LIVER LOVE | Heal your liver, heal your skin

Image via Aral Tasher

Image via Aral Tasher

When it comes to addressing problem skin, there is a lot of focus on hormone balance and gut health (for good reason!), but little love is given to the mighty liver. This is unfortunate because a liver detox is one of the quickest ways to see and feel immense changes. In fact, once you’ve started working on your blood sugar (you are, right?), you might consider a liver detox as the next step in your healing journey. Now one of the reasons people avoid addressing their liver is because it involves giving up some of our favorite vices (think: caffeine, alcohol, and sugar), but trust me, it’s worth it. When your liver is being overly taxed it becomes incredibly difficult for it to optimally perform its primary role of detoxification. When that happens, all of the toxins (including excess estrogen) that aren't being transformed by the liver and excreted from the body are shuttled back into the bloodstream. As another organ of elimination, your skin picks up the slack. Acne, skin rashes, eczema, and rosacea are just a few signs of an overloaded liver. (In fact, breakouts on the temples and between the eyes are thought to indicate liver congestion.)

The Great Liver Detox

Detoxing your liver involves eliminating the bad guys and supporting with some good guys. You probably already have a good idea of what I mean when I say “bad guys,” but if not, the following items are no friend to your liver:

  • Alcohol: No explanation necessary on this one. Alcohol makes the liver work overtime. Additionally, studies have found that just two drinks a day can double the amount of estrogen in our blood (not good if excess estrogen is an issue for you).
  • Refined Sugar: Blood sugar balance is not only important for your endocrine system, but it’s also vital for your liver. Why? Because your liver can only handle so many tasks at once. Your liver responds to insulin by absorbing glucose and while it’s busy doing that, it has less bandwidth to eliminate excess hormones (including cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline), medication, alcohol, etc. Steer clear of sweeteners like NutraSweet, Equal, and Splenda as well.
  • Caffeine: Similar to sugar, avoiding caffeine provides one less task for your liver. When we consume caffeine, our bodies produce cortisol. This not only knocks our endocrine system off kilter, but it also gives the liver more to deal with. If you are addicted to your morning coffee, you may need to begin weaning off of caffeine a few weeks before the detox by switching to black tea, then green tea, and then perhaps my liver-loving latte!
  • Processed Foods: Eat real food. Period.
  • Pesticides: Organic food is pricey, but pesticides are not doing your liver any favors. If going 100% organic is off the table, familiarize yourself with the Dirty Dozen and start there! Additionally, if you consume animal products, it’s crucial that they be organic, grass-fed and/or pasture-raised.
  • Dirty Personal Care Products: We covered the reasons for greening your personal care routine here, but similar to pesticides, your liver is responsible for dealing with the chemicals in conventional personal care products.

Liver Allies

Phew, the hard part is over. Now let’s focus on the yummy foods that support the liver. The liver needs B vitamins, Vitamin C, Selenium, and Glutathione to do its job so it’s important to incorporate these nutrients into your daily diet.  Here are some of my favorite liver allies:

  • Cruciferous Veggies: Load up on broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. These power players contain compounds that help the liver neutralize chemicals, pesticides, drugs, and carcinogens.
  • Dark Leafy Greens: You can pretty much guarantee these are going to show up on every “healthy foods to eat” list ever.
  • Lemon: Start the day with a warm glass of lemon water. Lemon juice has cleansing properties that support liver detoxification pathways. Oh, and we can’t forget the Vitamin C!
  • Beets: Like lemon, beets support the liver’s detoxification pathways. Shred them on salads or try them in a smoothie.  The First Mess’ Hot Pink Beet Smoothie is one of my personal favorites.
  • Garlic, Onion, Shallots, Leek: These sulfur-rich foods support the liver’s natural production of glutathione.
  • Turmeric: I’m personally obsessed with turmeric. It’s anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, antibacterial, and antiviral. Basically, it’s an all-star. I supplement with turmeric and also love whipping up Golden Milk Lattes.
  • Dandelion Root Tea: There is a reason I include it in my liver-loving latte!
  • Milk Thistle: During a liver cleanse, I like to include a milk thistle supplement. Milk thistle has been used to support healthy liver function since the time of the Ancient Romans. Pretty cool!

    How long do I have to do this?

    You will see significant changes within two weeks in terms of both mental and skin clarity, but try to stick with it for a month if you can. And when the cleanse ends, that doesn’t mean you should immediately dive back into the Chips Ahoy and booze. Use this cleanse as a means to permanently adjust your diet. Ditch the sugar. Ditch the processed foods. Ditch the pesticides. Ditch the chemicals in your personal care products. And be mindful about your caffeine and alcohol consumption.