How To Love Your Liver (With Food your Liver will Love)

How To Love Your Liver (With Food your Liver will Love)


6 August 2015


On a daily basis, our livers have to handle large amounts of toxins in the form of food additives, pesticides, microorganisms, alcohol etc. It’s really important that the body detoxes and eliminates them for us to stay healthy and reduce the risk of disease.

Most toxins are mainly fat-soluble, meaning they are easily absorbed and stored in fatty tissues as well as the brain. It’s the liver’s job to convert the toxins into a water-soluble form so they can be excreted through urine, stools or sweat.

Our livers use a 2-phase process to do this. 

PHASE I: Toxins are broken down into small pieces via enzymes and a process of chemical reactions.

PHASE II: The substances from phase 1 are bound into a fully water-soluble form for elimination.

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Both these phases call for substantial nutritional support from the food we eat. The overall aim is to keep both phases in balance, ensuring that phase 2 is not overloaded by the output of phase 1.

How we can help our liver function through food and herbs:

Many factors determine whether the liver performs its critical functions well. There are, however, some foods and herbs that are proven to be particularly good for us in support of liver function.


Good examples are cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  They are not only high in vitamin B, but also a phytonutrient compound indole-3-carbino and sulforaphane, These sulphur compounds increase the liver detoxification performance by enhancing Phase II detoxification activity, while simultaneously helping to regulate Phase I. [1][2]


Much of the research on the ability of oranges, lemons and tangerines to detoxify the liver is centred around the antioxidant D-Limonene, which is more concentrated in the peel of the fruit.[3] It is known to be a strong stimulator for the detoxification enzymes of both liver Phase I and Phase II.  The juice of one lemon into a half litre glass of plain water every morning will give your liver a beneficial flush.


Garlic contains a sulfur compound called alliin, which converts to the active ingredient allicin, when this root herb is chopped, crushed or minced. Allicin is a powerful antioxidant, antibiotic and anti-fungal substance, with numerous benefits to liver health. Garlic also contains arginine, an amino acid important for relaxing the blood vessels, and selenium, a mineral important for increasing the action of antioxidants. These antioxidant properties are of particular benefit because they keep toxic substances your liver is processing from reaching other organs. [5] Aim for 1-2 cloves of chopped garlic in one of your meals each day.

4.  QUALITY PROTEIN (Amino Acid)

Protein is key for growth, repair and detoxification. We need adequate amino acids for the liver to detox efficiently,  especially during Phase II. The most important amino acids for this are cysteine, methionine, taurine, glutamine and glycine.  Good sources include nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, fish, poultry and dairy products. [6]


These should be plentiful in the diet to supply sufficient antioxidants. Bioflavonoids and anthocyanins (purple pigments in foods), chlorophyll (green pigments in foods), carotenoids (yellow and orange pigments in foods) are powerful protectors of the liver. These antioxidants are increased by a diet abundant in raw fruits, fresh vegetable salads, and raw juices. Aim to consume 5 different colours of fruit and vegetable every day to receive the full range of health benefits.


(Silybum marianum)

Milk thistle, is the key herb for liver support in modern herbal medicine. Its active ingredients are a group of bioflavonoids collectively called silymarin. Research indicates that this may offer protection from liver disease [7] and that silimarin protects against glutathione depletion [8] and increases liver glutathione status. [9]Glutathione is one of the key agents in liver detoxification. [10] In addition, Milk Thistle also provides liver protection by increasing the liver’s cell regenerative ability and the formation of new liver cells.


(Curcumin longa)

Turmeric is used for curing and preventing many diseases, but it also holds detoxification enzymes. Studies show that curcumin, present in turmeric, increases the detoxification enzymes in Phase II, which increases bile flow. This helps in breaking down toxins and digesting fats. Turmeric and its curcuminoids also exhibit strong antioxidant activity against a variety of liver-toxic chemicals and drugs. Consuming one teaspoon of turmeric powder every day will help you gain all these benefits. [11,12]


(Camellia sinensis)

Green tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet, containing high antioxidant properties. The bioflavonoid compounds in green tea increase both Phase I and Phase II liver detox activity and research shows that green tea may have overall liver protective properties. [13] 

purelyb liver health


Loving your liver in the first instance means doing all we can to ensure we don’t supply it with a toxic overload in the first place via a healthy diet and lifestyle, minimising exposure to pollutants.

As some exposure to toxins is out of our control, the inclusion of as many as possible of the foods and herbs listed above in our daily diets will ensure that the liver has the best possible chance of processing them for us.


1.   Minich DM, Bland JS (June 2007). "A review of the clinical efficacy and safety of cruciferous vegetable phytochemicals".Nutr. Rev.65(6 Pt 1): 259–67.doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2007.tb00303.x.PMID17605302
2.   Aggarwal BB, Ichikawa H (September 2005). "Molecular targets and anticancer potential of indole-3-carbinol and its derivatives".Cell Cycle4(9): 1201–15.doi:10.4161/cc.4.9.1993.PMID16082211
3.   Miyazawa1 M, Shindo M, and Shimada S (2002). Metabolism of (+)- and (−)-limonenes to respective carveols and perillyl alcohols by CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 in human liver microsomes.Drug Metab Dispos30(5):602-7.PMID 11950794articledoi:10.1124/dmd.30.5.602
4.   Bailey DG, Dresser G, Arnold JM (March 2013)."Grapefruit-medication interactions: forbidden fruit or avoidable consequences?".CMAJ185(4): 309-16.doi:10.1503/cmaj.120951.PMC3589309.PMID23184849
5.   Dalvi RR. Alterations in hepatic phase I and Phase II biotransformation enzymes by garlic oil in rates. Toxicol Lett 1992; 13(10): 1921-23
6.   Crinnion WJ. Environmental Medicine, Part 2 – Health Effects of and Protection from Ubiquitous Airborne Solvent Exposure. Alternative Medicine Review 2000; 5(2):133-143
7.   Campos R, Garido A, Guerra R, et al. Silybin dihemisuccinate protects against glutathione depletion and lipid peroxidation induced by acetaminophen on rat liver. Planta Med 1989;55:417-419
8.   Valenzuela A, Aspillaga M, Vial S, Guerra R. Selectivity of silymarin on the increase of the glutathione content in different tissues of the rat.  Planta Med 1989; 55(5):420-2.
9.   Crinnion WJ. Environmental Medicine, Part 2 – Health Effects of and Protection from Ubiquitous Airborne Solvent Exposure. Alternative Medicine Review 2000; 5(2):133-143
10.        Blumenthal M. Herbal Medicine, Expanded Commission E Monographs, 1st ed. Austin: American Botanical Council; 2000
11.        Mortellini R, Foresti R, Bassi R, Green CJ. Curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, induces heme oxygenase-1 and protects endothelial cells against oxidative stress. Free Radic Biol Med 2000;28:1303-1312
12.        Pizorrno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 1999;689-693
13.Kuhn MA, Winston D. Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific & Traditional Approach. Philadelphia:Lippincott; 2000

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