Detox notebook: liver health

In the lead up to the Yoga Detox Getaway I will be hosting at Brookdale Health Hydro from 8 – 14 January, I am compiling a series of detox-themed posts. Following on from  the previous post on gut health, this is a discussion on how we can best support the detoxification capacity (primary function) of the liver.

Most of us go through stages in our lives where we place unsustainable pressure on our liver detoxification capacity. This can be a time of revelry and over-indulgence, but it could also be a time of stress and tension. When we push ourselves beyond fatigue, work crazy hours, or get into situations where we are dealing with any number of life crises, our liver tends to be in the firing-line, our first, and most precious wall for coping and defence.

If you don’t take measures to support your liver in times like these, you can continue functioning beyond it with a battered and beleaguered defence, which means a toxic feeling body. This toxicity can build and spread over time because the more toxicity there is, the less effective your liver is. This process can cause serious illness.

Here are some indicators that your liver is under stress/not able to function optimally:

  • Overheating in the body and excessive perspiration
  • Fetid body odour
  • Dark greyish spots on the skin and under the eyes and/or fatty yellowish lumps around the eyes
  • Excessive abdominal fat – front protruding or on hips (eg. the beer belly!)
  • Acid reflux and heartburn
  • Frequent bloating
  • White film on the top of the tongue
  • High blood pressure
  • Acne/roasecea on itchy and blotchy skin
  • Difficulty in sleeping/ irritation and restlessness at bedtime.

When your liver is considerably blocked or clogged, the liver cells become so swollen with unhealthy fat (hence the term ‘fatty liver’) that they cannot act as a filter to the substances being passed through it. Remember that the blood is ‘screened’ through the liver before being pumped back up to the heart. If your liver is not able to eliminate contamination, that toxicity is just going to be circulated throughout the body.

It is worth noting that if you are on chronic medication, you will need to take regular precautions to support your liver. Moreover, if you have been under anaesthetic or have had a sudden spurt of very heavy medication, you should definitely follow the guidelines to follow.

I consulted with my mother, who is a homeopath, and here are her sound suggestions for how to clean and support your liver:

  • Clean up your diet for 2 weeks: eat vegetarian whole foods, lots of raw vegetables and fruits, if you are cooking, make sure everything is freshly cooked (steam/bake/saute in cold-pressed seed oil) and simply flavoured. Limit: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy, canned/tinned foods, condiments and pre-bottled sauces; canned/sugary drinks; left-overs; fried and fatty foods.
  • Drink 3 litres of water a day – try to filter and purify your water as much as possible!
  • Dandelion tea 3x per day: Dandelion is rich in vitamins and its leaves act as enzymes which stimulate the function of the liver and kidneys. It also increases cell metabolism which improves the detox function of the liver. It helps to dissolve cholesterol and gallstones and is a natural diuretic.
  • Milk thistle : take as a tea or in a tincture. In sever cases, you can get it in tablet form. Milk thistle contains a group of chemicals called silymarin which stimulate the synthesis of protein in liver cells and actively assist liver regeneration.
  • Globe artichoke: Like milk thistle it belongs to the daisy family. It contains cynaropicirin which has properties that stimulate the production of bile. The fruit and leaves of the fresh plants promote the regeneration of the liver and blood circulation.
  • Sesame seeds (whole in salads/on fruit) or in oil, drizzled raw over your food: Sesame seeds contain a protein with eight essential amino acids and vitamins of the B complex which are important for cell oxygenation and therefore have a favourable influence on the liver cells.
  • Burdock, red clover and rhubarb: All have blood cleansing properties. These are tea options, and/or use the rhubarb in cooking whole if in season.
  • Raw carrot, beetroot and beetroot leaves, celery: All give strong support to liver cells and are great in raw juices. I eat raw grated beetroot and carrot daily – a gift of health that keeps giving!
  • Tumeric (powder or fresh root – use in cooking and/or, on a daily basis, pop into some fresh lemon  and hot water with a teaspoon of honey): Tumeric acts as a cleanser and blood detoxifier itself and it stimulates the blood metabolism.
  • Organic epsom salts: this is a powerful liver flush – not for the faint-hearted! Have a balanced hearty meal and then no food for 3/4 hours. Then take 7tsp of organic epsom salts in a little hot water and let it dissolve. Add water at room temperature to fill a glass and drink it down. It tastes yuck. Make sure you drink plenty of purified water. You will go to the toilet a lot. Rest and don’t eat for 4/5 hours. Then have a light meal of vegetable soup/broth and go to bed early. You’ll feel amazingly cleansed the next day!

In terms of yoga postures to assist liver detox, here is a simple series of postures to follow. This is safe for people of all fitness levels to attempt:


Supported Bridge pose. Lift one leg alternately, hold for 5 deep breaths for each leg and then 5 breaths with both feet on the floor.


Sitting forward bend. Use a cushion/bolster under your belly too if you need. Hold for 10 deep breaths.


Plough. Use folded towels/cushions or even a chair behind you to place your feet on if they don’t reach the floor without you bending your knees. Hold for 10 breaths. Support your lower back with your hands if you need support under the feet.


Standing forward bend. Feet hip width apart. Place your hands on blocks and push down on them as you lift your hips upwards and push your knees backwards. Relax your neck. Hold for 10 breaths.


Sphinx pose. Push your hips into the floor and reach up through the crown of your head. Engage the bum and look towards the end of your nose. Hold for 10 deep breaths.


Sage twist. Place your hand on a block behind your back if you can’t reach it around to grab the opposite inner thigh. Gently resist hips evenly into mat. Hold for 5 breaths on each side – flip your legs around to face the opposite side when you change over.


Supported camel pose. Use an ottoman or low table with cushions on top. make sure to have an extra cushion for under the head. Push your hips forward. Hold for 10 breaths.


Supported reclining hero pose. Place a yoga block under your head and a big cushion or yoga bolster under your back. Use rolled up towels behind the back of/underneath your knees if you need too. Try to lengthen the rhythm of your breath, making the exhalations twice as long as the inhalations. Hold for 10 -20 breaths. (if you can’t bend your knees like this, then bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees loosely fall open with yoga blocks under each knee.)


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