Spring-Clean Your Body with These 6 Liver- and Gut-Cleansing Foods
Spring-cleaning your apartment or house is what you learn you should do at a very early age. You see your parents do it than you do it.
It becomes a ritual, a healthy way of running the household. Thorough cleaning brings new energy to your home and it all feels better after it.
Some would say your body is essentially your first and only house, a temple even if you will.
So, why not do a spring clean of your own body?
It just takes a little bit of effort and information on your side, the body will do all the work for you.
If you think of your body as of a house, your organs are the house’s tenants: they all have their characters and roles.
What you need to do is understand which organ deals with cleansing your body from toxins and give them ‘a little push’.
Liver and gut are in the front line of toxin defense (along with them, there are others like kidneys and skin; however, we will focus on the first two in this text).
Food is one the fuel our body gets to work through the day.
The bad and the good effects of specific foods are well known and people usually act instinctively on what they should eat to feel well.
Some foods are most beneficial for your brain, some for your heart and some for your other organs.
The liver is a very special organ in that aspect that it is the only organ that regenerates itself.
A grown person’s liver weighs about 3 pounds (1.4kg).
In liver transplant patients you can take as little as 7oz (200 grams) and in a few months, it will grow to full size.
It is located beneath the diaphragm on the upper part of the abdomen, and on its right side.
The liver has many functions, as far as 500) that are vital for the body’s proper functioning.
The liver is important for regulating metabolic processes in the body – breaking down and building up and changing substances, extracting energy and detoxing.
It is also responsible for storing extra blood sugar, fights infections and aids blood clotting.
The liver consists of cells called hepatocytes that receive and filter the nutrients from the blood (at any time, there is around 15 percent of the body’s blood in the liver).
The hepatocytes decide whether the arriving nutrients will be stored, eliminated through stool (which is why the intestines are functionally connected to the liver), processed or returned to the blood.
Another function is producing bile that is responsible for producing bile that goes to the small intestine and breaks down fats.
The part of the bile that is not used at the moment is stored in the gallbladder and excreted when needed.
The liver stores excess fat or releases it when the body needs energy.
When it is eliminating toxins, the liver converts them (imagine this as deactivating a virus) into smaller substances and sends them to the colon to be eliminated.
A healthy liver is crucial for functioning since a person cannot live without it.
The symptoms of an unhealthy liver range from those easily overlooked like fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and some more serious ones like jaundice, dark urine, swelling and so on.
‘Gut’ is a word that is used to describe various things – from the entire gastrointestinal tract (from the mouth all the way to the anus) to metaphorical (like ‘the gut feeling’ you have about something).
Here we will focus on defining it as intestines with the emphasis on the large intestine, or colon, as it is the part that needs spring-cleaning the most.
The large intestine is located in your abdomen, surrounding your small intestine like a frame.
It is about 1.5 meters long (small intestine is about 6m long) but it is significantly narrower than the small intestine.
The function of the colon is to absorb the remaining nutrients from the processed foods (water, vitamin K…) however, the biggest part of the absorption goes through the small intestine.
Another basic function of the colon is to compress the undigested parts of food, take out water by absorbing it and turning the undigested materials into the stool, so it can be passed.
How does the colon do that?
Well, it has a large number of bacteria and bacteria types that are called gut microbiome, a rich ecosystem that performs a variety of functions in your body.
It breaks down food that can’t be digested, produces valuable nutrients (vitamin K), regulates the immune system and protects against harmful germs.
Medications, environment and diet affect the balance of the gut’s good bacteria.
You can’t control all the factors all the time, but you can take care of what you are eating.
When we eat foods that are not good for the gut, we essentially starve the good bacteria which in turn make us low on energy, causes some medical conditions and weight problems.
WHY IS DETOXING IMPORTANT?
In our everyday lives, we get in touch with all kinds of toxins be it through food, water, air and so on.
We are basically poisoning ourselves gradually consciously and unconsciously.
Smoking, eating too much or eating heavy foods, drinking alcohol, being exposed to various chemicals are all the reasons that affect the intoxication of our organism, which, in turn, can cause various illnesses (hepatic coma, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, fatigue and so on).
Everybody knows that feeling you get after binge eating over the holidays, or partying a little too much… Your energy is low, you constantly feel tired and sleepy, some people are even depressed or agitated, all in all, you are not at your best.
This is because your body is spending too much of its energy trying to process all those harmful substances, and because the toxins inherently have a bad influence on your well-being.
Your body has a natural way of flushing out toxins from your body and it works just enough to keep you healthy and feeling well if you are having a balanced life.
The liver can process an occasional glass of wine without much additional effort but in times of excess or inappropriate consumption of (certain) foods and products your body gets overworked and tired and needs some help to rest and regain its strength for optimal functioning.
This is where detoxing comes in, and what better time to do it than in the spring, after all the holiday leftovers are gone and the parties are scarcer.
Detoxing diets usually last for about two to three weeks where you should avoid certain foods and food groups and focus on others.
Some other detoxes can last for about one to three days.
Those are the so-called ‘quick detoxes’ and you can do them more often than once or twice a year like a spring-clean (or fall) detox.
Pay attention that they are not a magic eraser that will wipe out all the negative influences of an unbalanced life.
The quick detoxes are usually based on the consumption of liquids only which can make you feel fatigued due to low-calorie intake and even due to the very fast toxin flushing that does not get metabolized quickly enough so rather than feeling better you actually feel way worse for a short period of time.
So do not make this a habit.
If you want a healthy gut and liver, practice a balanced diet that will provide you with enough nutrients to get through the day feeling energized and on top of your strengths.
WHAT ARE THE FOODS THAT ARE LIVER AND GUT-FRIENDLY?
What is the thing you should do first?
There is no point at doing a liver or gut detox if you are still loading up on foods that strain your liver and gut.
Pay attention that during this spring clean you stay away from alcohol, packaged and processed foods, especially conventional meats, and dairy as they are full of pesticides, herbicides, and GMO residue steroids, and so on.
Another thing worth paying attention to is the fact that, during the cleanse, the food should be thermally processed as less as possible.
The best option is to consume raw foods and if this is difficult try sautéed or light steamed foods.
Each person is different, so if you find that some foods on this list usually have a negative effect on you; like giving you heartburn or some other discomfort avoid that one and try with the others.
Do not follow the list blindly, trust your body, it knows what feels good.
SO WHAT FOODS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR GUT AND LIVER?
Some general guidelines are that in order to do a liver and gut cleanse you should focus your diet on high fiber, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans, and probiotic and antioxidant-rich foods.
Essentially, water does not get processed in the liver, and gut only absorbs it.
However, the fact that you re consuming more water and refrain from using alcohol and sweetened juices provides the liver with the possibility to rest, regenerate and process other substances that you take in.
It will help flush out the harmful substances through kidneys and skin.
Along with that, it aids the natural peristaltic of the colon, which is the bowel movement, and a regular bowel movement aids in toxin removal as well.
If the bowel movement is not regular the toxins from the stool go back to the liver.
Doctors suggest drinking a minimum of eight and a maximum of 12 glasses of water a day is the best option, depending on your weight and activity during the day.
You can absorb water through teas, natural vegetable or fruit juices and water-rich foods like cucumbers and watermelons as well.
2. Apple (juice) and Apple Cider Vinegar
An apple a day keeps the doctor away?
Seems about right if you consider the effect they have on a digestive system and liver health.
Apples are packed with fibers which help the bowel movement and provides for toxin break down.
You can consume them raw or like a juice.
They are rich in malic acid and pectin that help dispose of toxins and cancerogenic, as well as polyphenols that are naturally found in the liver.
They also have an anti-inflammatory characteristic that prevents you from developing a condition known as fatty liver.
Apple cider vinegar is a traditional medicine for all kinds of ailments.
It can help digestion if the environment is not acid enough.
Due to various enzymes, minerals and specific acids it is great for any detox.
The acids can attach to the toxins and allow them to leave your body.
Mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of lukewarm water in the morning to help digestion and flush out toxins.
The flaxseed is a high-fiber food which in itself helps in cleansing the large intestine through the bowel movements.
What is interesting is that it has two types of fiber: soluble (up to 40 percent) and insoluble (up to 80 percent).
Both types of fiber have their own respective effects on the colon – they increase the bowel movement and prevent and cure constipation.
In turn, this aids the liver in doing its job as it is not overworked by processing toxins from the stool that remains in your body.
The flaxseed is rich in antioxidants and omega:3 fatty acids which also helps the liver and colon cleansing.
Since it is rich in fiber, a single tablespoon of flaxseeds makes up a 13 percent of the body’s desired daily fiber intake.
Mix a tablespoon with a glass of yogurt and leave in the fridge overnight for the seeds to swell, eat it in the morning, it will keep you full for a long time.
4. Leafy Green and Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are spinach, lettuce, chicory and so on.
Why are they beneficial?
They protect your liver by neutralizing chemicals, metals, and pesticides that you get in touch with either through food or through air and water. They soak up the harmful substances and help your liver function properly.
Another thing they do is that they aid bile excretion which is crucial for digestion and breaking down fats.
You can eat them raw, steamed and prepared in a juicer.
They go well with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
The two types of vegetables combined in a smoothie or a juice and mixed with a little lemon juice supply you with a powerful ally in the detoxing process.
Removing the environmental toxins with leafy greens and providing a better peristaltic to the colon keeps the harmful toxins out of your body.
Garlic has several effects on your liver.
Firstly, it contains amino acids that dilate blood vessels which lower blood pressure in the liver and the liver contains a lot of blood.
Secondly, it is full of selenium which helps antioxidants perform their detoxing role.
Lastly, the vitamin B6 in the garlic acts as an anti-inflammatory agent for your liver.
Consume it daily in your diet, and if you are reluctant to use it due to the garlic breath it causes, there are dehydrated garlic capsules for odorless use.
6. Citruses Like Lemons, Limes, and Grapefruits
Citruses are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and as such, they are a great addition to forcing out toxins from your liver and colon.
Grapefruits also contain a substance named glutathione which the liver naturally produces as well.
Why is it important?
Glutathione plays a significant part in strengthening your immune system, building and repairing of tissue and producing proteins that are of necessity for the body.
Eat whole oranges and grapefruits or juice them, it is your choice. A smaller glass of grapefruit juice a day is enough (juice of one or two grapefruits) t get you started.
You can even chose to add a little lemon juice to a glass of lukewarm water in the morning to cause bowel movements and colon cleansing.
Some people claim that it has the same effect as coffee in waking them up in the morning.
Note: After you have thoroughly detoxed your body, you should strive to keep the organs healthy. Yogurt and kefir are foods that help with that. They are rich in probiotics that protect the colon’s mucus and prevent bad bacteria from inhabiting it. (We mentioned before that processed milk is on the ‘don’t use’ category, however, if yogurts have less sugar and more active agents they are actually great for your colon).
Curd is what you should use to regenerate the liver’s hepatocytes.
Easily digested and mild it is used as a regenerating treatment for hepatitis, fatty liver, and cirrhosis patients.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO?
So we went through produce you can consume during the spring-cleanse of your liver and gut.
But is that the only thing that can help you detox?
As the matter of fact is, it is not.
There are other things that you can do to improve your overall health and help more toxins leave your body.
Exercise – participating in a sweating-out session does wonders for your body and for your mind. The water you are taking in comes out through your bowels and urine, however, a part of it comes out through sweat as well.
Exercising will make more toxins come out and even faster than if you are not exercising.
The physical activity will leave you craving even more water, so it all conveniently works for you.
The physical movement can make lazy bowel work better as well. You might feel reluctant to exercise when you are feeling full, but this is just the thing you need to overcome.
You will experience the benefits very soon.
If you are not big on exercising, try yoga, it is a low impact activity and offers poses that are specifically designed to help your digestion problems.
Detox your mind – medicine, especially ancient medicine like Greek and Chinese, deals with the connection of the physical illnesses and the mind.
They explore how the mind affects the body, and vice versa.
It is logical to us that a painful sensation that lasts long can affect our mood making us irritable or sad, however, there is a process that goes the other way round.
When you feel a certain emotion it reflects on your body. If you are happy you are more energetic and so on.
So how does this apply to liver and gut?
Have you ever felt afraid of something and experienced a sensation of ‘gut tied in a knot’ (like get constipated or even get diarrhea before an important exam)?
When you are angry, for example, it reflects badly on your liver (‘stir up bile’).
This is employed in the four types of people’s personality where choleric (fast, short-tempered, irritable) and melancholic (analytical, quiet, anxious) are related to yellow and black bile respectively.
Get rid of any negative emotional influence, forgive and forget, manage your stress. Remember that negative emotions hurt you and your organs.
To sum up, your liver and your gut do more than pull their weight to keep you healthy and happy. They remove and break down toxins and help your metabolism work perfectly.
However, from time to time, you need to take a few weeks and help them do their job, especially if you were binge eating or drinking in the past few weeks or months.
Implementing some foods into your diet once or twice a year in a form of spring/fall-clean of your body can do wonders for you.
You will be healthier, feel more energized, lighter.
Your skin will glow and you will feel good.
So, why not do that this spring?
However, pay attention not to think of those cleanses as a means to magically erase the consequences of a badly balanced life, where you consume food full of pesticides, alcohol and other harmful substances.
Moderating and modifying your nutrition, exercising and living peacefully even after the spring-cleaning period has passed may be the key to the long-term health of your organs.
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