I saw a patient the other day who complained of feeling tired all the time. He also said he was getting sick more lately and even when he was well he didn’t really feel good. I suspected immediately that he was suffering from an overworked liver.
The symptoms of an overworked liver mimic many other conditions. Thyroid problems, autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances, and chronic diseases all have similar symptoms, especially in the early stages. Once, I had ruled these out, I was certain the problem lay with the liver.
Liver exhaustion leads to a buildup of toxins in your body. Those toxins make you feel sluggish and slow down your immune system. This problem is more common than you might realize.
Many things in our environment and diets can overwork the liver. Your body is subjected to chemicals in processed foods, over-the-counter drugs, and pollutants in the city air. Your liver has to work overtime to filter out all of these toxins and poisons. When your liver gets tired the toxins start to build up in your tissues and could leave you feeling awful.
The answer to this problem is to ease the burden on your liver and cleanse your body. The process is known as a detoxification diet, or detox diet.
Getting Ready—Preparation for Detox is an Important Step
A detox diet isn’t something to enter into lightly. When you do a detox, you release toxins from your tissues into your blood stream where they can be cleaned out. This can place a bigger burden on your liver if you don’t do proper preparation.
To prepare for a detox diet, you need to eliminate anything that could make your liver work harder. A good place to start is not consuming any alcohol for two weeks to a month. Then cut out processed foods as much as possible—the chemical preservatives in these foods have to be broken down and removed by your liver. Also reduce your sugar and caffeine intake. At the same time you should drink 64 ounces of water a day and begin increasing your fiber intake.
During the preparation phase, I also recommend that you take a daily supplement of milk thistle. Milk thistle is a gentle supplement that contains silybum marianum, a compound that supports the liver. I suggest you also take an n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) supplement. NAC converts to glutathione in the body, and glutathione is the compound your liver uses to neutralize and remove toxins.
A Gentle Detox Diet
When it comes to the actual detox diet, I don’t care for severe diets that last a long time or that demand a hard fast. I recommend that you spend the first two days eating lightly. Choose fruits, vegetables, and whole brown rice. Beans and seeds are also acceptable. Unsweetened juices and tea round out the foods you can eat during these first two days.
Next, you should try a two-day fast that allows you to drink juice and tea. This is the period where your body will do the most cleansing. Drink as much unsweetened juice, tea, and water as you like. At the end of each day, take a nice hot bath or shower. This will help you to sweat away some of the toxins you are trying to get rid of.
During the fasting phase, you might feel weak and suffer from headaches. These symptoms are normal, but they shouldn’t feel debilitating.
During the two days following the fast, ease gently back into a broader range of food choices. Try to stick to a diet similar to that of the first days—fruits, vegetables, brown rice, beans, and seeds—but also add some small amounts of meat and dairy.
During the entire six-day process, keep taking your NAC and milk thistle supplements. They will help to support your liver as it works to cleanse your system. Keep drinking at least 64 ounces of liquid a day, too. This will help to flush the toxins out of your body, and it will keep you hydrated, which is important.
A detox diet can help to restore your energy and your feelings of well-being. A detox diet is not for everybody and could affect your kidneys. So before making any radical changes in your diet please take the time to discuss with your personal physician.