficial way.
- Garlic – Garlic contains active compounds like allicin which help protect against alcoholic fatty liver disease by attenuating oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver.
- Turmeric – The main active component, curcumin, has been found to protect the liver and improve liver health in patients undergoing hemodialysis. In one study, turmeric lowered CRP, IL-6, TNF-a and increased albumin levels (study).
2. Take these supplements to support liver health
Supplements can be a good way to help protect your liver against toxicities related to chemicals, medications and build up of heavy metals.
- Allicin – As already mentioned, allicin is an effective compound at preventing liver damage caused by toxic medications. Studies have also shown that garlic and its constituents can also help remove heavy metal from the body and liver. You can find allicin supplements here.
- Curcumin – Curcumin is most effective when it’s consumed with black pepper or a BioPerine, which is found in most high-quality curcumin supplements. This allows curcumin to be absorbed better and protect the liver. See more about Turmeric supplements.
- Milk Thistle – Last but certainly not least is Milk Thistle. It has a reputation for being one of the best liver support supplements. Studies show that it can help remove heavy metals, protect against toxic medications, and even reduce the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
3. Take up juicing
Juicing has many benefits from condensing highly nutritious plant material into a liquid that is super easy to digest so that your body can concentrate more on healing and regeneration than digesting food.
Juicing is a very common practice in natural health communities. All you need is a juicer and fresh organic fruits and vegetables. One of the great things about both smoothies and juices is that you can really get some tasty results if you find the right combinations. And the fruits tend to hide some of the unpleasant tasting foods.
There are many examples on youtube of liver cleansing juices, but I recommend some of the following ingredients:
- Organic leafy greens like spinach and kale
Try this juice from Dr. Josh Axe 🙂
4. Deal with stress better
Everyone gets stressed at one time or another, but it’s how you deal with it which is the most important thing. Stress can affect every system in the body, including the liver.
There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence over the years about the effect of stress and liver health, so researchers looked into whether or not stress did impact the developing and progression of liver disease.
The findings were not a surprise: stress increases levels of inflammation in the liver and alters the way the immune system functions. This worsens the progression of liver-related diseases such as viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, cancer, and other conditions.
Some useful tips to deal with stress better
- Avoid stimulants which may increase anxiety such as caffeine and alcohol.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Take up yoga classes and try meditating daily.
- Have someone listen to you. A healthy social network can mitigate stress and its effects on the body.
- If you have problems or things to do and you’re putting them off, write them down in the order of importance and deal with them so they aren’t weighing on your mind.
- If you hold any grudges or bad feelings towards anyone. Learn to forgive and let go.
- Write down all the things you are grateful for.
How to cleanse and heal the kidneys
Below are a few simple ways you can help keep your kidneys functioning in a healthy way!
1. Consume lots of berries
Berries are naturally high in antioxidants which help protect against oxidative stress and also prevent UTI infections. Consuming or drinking cranberry juice has been showing to lower the risk of urinary infection in women and reduce levels of bacteria found in elderly patients who were prone to UTI’s.
Cranberries are thought to be better at preventing UTI than blueberries, so consume more of them for kidney health and UTI prevention.
Blueberries contain more resveratrol, a compound which has been shown to restore renal mitochondrial function and decrease oxidative damage following hemorrhagic shock. Resveratrol also has been found to delay disease progression of polycystic kidney disease by blocking NF-kappa-B and other pro-inflammatory mediators.
2. Keep some D mannose around
A more effective remedy for UTI prevention and treatment is a sugar called D mannose. It has been proven in clinical studies to effectively treat UTI infection which are caused by E Coli bacteria.
E Coli latches onto the sugar and is flushed out next time you go to the toilet. Simple, yet very effective. You can read more on how D mannose works here.
3. Try pycnogenol
Pycnogenol has been studied for treating many diseases and with remarkable success. It consists of many different compounds and is derived from pine bark (see pycnogenol vs pine bark extract) which have positive effects on human health.
In 2010, a paper was published looking at the effect on kidney flow and function in hypertension. The trial showed that Pycnogenol enhanced cortisol flow velocities by 8% and diastolic flow by 12% relative to the groups taking just ramipril only.
Pycnogenol is able to counteract the damage caused by hypertension.
4. Consume fruit juice high in citric acid
Kidney stones can be a very painful ordeal, but there are ways you can prevent kidney stone formation from taking place. One simple way is to consume more foods high in citric acid.
These could include lemon juice or lime juice. Other sources which also contain citrate are orange juice and melon juice.
5. Consume beetroot juice
Beetroot juice has a high concentration of inorganic nitrate, which is reduced to nitric oxide. In a study published in 2017, patients with chronic kidney disease were given beetroot juice and had their condition improve.
They saw a significant reduction in RRI values (renal resistive index) and peripheral blood pressure. The mechanism appears to be through the vasodilation effect of nitric oxide.
6. Consume these detoxifying teas
There are many different teas available, but a there’s a handful which has been used for centuries for their beneficial effects on kidney health.
- Nettle Tea – Stinging nettle tea has potent anti-inflammatory compounds and can act as a diuretic to help filter out substances from the body.
- Dandelion – In traditional medicine, dandelion has been used to help reduce fluid buildup by acting as a diuretic.
- Chanca Piedra – This tea has been shown to help eliminate calculi, relax the urethra, and prevent kidney stones from forming by altering the interaction of crystals with tubular cells.
The liver and kidneys play vital roles in your health and should be looked after just as you would look after any other part of your body. If you keep things in good working order by treating your body right, you will feel the difference in your energy, mood, and vitality.
The foods you eat, the supplements you take, and the drinks you consume, all play a role in how well your liver and kidneys function and can improve their detoxification ability naturally, keeping you in tip-top shape!