How to Cleanse Your Liver From AlcoholAnna Ciulla
Liver toxicity, or cirrhosis of the liver, is a serious consequence of heavy alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis related to alcohol use used to be considered an older person’s disease, something that occurred after 30 years of heavy drinking, but research shows that today the problems are happening to those in their 20s and 30s. Clearly, drinking too much and too often is bad for your health, especially your liver, not to mention the risk of addiction and other negative medical, psychological, social and legal problems. Getting your liver in better shape is a smart strategy, though, so here are some suggestions on how to cleanse your liver from alcohol.
THE LIVER: A REMARKABLY REGENERATIVE ORGAN
In human physiology, the liver is a body organ that is not only hardworking and necessary for life, it’s also remarkably resilient. Both the liver and the kidneys are generally very efficient in filtering toxins from the body. The liver also has the capability of regenerating its damaged parts. Still, abuse of the liver – mainly caused by excessive alcohol use – can lead to serious consequences, including cirrhosis of the liver.
HOW DO YOU CLEANSE YOUR LIVER FROM ALCOHOL?
As with most any recommendation to live a healthier lifestyle, some of the practical advice on how to cleanse your liver from alcohol involves commonsense practices. Dr. Sandra Cabot, in her book, The Liver Cleansing Diet: Love Your Liver and Live Longer, lists 12 principles vital to improving liver functioning. Briefly, these include:
- Only drink filtered water. Make that 8-1/2 glasses of filtered water daily.
- Avoid excessive sugar consumption. This includes staying away from all artificial sweeteners, which are toxic to the liver.
- Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.
- Stop the obsession with calorie counting. Dr. Cabot also recommends staying off the scale.
- Stay away from foods you know are (or think you may be) allergic to.
- Adopt good intestinal hygiene. This basic recommendation involves eating only fresh foods, avoiding reheating foods, staying away from processed and packaged foods that are loaded with preservatives, and always wash hands before eating.
- Never eat when anxious or stressed, as this diverts blood flow from liver and intestines to other parts of the body.
- Always buy products that are organic, free-range and free of pesticides.
- Obtain nutrients from diverse sources, including grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
- If you eat bread, make sure it’s quality bread that’s chemical-free. Try stone-ground breads. And avoid spreading with butter or margarine.
- Ward off constipation by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, consuming them raw as often as possible. Help flush them through your system by washing them down with water throughout the day.
- Use the right kind of fats. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, going to a totally fat-free diet may boomerang. Use high-quality virgin olive oil, unrefined and cold-pressed oils. Get your fats from nuts and seeds, fish, avocados, olives and legumes.
GOOD LIVER CLEANSE FOODS
Certain foods have known ability to help cleanse the liver. Be sure to add these to your daily diet if you’re interested in how to cleanse your liver from alcohol and detoxify your body from drugs.
- Apples – Soluble fiber and malic acid in apples makes them a healthy addition to the daily diet, particularly for getting rid of toxins and cholesterol from the blood and giving the liver a helping hand.
- Beetroot – Packed with fiber, folate and much more, beetroot is a great addition to a liver cleanse diet.
- Broccoli – Chlorophyll and antioxidant-rich, broccoli helps with liver functioning and countering free radicals that damage the body from oxidation.
- Dark green leafy vegetables – Arugula, chard, collard greens, kale, and spinach, among other dark green leafy vegetables, are a rich source of antioxidants and chlorophyll, which help keep the liver in good shape and purify the blood.
- Garlic – It’s the selenium and allicin in garlic, a root vegetable, that are instrumental in helping the liver improve digestion, aid detox, and benefit the immune system.
- Grapefruit – A great source of vitamin C and potassium, grapefruit helps produce enzymes that help the liver to detox.
- Green tea – Get a boost from the antioxidants in green tea, which help the liver cleanse the blood, remove toxins and function properly.
- Lemons – They contain antioxidants and vitamin C and provide enzymes necessary for digestion and blood cleansing, as well as helping the body better neutralize toxins.
- Lentils – Fiber-rich lentils assist in the liver cleansing process.
- Onions – Rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids, fiber, and potassium, onions are another root vegetable excellent for liver cleansing and digestion.
- Sweet potato – A natural anti-inflammatory food, one that’s also rich in beta-carotene, fiber and vitamin C, sweet potato is another tasty menu choice to help cleanse the liver.
- Turmeric – The curcumin compound in the spice is responsible for helping the liver cleanse from toxins, function properly, and even aids in liver regeneration of damaged cells.
- Walnuts – Besides being a tasty snack, walnuts are packed with healthy omega-3 oils. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry said that walnuts may help prevent liver damage.
Algae and seaweeds may also be helpful in detoxifying the body from alcohol and drugs.
SIGNS OF LIVER TOXICITY
Maybe you’re already past the point of trying to maintain a healthy liver, due to chronic heavy drinking. You may need alcohol detox. On the other hand, how do you know if your liver is damaged from alcohol? Signs of liver toxicity are pretty specific, although some can be characteristic of other medical conditions or diseases as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs of liver damage include:
- Jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
- Abdominal pain (in the upper right portion of the abdomen)
- No appetite
- Feeling tired or weak
- Urine that’s dark or tea-colored
- Weight loss
CAUSES OF LIVER DISEASE
Liver disease, specifically toxic hepatitis, can be caused by a number of substances. Liver toxicity happens when the liver becomes inflamed due to exposure to a substance that is toxic. Certain medications, such as acetaminophen (including Tylenol and other over-the-counter (OTC) medications with acetaminophen), can eventually cause liver failure. Taking too much acetaminophen (an acetaminophen overdose), such as when a child accesses the medication and takes it, requires immediate medical care.
In its normal functioning, the liver removes and breaks down most of the medications, drugs and chemicals in the bloodstream. But the process of breaking down toxins can create byproducts that damage the liver. Even though the human liver is remarkably regenerative, nonstop exposure to toxic substances may lead to serious and irreversible harm.
The following substances can cause toxic hepatitis:
- Alcohol – Years of heavy alcohol consumption can result in toxic hepatitis, which is liver inflammation caused by alcohol.
- OTC medications (pain relievers) – The previously mentioned Tylenol, as well as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB and others), and naproxen (Aleve and others), can also cause liver damage. The risk is magnified if the OTC pain reliever is frequently taken or is taken in conjunction with drinking alcohol.
- Prescription drugs – Statin drugs used to treat elevated cholesterol can cause liver damage. So, too, can certain antivirals and anabolic steroids, the amoxicillin-clavulanate combination drug (Augmentin), phenytoin (Phenytek, Dilantin), niacin (Niaspan), ketoconazole, azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), and many more.
- Herbs/supplements – Just because herbs and supplements are touted by their manufacturers as natural and safe doesn’t always mean they’re always safe to use. Some are especially damaging to the liver, including black cohosh, aloe vera, cascara, chaparral, comfrey, ephedra and kava.
- Chemicals used in industry – Many chemicals employees are exposed to on the job can cause liver injury. Herbicides (paraquat), polychlorinated biphenyls, vinyl chloride, and the dry cleaning solvent carbon tetrachloride are just a few.
LIVER DISEASE IS PREVENTABLE
Of all the diseases afflicting humans, liver disease is among those that are preventable. If not totally, at least preventable in the sense that you limit or reduce the risk of liver damage. Medical experts recommend taking the following precautions:
- Never mix alcohol and drugs. Besides the interaction between acetaminophen and alcohol, there are many other alcohol-drug interactions. Always talk with your physician or the pharmacist before taking a new medication or nonprescription remedy to better understand any interaction with alcohol.
- Only take medications when absolutely necessary. This includes prescription and nonprescription drugs. Look for nondrug solutions to conditions like pain from arthritis or back pain, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.
- When taking medications, only take as directed. Bulking up on medications or taking them more often than prescribed or recommended increases the risk of liver damage, especially if one or more of those medications contains acetaminophen.
DANGERS OF LIVER CLEANSES
While your intent may be to cleanse your liver from alcohol, be wary of product claims or remedies that promise quick results with liver cleanses. Some of these solutions to cleanse your liver from alcohol may be worthless or dangerous, and there’s little clinical evidence to support their efficacy and safety. Discuss any proposed liver cleanse with your doctor so you know the potential side effects before you embark on the cleanse.
What kind of dangers could liver cleanses pose? According to experts, the risks include allergic reaction, blockages, dehydration, and overdose. Since many purported liver cleanses involve taking a number of ingredients and drinking great quantities of water, dehydration is a possible side effect. That’s because the fluids and, in some cases, the cleanse ingredient of Epsom salts, cause increased urination and bowel movements, which result in dehydration. Lightheadedness, nausea, and irritability are signs of dehydration. In addition, you may wind up taking ingredients that you’re allergic to, which can produce an allergic reaction. Plus, blockages from expelled gallstones (actually pellets of cholesterol) can wreak havoc, causing sudden and severe pain if they become lodged in some parts of the body. Furthermore, there’s also the risk of toxic overdose from large amounts of Epsom salts. Drugs.com lists symptoms of an Epsom salt overdose that include low blood pressure, muscle weakness, vomiting, coma, and death.
As noted in an article in Consumer Reports, the risk of drug side effects increases with age. Factors such as weight gain and holding less water contribute to increased drug potency, and associated effects on the body. What happens is that key organs, such as the liver and kidneys, start to function more slowly. Older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are twice as likely to experience an adverse drug event necessitating a trip to the emergency room and seven times likelier to be hospitalized as a result than younger adults.
For more about alcohol addiction, withdrawal and recovery, check out these articles:
- Amazon.com. “The Liver Cleansing Diet: Love Your Liver and Live Longer.” Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0646277898/inneraplaceforsh
- BMJ. “Mortality due to cirrhosis and liver cancer in the United States, 1999-2016: observational study.” Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k2817
- Consumer Reports. “Risk of Drug Side Effects Rises as You Age.” Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/drug-safety/risk-of-drug-side-effects-rises-as-you-age/
- Drugs.com. “Epsom Salt.” Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/mtm/epsom-salt.html
- Holistichealthtools.com. “Why You Should Love Your Liver.” Retrieved from http://www.holistichealthtools.com/liver.html
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. “Walnut Polyphenols Prevent Liver Damage Induced by Carbon Tetrachloride and D-Galactosamine: Hepatoprotective Hydrolyzable Tannins in the Kernel Pellicles of Walnut.” Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf8002174
- Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. “Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence.” Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jhn.12286
- Mayo Clinic. “Do detox diets offer any health benefits?” Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/detox-diets/faq-20058040
- Mayo Clinic. “Toxic hepatitis.” Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxic-hepatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352202