ask the doctor: loving your liver (cleanse series: part 1)

At some point in our lives, we should all do a liver cleanse. The liver is an absolutely fascinating organ. It can regenerate itself! And the fact that it’s the only organ that has this capability tells you that the body must think it’s pretty crucial. The liver is your body’s garbage can – it takes everything we ingest that is floating in our blood and breaks it down, detoxifies it, thereby cleansing our blood. Like any garbage can, though, it needs to be emptied. A cleanse is a great way to give your liver a break, to allow it to catch up with all the garbage backlog and allow it to heal itself. It also allows your body to clear out all the toxic bi-products of foods you may be sensitive to.

I am currently doing a liver cleanse with my husband {and by default, his 15 year old brother who lives with us}. I am going to blog about my experience, how I’m feeling, what I’m doing, some tips I have learned over time, and how I’m coping. Please note: this is only what I am doing. It is by no means what I am recommending you do. This is not even what is 100% correct liver cleanse looks like, but it is what I have come up with, tailored to my family and what will work for our lives. Which leads me to my first point:


(A liver cleanse is an incredibly labor intensive process)

– We were sure to eat up all the non-liver-cleanse-friendly foods in our house before starting. This is key, this way your greatest temptation to stray will be nipped in the bud.

– We are eliminating wheat and wheat-containing grains, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol for 4-6 wks {depending on how we feel!}. If your diet is generally free and clear of these vices, your liver is probably happy as a clam. Maybe incorporating some liver-loving foods {listed below} might be the extent of your liver cleanse. Tailor, tailor, tailor!

– Every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack needs to be planned out and grocery shopping done accordingly. There are some great books published on how/what to eat when doing a liver cleanse, I am using a Delicious Detox by Carol Morley.

– Everyone involved in the cleanse needs to fully understand what is on- and off-limits, because you cannot be with them at all times and monitor what goes in their mouths!

– An entire day or two needs to be spent cooking everything that can be cooked in advance. This saves scrambling from day to day. For instance, I spent last Sunday cooking enough quinoa muffins for breakfast for the three of us for the week, one batch with raspberries and walnuts, one batch with almond butter and 70% cocoa dark chocolate chips. Also made cinnamon raisin brown rice and flax seed loaf, chicken vegetable soup with rice noodles, and chicken chili full of great beans and legumes.

– Any loose leaf tea being used is helpful to have herbs mixed already or even steeped and left in the fridge! So it’s easy to just add hot water.

– Wean off the caffeine! I made the mistake of not doing this one, and I have been plagued with a vicious headache for the last two days. Yerba Matte tea is a great replacement, as well as lightly steeped green tea. *TIP: steep the same bag twice, steep once, dump it out, steep again, drink. That second cup has all the great antioxidants we are looking for in green tea, and less of the caffeine.


(This is difficult, I will not pretend otherwise!!)

– We had planned on doing a liver cleanse since mid summer, but things kept coming up: birthdays, Thanksgiving, friends visiting, trips home to Nova Scotia. It is important to be sensitive to your social calendar, pick a time when you’re in a social lull or create one deliberately. This will decrease the temptation to drink, stay out late, eat junky food (or even non-junky restaurant food which is not normally liver-detox friendly), etc.

Your body naturally detoxifies during the change of season spring mostly, but also autumn. Working with this natural detoxification is the best bet.

– Liver cleanses can be demanding on your life and on your body. Being kind to yourself while detoxifying is a great way to make sure you make it to the end. We are ensuring lots of great rest, light exercise, clean diet, lots of filtered water, and sauna-ing at our gym to detoxify by all means possible! Sweating, deep breathing, regular good-quality bowel movements and lots of clear-colored urine all those organs of elimination we talked about earlier!

– Another great way to stay on the wagon especially if you feel like you may have a hard time is by being telling other people. Spread the word. If people know you’re doing a cleanse, they are less likely to try to lure you away from it, and more likely to ask you about it, thereby keeping you accountable.


– Garlic & onions from the same family (allium sativa and allium cepa, respectively), these two foods are great for the liver. Their sulfur content help the liver detox.

– Cruciferous vegetables i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts. These also have compounds that benefit the liver, but don’t overdo it – they’re good for the liver, but too much is bad for the thyroid. Just find a balance.

– Lemons: A cup of hot lemon water every morning is like a big good-morning hug for your liver. That squeeze helps the liver cleanse what was built up overnite, and initiate the digestive process {bile production, bowel movement}.

– Beets: a great liver food because it is a blood cleanser all its own, thereby taking some of the load off the liver.

– Artichokes: very potent liver-loving food. Helps increase bile production, therefore bowel movement, therefore toxin excretion.

– Dandelion tea: this pesky lawn weed as a medicinal herb has a great affinity for the liver; another supportive thing you can do for your lovely little liver.

– Castor oil: NOT AS A FOOD!! This is toxic if ingested orally. However, rubbed on topically over/under your right ribcage is incredibly detoxifying for the liver. I like to leave it on while I’m asleep, but be sure to wear an old t-shirt – it stains!

To conclude my first of a series of posts about this cleanse, I would like to say as always!  Refer you to your family ND to help guide and support you and your family throughout your own liver cleanse if this is something you may be interested in.

It feels great to do something fantastic for your body! :) In health and happiness!

Dr. Corinne

Have a question for Dr. Corinne? Send her an email at and your question will be answered here. These suggestions are not intended to provide diagnosis or substitute a private consultation with your healthcare practitioner.

About Dr. Corinne, Health & Wellness Editor

Naturopathic Doctor, Corinne Brown BSc, ND, established her Naturopathic practice, Brownroots Wellness, in May of 2011. Her practice focuses on women’s health, weight loss, chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. Corinne also focuses her practice on pre-and-post natal health, fertility, and offers Naturopathic Perinatal Classes. She is very passionate about pregnancy and birth, and is also a trained Birth & Labor Doula. Dr. Corinne is the Natural Mommie Health & Wellness Editor who posts a Q&A series of natural health and wellness topics as well as healthy living tips for women, moms and moms to be.

9 thoughts on “ask the doctor: loving your liver (cleanse series: part 1)

  1. I’d LOVE it if you could share your recipe for those quinoa muffins! :) We’re currently on a very strict diet (sounds somewhat like this liver cleanse diet), and that sounds like something we would enjoy eating!

    1. I want it too! The only one that sounds yummy that I found is Martha Stewart’s but it’s loaded with sugar.

  2. Yes, recipes pretty please!! Can they be posted on the facebook page too in case we forget to check back here?

    If you’re staying away from dairy, what sources (other than soy, meat and beans/rice) would you use as a protein? I’m assuming quinoa is enough?

    Also, by nature I’m a carbivore and love pasta, bread and crackers. How do I avoid wheat and still find something crunchy to munch on that’s ‘bread-like’ without going to wheat products?



  3. Also, is kefir considered a ‘real’ dairy? I know its gentler on the digestive system..

  4. Hi,

    My doctor says my liver feels enlarged but my enzymes are in normal range. Is it safe to do a herbal liver cleanse?

  5. Hi,
    To be honest, i would say that your method is not very efficient. First of all, caffeine is essential but the mode of delivery or induction into the body would be different as it would be serving a different purpose. Another thing is your diet. Can you be sure that youre not introducing any toxic ingredients/preservatives/nitrites etc etc ? Is it all 100% organic? It would be better to consume as much raw food as possible. You need to up your vegetables and be careful with the high sugar levels of some fruits. Sugar impedes the cleansing process. You might want to up your potassium levels and bring down sodium. Adding burdock, and milk thistle would also be clever. By helping your liver, you would balance out any existing hormonal issues that you might not even be aware of. Cinnamon is also really important, so is cardamom, turmeric, ashwaghanda, ginseng, and ginkgo for micro circulation. Anything that helps the adrenal glands would be great too as they regulate the action of around 50 hormones so you might want to reset your autonomic nervous system in addition to your SNS. You do realize that the wifi, electricity that surrounds us, and many other factors influence our nervous system. Avoid deodrants or roll ons bc the aluminum isnt going to do you much good. Use lemon or lime slices to rub under your arm pits. Organic deodrants dont do it for many. Lemon however, does. Anyway theres a lot more i can say but this should suffice. Remember spices have more antioxidant power than food will ever have. Oh and by the way, castor oil isnt as bad as you make it out to be granted its cold pressed and medicinal. Castor oil created via extraction is another issue as it is used for industrial reasons.

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