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Do You Need to Detox Your Liver?
Updated on January 31, 2024
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Do You Need to Detox Your Liver?

Thanks to social media and influencers, tons of people are trying out liver cleanse fads.

However, health enthusiasts and medical professionals constantly debate about whether trendy liver cleanses are really necessary. 

Your liver is key to cleansing the rest of your body, so many are speculating it needs cleansing of its own because of the function it carries out.

“The liver is the most important organ for the metabolism of various medications, food, and toxins. It performs this function efficiently even without the aid of medications or supplements,” says our resident expert and medical practitioner, Dr. Rizza Mira.

Many healthcare workers say that a liver flush is wholly unnecessary, especially if:

  • Your liver is already efficiently detoxifying the body (as there’s limited scientific evidence that proves that detoxes are helpful in the long run)
  • Your lifestyle already consists of a healthy diet, exercise, and avoiding excess alcohol consumption

Liver cleanses have become synonymous with milk thistle or turmeric cure-alls rampant on Tiktok. Many of these influencer-backed teas and unregulated supplements are often not FDA-approved nor scientifically proven to help flush out toxins any better.1

The liver naturally detoxifies the body and cleanses itself in the process as long as it’s healthy. So are liver cleanses necessary? According to many professionals, not necessarily—at least, not the trendy ones flooding social media nowadays.

“Keeping the liver healthy is paramount to its function. Once it starts to attain damage, this can become irreversible and may rapidly progress,” says Dr. Mira.

If anything, keeping the liver in good condition is key. After a night of drinks, you may want to take some steps to “detox” in a way, but not via the extreme methods a lot of celebrities are vouching for.

Prioritizing liver health can be done simply with methods and ingredients you likely already have at home.

How to Detox Your Liver Safely and Effectively

You don’t need to turn to potentially dangerous liver detox teas and supplements for a healthy liver.

Lifestyle changes can already optimize liver health and provide you with overall health benefits and improved liver function.

With more severe cases of liver disease or damage, consult your doctor.

Otherwise, you can follow these easy, actionable steps:5

  • Avoid alcohol consumption, even casually or socially
  • Avoid overindulging (alcohol or sugary foods)
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and continue to flush out toxins from the blood
  • Eat a well-balanced diet full of leafy vegetables
  • Keep your body moving with exercise
  • Find out if you’re at risk of any liver disease (an accurate DNA test should help you figure that out)

How Can I Make My Liver Healthy Again?

If your liver has already suffered significant damage or is going through liver disease (like fatty liver, damaged liver, etc.), you need to talk to your doctor about what you need to do.

Otherwise, a healthy lifestyle with minimal indulgence will help the liver recover.

Your doctor will likely advise against liver cleanse fads and tell you to focus on better day-to-day choices. Medications also help to slow more progressive damage.

Can the Liver Repair Itself?

The liver naturally cleanses itself alongside the rest of the body. Toxins can build up in the liver, however, especially when you overindulge in alcohol or any substances that can be poisonous to the body in excess.

When your liver is overwhelmed by toxins, it can’t filter the blood and cleanse the body properly, leading to vulnerability to different illnesses beyond just liver disease.

With time and positive lifestyle changes, however, the liver can repair itself with little to no external assistance.

Similar to skin, the liver has self-healing properties. If any liver cells die, the liver produces scar tissue to regenerate the cells.

The liver’s regenerative ability is unique but not infallible if you continue to take potentially dangerous substances. Liver health can be controlled with better everyday choices.

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What is a Liver Detox?

Liver detoxification is being promoted as a means to make the liver more efficient at filtering out toxins and waste in the body. A liver detox is meant to cleanse the liver of any substances that weren’t flushed out. 

The liver's primary function is to eliminate harmful substances from the body. But some unlicensed health enthusiasts are claiming that, in order to optimize liver function, it needs to be “detoxed” every now and then (especially after over-indulging).

Like all big health changes, like diets or taking supplements, you should consult your healthcare professional before going on a liver detox. They will likely recommend a more balanced diet, added hydration, and minimal alcohol rather than these extreme methods for a healthy liver.

A dedicated liver cleanse is hardly a necessity.

“Due to the limited studies supporting its use, liver detox must be regulated for some ingredients that may pose more harm than good,” says Dr. Mira.

Advertised liver detoxes can be done via:

  • Fasting
  • Herbs
  • Supplements
  • Specific diets or food deprivation
  • Organic juices
  • Laxatives
  • Milk thistle or turmeric concoctions

While some of these methods may not cause harm immediately, sustained consumption of supplements or unregulated herbs like milk thistle can be detrimental. Very high doses of herbal medications can actually impair the detoxifying function of the liver.

Liver disease or damage won’t be curbed by these trendy solutions, medical intervention is necessary for healthy liver function.

Are Liver Detoxes Safe?

Many healthcare professionals express concerns over advertised liver cleanses because of the harm they can potentially cause. Supplements, herbs, and laxatives that have not been proven effective can potentially do more harm than good and negatively impact liver function.

Many doctors consider liver cleanses a “quick fix” that could be detrimental to your health in the long run.2 While some of these detoxes may provide short-term benefits, there is no encompassing guarantee that they are safe or effective.

A healthy liver can be maintained with good exercise, diet, and minimizing alcohol and tobacco use.

If your liver needs extra care, it may be better to consult a doctor and get medical intervention rather than putting it through a liver cleanse.

Signs Your Liver May Be Damaged

Your liver might not need a detox like the ones often advertised, but you should pay attention to it if you see any of these signs or notice any impacted liver function:3

  • Yellowed eyes or skin (jaundice)
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Constantly itchy skin
  • Dark, pungent urine
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Constant nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bruising or bleeding easily

These symptoms indicate liver disease or even liver damage, which needs to be taken seriously. They also differ depending on the stage of liver disease. Talk to a healthcare professional to get a better understanding of what could be causing you pain.

Do not resort to any unregulated and unapproved liver cleanse before talking to your doctor.

Your doctor will give you instructions on how to adjust your diet and lifestyle to better care for your liver. If not, they’ll schedule medical intervention for urgent cases.

How Long Does It Take Your Liver to Detox from Alcohol?

It’s hard to provide a straightforward, achievable number because liver healing depends heavily on how frequently you consume alcohol, your diet, and your lifestyle. It varies from person to person.

However, partial healing will start after abstaining from alcohol for a few weeks. After that, depending on the damage already done to your liver, it may take longer.

Liver disease, like fatty liver disease, is something else altogether. Your body may take even longer to recover from any serious illness. Even more so if you’ve already damaged the liver with overindulgence in the past. 

“More serious conditions brought about by excessive alcohol intake include liver cirrhosis or liver cancer,” says Dr. Mira.

A liver cleanse may exacerbate any damage already done.

Top Foods for Liver Detoxification

While there’s no specific superfood that will specifically supercharge just your liver, a good balance of nutrient-rich foods are your best bet. 

A well-balanced diet and sufficient water intake are essential for liver health and are scientifically proven, unlike a liver cleanse.

Here are some of the best foods for any liver disease or liver damage:4

  • Leafy, cruciferous vegetables
  • Coffee and tea (regular and without too much sugar)
  • Healthy proteins, like fish and chicken
  • Tofu, nuts, and peas
  • Olive oil
  • Oatmeal and oats
  • Berries

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Updated on January 31, 2024
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5 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. What to Know Before Trying a Liver Detox.” UW Medicine.
  2. Can You Liven Up Your Liver with a Detox?” Hawaii Pacific Health.
  3. Liver Problems - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic.
  4. 8 Healthy Foods for Your Liver.” Cleveland Clinic.
  5. Detoxing Your Liver.” Hopkins.
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Content Contributor
Angela is a full-time digital content manager and editor for Know Your DNA. She also contributes freelance articles to several local and international websites when she has the time. She's always been a voracious believer in finding the truth and ensuring the science is sound.
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