By Isadora Baum
Most of us don’t think about our liver that much, but we probably should. The liver is your body’s internal detox engine. It filters blood from the digestive system and helps get rid of bacteria and toxins. It also processes nutrients and metabolizes drugs.
A healthy liver keeps your system clean, and in turn, a clean system keeps the liver functioning well. “Over-toxification of your body can cause inflammation and eventually cirrhosis of the liver, in which fatty deposits have accumulated, impairing liver function,” says Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritious Life.
Of course the most obvious way to keep your liver in tip-top shape is to take a week (or two) off from drinking.
It’s no secret that excess drinking can cause liver disease. It can also hinder digestion and immunity. According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you drink more than 1.5 to 2 oz. of alcohol a day, you could be at risk of liver damage, specifically fatty liver disease. The good news is that abstaining for a week or two will allow your liver’s cells to regenerate.
Still, taking a break from drinking in the middle of the holidays may not be the easiest solution. With that in mind, here are 5 more tips for a healthier liver.
1. Limit packaged, processed foods.
Processed foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and other additives which can cause the body to work harder to function properly, Glassman says. Baked goods, sugary drinks, and chips have been shown to cause inflammation, which can put stress on the liver and interfere with normal functionality and digestion. Your best bet is to avoid packaged, processed foods altogether. At the very least, try to limit your intake.
2. Eat an apple.
Okay, we know an apple isn’t exactly the same as a pack of chips or a chocolate chip cookie, but apples are crispy and sweet! And they’re good for your liver. That’s because apples are high in pectin, a soluble fiber, which removes heavy metals and other toxic elements from the body, nutritionist Lola Berry says.
3. Drink warm lemon water.
Berry also recommends adding warm lemon water to your morning routine for a super-simple liver cleanse. Squeezeing half a fresh lemon into a mug of warm water first thing in the morning “helps to stimulate bile secretion, and it also helps increase stomach acid, so it’s a great way to help aid digestion of a meal,” she explains.
Pro Tip: Make sure to rinse your mouth with clean water after the lemon water to protect your teeth from the acid in the lemon — and don’t brush teeth for at least 30 to 60 minutes; doing so can strip away enamel.
4. Try milk thistle tea.
Milk thistle, a type of weed, may improve liver health and help rid the body of toxins, Glassman says: “Milk thistle has long been touted in ancient medicine to have the ability to assist in reversing damage done on the liver.” Milk thistle tea is a simple way to add it to your diet.
5. Get your greens.
Not that you need another reason to eat leafy greens and crucifers like broccoli, but they’re an excellent source of the pigment chlorophyll, which can help purify blood and detoxify environmental pollutants and food additives, says Robert Glatter, MD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Beyond chlorophyll content, “cruciferous vegetables also contain phytochemicals, which have the unique ability to help fight cancer,” he adds.
Pro Tip: Try sautéing spinach with garlic, which is high in vitamin C and antioxidants to improve liver function.