The liver is the organ responsible for filtering the blood and converting glycogen stores into glucose, which are then used to produce energy. It is the largest metabolic organ in the body and performs a variety of functions. Alcohol can irritate the liver and cause hepatitis, or liver inflammation. Excess alcohol is converted into fat instead of glucose. Over time, fatty buildup can occur. As the body’s blood filter, the liver also stores toxins that are pulled out of the bloodstream. Eventually, buildup of these toxins leads to decreased liver function.
Fortunately, the liver has regenerative properties. When alcohol and other toxins, such as caffeine, are eliminated, the liver will immediately begin to heal. A thorough detox not only purges toxins from the body but helps to kick-start the healing process. A basic liver detox should include the following: elimination of alcohol and other harmful toxins from the diet; a period of fasting or cleansing (see below); and a course of herbs to help cleanse and nourish the liver and other digestive organs.
The sample detox diet presented here is will help you begin cleansing and healing the liver. For chronic liver problems or higher levels of toxicity, a longer detox plan would be in order.
Things You'll Need
Purchase the above soup ingredients, enough for six days’ worth of broth. You’ll need approximately 12 tomatoes, six bell peppers, three heads of cabbage, six onions, one to two garlic bulbs and two bunches of parsley and/or cilantro.
Purchase herbs in single capsules, or use an herbal liver detox formula of your choice. The resources below include distributors that offer detox formulas.
The day before beginning a fast, eat light, and do not snack after dinner. Have a cup of lemon tea or warm lemon water just before going to bed.
The Six-Day Fast
Day 1: Upon rising, drink a cup of warm lemon water. Sit and massage the abdomen for a minute or two before using the bathroom. Lemon helps stimulate the liver and cleanse excess mucous from the digestive system.
Prepare a homemade vegetable broth by cooking two diced tomatoes, one diced green bell pepper, half a head of cabbage, one small diced onion, two cloves crushed garlic, diced parsley and/or cilantro and a half teaspoon cayenne pepper in two quarts of water for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid to sip throughout the day.
Sip lemon water throughout the day. Before going to bed, take one or two doses of the liver detox formula above, or follow the directions of the formula of your choice. Taking additional fiber will also help with elimination.
Days 2-4: Same as Day 1. As with any cleanse, two or three days into a fast, you may experience headaches, joint or muscle aches, mood swings and even acne as toxins are released. Try white willow bark for pain, or soak in a warm tub with Epsom salts. Taking long walks, practicing yoga stretches and doing deep breathing exercises is also helpful.
By the third or fourth day, you will notice your hunger naturally subside. However, continue to sip the broth and drink plenty of lemon water.
As toxins are released, the skin may break out with acne. Shower or bathe at least once daily with a natural soap. Try dry brushing the skin first to exfoliate and stimulate the lymphatic system.
Day 5: Same as Day 1. Appetite may substantially decrease by this time. The broth is not as necessary at this point, but try to have one warm cup two or three times this day. Continue to drink plenty of lemon water.
Day 6: Same as Day 1. Toward the end of any fast or cleanse, once most of the heavy toxins are released, deeper cleansing begins. With this often comes “emotional” cleansing. You may experience mood swings, sadness or even reliving of past experiences. Take it easy this day and try going for several walks. Also, practice five to 10 minutes of deep breathing three times this day.
Ending the Fast
Day 7: Begin again with a cup of warm lemon water on rising. Perform the abdominal massage as usual. For breakfast, have a stewed green apple seasoned with ginger, cinnamon and clove. For lunch, have a fresh garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing; no cheese, meat, eggs or croutons. For dinner have a cup of steamed brown rice and beans with steamed vegetables. Take another dose of the liver cleansing formula before bed.
Day 8 and beyond: Resume your normal (hopefully, healthier) diet, but continue taking the liver cleansing herbs until they are gone.
Continue the practice of beginning each day with a glass of warm lemon water for as long as you like. It is a gentle way to cleanse on a daily basis.
You should include a few herbs with your liver detox program. Milk thistle, dandelion, burdock, yellow dock and red clover are all well-known blood cleansers and help purify the liver. Additionally, chickweed, alfalfa, parsley and licorice are very nourishing. Any herbal formula should include a good catalyst such as cayenne or ginger.
Check with your local health food store or nutrition center for prepared herbal formulas for liver detoxification. Dr. Haas also suggests taking lemon water with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper to detoxify the liver. For long-term detoxification, include digestive enzymes with every meal.
References and ResourcesElson Haas, MD
ResourcesFree online yoga classes
Health Center for Better Living