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E42: Liver Health: Detox & What To Do Instead

Detox diets are a thing. You are likely to have done several of those over the years with mixed results.

But as a Dietitian, they were very much controversial to me for as long as I can remember.

Until I developed a deeper understanding of how the liver functions and what it needs to do the job well.

In this episode, we talk about why liver function is critical for hormonal balance and overall health and 12 things that you can start implementing to supercharge your liver function.


Hello and welcome to today’s episode of the Beauty in Balance podcast.

I think today’s topic has been a very controversial one for me for many years!

I remember during one of my lectures at university, while studying dietetics, one of my lecturers taught us that there is no such thing as a detox diet.

The liver is performing detoxification 24 hours of each day and therefore detox diets are just something that natural health people and the media thought up to sell their diets and products, or whatever it is that they do.

But i think over the last few years, I’ve developed a much more balanced opinion on the topic, and I want to share that with you today.

But before we get there, I want you to know that, without prioritzing your liver health, it will be impossible to have hormonal health and overall heatlh. Your liver is the largest organ in your body, and for good reason. It performs over 500 functions a day, and most of us is doing nothing to support it. In fact, we are making it’s job so much harder.

Some of the functions include:

  • The production of bile, which is important for carry waste away and for breaking down fats

  • It’s responsible for fat metabolism

  • It metabolises, or breaks down hormones after it has been used by the body

  • It Supports regulation of blood glucose

  • It stores vitamins and minerals

  • One of it’s biggest jobs is to filter the blood and process toxins which could be fatal if the liver did not perform that job

  • It produces immune factors

  • It regulates blood clotting

  • It produces cholesterol, which is important for the production of hormones and also for protecting our blood vessels against any damage, like that from free radicals

  • And just so so much more.

Because of the liver’s major role that it plays in metabolising hormones, a sluggish liver would lead to hormonal imbalances and symptoms may include

  • Sleep and mental disturbances

  • Sensitivity to medicine

  • Irregular periods

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Hot flushes

  • Fibroids

  • Mental confusion or brain fog

  • Mood swings

  • Menopause-like symptoms

  • Being chronically fatigued and

  • Disrupted cholesterol or abnormal cholesterol profiles

And i really just wanna emphasise this.

Often, clients of mine would get their blood testing done or come to me with tests that were ordered by their doctors and 9 out of 10 times, when lipid profiles are not normal, their gp or healthcare worker would tell them that everything is normal.

And if anything is mentioned about the cholesterol and lipid profile, it will either go 1 of 2 ways.

  1. The doctor recommends they cut all fat out of their diet

  2. Or they prescribe statins, which are drugs to lower cholesterol.

Disrupted cholesterol and lipid profiles are an indication that either there is vascular damage which the liver is trying to patch up with cholesterol, or the liver is not able to process cholesterol appropriately due to impaired function.

So again, it is important to find the underlying cause here.

Ok, so what is the most important function of the liver when it comes to hormones:

It’s the breaking down and removal of hormones, in particular estrogen. If the liver can not perform this function properly, it leads to estrogen dominance. And this is only one hormone that we’re talking about.

Estrogen is really important for mental health, fertility, menstrual health, reproductive health and so many different reasons.

But when it is not balanced, we all know it can create all kinds of issues

So if you have a sluggish liver, this is likely to lead to estrogen dominance, which can lead to fibroids in the breast, ovarian fibroids, hot flashes, heavy and painful periods, mood disturbances, cysts on the ovaries.

Now there are 2 main steps that the liver perform when it comes to female hormone balance:

The 2 phases of liver detoxification.

Phase 1 known as oxidation and phase 2 is called conjugation.

During phase 1, the liver enzymes, oxygen and vital nutrients work together to break down toxins - this is the oxidation step.

This is where toxins are converted into a more soluble form plus water so it can be excreted through the gut and kidneys

What makes things complicated here, is that most toxins that come into the body is fat soluble, so it’s crucial for the liver convert these in step , so that these toxins can be water soluble for effective elimination.

Did you know that the chemicals that are produced during this phase is more toxic than those that are originally entering into the body

A lot of things can disrupt phase 1 of detoxification. If we don’t take care of our liver and it’s not getting to do this conversion during the first phase properly, we have a big problem on our hands

So what disrupts this phase of detoxification?

  • Firstly, nutritional deficiencies, like B vitamins, cofactors, and minerals

  • Also, excessive toxic exposure for instance toxins in our environment and specifically things that we spray on our body. Please hear this today. The perfumes and deodorants that you are spraying on your body every day is not only disrupting your endocrine system, but also phase one of liver detoxification.

  • Alcohol consumption also disrupts this phase. When it comes to detoxifying toxins, your liver will always prioritise toxins that are not known to the body. They are always perceived as more life threatening than the toxins created by your body during normal body functions. So if you consume alcohol, all the other toxins are pushed to the back of the line and your liver will prioritise processing the alcohol. And what happens in this case, is that estrogen will be recirculated into your body, increasing your estrogen levels and disrupting the balance between estrogen and your other hormones, specifically progesterone.

  • Low prot intake will also disrupt this first phase of detoxification because amino acids are really important for the production of liver enzymes

  • And then also medications will disrupt this phase, as again, it is an external chemical that needs to be processed by the liver. So be very mindful of using any over the counter drugs unless it’s really necessary. These include pain meds, antacids, antiflammatories, etc.

Then we move on to the Second phase, where these dangerous toxins that were produced during the first phase, is now detoxified by combining it with sulphur, amino acids, and organic acids and it then gets excreted in the bile and urine.

Now it’s important to understand that detoxification in both these pathways happens every moment of every single day. The liver never gets a break and it’s always breaking down toxins, hormones, proteins and other substances.

And it’s really critical that the liver get what it needs to be able to metabolise all of these toxins, including all of the hormones that were already used by our body.

And remember we specifically talked about getting rid of estrogen as soon as possible after it has performed all of its amazing functions. We need to use it and lose it.

So here’s my new perspective on detoxification diets and retreats.

Nothing that you do, can detox your body. Your liver does that, every single day, every single second.

But what you CAN do, is to support your liver to perform these detox functions well.

Because if we don’t, we’ll soon start to feel the effects.

And just doing a detox diet for 4 or 6 weeks or however long, will support your liver for that short while, but then you go back to old habits and your liver is back to where it was. And you might even feel sicker.

So my perspective on detox is that your liver needs love on the daily!

Liver detox program is great, but it’s just like giving your liver on a holiday and then coming back into the real world

Your liver needs more than just a vacation - it needs ongoing support every single day.

So let’s talk about 10 ways that you can support and love your liver every single day, so that you can see those hormones and your body heal.

  1. Increase plant foods in your diet. An easy way to do this is by counting all the plantbased foods on your plate every time you have a meal. If you’re not having loads of veggies at the moment, start by increasing your veggie intake by 1 per meal. You wanna eventually aim for having between 5 and 10 different plantbased foods per meal. So salads are a really easy way to get there. And remember plantbased foods include things like quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

  2. Try to avoid saturated fats, so in short, avoid fried foods and take outs, and increase the good fats like those in salmon, nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, etc

  3. A refined carbs, sugars and alcohol. So stay away from the baked goods, unless you use things like almond flour. Be mindful of all the foods that you load into your trolley when you do your grocery shopping. Make sure you check the labels and that sugar is not one of the first 5 ingredients.

  4. Eat a ton of fibre. Did you know that the average western diet has about 11g of fibre, and we need 40-50g every day to keep the gut healthy. So by increasing your plantbased foods as per point 1, you’ll naturally increase your fibre content.

  5. Include loads of good quality, lean proteins. Look out for meat that is grass-fed, organic, antibiotic and hormone free. It is important to include proteins in every single meal and snack that you have. So this might take a little bit more planning and thinking, but it can be quite uncomplicated if you add nuts to your snacks, have leftover dinner for lunch and add protein powder to your morning smoothie or cook up some beautiful veggies and egg for breakfast, which is a favourite in our household.

  6. Include a good quality Vit B complex supplement daily. This supports the detoxification pathways. By good quality, I mean b vitamins that are methylated. This will make sure that they are absorbable by your body.

  7. Moving your body every day! Your liver and hormones love and thrive when you move your body. The key here, is that you exercise consistently- which helps to burn triglycerides for fuel and this can support a fatty liver. A fatty liver can not perform all of these hundreds of functions well and it’s frightening how many people under age of 30 are diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver. Let me just remind you again disrupted cholesterol and lipid profiles are quite possibly a reflection of liver function or a fatty liver. So instead of using meds, consider how well your liver is processing these fatty acids. That could potentially be the root cause of disrupted lipid profile

  8. Avoid toxins, which will injure your liver cells. So try to limit direct contact with cleaning products, insecticides, aerosol products, chemicals, additives, smoke. And better still, find environmentally friendly cleaning products. I usually say, if I’m not willing to spray the cleaning products on my food, I won’t use it in my home. Remember that your skin is the biggest organ in your body and is literally like a big mouth. It absorbs everything in your environment and that you put on it.

  9. Use alcohol responsibly - especially with the holidays coming. Using alcohol regularly can create a lot of health issues, not just liver, but will scar the liver and lead to liver cirrhosis. My recommendation would be only one drink in a 24 hour window, with no more than 2 drinks per week.