The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body, yet most people know very little about its function. Tucked up under our right rib cage, the liver plays numerous important roles, including cleaning our blood from toxins.
As you might imagine, there are a number of things that can damage the liver. This includes consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, which can cause inflammation in the liver. Over time, this inflammation can lead to scarring, which impairs liver functioning. Unfortunately, scarring can leave a person more susceptible to hepatitis, as well as liver cancer and other diseases.
The good news is that liver inflammation can be reversed, and the healing process doesn’t always consist of medication or other medical interventions. Consuming various foods and drinks can also help repair the liver. Below we highlight some of the foods that are most effective at detoxing your liver, and which foods are most harmful to liver recovery.
Note: if you’re concerned about your liver health, it’s important to consult with a physician who can assess your health history, and provide personalized recommendations based on your needs. You should also consult your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet. Looking for a physician who gets it? You can connect with a physician at Monument to discuss how to safely change your drinking habits.
Can Food Help Detoxify Your Liver?
The simple answer to this question is: Yes. Food can play a critical role in liver detoxification. However, not all food is equally good at detoxification. If you’re experiencing inflammation in your liver, making deliberate food choices can help restore your liver to a healthier state.
9 Foods that Help Repair Liver Function
The nine foods listed below are known to help repair liver function. However, if you are worried about your liver health, it’s important to discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider. These foods are not a standalone cure for all liver concerns. But, they can be one part of the equation for a healthier liver.
Coffee and Tea
Many of us rely on coffee to give us our morning energy boost, but there have always been concerns about its health impact. While if coffee is “good for you” is a more complex question, coffee does have positive effects on the liver. This is because the chemicals and acids found in coffee, as well as caffeine itself, can slow the growth of scar tissue in the liver, which can reduce the risk of liver cancer or cirrhosis. Tea, especially in its loose-leaf form, is also filled with many chemicals that may have strong antioxidant properties.
However, this doesn’t mean that coffee should be used in excess. Coffee does have some potential consequences, such as increased anxiety and digestive issues. Therefore, if you’re looking to use coffee to help with liver function, you’ll want to moderate your consumption and consult with your healthcare provider. To get personalized guidance about your liver, you can speak with a physician at Monument.
Does seeing oatmeal on the list surprise you? Oatmeal is packed with fiber, and fiber is an integral part of gut health. However, it’s not the fiber alone that makes oatmeal an excellent food for liver detox. It’s also because it’s rich in beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are soluble fibers that are proven to be highly effective anti-inflammatory agents. This can reduce swelling and inflammation in your liver. Beta-glucans also appear to fight against fat deposits in the liver, potentially protecting it from fatty liver disease.
However, remember that not all oatmeal is equally as healthy. It’s best to opt for steel-cut oatmeal instead of most instant packets.
You may find yourself wondering what cruciferous vegetables are. They are vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. This family of vegetables pack a hefty nutritional punch and are great for liver detoxification. They are full of antioxidants that can help the liver heal. They also contain high levels of chlorophyll which is a healing substance.
Plus, a recent study found that cruciferous vegetables have high levels of indole. Indole is highly effective in fighting against fatty liver disease.
Leafy Green Vegetables
We’ve all been told for years that green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, are good for our overall health. But, more specifically, they’re great for our liver health. Leafy green vegetables are one of the best dietary sources of antioxidants. These antioxidants can fight inflammation and a range of other liver problems. Leafy green vegetables are also a great source of fiber, and fiber boosts liver functioning.
Grapefruit is very high in the antioxidants naringin and naringenin. Preliminary studies have suggested that naringin fights inflammation and oxidative stress, which improves liver function. However, it’s important to note that consuming grapefruit can interfere with the metabolism of some medications, including medication that people may use to treat liver conditions. Because of this, it’s important to talk to your doctor before adding grapefruit to your diet.
Many berries are often seen as “superfoods,” and they can be effective in helping you maintain a healthy liver. Not all berries are equally powerful, however. You should focus on berries that are deep and rich in color, like blueberries and cranberries.
These berries are full of antioxidants, especially polyphenols. There is some research that polyphenols may be particularly protective of the liver and its long-term health.⁹
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Preventing relapse through self-care
Drinking is something we do, not who we are. Join the discussion about understanding our self-worth and getting to know our true selves without alcohol.
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Nuts are a delicious addition to anyone’s diet, and include a range of diverse flavors and healthy options. No matter what type of nut you prefer, you can be confident in knowing that most nuts are rich in antioxidants, Vitamin E, and fatty acids. All of these substances are important for promoting liver health.
However, make sure not to go overboard with adding nuts into your diet. Consuming a moderate amount typically leads to the best health outcomes.
While beets can be an acquired taste, they can be prepared in lots of delicious ways and are one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. Beets are full of betalains. Studies show that betalains have a unique ability to fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Beets may also boost digestion and increase healthy enzymes in the liver.
Prickly pear is definitely not the most common food to have sitting on your kitchen counter. In fact, it may be hard to find, even at most neighborhood grocery stores. But if you can find it, it can be a great addition to your diet. One study suggested that prickly pear, and more specifically prickly pear extracts, can be an effective way to fight fatty liver disease. However, significantly more research needs to be done on this topic.
Foods to Avoid for Liver Health
The above foods are great for liver health because they contain antioxidants and other chemicals that fight inflammation and oxidative stress. However, not all foods are good for your liver. Some can be detrimental for a variety of reasons. Below, we touch on some foods that may be best to avoid or consume in moderation.
Alcohol can be very destructive to your liver health. Alcohol causes inflammation, and with continued excessive alcohol use, this inflammation can lead to scar tissue that disrupts normal liver functions. Alcohol skyrockets your risk of developing conditions such as fatty liver disease, hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. In the long term, it may also elevate your risk of developing liver cancer.
If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, you should speak with a physician about how to cut back safely in a way that aligns with your needs and goals. You may want to utilize research-backed tools such as medication to stop drinking and alcohol therapy. At Monument, all of these tools are available to you, entirely online.
Sugary foods can also be damaging for liver health. As much as we might love our sweet treats, sugar is unfortunately linked to inflammation throughout our bodies. The refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup that is often found in surgery foods can also cause a fat buildup in the liver that can lead to fatty liver disease.
It’s best to avoid saturated fats to maintain a healthy diet. Digesting fat may make your liver work harder, and this can cause oxidative stress in the liver. At the same time, eating a diet high in fat can lead to fat deposits building up in the liver, increasing your risk of fatty liver disease. Some examples of common saturated fats include fried foods, processed meat, and butter.
What Causes Liver Damage?
Many things can cause liver damage. However, most of these potential sources of damage can be boiled down to lifestyle and health choices. Drinking large amounts of alcohol is one of the most significant ways that you can damage your liver. Diet also plays a role, particularly in diets that are heavy in sugar and fat. A lack of exercise can also lead to long-term liver damage.
Best Ways to Promote Liver Health
Promoting liver health involves making conscious choices about your health and lifestyle. The single most important thing you can do is to stop drinking or dramatically reduce your alcohol consumption. As you build a healthier relationship with alcohol, you can also start making healthier diet choices. Not only will these lifestyle changes improve your liver health, but they also come with many other benefits, such as increased energy, improved physical fitness, and even reduced anxiety or depression. You don’t have to navigate cutting back on alcohol alone. Join Monument today to gain access to a free community of other people working to change their drinking habits. You deserve support as you start taking steps toward a healthier and happier you.
- WebMD. “Can Coffee Help Your Liver, https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/coffee-help-liver#1.” Accessed on June 24, 2022.
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences. “Clinical and Physiological Perspectives of β-Glucans: The Past, Present, and Future, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618555/.” Accessed on June 24, 2022.
- Texas A&M Today. “Natural Compound In Vegetables Helps Fight Fatty Liver Disease, https://today.tamu.edu/2020/02/07/natural-compound-in-vegetables-helps-fight-fatty-liver-disease/.” Accessed on June 24, 2022.
- Life Sciences. “Naringin attenuates alcoholic liver injury by reducing lipid accumulation and oxidative stress, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30031061/ .” Accessed on June 24, 2022.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. “Betalains, the nature-inspired pigments, in health and diseases, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29846082/.” Accessed on June 24, 2022.
- Molecules. “Nopal Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as a Source of Bioactive Compounds for Nutrition, Health and Disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6270776/.” Accessed on June 25, 2022.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Alcohol Liver Disease, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alcoholinduced-liver-disease.” Accessed on June 25, 2022.
- British Liver Trust. Sugar and the liver: what you need to know, https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/sugar-and-the-liver-what-you-need-to-know/.” Accessed on June 25, 2022.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. “Dietary Polyphenols to Combat Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease via the Gut–Brain–Liver Axis: A Review of Possible Mechanisms, https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.1c00751#.” Accessed on June 25, 2022.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
About the Author
Jessica Thomas’ career expertise spans health education and communication, aging studies, quality improvement, and program development. She enjoys learning about and educating others on healthy living and helping business owners achieve more while doing less at Imperative Concierge Services.
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