Liver Overview: Detox and Cleansing

Do you feel sluggish and tired most days? Are you bloated with gas and bloating? Do you feel like you’re constantly hungry? Do you feel like your body is holding onto toxins?

Did you know that toxins build up in your liver? They do! And if you don’t cleanse your liver regularly, it will eventually become toxic itself.

This is called “liver toxicity” and it causes many symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, bloating, and even headaches.

If you’ve never done a detox before, then you may not realize how important it is to cleanse your liver. 

I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about cleansing your liver and why it’s so important. 

The Liver is a Vital Organ

The liver is a complex, unique organ serving many functions crucial to sustaining life. It is constantly processing blood to help clear it of toxins.

Weighing three to four pounds, the liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. It is glossy in appearance, and dark red in color from the rich supply of blood flowing through it.

Your liver neutralizes harmful toxins and wastes, stores glycogen (a blood-sugar regulator), amino acids, protein, and fat.

In today’s world, our liver is at great risk of contamination from environmental toxins and over-processed foods infused with unnatural chemicals. If your liver is not functioning well, a hazardous buildup of toxins may occur.

The liver performs many important functions to keep us healthy. It removes harmful material from the blood; it makes enzymes and bile that help digest food; and it converts food into substances needed for life and growth.

Our bodies depend on the liver to regulate, synthesize, store, and secrete important proteins and nutrients.

What Does the Liver Do?

  • Filters blood, clearing it of waste, toxins and drugs
  • Regulates and secretes substances important in maintaining your body’s functions and health
  • Storing important nutrients (such as glycogen), vitamins, and minerals
  • Metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
  • Creating bile
  • Metabolizing hormones, internally-produced wastes, and foreign chemicals
  • Forming urea
  • Assimilating and storing fat-soluble vitamins
  • Synthesizing blood proteins and coagulation factors which help blood to clot

The liver is the most resilient body organ. It is capable of regenerating itself, and is able to recreate lost tissue in order to help maintain its essential functions, even in the face of moderate damage.

When part of the liver is removed, a healthy organ may grow back to its original size. But its capacity to repair itself can be exceeded by repeated or extensive damage from things like alcohol or fatty liver.

Keeping your liver as healthy as possible offers many health advantages.

Why Keep the Liver Healthy?

In our industrialized developed world, we are immersed in a sea of toxic chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that half a million chemicals are in use today, and over 5,000 new chemicals are introduced annually. Some researchers believe up to 25% of these may be carcinogenic. 

A healthy liver will increase your energy, improve metabolism, and help you burn excess fat.  

When the liver is not functioning appropriately, toxins can build up, production of coagulation factors can be impaired, and complications like bleeding, fluid retention, and confusion can develop.

Do You Need a Liver Cleanse?

There is not enough evidence that liver cleansing is beneficial. The liver itself is an organ which itself filters and detoxifies the blood.  

Some data suggests that herbal remedies like milk thistle may be beneficial for the liver, but current data is not yet conclusive and studies have had mixed results.

A liver cleanse may have some benefit for alcohol and certain drug induced liver injuries, but not helpful for hepatitis C related liver disease. Read more about Alcoholic Liver Disease and its effects.

To keep the liver healthy and functioning, avoidance of alcohol and intravenous drugs which can transmit viral hepatitis (B or C) is important.  

Medications can be harmful to the liver.  Some medications may require periodic monitoring of liver enzymes to ensure no harm is coming to the liver.  

Diet, exercise and weight loss are important in maintaining a healthy weight.  Fatty liver disease is rapidly becoming a leading cause of cirrhosis (scarring in the liver).

Other articles on bodily organs and conditions you may be interested in:

Julie C. Guider MyGoodGut

Medically reviewed by Julie Guider, M.D.

Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.