The liver detoxifies in 2 stages. In the first stage, it attaches a vitamin or mineral to the toxin, then in the second it most commonly adds an amino acid1. This turns the toxin into something that is water soluble and so can now be excreted from the body in either the urine, faeces, or sweat. In order to be able to accomplish this we need a good supply of high quality protein in the diet which we break down well in the digestive system. Of course to do this we need a healthy stomach which produces a healthy amount of acid and pepsin.
Because the liver works so hard detoxifying, it needs a steady intake of protein. Eating a meal with little or no protein just makes life that much harder for the liver. So breakfast these days is usually cereal, oats, toast or nothing at all. The first bit of protein fed to the liver may happen at lunchtime – and this is usually a pretty paltry amount in a sandwich. So it is not uncommon that the only decent amount of protein to be eaten all day happens in the evening meal.
Related to this is going on a liver detoxification diet. A lot of detoxification diets restrict or even ban protein. So the liver can complete stage 1 but lacks the ingredients to complete stage 2, so as a result the person undergoing this regime is even more toxic than when they started out.
I well remember in my early days as a gym instructor, a lovely lady telling me proudly she was going to go on a liver detox diet in January. This she did – and boy, was she ill as a result. I also remember her telling me months later that she still felt awful. Very recently I was out with a friend for dinner and was telling her about writing this blog and she told me about a work colleague now called ‘Big Ed’. He went to a health farm a slim man and one year later had put on so much weight that he gained his name. The reason lying in the detox he did on the farm which left his liver more toxic than when he went.
It gets more complicated. Another trap many fall into is eating the same things too often. I have lost count of the number of clients who have come in for a consult and their main source of protein is chicken, salmon – farmed – and preserved pork – ham, chorizo etc. And that is it. If I’m lucky we may hit the occasional bit of mince. The problem with this restricted diet is that food sensitivities develop. So to go on a detox diet means avoiding these foods completely. And to be truly effective, it is necessary to avoid all foods regularly eaten.
In the mean whilst, give the liver a treat and eat a good amount of protein at every meal and also vary everything that is eaten as much as possible.
- amino acids are the component parts of proteins [↩]