How to Support Your Liver Through Food
I am focusing on liver support with some of our KYPO Groups this week, so thought I would share some of it with you all, too! Did you know that your liver is your only organ that can regenerate itself! WHAT.
Supporting this miracle organ is so important in our modern environments because it has a pretty hard job in the body: breaking down and expelling the constant toxin overload around us, filtering blood, detoxifying hormones (including neurotransmitters, sex hormones, and thyroid hormones!), storing and releasing vitamins, minerals, and sugars, producing and secreting bile, and so many other vital functions.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER WITH HORMONE BALANCE?
I'm so glad you asked. If the liver is overtaxed, our bodies may struggle to metabolize estrogen, leaving it to get reabsorbed in the body… ever heard of estrogen dominance (AKA the most common hormone imbalance in females). Also, the balance of your hormones depends on the the health of your detoxification pathways. Loving your liver is an ESSENTIAL step in balancing your hormones, one that can make a difference as soon as your next cycle.
While I am all about adding in vs cutting out with your nutrition, the health of your liver is actually pretty dependent on lowering the AMOUNT of toxins coming into your body. This includes the foods that we eat, the products that we put on our skin, the cleaners we use in our home, the medications we take, the pollution to our air and water, yada yada yada.
You get the point, we live in a much different world than the one we were built for, and our liver is working overtime. In future blog posts, and in the KYPO Course, I will dive into the lifestyle and environmental changes we can make to best support our liver (and hormones!). While my notorious motto and 9/10 approach towards health is to focus on adding in rather than cutting out, the health of your liver is actually pretty grateful for all of the toxins it doesn't have to work through!
But for today, let's talk food! What are some of the most supportive foods for our livers? In addition to increasing food quality altogether, and switching to organic produce and meat as much as your wallet allows, here are some foods that love your liver:
Coffee is coming back around in modern literature! For most drinkers, drinking coffee helps lower the risk of cirrhosis, or permanent liver damage, in people with chronic liver disease. 1,2
According to research from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, "Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of epidemiological and experimental studies have demonstrated the positive effects of coffee on chronic liver diseases. Coffee consumption has been inversely associated with the activity of liver enzymes in subjects at risk, including heavy drinkers."2
Green tea/ Matcha: These beautiful green miracle workers are high in antioxidants and catechins that can help lower fat and stress levels in the liver. When researchers followed people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), they found that drinking green tea high in antioxidants for 12 weeks improved liver enzyme levels and may also help reduce oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver.3Enjoy green tea or matcha (or even chlorophyll drops in your water if you are like me and hate the taste of green tea!)
Milk Thistle: This herbal compound can be effective at naturally reversing toxicity in the body, including the harmful effects of alcohol consumption, pesticides in our food supply, heavy metals in our water supply and pollution in the air that we breathe.4 Protect against cancer + Better blood sugar control
Fruits like Citrus fruits, grapefruits, pears, blueberries and cranberries:
Grapefruits are rich in two major antioxidants: naringenin and naringin. Both are known to reduce inflammation in the body, protect cells, and protect the liver from damage.
The anthocyanins in blueberries and cranberries are anti inflammatory, and can slow the development of lesions and fibrosis and can protect the liver from damage.5
Pears have been used as an ancient hangover remedy, which researchers believe is due to its liver supportive and anti inflammatory properties allowing eaters to recover and heal faster.
Beets and beetroot juice can activate liver enzymes and increase bile production, which is one of the most essential jobs of the liver. Beets are high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich betalains that are shown the lower the risk of liver damage. 8
Cruciferous Vegetables: You know these, the super fibrous ones that may give you a bit of gas? Cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, etc... In school, we were taught to think about these foods like little brushes for our detoxifying organs.6
Eggs, Salmon, & Liver: Choline is a nutrient responsible for (among many other things) signaling lipid transport and metabolism which can help in liver detoxification .7 You can find this nutrient primarily from eggs, salmon, and liver.
This is by NO MEANS an exhaustive list, we can always add selenium from Brazil nuts, B vitamins from whole grains, leafy greens, fish, seeds, artichokes, etc... but this is a great place to start! As you can see, food is so incredibly powerful and medicinal. One of my favorite things to teach clients is how much power we take back in our health when we learn about food.
And here is a recipe that you can make today! I hate the taste of beets, so I like to peel them, chop them into quarters, and freeze them to add to smoothies like the one below:
1. Chen S, Teoh NC, Chitturi S, Farrell GC. Coffee and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: brewing evidence for hepatoprotection? J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Mar;29(3):435-41. doi: 10.1111/jgh.12422. PMID: 24199670.
2. Morisco F, Lembo V, Mazzone G, Camera S, Caporaso N. Coffee and liver health. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Nov-Dec;48 Suppl 1:S87-90. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000240. PMID: 25291138.
3. Sakata R, Nakamura T, Torimura T, Ueno T, Sata M. Green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Int J Mol Med. 2013 Nov;32(5):989-94. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2013.1503. Epub 2013 Sep 20. PMID: 24065295.
4. Mulrow C, Lawrence V, Jacobs B, et al. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects: Summary. 2000. In: AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 1998-2005. 21. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11896/
5.Wang YP, Cheng ML, Zhang BF, Mu M, Zhou MY, Wu J, Li CX. Effect of blueberry on hepatic and immunological functions in mice. Hepatobiliary Pancreat Dis Int. 2010 Apr;9(2):164-8. PMID: 20382588.
6. Robbins MG, Hauder J, Somoza V, Eshelman BD, Barnes DM, Hanlon PR. Induction of detoxification enzymes by feeding unblanched Brussels sprouts containing active myrosinase to mice for 2 wk. J Food Sci. 2010 Aug 1;75(6):H190-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01713.x. PMID: 20722931.
7. Wallace TC, Fulgoni VL. Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 5;9(8):839. doi: 10.3390/nu9080839. PMID: 28783055; PMCID: PMC5579632.