The liver is the largest organ inside the body, and on average can weigh between 3 and 3.5 pounds. More than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver. Among the most important of these functions is removing toxins from the body, processing nutrients from food, and building proteins (1, 2). In this article I’m going to be focusing mainly on the cleansing and detoxification functions of the liver.
Many of the toxins and chemicals from our environment, as well as what we put into our body, or on our body can build up over time and accumulate in the liver. The typical modern diet places enormous stress on the liver by bombarding it with processed foods that contain low amounts of nutritional value, yet moderate to higher amounts of chemicals and additives. Overeating alone can place a large burden on the liver, and as obesity continues to rise, so do issues that stem from an over-worked liver.
This in turn interferes with it properly fulfilling its role as a detoxifier.
The Liver Doesn’t Need To Be “Detoxed” It Needs Healing, Support, and Assistance
You don’t have to search too far to find formula’s, recipes, or regimen’s that claim to detox the liver. I want to say right off the bat that I’m not completely knocking anyone for this, and I’m also not saying that many of these won’t help the liver. What I am saying is that the liver doesn’t need to be detoxified exactly, what it needs is to be healthy in order to carry out its function of detoxifying your body.
You don’t detox the liver, Your liver DETOXIFIES YOU!
What it needs from you is nutrients, a break from time to time in order to heal itself (yes the liver can actually heal and regenerate itself), and for you to try your best to not overload it with toxins!
There are specific vegetables that can assist and boost the livers detoxification powers! These are part of the family known as cruciferous vegetables, and I recommend you read another article I wrote about the powerful detoxification properties found inside of cruciferous vegetables.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detoxification
Yes, the liver actually does help to rid your body of toxins. This is not some kind of pseudoscience term, or far out there concept that you’re going to have to take on faith (3).
Some refer to the liver as the chemical way-station in our body which inspects and sorts the bad from the good. A healthy liver performs two very specific phases of detoxification which helps to cleanse your body. These are known as Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detoxification and are known to be vital to preventing the accumulation of toxins in the body (4).
Phase 1 Detoxification:
During Phase 1 enzymes in the liver such as the Cytochrome P450 enzyme group (CYPs) convert toxic chemicals into less harmful chemicals. This takes place through different chemical reactions such as hydrolysis, reduction, and oxidation.
While many of the conversions produce less harmful chemicals, some of these toxins may be converted from a less harmful state into something more potentially damaging. These must be dealt with further in Phase 2. For example: a toxin named benzene gets oxidized and becomes benzene quinones, which is even more toxic than benzene itself. The liver then relies on Phase 2 detoxification to further deal with this toxin.
If the liver has to deal with too many toxic chemicals all at once it can become overloaded. The result of this is a large level of free radicals being produced which can cause high levels of damage in our body if they are not dealt with during Phase 2.
Phase 2 Detoxification:
This phase which is also referred to as the “conjugation pathway” is where the liver adds yet another substance or molecule to toxic chemicals to make them even less harmful. By doing this it also makes these toxins water-soluble so that they may be excreted from the body through urine or bile. Toxins are also excreted from the body through sweat, feces/stool, and exhaled via the lungs (5,6,7,8).
Something interesting to note is that Phase 2 detoxification can only keep up with so much, meaning that if Phase 1 is putting out way too much for it to deal with toxins may be released into the body. This can be a source of potential damage.
The liver itself can be damaged by an overload of toxicity or by certain chemicals and drugs. This is known as Hepatotoxicity.
What Exactly Is Hepatotoxicity?
When certain drugs are taken in excessive or sometimes even non-excessive amounts the liver can be damaged. Drugs aren’t the only thing that can damage the liver and cause hepatotoxicity. Other sources of potential damage include chemotherapy, other medicinal agents, chemical agents used in industry and laboratories, and also certain herbal remedies (9). These are all collectively known as hepatoxins.
It’s one of the most common reasons a drug will be removed from the market, and in fact over 900 drugs have been known to cause liver damage.
How An Unhealthy Liver Can Affect Our Body
A liver that is not functioning properly might not be able to deal with all of the toxins that are needing to be filtered through it. This can leave harmful toxins unchecked, which can do further damage to our body.
As mentioned above if Phase 2 detoxification isn’t fully taking place then there can be large amounts of damaging free radicals left unchecked. These can literally just hang out in our body continuing to do damage to it!
Some of these toxins may leave the liver to be stored in fat tissue, and some of them may recirculate in the blood, which could possibly contribute to chronic disease. More evidence is needed for the latter, but many hold this to be a truth as it stands.
Symptoms of an unhealthy liver are many and include depression, insomnia, constipation, allergies, rise in Bad LDL cholesterol, lowering of Good HDL cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats) going up, weight gain, inability to lose weight, sluggish metabolism, digestive problems, nutrition malabsorption, hormonal imbalances, weakened immune system, neurological effects, blood sugar issues, bad breath, skin rashes, itchy skin, body odor, dark circles under the eyes, brownish spots on the skin, yellow discoloration of the eyes, and more (10).
Supporting a healthy liver can you help you avoid the issues mentioned above! In the following weeks and months we’re going to be focusing more on liver health and detoxification. We plan on publishing more articles along these lines that will be supplemental to this one here. Included among those articles will be specific vegetables, fruits, and herbs that support a healthy liver, and also how a juice cleanse can assist the liver with it’s detoxification duties.
You can be alerted to new articles we publish by subscribing to our email newsletter. On top of letting you know about our latest articles we’ll also send you our latest juice cleanse recipes, provide juicing as well juice cleansing tips, and other tips related to health and nutrition. We send out a new email about once every week.
Latest posts by Sean Carey (see all)
- Grape Juice Could Be The Fountain Of Youth! - July 3, 2016
- Juicing For Allergies: Powerful Anti-Allergy Juice Recipes Included! - June 27, 2016
- 15 Vegetable and Fruit Juices That Are High In Vitamin C - June 26, 2016