Cleanses and detoxes are all the rage these days. But, while many of these diets and products claim to get rid of toxins, boost your energy, and help you lose weight, there’s no science showing that these assertions are true.
What is true is that your body already has it’s very own detoxification system—your liver. This remarkable organ breaks down and removes hundreds of toxins every day. These toxins can include everything from the pesticide residue from the salad you ate for lunch to the cocktail you enjoyed after work to the ibuprofen you took to chase away the resulting headache. The problem is, because of the sheer volume of toxins that the liver has to deal with, it can get overwhelmed. And that’s when your liver can benefit from some love.
Your Liver Keeps You Alive and Well
Your liver is a small spongy football-size organ that does more to keep you safe and healthy than most people realize. In fact, it performs more than 500 critical functions around the clock. Those include:
- Breaking down, balancing, and creating the nutrients your body needs
- Regulating chemical levels in your bloodstream
- Generating bile to help break down fats during digestion
- Producing cholesterol
- Converting excess glucose into a substance called glycogen so it can be stored for later use
- Making glucose as needed to keep your blood sugar balanced
- Managing blood clotting
- Creating immune factors to help you resist infections
- Disposing of old red blood cells
Your liver’s most well-known job, though, is protecting you from a constant barrage of toxins.
Your body is exposed to toxins all day, every day. They’re in the air, the food and water supply, medications, and even the seemingly benign products you use. These toxins make their way into your bloodstream and then ultimately to your liver for processing. Not suprisingly, because your liver is hit with a constant stream of toxins, it has an enormous job to do.
How Your Liver Detox Pathways Work
Your liver uses a two-part pathway system to detoxify your body: phase I and phase II. The phase I pathway breaks down compounds and prepares them for phase II. This includes turning fat-soluble toxins into less harmful water-soluble molecules that are bound to bile.
Once toxins have been broken down into more benign compounds, they are excreted out of the body during phase II. However, the liver can’t complete this task on its own. The nutrients glutathione, glycine, glutamine, choline, and inositol are required for efficient phase II detoxification. You supply these substances to the liver with food and supplements.
But if you’re not getting enough of the nutrients your liver needs—or if you’re consistently taxing your liver with alcohol overconsumption or a low-protein, ultra-processed diet—phase II processing slows down. That doesn’t stop phase I processing, which can lead to a backlog of toxic substances waiting to be processed. And that backlog can cause the symptoms that indicate your liver needs immediate detox support.
Signs That Your Liver Needs Help
When your liver is sluggish, you’ll feel it. Common signs that you’re in need of liver-detox support include:
- craving sweets
- constant fatigue
- weight gain or difficultly losing weight
- sluggish digestion
- brain fog
- itchy skin
If you’re dealing with any or all of these symptoms, your liver likely needs more help to continue detoxing effectively.
How to Support Your Liver for Smooth Detoxification
Your liver can’t manage the detox process all on its own. It counts on you to supply the support and substances it needs to get the job done. If you’ve ever searched “liver detox” on the web, you’ve probably seen thousands of “cleanses” claiming to be the solution. Some of those may not be harmful, but many can be harsh and less than healthy.
The truth is, your liver doesn’t need a special detox diet, an expensive cleanse kit, or a secret formula. What it does need is natural, time-tested support that keeps the detox process running smoothly. Here are three nutrients scientifically shown to support healthy detoxification:
Glutathione. Known as the master antioxidant, glutathione reduces oxidative stress throughout your body with a special focus on your liver. As your liver detoxifies harmful substances, free radicals are produced, potentially causing liver damage and disease. Glutathione neutralizes those free radicals, protecting liver cells and allowing them to continue their primary job of counteracting toxins.
In addition, both phase I and phase II detox pathways rely on glutathione to function. In fact, it has its own pathway within phase II to safely dispose of harmful substances by binding to and neutralizing them.
Your body produces its own glutathione, but supplies can run short when your production capacity gets limited by aging, poor diet, or health issues. Unfortunately, the bioavailability of supplemental glutathione is extremely poor when taken orally. But studies show that taking the reduced “active” form of the nutrient can boost absorption. And according to new research, sublingual (under the tongue) glutathione supplements can increase overall blood levels even more than taking reduced gluthatione. This is likely because the nutrient is directly absorbed into the bloodstream through the tiny capillaries in the mouth.
Curcumin. When you think of curcumin, liver support probably isn’t the first thing that jumps to mind. But this powerful compound, which is derived from the golden spice turmeric, can also play a critical role in liver detoxing. For instance, curcumin’s antioxidant activity helps quash free radicals generated by the detox process. The compound has also been shown to lower levels of ALT ( alanine aminotransferase), an indicator of liver damage. Plus, curcumin has a direct impact on both the phase I and II detox pathways by activating enzymes needed for proper function.
One problem with curcumin supplements: they’re typically not easily absorbed by the body. That’s why it’s important to look for a supplement that boasts a form of curcumin that’s specifically designed for high absorption. One such highly absorbable form of curcumin, known as BCM-95, has been clinically studied for its enhanced absorption and bioavailability.
Dietary Fiber. There are many reasons to get plenty of fiber in your diet, but one of the most important is liver support. Fiber can increase antioxidant and enzyme activity in your liver, leading to a safer and more efficient detox process. It also helps improve liver damage and scarring, which in turn boosts liver function.
A study published in Nature Communications, which included 485,717 participants, found that a higher intake of dietary fiber lowered the risk of liver cancer and death from liver disease. Adding high-fiber foods such as minimally processed fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to your daily diet can help improve your overall liver health.