How to Detox Your Liver:
A Complete Guide to Purifying the Body With Liver Flushing
BY DR. IRINA MATVEIKOVA
I confess that out of all the tricks of the digestive system, liver flushing is my favorite. It fascinates me. The more I study it, the more it surprises me with its capabilities.
The liver may be compared to an intelligent “central processing unit” that filters, controls, and cleans a liter and a half of blood per minute and simultaneously processes around 500 vitally important biochemical metabolic reactions. Some of these processes involve the division and breakdown of chemical substances (catabolism); others, involve synthesis (anabolism), primarily of protein molecules. Knowing how to cleanse your liver is knowing how to flush the body’s processor of nutrients.
I have already mentioned that the liver acts as a purification plant for the blood. It plays a vital role in the detoxification and excretion of a great variety of endogenous and exogenous compounds. The uncleaned liver is very fragile yet simultaneously a survivor: it regenerates rapidly and is grateful for care; it can regrow from just a tiny piece and function with only 10 percent of healthy tissue. Just 200 g (7 oz) of healthy or transplanted liver can save a human life, even if the entire organ weighs around 2 k (4.5 lb) or, when it is full of blood, up to 3 k (7 lb.).
The liver deserves its own book, and it would be an honor to be able to write it one day. But for now we’re only going to go over some of the terms and the basics of its functioning and that are particularly important for knowing how to detox your liver properly.
The Organ of Regeneration
The regenerative properties of the liver made a famous appearance in Greek mythology, with the myth of Prometheus. Prometheus was, without doubt, the Titan who was most generous toward humanity, stealing fire from the King of the gods Zeus himself and distributing it as a gift among humans. For this, Zeus punished Prometheus by having him chained to a rock in the Caucasus, where an eagle picked at his liver every day. Every night, however, Prometheus’s liver regrew at the same rate as the eagle devoured it during the day. His torture continued for a long time until he was finally freed by Heracles.
There are many references in both ancient and modern medical literature to the influence of the liver on our mood, emotions, and intellectual state and instructions for how to cleanse the organ as well. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for example, the liver holds “the soul”; it is associated with the fire element and it is considered more important than the heart, an organ full of energy and powers, making it extremely important to cleanse the liver regularly. The liver manages everything, including moderating mental activity. In TCM, it is thought that if qi (chi, our vital energy) is unable to flow along the liver meridian, it ends up concentrating in the organ and showing up as irritability, insomnia, depression, anguish, melancholy, and doubt. The phlegm gets stuck, and the mind clouds over. The gallbladder, for its part, governs decision making, courage, and cowardice. If a patient’s gallbladder doesn’t function well and accumulates bile, he will have a fearful attitude to life. For this reason, in TCM, liver flushing is the treatment of choice for the maintenance of health.
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We use expressions such as “to be full of bile,” “to raise one’s bile,” and “to spit bile”; and a comment can be full of “black bile.” All of these phrases speak for themselves.
If you are filled with rage and fury, if you have negative feelings and everything irritates you, you may be right, but don’t forget your liver may need to be flushed. Help it and encourage it a little, so that your bile flows.
Detoxing the Mind
When you know how to detox your liver you know how to cleanse your mind, as innumerable treatises of traditional natural medical wisdom from around the world affirm. Liver flushing has a place in traditional medicine and is considered a very important therapeutic step. Following the development of modern medicine, we have lost the ancient tradition of cleansing and flushing the liver to help the bile flow; recently, though, I have noticed increasing interest from doctors on this subject.
Unfortunately, when a patient is permanently sad, lacks enthusiasm, and is in an emotional trough (that is to say melancholic), a doctor usually prescribes antidepressants or tranquilizers and this, in its turn, increases the saturation and congestion of the liver, making a liver flush and cleanse more necessary than ever.
As well as medications (if they are considered necessary) for the treatment of mood disorders, integrative medicine recommends the adoption of a light detoxifying diet, infusions of medicinal plants suitable for the liver, and liver flushing.
Mastering how to cleanse your liver is essential. The liver is the largest organ inside the human body. It is situated in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen, under the diaphragm. It receives a large part of the blood (85 percent) through the hepatic portal vein, the vein that drains almost all the blood from the intestine. This insures that all the food absorbed goes directly to the liver, where it can be stored for use when needed, and that all the toxins absorbed can be filtered and deactivated.
The cells of the liver, the hepatocytes, produce between 500 (just under a pint) and 1500 ml (2.5 pints) of bile each day. Bile is a dense yellow liquid that circulates from the bile ducts (vessels) to the common bile duct. Later it is stored in the gallbladder.
The Role of Food and the Gallbladder
The gallbladder serves as a reservoir for the bile secreted by the liver. Bile is concentrated tenfold by absorbing water, which is why it has a thick consistency and a dark color. The bile retained in the gallbladder can form a mud and condense the sands and crystals composed of bile salts. Over time, this mud can be converted into mineral calculi (stones) which require a liver flush and a liver detoxification and cleansing protocol to remove.
When we eat, foods taken into the digestive system, especially fats, cause the gallbladder to contract, thanks to its muscular layer, eliminating the bile concentrated in the duodenum. Bile acids act as a detergent that emulsifies all the fats in the diet and facilitates their digestion and absorption. Understanding how to detox your liver is they key to healthy bile production. Without bile, we could not digest fatty meals, which leads to a sensation of having a slow and heavy digestion, bloating, and problems of intestinal transit at both ends of the digestive tract.
Another important component of bile is cholesterol, which is produced in the liver. The body requires healthy quantities of cholesterol, as it is used for various metabolic and regenerative functions. The remains of the cholesterol and bile acids that have not been used are eliminated with the feces. Curiously, a portion of these are reabsorbed in the intestine and recycled by the liver, a miraculous organ, you are probably realizing at this point and one we should show our gratitude for by doing liver flushes, detoxes and cleanses regularly.
Occasionally, the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver and afterward reabsorbed and recycled can cause serum cholesterol levels to rise (sometimes with no correlation to diet or the consumption of fats). In such a case, a prescription related solely to dietary recommendations is not going to produce positive results: what is needed is to accelerate the elimination of natural cholesterol produced internally by the liver and to moderate its production through regular liver cleanses, flushing and detoxification.
If bile is not adequately expelled, due to a dysfunction of the muscles of the gallbladder (a “lazy gallbladder”) or for other reasons, sedimentation, accumulation, and congestion of the liver with bile becomes apparent. This provokes a sensation of feeling full after eating; heaviness, as if “blocked up” inside; bloating and frequent constipation; and stools that alternate between greasy and foul smelling liquid diarrhea and hard feces that look like “goat droppings.” This is when it is most critical to understand how to detox your liver and perform regular liver flushing.
What Causes Liver and Gallbladder Problems?
The most recognized causes of bile retention and gallbladder problems are:
+ Liver insufficiency
+ Irregular meals, fast food, and a diet lacking nutrients, fiber, and essential vegetable fats
+ Chronic stress
+ Prolonged use of paracetamol, contraceptives, hormonal medications, and other drugs
+ Excess alcohol and coffee
When we talk of a “fatty liver,” or a liver that needs flushing, we mean that the cells of the liver are saturated with fat (like liver paté) and that the intrahepatic bile ducts found inside the liver are full of dense bile with a high concentration of cholesterol (internal and external).
Fat accumulates in the liver because a person eats badly, is overweight or obese, has diabetes, or is on prolonged hormonal treatment; it also happens because of the recycling and assimilation of the body’s own cholesterol and because of problems in the gallbladder. A liver full of fat cannot continue to adequately perform its many vital functions in the body, leading to problems in assimilating carbohydrates and fats and a worsening ability to carry out its detoxification function. A liver flush and cleansing protocol is needed in order to return it to full working order and prevent the accumulation of problems.
Cleansing and Flushing the Liver
During a liver flush, the liver is gently encouraged to improve its excretory function in order to eliminate old bile trapped inside the bile ducts and to achieve a complete and regular evacuation of the gallbladder. It is a delicate process involving the use of medicinal plants, supplements, mineral salts, oils, and certain foods to properly detoxify the liver.
Liver flushing achieves the following objectives:
+ First, the complete drainage and elimination of accumulated toxins, cholesterol, and other fractions of fat.
+ Second, proper bile flow and improved motility of the gallbladder through dietary measures.
What Happens During the Process of Detoxifying and Cleansing the Liver?
The first phase of learning how to detoxify and cleanse the liver involves several days spent preparing the body, using dietary measures and natural remedies, in order to soften the toxic and fatty materials that need flushed from the liver. This helps them acquire a more liquid consistency, so that they can be expelled afterward and so that the bile ducts can dilate and relax.
At the end of this preparation phase, the gallbladder and liver ducts are encouraged to make strong and rapid muscular contractions to flush their contents by observing a day of fasting accompanied by the taking of certain oils and mineral salts.
This daylong purging is profound and important, and it is not easy. It involves spending literally several hours in the toilet evacuating frequent jets of greenish, warm, foul-smelling liquid.
This amount of digestive activation can be tiring. It can irritate the anus and lead to a sensation of weakness. This is to be expected, and for this reason it is recommended to carry out a liver flush on a day free of appointments and to dedicate time almost exclusively to this.
The bile expelled during liver flushing days is very dense and greasy, and has the consistency of clay or dark green “butter.” After entering the intestines, it becomes knitted together (gets harder) and acquires various round forms similar to stones, which have to be evacuated and expelled within hours.
There is always a risk of recycling and reabsorbing these mobilized liver toxins; also, the “stones” are very heavy and sticky and often stay in the colon for a while; for this reason it is very important to understand exactly how to detox and cleanse your liver and carry out a good cleansing of the intestine (colonic hydrotherapy being the optimal measure) after the liver flushing.
Sometimes patients observe multiple deposits of green bile in their toilets during their liver flush, and they even take photos of them! I have a gallery of such images on my computer, if only they could be prepared for an artistic exhibition, now that would be very original!
Frequently, worms of all sizes are dragged out by the purge, along with fatty froth with the consistency of whipped cream and much sand. Some surprised patients, who are curious about their inner contents, fish out the little balls of bile during a liver flushing and display them on a porcelain plate or in a sieve, comparing them to a euro coin or other object (all this I have documented, but anonymously, of course); other people tell me that they keep them in the fridge and want to show them to me in their natural form. I insist, however, that a photograph will do!
Not only are bile and toxins moved during the liver cleansing protocol, but also energy and emotions. Oriental philosophers have their reasons for pointing to the liver as the center of the emotions and the passions. Patients “uncover” their accumulated sadness and rage; they also feel very sensitive and very expressive during the day of the cleanse, and for several days afterward. One will start to cry for no apparent reason; another, at last, decides to let go of everything he is thinking. It is normal to feel sad and perceptive, more intuitive, and to begin to have more intense and vivid dreams. Without doubt, it is very useful and a great help to be able to share and talk about these changes with a professional psychotherapist.
I repeat, according to theories of energy medicine, liver flushing means to move, purge and discharge the emotions. After around two or three weeks, the first thing many patients report is an improvement in their digestion but also an intense emotional well-being, a more positive attitude, and a sensation of greater vitality; sincerely, they seem happier.
I strongly advise you to carry out your first liver flush under professional supervision, and, after that, to learn to look after your digestive system and do annual cycles of detoxification (not more frequent). A badly managed drainage when learning how to detox your liver can send hard mineralized particles through the narrow bile ducts and provoke colic. It can even manage to block the bile duct, creating an extreme situation that will send you to the emergency room of your local hospital. On the other hand, the toxic discharge of the liver can cause vomiting, strong headaches and fever, owing to rapid reabsorption in the intestine. Make sure you are protected from these complications by being properly guided.
In patients with a history of bile or nephritic (kidney) colics, or a history of these clinical symptoms, I consider it essential to carry out a abdominal ultrasound scan: this helps to dismiss the possibility of (or confirm) the presence of hard calcified stones that cannot possibly flow through the hepatic ducts when mobilized or change their form: these can generate great pain and lead to other complications during liver flushing.
It is also important to consider all other possibilities with a professional.
In recent years, the liver flush has become fashionable, and I have hundreds of patients who come to see me after having done it badly, in an incorrect form, by relying only on popular books or information they have found on the internet. It is not a procedure to be carried out frequently. It is a question of well-being, of your health. Make sure you carry out the first steps with adequate advice, then you will learn how to detoxify your liver and can do it by yourself. I remind you that naturopaths use many effective natural remedies for the liver. Look for the one that is right for you.
Remember, when trying to understand how to detox and cleanse your liver, that the adequate expulsion of bile depends on diet too. Medicinal plants and supplements to activate the liver should be taken just before or during the main meal. The most common natural remedies used for this process are: dandelion extract (root), green artichoke, Marian thistle, birch leaf, celery (the root is best), black radish, fumitory, turmeric, mint, rosemary, ginger, thyme, virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and magnesium sulfate.
A small but great testimony:
A., 34 years old. For many years (17!) I suffered the consequences of an illness that few people know about despite it being fairly common in society: bulimia.
I tried different therapies and made little progress. My life seemed increasingly out of control.
Thanks to the therapy of colonic cleansing and liver flushing, my body and my mind have been able to align. Now I can understand that my battle with food was not the real problem of my illness; I needed to reconnect with my body and my mind. Now I can enjoy and maintain my health and enjoy food.
How to Do The Liver Flush Protocol
+ Animal proteins: meat, sausages (and all processed meat products), poultry, fish, seafood, eggs
+ Dairy products, including milk, cheese, butter (but you can eat fermented, or cultured, milk products, such as cottage cheese, quark, yogurt, kefir (better if they are made from goat’s milk or sheep’s milk)
+ Fried and battered food, spicy food, sauces, mayonnaise
+ Coffee (but decaffeinated is permitted), alcohol (all types), and tobacco
+ Processed foods, including cakes and pastries, soft drinks, and chocolates
+ Cold or frozen food and drinks
Eat and Drink:
+ Whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and pulses (legumes). All of these could be eaten boiled, raw, steamed, grilled, or cooked in the oven. Preferably creamed or pureed, not fried!
+ Cottage cheese, quark, yogurt/curd, kefir made from goat’s milk
+ Natural fruit and nuts, honey
+ Water, tea, decaffeinated coffee, herb teas, natural juices, vegetable milks (made from oat, soy, rice, almond, hazelnut, etc.)
+ Drink at least 2 liters of liquid a day while liver flushing.
+ Eat small quantities of food (150−200 g) every 4 hours, or 5 meals per day.
+ Eat slowly, chew well.
Snacks are essential mid-morning and in the late afternoon. They can consist of fruits, juices, fruit and nuts, yogurt, wholewheat biscuits, fresh cheese with sugar-free jam or honey, a mini-sandwich of wholewheat bread (with cottage cheese, mozzarella, tomato, avocado, and so on). These rules may seem tricky, but understanding how to detox your liver is all about knowing how to do it properly.
Natural Food Supplements
(take for 5 days continuously)
+ One liter of natural apple juice without sugar or preservatives (this can be bought in supermarkets or health food shops). Alternatively: 1 capsule (600g) malic acid a day, with breakfast.
+ Celery and lemon juice (300ml). Dice 3 large celery stalks (preferably organic). Liquidize with the squeezed juice of one lemon, and add 200ml of mineral water. Alternatively: 2 capsules celery root extract a day, with breakfast.
+ Epsom salts (powdered magnesium sulfate). Dilute 1 heaped tablespoonful in a glass of water (200ml). Drink in one go, after dinner. To disguise the bitter taste you can put a little honey or half a slice of lemon on your tongue before you take the Epsom salts.
+ Powdered pysllium seed husks (plantago ovata) (one heaped tablespoonful) or a single-dose sachet. Dilute in 250ml of water (or apple juice). Drink immediately after the Epsom salts or a bit later at night, before going to bed. Keep the intake of this fiber supplement separate from your nighttime medication (one hour before or after).
On Day 6, Do the Following:
7 A.M. On an empty stomach, take a heaped tablespoonful of Epsom salts diluted in a glass of water (200 ml) at room temperature. I recommend that you prepare this the night before. After this part of the liver flush, you can drink all the water you want.
7:30 A.M. Still on an empty stomach, mix 150ml of good-quality cold-pressed extravirgin olive oil with the squeezed juice of two lemons (or the juice of one grapefruit).
To mix it well put it in a jar with a lid and shake. Drink it straight away. To take away the taste of the oil in the mouth and throat, you can take sips of warm mint tea. Go back to bed immediately, lying on the right side and placing a warm blanket or pillow in the area of the liver. Sleep, or at least rest with your eyes closed, for 1−2 hours.
9:30 A.M. Still without eating, take a last tablespoonful of Epsom salts diluted in a glass of warm water (200ml).
10:30 A.M. You can now have breakfast (if you want). Continue with the vegetarian liver flushing diet described above.
After dinner in the evening, take a tablespoon of the same fiber that you have been taking the previous nights: powdered psyllium seed husks (plantago ovate) diluted in 250mg of water or apple juice. It is important that you keep taking this fiber supplement every night for a week after the liver flushing.
From day 7 on, you can eat a healthy, varied diet, as long as you care to eat high-quality foods and to respect your digestive system.
Within 2−3 days after the liver flush, it is highly recommended that you have a session of colonic hydrotherapy to eliminate any toxic and bile residues that remain in the walls of the intestine. It is also recommended that you take probiotics for a month after cleansing your liver and colon.
This article on how to detox and cleanse your liver is excerpted with permission from Digestive Intelligence: A Holistic Vision of Your Second Brain: The Liver and Gallbladder by Dr. Irina Matveikova.
About The Author
Dr. Irina Matveikova specializes in Endocrinology and Clinical Nutrition and is a certified expert in Eating Disorder Behaviors. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Matveikova undertook postgraduate professional studies (as well as studies in natural and holistic medications) in many different parts of the world, including France, the United States, Argentina, Spain, and the Czech Republic. As a result of her postgraduate experiences, Dr. Matveikova became a staunch believer in harmoniously combining natural and conventional medical approaches to health and is now at the forefront of this field. Visit her website: irinamatveikova.com