Natural Spring Cleaning

Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S.
This content originally appeared on 

A cleansing, springtime detox feels wonderful for your body and it can also be delicious! Your liver is your premiere detox organ, and all too frequently, factors interrupt its healthy functioning.

Examples include highly refined foods, nitrates, hormones and preservatives, along with environmental xenohormones, caffeine, alcohol, hormone birth control, overuse of antibiotics, prescription drugs, smog, secondhand smoke, and even metabolic residue from your foods.

When these elements come into play, your liver no longer performs normally, causing toxins to build up in your system, where they provoke chronic health conditions - but there are plenty of natural remedies available!

Love Your Liver

Your liver, as the center of action, also purifies the bloodstream, maintains sugar levels, produces enzymes and amino acids to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins, produces bile during the digestive process for fat metabolism, then houses the bile in the gallbladder, and helps keep your body in hormonal balance.

Simply put, the liver is the key to life. When your liver is sluggish, every organ in your body becomes affected by it. Your blood vessels enlarge, and blood flow becomes restricted. The congested liver starts to propel toxins into your circulatory system, producing a dull ache under your lower right rib cage--particularly  after a rich meal.

With toxins running amok in your body, secondary problems are usually not far behind it. The liver - which produces enzymes and amino acids to aid in digestion - becomes overwhelmed and throws the whole body out of balance, which weakens the gastro lining and releases more toxins into the system.

And as higher amounts of these poisons are released, even more make their way into your liver, which starts the insidious circle all over again.

As the seat of energy flow for the body, your liver is susceptible to stagnation problems. Unresolved or prolonged anger and depression - the emotional markers of a compromised liver - prevent the body's energy from flowing as it should. You may have a deep vertical crease between your eyebrows as a result, or a dark reddish complexion.

You could also experience a myriad of secondary symptoms such as acne, itchy rashes, petachiae (red spots), splitting or breaking fingernails, and digestive problems.

Hormonal imbalances could also come into play. These symptoms range from premenstrual irritability, mood swings and cramping, to perimenopausal irritability, mental fog, anxiety and depression, to menopausal hot flashes, palpitations and night sweats.

In fact, contending with years of a stress-damaged liver has also been known to bring about earlier menopausal symptoms.

Feed Your Liver

These are four fantastic foods to feed your liver what it critically needs for peak performance.

  • Dandelion root is dandy for stimulating liver function and detox because it's loaded with nutrients and minerals. One such is inulin, a fiberlike substance that functions as a prebiotic to help nourish the friendly bacteria in the gut. The humble dandelion root is also good for lowering blood sugar and boosting the overall health of the microbiome. It's the perfect swap or trade-off to have in place of coffee for those of you on a detox. Another easy and delicious option is to add it to your daily smoothie.
  • You can't beat beets, which are full of betaine, a prominent protector of the liver against the damaging effects of alcohol. Betaine also thins the bile and helps it move freely within the bile ducts, and is an incredibly rich dietary source of nitric oxide and antioxidants.
  • Flaxseeds are fabulous for fiber, which keeps toxins moving out of your body - where they should be. They've also been found to power up the immune system and even be an effective cancer fighter. They can be of particular benefit to post-menopausal women because the lignans in the fibrous shell counteract the cell-proliferating power of excess estrogen. From flaxseed crackers to an excellent smoothie add-in, there are many ways to work flax's healthful crunch into your routine.
  • Burdock root rocks as a liver cleansing agent by encouraging the body to remove waste and metabolize built up fats, old cholesterol deposits, and toxins. As an added bonus, it can be very helpful for skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. My favorite way to prepare it is to peel it and use it plentifully as an ingredient in a slaw. Yum!