Spring is also traditionally seen as the ideal time for the body to detoxify, with specific emphasis placed on the liver and gallbladder. Prime functioning of these organs is critical to ensure detoxification pathways function effectively and the 'recycling' of wastes is avoided. Some signs that your liver and gallbladder may need gentle support include: dark circles under the eyes, bad breath, difficulty losing weight, constipation and/or diarrhoea, bloating, weight stored around the abdomen, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, moodiness and fatigue.
Seasonally, nature supplies us with many of the foods that will support the detoxification pathways of the liver and gallbladder. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, silverbeet and artichoke are all abundantly available and, as you will see below, all have a role to play in aiding liver function. Fruits such as pineapple and paw paw also reappear and both contain natural digestive enzymes that help break down foods and enhance digestive functioning.
- Consume bitter foods.
Anything bitter will stimulate digestion and enhance liver function. Start the day with 1/2 a freshly squeezed lemon in warm water. Bitter greens include silverbeet, cos lettuce (outer leaves), endive, chicory, dandelion, raddichio and mustard greens
- Foods rich in antioxidants help the liver in its detoxification role:
- Vitamin C (broccoli, parsley, red fruits and citrus fruits)
- Vitamin E (raw nuts and seeds, egg yolk, wheat germ)
- Zinc (raw nuts and seeds, especially brazil nuts and cashews, eggs, whole grains, fish such as herring and oysters)
- Selenium (raw nuts and seeds, especially brazil nuts and cashews, eggs, whole grains, fish and seafood, garlic and onion)
- Foods rich in 'favourite' liver nutrients (lipotropics):
choline and inistol (whole grains, legumes, egg yolks and lecithin)
methionine (garlic, onion, legumes, eggs, yoghurt and sardines)
Carnitine (avocado, fish, beef and chicken)
B Vitamins (raw nuts and seeds, wholegrains and vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables and legumes)
- Keep alcohol consumption low and stick with red wine (anti-oxidant rich) or vodka and soda (low sugar).
- Bring in some fermented foods to your diet to help flood your gut with good bacteria. Fermented foods are really 'food as medicine' at their very best - they are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion.Think keffir, sauerkraut, tempeh, natural yoghurt and kombucha. There are many brilliant fermented foods available at your health food shop now. I am personally loving a side of Peave, Love and Vegetables green sauerkraut served up with my daily (and ever changing) protein combo. Of course, you can also make your own. Recipe coming soon ....
- Steam foods or bake/fry in coconut or olive oil
- 'Good' fats generally improve liver function, support blood sugar regulation keeping us feeling full for longer, reduce inflammation and enhance our immunity. Phew, that's a lot of reasons to include some in your diet everyday! Think oily fish, nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seed oil, olives and legumes. ALWAYS check your fish is sustainably sourced. Our oceans are incredibly depleted and we need to do our bit to help conserve those that are left.
- Dandelion root tea is a natural liver tonic. With a slightly coffee-like taste, it can be drunk with soy milk, milk, honey and ginger and will enhance the detoxification role of the liver and improve bowel function.
- Remember that grains put a strain on our digestive system and can 'feed' the wrong bacteria, leading to food sensitivities and compromised immunity. Try going grain free during a period of detoxification to give your gut a break. Coconut flour and buckwheat flour are both okay to use during this time and can help you feel a little less deprived. Try my http://www.thenutritionguru.com.au/blog/category/zucchini-and-carrot-fritters to start your day.
- Foods that accelerate healing in the liver include chlorophyll-rich foods (wheat or barley grass, spirulina and chlorella, along with green, leafy vegetables). Mung beans and their sprouts, seaweeds, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, tofu and millet improve detoxification.
- Cut the Sugar! Leave out the processed, sweet foods and your digestion will improve, detoxification pathways function better, energy levels will rise and your body will thank you for it. Yes, it is hard to do, studies show sugar is more addictive than heroin, but the amount we are consuming in Australia is one of the factors contributing to the sad fact we are now officially one of the worlds fattest nation. If you are looking for a healthier sweet treat, try my http://www.thenutritionguru.com.au/blog/category/raw-cacao-slice
- Incorporate a 'green smoothie' into your daily diet. This is a really simple way to get a big bang of nutritional goodness into your day. Use almond milk (Pureharvest - avail from your supermarket - or fresh) or coconut water (I use Raw C) as a base and combine ingredients like silverbeet/spinach/avocado/lettuce/apple/banana/lemon/cucumber/berries. Throw in some protein (my favourite at the moment is Amazonia Raw Protein) and chia seeds and blitz. Frozen fruit adds an extra thickness and creaminess to an already delicious combo.
- Sulphur compounds found in the cabbage family and dandelion can improve the detoxification process of the liver. These foods include: brussel sprouts, cabbage and garlic.