What is a liver cleanse?

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Alexandra Jamieson
Nutrition & Dietetics

A liver cleanse is a set of dietary rules and foods that are used to flush excess fat and toxins from the liver. Because the liver is the body's largest internal detoxifying organ, it can become overburdened by a diet of refined foods, frequent alcohol use, and just from living in our modern, polluted world. Your liver also helps to metabolize food, keeps blood sugars balanced, and filters toxins from the blood and breaks them down before they're eliminated from the body.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spring and summer are the seasons associated with the liver. It may be easier to cleanse your liver during the fall after following the recommendations set forth by TCM:

  • avoid fried foods
  • avoid processed and packaged foods
  • avoid alcohol and caffeine

Foods that support the liver have been used in TCM, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional cultures around the world, including:

anise, apple, artichoke, asafetida, asparagus, avocado, basil, beans and legumes, beets, blackberry, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, burdock, cabbage, celery, chard, cherry, chicory, citrus peel, collards, cumin, dandelion root and greens, date, enoki mushrooms, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, grapes, grapefruit, mint, olive oil, onion, oregano, parsnips, pepper, pomegranate, prune, pumpkin seeds, raspberry, saffron, shiitake mushrooms, spirulina, strawberry, umeboshi, wheat grass juice

A common liver flush drink can be made in the morning before your first meal:

Freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons

2 tablespoons cold-pressed, organic extra virgin olive oil

1 clove smashed garlic

4 ounces filtered water

Mix all of the ingredients in a blender and drink. 

Another common liver supportive drink is dandelion root tea or a combination of fennel seeds, anise seeds and fenugreek seeds. Steep in hot water for 10 minutes and drink. 

Cleaning your liver is way more complicated than cleaning your oil filter.

There is no place where you can drive in and get a new liver in 15 minutes for $29.95.

Too bad, because the liver cleansing process is a time commitment.

First, you have to fast. Sorry about that, but there is no getting around it. Give the poor organ a break.

Then, once you can eat again, you have to eat right. A disciplined diet is a must. And learn to love teas and other herbal remedies. Because you will be ingesting a lot of each.

Like many things in life, the details of a liver cleanse vary depending on who you ask. The average fast, for instance, is two days (you read that right). What you can ingest during that time is where the variation comes in. Some say you are allowed to consume water, fresh juices and salad. Another regimen is made up of apple juice, Epsom salts, lemon juice and olive oil.

Once the fasting is over comes the diet. Most cleanses suggest gradually ingesting more solid foods, starting with raw vegetables and fruits. As time passes, meat can go back on the menu, but only once a day. And remember that tea we talked about? Many liver cleanses suggest a daily tea made up of herbs, like dandelion root and milk thistle, that aid the liver's functions.

As bad as all that may sound, there are some liver cleansing proponents who suggest essential oils and acupuncture. Drop the oils into your tea or rub them into your skin during a massage. You can even add a few drops to your bathwater.

Continue Learning about Digestive Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.