In my wellness coaching practice, when I talk about cleansing I make it very clear that what I really mean is nourishing. I define this as being deliciously kind to our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. I am not interested in competitive cleansing or fasting, deprivation mindsets, or making myself, or my clients feel awful. I like to consider the whole person and remind people that there is so much more to it than food. But there is no denying that the food we eat plays a very important role in how we feel, and it’s important to check in and clean up periodically!
When I help clients through a cleanse, I don’t ordinarily single out a particular body part or organ: it all works together. But it is always good to look at liver health; after all she works so hard for us as a detoxifier. She’s our second largest organ, and when she is in good shape, the rest of us looks pretty good too—especially our skin.
Signs Your Liver Could Use a Cleanse
Wondering about your liver health? If you experience any of these symptoms, it might be time to clean house.
- Waking frequently between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. (unrelated to noise/light)
- Feeling stressed
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Diarrhea, constipation, strong-odored bowel movements
- Dark-colored urine
- Acne, greasy or oily, dry or dull skin
- Brain fog/forgetfulness
- Stubborn extra body weight that’s hard to shift
- Sugar cravings
- Dark circles around your eyes
- Pain in the area around your liver (upper right abdomen)
- Feeling overly sensitive/angry much of the time
- Extreme sensitivity to perfume, smoke, or alcohol
Signs You Might Need a Liver Cleanse
You may also need a liver cleanse if:
- You regularly consume coffee, alcohol, sugar, “bad” fats, or artificial flavors, sweeteners, and food colorings (and you smoke).
- You are exposed to chemicals (cleaning products, dry cleaning, perfume, etc).
- You live in a city.
How to Cleanse Your Liver
So now that we’ve determined that your liver needs a little attention, how do we do it? First try out this popular liver-flush recipe.
Lemon & Olive Oil Smoothie
- 1 whole organic lemon or lime OR 2 small ones (cleaned & cut into quarters)
- 4 cups filtered water
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (organic, unfiltered, cold-pressed)
- Optional extra: 1 inch piece of raw ginger root, peeled & cut to small pieces.
Toss the lemon, filtered water, and olive oil into the blender Add the ginger. Blend for about a minute until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds & pulp. Sip one glass about an hour before bed (save the rest and enjoy over a few days).
Whole Foods That Help
Try to regularly include these foods to promote a healthy, happy liver:
- Garlic activates liver enzymes and flush toxins.
- Tumeric regenerates damaged liver cells (pair with black pepper).
- Berries reduce blood sugar, burn fat, and decrease fatty liver.
- Sour citrus provide antioxidants and vitamin C that boost detoxifying enzymes and cause the liver to burn instead of store fat. Try a whole grapefruit for breakfast, fresh lemon or lime juice in your morning water.
- Beets help repair damage from toxic build up.
- Beta carotene rich vegetables and fruit (sweet potato, carrot, red cabbage, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, turmeric, broccoli, dark leafy greens, butternut squash and pumpkin.) stimulate liver cells
- Dark leafy and bitter greens stimulate liver cells. My favorites are arugula, dandelion greens, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, young nettle leaves (in spring), and spinach.
- Herbal tea infusions such as dandelion, burdock, nettle, and milk thistle are all good liver healing choices.
Non-dietary Changes to Consider
There are so many little things to tweak to help your liver out!
- Practice mindful meditation to reduce stress (start with 2 minutes a day and build to 20).
- Consider getting an air purifier for your home/office, and bring lots more green plants into your life. I suggest starting with easy-to-care for plants such as a spider plant, dracaena, ficus, aloe or mother in law’s tongue, which are all good detoxing plants.
- Use green cleaning products and personal care products. Instead of perfume try using pure essential oils.
- Reduce your use of plastic; never heat food in plastic, and it’s best not to store in plastic either (glass mason jars and ceramics are best for storing). Avoid plastic-bottled water.
- Take Epsom salt baths to increase magnesium and pull toxins out of your body. As a bonus, this relaxes and soothes tired muscles and can help improve sleep.
- Increase your exercise to improve your overall liver function.
- Always filter your water. Not just for drinking, but also for cooking and filling your kettle. Store in a glass pitcher (not plastic) and get a good filter. There are many to choose from but I really like the filter from Aquaspace, which I place in my glass pitcher. Be diligent about cleaning your filter daily and changing it out according to the guidelines of your particular filter.
- Reduce stress as best you you can. Easier said than done in our society, I know, but stress releases hormones and endorphins into our bloodstream, creating toxins for the liver to process, thus making it (and us) sluggish.
- Reduce or eliminate coffee, alcohol, and sugar.
- Avoid “bad” fats, processed food, “diet” sugar, and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.
- Also avoid overeating, speed eating, eating on the run, and eating too late at night.
Sacha Jones is the founder of Stiggly Holistics, a holistic wellness practice based in New York City and Sullivan County, NY. She studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a lifelong learner. Inspired by her own healing she has created wellness packages for various learning styles—one-on-one coaching, small women’s groups, and larger group “cleanse & nourish” classes. She is also a Lifecycle Celebrant, trained at the Celebrant Foundation and Institute and believes very much in the power of ritual for healing and wellbeing. Find her at Stiggly.com.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2017.