It’s well known that heavy alcohol use can damage your liver, causing everything from fatty liver disease to cirrhosis. Even if you don’t drink heavily, there are many reasons your liver might be under too much stress in this day and age. So, what are some effective ways of detoxing your liver, or helping it bounce back?
As you might have guessed, the food you eat can make a big difference in the health of your liver. Fatty, salty, or sugary foods can all make matters worse, while others may help cleanse or even repair this crucial organ.
Here are 10 of the best foods to help keep your liver healthy.
Although we’ve all heard that too much coffee is bad for you, moderate amounts of this popular beverage can have real health benefits—including a reduced risk of liver disease. Multiple studies show that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop liver cirrhosis compared with non-coffee drinkers. Coffee may also boost liver health by regulating liver enzymes (a common marker of this organ’s health).
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts all fall in the cruciferous vegetable category. These kitchen staples carry many health benefits, including detoxing the liver and balancing liver enzymes. They also contain a compound called indole, which is shown to help fight or prevent fatty liver disease.
3. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, and herring) is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that cirrhosis-damaged livers have lower levels of these fatty acids compared with healthy ones, and that increasing omega-3s may help with this disease long-term. Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and might help reduce fatty liver disease.
That said, if you eat seafood, be sure to choose fish that is low in mercury to avoid further liver damage. If you don’t like fish, taking fish oil for fatty liver offers some of the same benefits.
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Beet roots are rich in antioxidants, have anti-cancer properties, and are shown to help reduce liver enzymes and inflammation. Beet stalks and leaves also have similar health benefits. If you aren’t a fan of beets, you can get many of the same results from beetroot supplements and powder.
5. Oatmeal and Grains
High-fiber foods, such as oatmeal and grains, can also help improve liver function. According to studies, fiber can slow the death of liver cells, and even speed up recovery from some types of liver damage. Oats are also rich in antioxidants, which can reduce the negative impact of free radicals on your liver.
Not only is soy a healthy protein alternative to meat, it may also help prevent fatty liver. One of the liver’s main functions is to break down and process fat. Adding soy to a diet has been shown to reduce fat buildup in the liver, and protect against alcohol-related fatty liver disease. Edamame, tofu, and certain kinds of non-dairy yogurt are all great sources of soy.
Most people know turmeric as a cooking spice, but it’s also a popular supplement, sold at most health stores. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, has been shown to reduce elevated liver enzymes, and may improve some types of liver disease.
While taking turmeric is generally safe, rare cases of liver problems linked to this supplement have been reported. It’s best to consult your doctor before taking new supplements.
Citrus fruits, including grapefruits, oranges, and lemons, have been shown to reduce liver toxicity. These fruits are also rich in Vitamin C, which is shown to prevent the buildup of fat in the liver. However, since citrus also contains high levels of fructose, it’s best to consume it in moderation. Too much fructose can intensify fatty liver disease.
9. Milk thistle
Milk thistle is a traditional herb that’s been used to treat liver and gallbladder diseases for thousands of years. While research on this supplement is ongoing, it appears to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and toxin blocking effects, which can help your liver bounce back from past damage. You can find milk thistle sold as a supplement in most organic health stores.
Last but not least, if you’re looking to cleanse your liver, don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated. Drinking enough water helps your liver function properly, and also flushes toxins from the body. Sometimes the most powerful solutions are the simplest!
Other Ways of Caring For Your Liver
On top of including liver cleansing foods in your diet, there are many steps you can take to protect your liver health. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding toxins, including pesticides, some medicines, and chemicals found in certain foods
- Drinking alcohol in moderation (If you already have liver damage, it’s best to abstain from alcohol completely.)
Also, exercise caution around liver cleanses that promise quick results. Few of these cleanses are based on research, and some may even cause additional liver damage.
Finally, if you believe you are having serious liver problems, none of the foods above should substitute for medical treatment. Liver disease is serious, and if it progresses far enough it can be fatal. If you’re unsure of your liver’s health, we recommend getting a liver function test and speaking with your doctor.
As for alcohol use and your liver, if you’re struggling to cut back or quit drinking we’re here for you. Our expert team can help you find an approach that will work—whether you have advanced liver damage, or are simply concerned you might be at risk because of your alcohol consumption. We even offer anti-craving medications that are safe for your liver. Best of all, our whole program happens through an app on your smartphone, so you don’t need to put your life on hold.