Is a liver cleanse really necessary? Let’s explore.
The buzz around liver cleanses on platforms like TikTok is hard to miss. Creators are showcasing a range of homemade mixtures, featuring ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, lemon, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. Parallel to this, another section of the internet is promoting the use of supplements and herbs like milk thistle, turmeric, and coenzyme Q10 for cleansing the liver.
However, a significant issue arises with these liver cleanses: they lack substantial scientific backing, and those advocating for their effectiveness are often not medical professionals. Cindy Sing Law, MD, a hepatologist from Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital, raised concerns in a discussion with Health. She pointed out that herbal products and supplements in the U.S. are not regulated by the FDA and have not undergone thorough clinical testing. She also warned that products labeled as “natural” do not automatically guarantee safety.
Dr. Law emphasized the potential dangers of these so-called liver cleanses. They may include ingredients that can lead to drug-induced liver injury, posing a significant health risk. Additionally, Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Department of Wellness and Preventive Medicine and president of KAK Nutrition Consulting, highlighted to Health the possible adverse interactions between these cleanses and other medications.
What’s intended as a simple, holistic approach could, in reality, be detrimental. Kirkpatrick explained that the risk associated with these products varies greatly due to the wide range of available options on the market. She also mentioned that many of the ingredients used in these products could be integrated into one’s diet in a more natural and safe manner. For instance, incorporating turmeric into meals or adding lemon to water can be beneficial.
To ensure liver health in a safe and effective way, experts recommend certain practices, which we will explore next.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Liver’s Natural Detoxifying Power
The liver, one of the body’s largest and most vital organs, performs an array of essential tasks. When healthy, it efficiently processes everything we consume, transforming nutrients into usable substances and delivering them to cells as needed.
Key functions of the liver include:
- Managing blood clotting processes.
- Producing bile to aid in fat digestion.
- Storing sugar to provide energy.
- Creating proteins for blood plasma.
- Assisting in overall digestion.
- Eliminating harmful toxins to safeguard the body.
The liver’s inherent ability to metabolize drugs and detoxify substances in the blood is a crucial aspect of its functionality. “The liver naturally fulfills the role of detoxification, making additional cleansing unnecessary,” explains Cindy Sing Law, MD, emphasizing the organ’s self-sufficient nature.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, echoes this sentiment, suggesting that the focus should shift from liver cleansing to proper liver care. “The liver, along with the kidneys, naturally filters and expels toxins from the body. It doesn’t need extra help, but rather, it requires better overall care,” she advises.
By understanding the liver’s natural detoxifying capabilities, we can appreciate its importance in maintaining our health and recognize the need for fostering its wellbeing through proper care and lifestyle choices.
Navigating the Risks of Liver Disease and Failure
Liver disease, a significant health concern in the United States, affects approximately 4.5 million adults, as reported by the American Liver Foundation. Without proper treatment, liver disease can progress to liver failure and even liver cancer.
There are several known risk factors for liver disease, including:
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Tattoos or body piercings.
- Family history of liver disease.
Cirrhosis, a chronic condition marked by liver scarring, significantly impairs liver function. Its causes range from hepatitis and other viral infections to long-term alcohol abuse and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Dr. Arjmand Mufti, the medical director of liver transplantation at UTSouthwestern Medical Center, highlights that NAFLD is now referred to as metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD). “MASLD affects 25%-30% of adults and is the leading cause of chronic liver disease,” Dr. Mufti shares.
Cindy Sing Law, MD, points out that excessive alcohol use is a particularly prevalent risk factor for liver disease, a trend that surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This rise in alcohol consumption has led to increased cases and hospitalizations related to alcohol-related liver disease (ALD), particularly among women and individuals under 45,” she observes.
Understanding these factors and trends is crucial in addressing the growing concern of liver disease, emphasizing the need for awareness and preventive measures.
Enhancing Liver Health: Practical Lifestyle Adjustments
Prioritizing liver health is essential for overall wellness, and Dr. Arjmand Mufti emphasizes the need for specific lifestyle modifications to achieve this. He suggests:
- Moderating alcohol consumption within safe limits and avoiding binge drinking.
- For diabetic patients, ensuring robust diabetic control and vigilant monitoring in pre-diabetic individuals.
- Encouraging weight loss for overweight patients.
- Managing high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
- Highlighting the role of regular exercise in maintaining cardiovascular health and overall wellness.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, in her book “Regenerative Health: Discover Your Metabolic Type and Renew Your Liver for Life,” offers additional guidance for liver health:
- Adopt a nutrient-dense dietary pattern, like the Mediterranean diet.
- Incorporate foods that reduce liver inflammation, including cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and spices like turmeric.
- Reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods and those high in added sugars.
- Avoid carbohydrates lacking in fiber.
- Manage stress effectively.
- Maintain physical activity.
- Ensure adequate sleep.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
The American Liver Foundation also provides valuable tips for grocery shopping to support liver health:
- Opt for raw vegetables and fruits without added salt, sugars, or sauces.
- Choose poultry and fish with healthy preparation methods, avoiding skin when possible.
- Favor fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring.
- Select fat-free or low-fat dairy options.
- Avoid foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oils, saturated fat, and trans fat.
- Limit intake of added sugars and foods high in sodium.
By incorporating these recommendations into your daily routine, you can take significant steps towards maintaining a healthy liver and overall wellness.
- Understanding your liver: location, function, and complexity.
- How many people have liver disease?.
- Cirrhosis of the liver.
- Multinational liver societies announce new “fatty” liver disease nomenclature that is affirmative and non-stigmatizing.
- Effect of nuts on markers of inflammation and oxidative stress: a narrative review
- Plant-based foods and their bioactive compounds on fatty liver disease: effects, mechanisms, and clinical application
- 10 Healthy supermarket tips.