by Ruth Ann Clayton, RD

On the right side of your body just behind your rib cage sits the largest and possibly the most complex internal organ in your body.  This approximately 3 pound organ is your liver.  Did you realize what you eat and drink can actually help or hurt this vital organ?

Your liver is responsible for some 500 plus bodily functions.  Everything you eat, drink, or swallow passes through it.  Without it, digestion and metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats would not occur.  Among its vast duties the liver regulates cholesterol production and the storage and release of sugar for energy.  It helps produce proteins and enzymes for hormone balance, blood proteins, and blood clotting factors and immune factors.  Bile essential to digest fat and remove waste material from your body is made by it.  Storage for fat soluble vitamins and some minerals is provided by it.

Utmost included in a job description for your liver would be the task of detoxification of toxins from your body. Without the liver to clear infectious organisms, alcohol, drugs, heavy metals, air pollution, pesticides, chemicals, and smoke along with other toxins your body will suffer.  To summarize: The liver keeps the good in the body and eliminates the bad and harmful.

With the vital importance of the liver established you can easily see why protecting and maintaining a healthy liver is an effort worth embracing.  Anything that seriously interrupts your liver from doing its job could lead to disease, poor quality of life, weight gain, heart issues and digestive problems.

Before discussing what supports a healthy liver let’s review how lifestyle can exact a toll on your liver.

Alcohol is directly toxic to liver cells thus should be limited or used moderately. Alcohol overuse can limit the liver’s ability to perform its regular job and lead to inflammation.  Also detrimental to liver health are fried foods containing hydrogenated oils and trans fats. The liver has limits as to how much bad fats it can handle.  High fructose corn syrup and white sugars, often combined with bad fats, can lead to an increase in body fat accumulation creating another problem for your liver.  And, of course, tobacco is a toxin to it.  Your liver is under attack when these dietary issues are combined with environmental toxins, drugs, pesticides, food additives and hormones.

What can you do to protect your liver and help it perform its vital tasks?  Support it with healthy foods.  Important to the liver detoxification are glutathione (“gloota-thigh-own”) and glutathione boosting sulfur containing foods.  These would include garlic, beets, onions, carrots, raw tomatoes, walnuts, and avocadoes.  Sulfur containing cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprout, bok choy, collards and kale assist enzymes crucial to liver detoxification.

Other liver supportive foods are leafy greens including spinach, leafy lettuce, arugula, dandelions, mustard green and other plants high in toxin removing chlorophyll.  High antioxidant containing foods including green tea, blueberries, strawberries and grapefruit are also beneficial.  Drinking fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice may help to stimulate bile flow.

Eliminating processed foods and increasing organic fruits and vegetables supplies the high vitamin and mineral needs of the liver and protective antioxidants.  Eating organic can lessen the burden of chemicals from agriculture.  In addition their fiber will assist in the removal of toxins filtered by the liver out via the digestive tract.

Spices and herbs found to be liver supportive include the well tested milk thistle (silymarian), bile stimulating turmeric and dandelion.

Your liver is daily overworked and possibly under appreciated. To keep the liver healthy and happy, supply it with a steady supply of the protective nutrients it needs to function at the top of its game. Your liver will reward you for the effort.


Ruth Ann Clayton is the Registered Dietitian at Nature’s Way.  Reach her  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Ruth Ann Clayton, Registered Dietitian, is active in both the American Dietetics Association and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. Her nationally accredited Dietetic Internship and her years of experience in public health and hospital settings reflect her commitment to your health and well being.

As the co-owner of Nature’s Way, she uses her comprehensive background to research products, read labels, investigate manufacturers and provide information for her customers.