Been over-indulging? Nutritional therapist Claire Barnes reveals the steps to give your liver a helping hand, ahead of Love Your Liver Month in January, and the beginning of a post-festive detox...
It’s time to show your hard-working liver some love. ‘It performs numerous vital functions, one of which is detoxification,’ explains Claire Barnes. ‘The liver converts harmful substances so that they can be excreted in the urine, or through bile back into the digestive system and excreted through the bowel.’
However, alcohol, pesticides and unstructured eating routines can put extra pressure on our livers, leaving us sluggish. Claire’s plan helps to support detoxification to boost these flagging energy levels. ‘Choose a week when you have little on, and have time for relaxation,’ she advises. ‘You may find that by day two or three you feel more lethargic than normal, but by the end you should feel more energised. ’The new habits can then be continued in your everyday life.
Your seven-day liver cleanse diet plan
Monday – Eliminate toxins with liver cleansing foods
‘Most toxins originate from the foods we eat and the by-products of fermentation by our gut bacteria,’ says Claire. Cut out alcohol, smoking, caffeine, processed foods (including vegetable oils), refined sugars, red meat and any potential irritants, like dairy and gluten. Also avoid pesticides by choosing organic fruit, vegetables, pulses and lentils. If you’re eating meat, buy organic white meat, such as chicken, and choose fresh, wild, oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Tuesday – Up your nutrients with foods good for your liver
‘The liver requires numerous nutrients from the foods we eat in order to convert and excrete toxins from the body,’ explains Claire. A varied diet full of different plant-based whole foods can help provide many of these nutrients. ‘From today, include leafy greens (especially kale and watercress), cruciferous veg (such as broccoli and cauliflower) and alliums (onions, leeks and garlic).’ Citrus fruits are also beneficial. ‘Ensure the majority of each meal is made up of a variety of different-coloured fruit and veg, and include organic pulses, lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds for, fibre and various B vitamins,’ says Claire.
Wednesday – Heal the gut
‘Damage to the intestinal lining can allow toxins, by-products from bacterial fermentation and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream and make their way to the liver,’ explains Claire. ‘An overgrowth of harmful bacteria increases the liver’s exposure to toxins.’ Heal the gut by taking live bacteria supplements and eating fermented foods. Try sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha and a supplement like Bio-Kult Advanced (£9.48, bio-kult.com).
Thursday – Get into a routine
‘Our bodies operate more efficiently when we’re in a routine,’ says Claire. ‘This means waking up at the same time each morning, eating our main meals at the same time each day, exercising earlier in the day while relaxing in the evenings and going to bed at the same time each night.’ A consistent schedule may not be doable for everyone all the time, but it’s important to maintain a routine as much as possible, which will enable your liver to function better throughout the day and night.
Friday – Try TRF
‘Today, try time-restricted feeding (TRF),’ explains Claire. This means eating all your meals within 8-10 hours and fasting for the remaining 16. For example, eat a good breakfast at 10.30am and have your last meal by 6.30pm. ‘This allows your liver to perform other vital functions while you sleep and should give you more energy throughout the day,’ says Claire.
Saturday – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
‘During detoxification, more toxins are likely to be released,’ says Claire. ‘Ensure you drink at least two litres of filtered water a day to help excrete them.’ Your intake can include herbal teas. ‘Dandelion and peppermint help to support detoxification by stimulating bile flow. Peppermint also relaxes bile ducts, helping to break down fats. Turmeric is a powerful liver protector, so try a turmeric latte or tea,’ says Claire.
Sunday – Sweat
By now your liver will be working more efficiently. Find time to exercise, as toxic metals can be excreted through sweat. ‘Gentle walking, cycling and jogging – away from traffic – can lessen the toxic burden of exhaust fumes and help the lymph system circulate waste products away from the liver,’ says Claire. She advises against swimming, as chlorine adds to the toxins your liver has to process. ‘Book a hot yoga session or sauna and massage to help the liver excrete those circulating toxins,’ she suggests.