Your liver helps clean your blood, neutralizes toxins, and send them packing to leave your body. This hardworking organ can even regenerate itself! Fatigue and headaches can come about when the liver doesn't have the appropriate amount of material to function well. I have compiled a list of foods, herbs, and nutrients that can help your liver help you.
Foods that support your liver.
- Leafy vegetables, such as greens and sea vegetables
- Colorful fruits
- Organic foods
- Adequate protein, 3-4 times a day
- Micro algae
- Limonene containing fruits: 2-3 pieces/day of whole fruit; eat the skin where it is most concentrated.
- Orange, tangerine, & lemon (not grapefruit)
- Sulfur rich foods: garlic, legumes, onions, egg
- Soluble fiber: pears, oat bran, apples (especially green apples, which has malic acid), legumes
- The brassica family: broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage
- Bitter veggies: artichokes, dandelion, arugula, radishes
- Sulfur foods: onions and garlic
- Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon & licorice
- Bitter and sour foods
Herbs and spices that support the liver.
- Milk thistle (silymarin)
- Dandelion root
- Artichoke leaf
- Burdock root
- Yellow dock
How food and specific nutrients help the liver out.
I am believer of nutrition through whole foods, but understand not everyone can do that. Hence, I have added to this section some nutrients - in addition to foods, herbs, and spices - associated with improving liver function for folks thinking about supplementation. In addition, I do discuss what impact these sources play in the two detoxification phases in the liver.
High Sulfur foods (ex. garlic, legumes, onions, & eggs), cruciferous vegetables (ex. broccoli, brussels sprouts, & cabbage), artichokes, beets, carrots, & dandalion protect the liver from damage and improve liver function.
Vegetables from the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts), oranges, tangerines, caraway seeds, dill seeds help stimulate phase I detoxification in the liver. Phase I detoxification in the liver converts some toxic chemicals into less harmful ones. At the same time, phase I detoxification can convert some toxic chemicals into more active forms, making them more toxic, while preparing them for Phase II detoxification enzymes. It is why it is important that Phase II detoxification enzymes act as swiftly as Phase I detoxification enzymes to package these more active forms (intermediates) for clearance or neutralization.
Turmeric, specifically curcumin, slows down phrase I detoxification and stimulates phase II detoxification in the liver. This type of help is great if Phase II detoxification enzymes are not acting as swiftly as the phase I detoxification enzymes.
Vegetables from the brassica family, limonene-containing foods (citrus peel, dill weed seed, & caraway seeds), glycine, lipotropic nutrients (choline, methionine, betaine, folic acid, vitamin B12), cysteine, taurine, whey protein, eggs, red peppers, citrus fruits, garlic, onions, nutritional yeast, whole grains, legumes, & fish oils stimulate phase II detoxification in the liver. Phase II detoxification in the liver takes the chemicals made during phase I detoxification and prepares them for excretion or neutralization.
Legumes and whole grains are rich in molybdenum (a trace mineral needed for sulfoxidation, part of the phase II detoxification in the liver). If you have trouble digesting legumes and whole grains, you may want to soak and sprout them for better digestion and to increase their nutient bioavailabilty. You may also consider supplementation.
Soluble fiber (ex. pears, oat bran, apples, legumes) promotes bile secretion (product of the liver) that helps eliminate bodily waste.
If you have Gilbert Syndrome [a phase II detoxification syndrome that inhibits the breakdown of bilirubin (a byproduct of the breakdown of hemoglobin) efficiently], it is encouraged to drink at least 48 oz of water a day. Methionine administered as SAM-e may help folks with this condition.
Lastly, drink alcohol in moderation (2 glasses of wine or beer or 2 fl ounce of hard alcohol for men; 1 glass of wine or beer or 1 fl ounce of hard alcohol for women); avoid it completely if you have liver damage and immune suppression.
Murray, M. Pizzorno, J. Pizzorno, Lara. (2012). The Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine. New York, New York: Atria Books.
Bauman College (2013) NC102.3 Lecture - Digestive Physiology, Lecture 3 - Pancreas, LIver, Gallbladder, & Excretion (Kidneys, Bladder). Retrieved from http://dashboard.baumancollege.org/pluginfile.php/10056/mod_resource/content/6/FON_Materials/102/Lecture/pdf/102_3_Handout_OrgnsOfDig_09302013_LB.pdf