Do liver cleanse diets work?

Do liver cleanse diets work?

Recently, one of the most common things I get asked about is ‘what are best foods to help cleanse the liver?’. The liver cleanse diet has risen in popularity thanks to diet trends, such as detoxing. It focuses on excluding large groups of food, including dairy, any processed or refined foods, most meat, gluten, tea, coffee and alcohol that are claimed to be ‘toxic’ and replacing them with large amounts of certain foods that claim to cleanse the liver.

The role of the liver

The liver is the largest organ in the human body, except for the skin. It has a major role in a number of vital bodily functions including: the production of bile for fat digestion, the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, storage of carbohydrate and a number of important vitamins and minerals, the breakdown of substances such as medicines, insulin, alcohol and ammonia as well as the production of proteins from the products of digestion. Liver cleansing diets claim that they improve skin, digestion, immunity and brain function by reducing the liver’s workload. They claim the workload is reduced by removing the toxins that the liver has to break down as well as reducing fat intake and hence the amount of bile required. Many liver cleansing diets also report better blood sugar control and improved energy levels for the same reason.

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Recently, one of the most common things I get asked about is ‘what are best foods to help cleanse the liver?’. The liver cleanse diet has risen in popularity thanks to diet trends, such as detoxing. It focuses on excluding large groups of food, including dairy, any processed or refined foods, most meat, gluten, tea, coffee and alcohol that are claimed to be ‘toxic’ and replacing them with large amounts of certain foods that claim to cleanse the liver.

The role of the liver

The liver is the largest organ in the human body, except for the skin. It has a major role in a number of vital bodily functions including: the production of bile for fat digestion, the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, storage of carbohydrate and a number of important vitamins and minerals, the breakdown of substances such as medicines, insulin, alcohol and ammonia as well as the production of proteins from the products of digestion. Liver cleansing diets claim that they improve skin, digestion, immunity and brain function by reducing the liver’s workload. They claim the workload is reduced by removing the toxins that the liver has to break down as well as reducing fat intake and hence the amount of bile required. Many liver cleansing diets also report better blood sugar control and improved energy levels for the same reason.

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How liver cleansing diets claim to work

The liver is an amazing organ that is designed to constantly work and remove any toxic products and control metabolism. It can regenerate and functions, without symptoms, even when up to 80% of the organ has been damaged. There are no magic potions or teas that can help this process and in fact some parts of liver cleansing diets, such as juicing in large quantities, can actually increase the burden on the liver by leading to large sugar rushes and hence big releases of insulin. The exclusion of important food groups such as dairy also puts a big strain on other areas of the body, such as the bones, as it limits the intake of nutrients such as calcium, iron and protein.

Benefits of a liver cleanse diet

In addition to excluding the major sources of important nutrients and replacing them with excessive amounts of foods that falsely claim to be ‘cleansing’, people following liver cleansing diets usually reduce their intake of high fat, high sugar foods and alcohol and replace these with healthy wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. This reduces the number of calories eaten and therefore leads to weight loss. The increase in the number of fruit and vegetables eaten leads to improved vitamin and mineral levels witch can lead to a feeling of wellbeing. Alcohol can lead to dehydration and is often accompanied by late nights and poor sleep, therefore reducing the amount of alcohol drunk is likely to lead to improved energy levels. The same effects would be achieved by just cutting down on high fat, high sugar foods such as cakes and pastries, cutting out alcohol and making sure you eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

Do liver cleanse diets work?

Preventing liver disease

Rates of liver disease are rising worldwide and are primarily caused by diet and lifestyle factors such as alcohol excess and obesity. This suggests that diet does have a big part to play in preventing liver disease. The best thing you can do for your liver is to eat a healthy balanced diet and keep your weight to a healthy level. Alcohol should also be kept to the recommended daily limits of 1-2 units for women and 2-3 units for men. You should also make sure that you have at least 3 alcohol free days per week. If you do happen to have an occasional binge – keep hydrated and avoid that morning fry-up – two wrongs don’t make a right.

A liver cleanse diet cannot counteract the effect of bad eating habits. If you know you are going to have the odd indulgence in alcohol or high fat, high sugar foods, its great that you want to counteract the negative effects, but the best thing you can do for your health is to indulge less often and eat a healthy diet the rest of the time.