Liver Detox Diet

Winter Liver Detox


I’m not a big fan of frequent detoxing where there’s no real requirement or, indeed, proper guidance. For many, a detox is just another extreme swing of the pendulum, and I work with enough people with disordered eating to know that extremes are really easy for people when it comes to food – what they find hard is being flexible, instinctive and adaptable.  There is often a misconception that detoxing equates to a diet of juices and smoothies, which is actually incorrect, since our liver requires nutrients that exist outside of fruits and vegetables in order to detox most effectively.   We also have to consider that Spring, and specifically the Spring equinox,  is actually the most natural time of year to clear out excesses, since with this bright season comes light, warmth and energy.  Although January feels like the right time, because of the excesses of Christmas,  seasonally it is still mid-winter and a time to feed our bodies through colder temperatures and darkness.    

Having said that, I am writing this with a body that is fatigued and pleading with me to clean up. After a month of excess sugar, meat and alcohol, my skin is unhappy (I have some redness on my chin which is an indication of a clogged liver according to Chinese Medicine) and I feel lethargic, a bit low and quiet unlike myself.  So, yes, January for me is going to include a liver clean-out. 

The liver is the greatest multi-tasking organ of the body. Its functions include breaking down and eliminating toxins, breaking down and eliminating excess hormones, balancing blood sugar, producing bile (for the digestion of fat) and storing nutrients.   With such a wide scope of responsibility it is clear why its function – and disfunction – has an incredibly important impact on our health. The liver takes a front line ‘battering’ as a result of poor lifestyle choices and therefore healing your liver is an absolute priority when it comes to nutritional therapy, and at this time of year our livers need more love than ever. 

How your liver will detoxify

Your liver will detoxify itself in a two-phase process. You can think of Phase 1 as the preparation phase, where toxins are acted on by a series of enzymes. This phase converts toxins into a form that can be disarmed. Often, however, this process itself can produce unwanted by-products such as free radicals or toxins. To avoid this side effect there is a whole series of nutrients that you need to consume to support your liver:

Phase 1 Nutrients:

  • Glutathione – found in onions and garlic
  • Coenzyme Q10 found in oily fish, spinach, raw seeds and nuts
  • Vitamin C – found in broccoli, peppers, citrus fruit and berries
  • Vitamin E – found in raw seeds, nuts and fish
  • Selenium – found in raw seeds, nuts and fish
  • Beta-carotene – found in carrots, peaches, watermelon, sweet potato and butternut squash
  • DIM (Di-IndolylMethane) – a substance in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli that helps detoxify excess oestrogens and hormone disrupting chemicals such as pesticides
  • Bioflavanoids – found in blueberries
  • Quercetin – found in onions
  • Polyphenols – found in green tea
  • Milk Thistle

In Phase 2 the liver attaches nutrients to these ‘disarmed’ toxins that they are ready to be eliminated by the body. The nutrient sources required for Phase 2 are:

  • Glucoronidation – dependent on apples, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and beansprouts
  • Glycine and Glutamine – dependent on amino acids found in root vegetables
  • Glutathione – dependent on amino acids found in onions, garlic, root vegetables and berries
  • Sulphation – depends on sulphur found in onions, garlic and eggs
  • Methylation – dependent on B vitamins found in green beans, eggs, chicken and root vegetables

The final factor in supporting liver detoxification is maintaining the right acid-alkaline balance in the body. The correct environment is one that is not too acid. When foods are metabolised by the body a residue or ‘ash’ is left that can alter the body’s acidity. Depending on the chemical composition of the metabolised foods, the food is called acid-forming or alkaline-forming, although this is not the same as the immediate acidity of the food. Oranges, for example, are acidic yet have an alkalising effect on the body. Alkaline forming foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses. Acid forming foods include animal protein and dairy products. Ideally roughly 80% of our diets should be alkaline forming foods. 

Your Liver Detox Toolkit 

The following factors should be considered as part of your liver detox, which I would advise to be approximately 28 days.  Please note, however, that every single person is unique and these recommendations, and even the length of the detox, will vary according to particular health issues, contra-indications goals or life circumstances.  For example, if you suffer from a high blood pressure I wouldn’t recommend Epsom salt baths.  There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ detox plan so please be sure to consult a qualified practitioner if you are unsure about where to start.   

1. Foods to be eliminated 

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Trans & saturated fat
  • Sugar

2. Essential detox foods

  • Water
  • Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Onions
  • Vegetable and fruit juice
  • Eggs and oily fish 

3.  High quality, bio-available supplements

  • Probiotic
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Antioxidant
  • Multi-vitamin & mineral 

4.  Naturopathic techniques

  • Epsom salt baths
  • Castor oil packs
  • Enemas
  • Mindfulness
  • Breathing exercises 

5.  Exercise 

  • Mild exercise during the detox itself please 
  • A mixture of aerobic (walking) and anaerobic (low weight bearing) 

If you would like more information on how to approach a liver detox or a bespoke 28 day liver detox menu plan then please contact me via my website or on  I work with clients all around Yeovil, Sherborne, Street and beyond.  

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