How many times have you heard (or said) the phrase, “I need to do a detox?”
But what does that actually mean, and what does an effective detox protocol target?
Cue: the body’s most under-appreciated organ.
The liver is the most important organ involved in the body’s detoxification system.
Short and sweet: we will not be healthy if we do not have a healthy liver.
There are numerous functions the liver performs, but some very important ones are:
- Production of healthy cholesterol
- Storage and production of glucose
- Production of healthy thyroid T3 hormones
- Detoxification of heavy toxins and metals
- Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Promotion of weight loss / maintenance of a healthy weight
Why Liver Health is so Important
The liver is the only human organ capable of complete regeneration. This means you could cut a healthy liver in half, and it would completely grow back.
In fact, you could lose up to 70% of your healthy liver and regrow a new one from the remaining 30%!
With that type of healing power, it should be no surprise that this organ is vital to our health. And as such, we should do all we can to keep it clean and running at its best.
The liver is the ultimate filtering system that helps our cells and hormones stay healthy… and the body will thank you in many ways for treating it right.
What Causes the Liver to Stop Functioning Well?
Lingering toxins in the body from our food, environment, and stress can leave us feeling bloated and holding onto stubborn pounds.
It’s supposed to be the liver’s job to clear out these excess toxins, but everything has a tipping point. There are so many toxins in the average American’s life that we often develop clogged livers.
Whether it’s poor diet, over-exercise (yes, over exercise!), a stressful job or home life, chemicals from work or cleaning products – eventually, the liver will begin to slow down.
By working to flush out those toxins, we can begin to promote anti-inflammation within this vital organ and restore the body’s ability to clear toxins quickly.
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What Are the Benefits of a Liver Detox?
While there are many, they all stem from the fact that a good liver detox will help rid our bodies of those toxins and stressors that can accumulate throughout a course of a lifetime.
Everything that enters the body has to pass through the liver, makimg it prime real estate for all sorts of toxic buildup.
When toxins build up in the liver, fat can also accumulate there. This causes the breakdown of fat, protein, and carbohydrates to be delayed.
The result is constipation, indigestion, and even weight gain.
If our bodies cannot go to the bathroom, then we cannot rid ourselves of those harmful toxins. The toxins can then accumulate in our organs and even our fat cells.
If we cannot properly digest our food, our bodies cannot absorb all the vital nutrients we need in order to function.
When this happens, our fat cells become inflamed and we gain weight.
In turn, excess adipose tissue releases estrone, a fat-promoting estrogen hormone.
This can turn into a vicious cycle if it’s not righted with some liver detox.
How Liver Detox Works
This is why it’s so hard for some people to lose that extra weight, even if they’ve tried changing their diets and exercising more.
A quick list of notable benefits from detoxifying your liver include:
- Decreased inflammation throughout the body
- Weight loss & a flatter stomach
- Improved digestion
- Better nutrient absorption
- Improved hormone regulation
The liver is often overlooked when it comes to a weight loss program. But if you are trying to lose weight or simply want a flatter stomach, you should include a liver detox into your daily routine.
This is because many digestive problems are due to an unhealthy liver. Once the liver is given some breathing room to properly digest, you’ll be shocked at how easily that “bloat” can disappear and bring a surge of energy with it.
What Makes up a Good Liver Detox?
After people learn how important a liver detox is, the follow up question is usually “what do I do, and how often should I do it?”
Truthfully, we should be working daily to detox the liver due to our exposure of constant stressors in the form of physical, mental and chemical toxins.
Since we need to detox all the time, we should be supplementing liver detox supportthrough vitamins and diet modifications.
When it comes to diet, these foods promote a healthy liver:
- Foods high in sulfur (cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, leafy veggies, avocados)
- Lean meat and fatty salt water fish
- Spices like: Turmeric (curcumin) with black pepper, cilantro, cumin, cardamom, ceylon cinnamon
Do I really need a supplement to detox my liver?
I believe everyone should be taking vitamin supplements based on their needs.
The simple fact is we are deficient in many different nutrients.
Either we do not eat that particular nutrient in our diet anymore (because we’re not eating a certain food or the lack of nutrition in many soils nowadays), or our body’s metabolism cannot utilize and produce the correct nutrient from our foods.
Plus, it’s so easy to take a supplement. If you’re already being mindful of your intake, do a quick inventory of what might be missing and start there when figuring out what you might need to add in as a supplement.
Vitamin quality matters
The vitamins that are being produced today are far different from the ones being made even ten years ago.
Science and medicine are starting to recognize that vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants make our biochemistry function. There are many supplements today that are pharmaceutical grade or given as actual prescriptions.
Vitamins have been studied since the mid 1900s for their role in hormone and neurotransmitter production. Vitamins should be included in a liver detox program and there are many different options out there, but there are a few that are better than others.
Crucial vitamins for a liver detox program
Besides the sulfur found in the vegetables recommended earlier, a few key nutrientsto supplement with for optimal liver detox are:
- Vitamin B4 (choline)
- N-acetyl-L-Cysteine, or “NAC”
Vitamin B4 (Choline) and liver detox
A very important B vitamin for liver detox is vitamin B4, AKA choline.
Choline is a huge liver detoxifier that makes up a structural component of fat. It also forms neurotransmitter channels and synapses.
The best form of choline is phosphatidylcholine, which serves as the body’s precursor to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine has numerous health benefits and functions.
Phosphatidylcholine is necessary for the production of surfactants, which are critical for lung function and gastrointestinal health.
Phosphatidylcholine also reduces cell death through a reduction in oxidative stress and might help raise Growth Hormone and prolactin levels.
Choline is also a methyl donor, which is important for helping support our methylation cycle. Because of this, it directly activates the liver to detox the body and rid the liver of fat that can cause us to gain weight.
Our methylation system mainly occurs in the liver. Along with detoxification, the methylation cycle also helps us produce our body’s main source of energy, ATP and neurotransmitters, like Serotonin.
Choline helps the liver become an aromatase inhibitor, which helps us rid our bodies of harmful and inflammatory estrogen.
Along with methionine and inositol, choline is very effective for helping the liver convert estradiol into estriol—the safer form of estrogen. In fact, many estrogen-based disorders (fibrocystic breast syndrome, uterine fibroids, and endometriosis) may benefit from added choline, along with other nutritional therapies.
Food sources of choline
Egg yolk is an excellent source of choline. If someone doesn’t eat eggs for whatever reason, it’s crucial to supplement with choline.
There is current research that shows a connection between a choline deficient diet and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is a disorder that involves acute inflammation of the liver. 
Without adequate phosphatidylcholine, fat and cholesterol accumulate in the liver. 
Phosphatidylcholine deficient diets can lead to inflammation measured as homocysteine in lab work. Homocysteine inflammation is linked to heart disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease and even leaky gut syndrome.
N-acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), Glutathione, and liver health
Another important liver detoxifier is N-acetyl-L-Cysteine, aka “NAC.”
NAC helps to reduce fat accumulation in the liver and is also involved in the production of important antioxidants like Glutathione and Taurine.
Glutathione is the body’s most abundant and powerful antioxidant. There are high levels found in the liver, and damaging agents such as acetaminophen and heavy metals can lower stored glutathione.
Decreased glutathione levels have been linked to issues such as NAFLD, Type II Diabetes, Neurological disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
NAC is the precursor to Glutathione and sometimes more absorbable or easier to find than Glutathione.
Receiving Glutathione IVs and intramuscular injectionswill increase the levels in your liver. But if you are not close to a holistic clinician who offers Vitamin IVs as a therapy, you could find NAC oral supplements which would be great to increase liver detox and promote Glutathione production.
If you’re going to take glutathione orally, Liposomal Glutathione is your best option.
It should be noted that both NAC and Glutathione cross the Blood Brain Barrier, but NAC does not increase GSH concentrations in neural tissue.
Taurine: a powerhouse antioxidant for your liver
Taurine is an often-underappreciated antioxidant that helps with liver detox.
Taurine stimulates the production of bile that will break down the monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats we get from avocados, almonds, coconuts, and even fish.
A typical American diet with not contain these types of fats, because we tend to ingest more of the harmful and proinflammatory Trans Fats from corn oils, peanut oils, or sunflower oil.
Taurine production might decrease because the pathways needed to make this important amino acid could be shunted due to this inflammation. Disease and nutritional deficiencies can also decrease taurine production.
The Taurine pathway is also noted to have a runoff that produces GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is activated with the Parasympathetic nervous system.
And finally, taurine could also help mitigate NAFLD  because it reduces triglycerides.  
So… should your detox program target the liver?
There are so many important organs in our body, and we try hard to take care of and address each one.
But next time someone tells you that you need to detox, hopefully now you will start with giving your liver some love first.
Author: Nurse Doza from the How do You Health? Podcast