We don’t always think about our liver, do we? Not until something goes wrong with it, that is. The liver is one of the body’s most important detox organs and it works hard, usually silently in the background without fail each day. It is also an essential part of our metabolism and cardiovascular health. Whether you want to maintain its health or reverse a condition like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), here are the top ten DOs and DON’Ts to consider in support of loving YOUR liver.
DO avoid processed food with high-fructose corn syrup and eat a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. There is nothing loving or healthful about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or its two primary sources—soda and processed food—both of which are primarily responsible for NAFLD. That’s because fructose, when not naturally-occurring with the necessary fiber and other mitigating nutrients found in fruit, overloads the liver and leads to fat build-up, elevated triglycerides, and increased LDL cholesterol—all bad news for your heart’s health. Because fructose is poorly absorbed by the GI tract, it is almost entirely purged from the body by the liver, causing it to work overtime to process something that has no nutritional value. A liver-loving, healthy diet should be rich in whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, pastured meat and wild-caught fish, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and low-glycemic fruit, such as grapefruit, berries, apples, and pears.
DON’T neglect exercise. Exercise is vital to your overall well-being, but it can also have a major impact on your liver’s health. Both aerobic and resistance exercise can reverse or prevent NAFLD and cancer linked to liver disease, so find an exercise regimen that you enjoy and can make a part of your lifestyle.
DO choose organic whenever possible and avoid other sources of toxic exposure. While the list of liver toxins is long, the ones you most want to avoid include persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like DDT and insecticides, herbicides like atrazine and glyphosate, and heavy metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic. Avoiding exposure is as easy as choosing organic fruits and vegetables, installing high-quality water filters on your faucets and showerheads, and steering clear of harsh lawn chemicals.
DON’T visit the drive-thru. It should go without saying that fast food isn’t healthy liver-loving food, and the enormous amount of trans fats and HCFS it contains are especially harmful to your liver. If you need inspiration to cut your ties to the drive-thru, read my post about the dangers of fast food.
DO ease up on OTC medications. In addition to toxins in your environment, you can also give your liver a break by limiting the pharmaceuticals it has to process. Popping Tylenol for every ache and pain is especially problematic, as the excessive use of its active ingredient, acetaminophen, is linked to increased risk of liver failure and liver disease. Try to limit your OTC medicine intake and review your prescriptions with your doctor to ensure you’re taking only what is absolutely necessary.
DON’T forget healthy fats. While trans fats are a major problem for the liver, healthy fats can be healing and the liver simply loves them. You’ll find them in fish such as wild-caught salmon, anchovies, and sardines; grass-fed meats; olives and olive oil; avocadoes; and nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and flax and chia seeds.
DO reconsider your relationship with fruit. While a moderate intake of organic fruit is largely good for your health, its naturally-occurring fructose can still cause issues for some, as again, excessive fructose can cause your liver to work overtime. Pay attention to how certain fruits, and quantities, make you feel. If you find that a certain kind wreaks havoc on your blood sugar, limit your consumption and aim for lower-glycemic options whenever possible.
DON’T be afraid of eggs. Eggs are rich in choline, an essential nutrient that helps prevent fat and cholesterol from building up in the liver. Beans, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables also contain liver-loving choline.
DO up your fiber intake. Fiber is an essential tool in preventing fructose from being absorbed too quickly by your intestines and then overloading your liver. Give the liver some love by eating fruit paired with foods that are high in fiber, such as an apple with almond butter or the fruit in your smoothie with flax seeds or even some kale or spinach.
DO get support through supplements. In addition to eating the right foods and making the proper lifestyle adjustments, don’t neglect the value of targeted supplements. Often navigating this area on your own can be difficult. It’s important to use the highest quality products from the most reputable providers.
Loving your liver and maintaining its health can be as easy as a few dietary and lifestyle shifts, or it can be as important as healing a harmful disease. If you are struggling with liver disease, my cleanse and detox program is an important option; contact me and let me know how I can help.