The foods you eat (and drink) each day impact your liver's health. Do our quiz to see if you have signs and symptoms your liver needs a detox ...
How does a Liver Detox Work?
Your liver is the second largest organ in the body (after the skin) and it performs a range of important body functions which can greatly affect the appearance of your skin and general sense of wellbeing.
Your liver filters more than 1 ½ litres (approximately 3 pints) of blood per minute and receives a dual blood supply: one containing freshly oxygenated blood from the heart, and the other supplying blood from the stomach and intestines, rich with newly absorbed nutrients from your diet, as well as toxins, microbes, drugs and hormones.
Your liver plays a vital role in detoxifying these substances so the blood remains healthy and it assists with supplying the body with nutrients for beautiful skin.
Research shows that fatty liver conditions – usually common in alcoholics where your liver accumulates fat and enlarges – can occur in eczema patients.
According to research by Dr Kimata from the Department of Pediatrics and Allergy at the Ujitakeda Hospital in Kyoto (Japan), 17 to 33% of non-obese children with eczema also have fatty liver. This result is significantly high compared to 3.2% of non-atopic children, 3.7% of hay fever sufferers and 5% of asthma sufferers who have fatty liver.
Dr Kimata’s research showed that atopic eczema is also associated with fat malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies and eating trans fats, all of which can affect liver health.
Top 12 signs your liver needs a detox
Do you have any of the following symptoms? If you have 3 or more signs, it’s time for a Detox…
- Itchy skin or eczema, skin rashes, psoriasis, hives, rosaces or dermatitis
- Allergies, hay fever, dark circles under your eyes
- Intolerance to greasy foods
- Bad breath and/or white coated tongue
- Cravings for sugar, alcohol or carbs
- Abdominal bloating, constipation, foul smelling stools and/or mucus in stools
- Intolerance to wheat, salicylates, chemicals or sulphites
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) – fatigue/energy crashes or sleepiness after eating
- Yellow in the whites of eyes (see a doctor for a liver test)
- Pain in the right side under rib cage (see a doctor for a check up)
- Water retention (oedema)
- Depression, moodiness or fluctuating moods
Detox medical facts
When a medical drug is prescribed to a patient, what happens to that drug once it enters the body? Over the centuries, the study of detoxification has been undertaken by scientists to help answer this question. It was back in the 1700s that scientists first hypothesised that after a toxin was consumed it was transformed into a water-soluble substance and removed from the body via the urine.
And in 1842, in a detoxification experiment, Keller proved this theory.
In 1947, in Detoxification Mechanisms, R.T. Williams defined for the first time the two separate phases of detoxification.
Today the scientific research on liver detoxification of toxins is an essential part of drug safety testing done by pharmaceutical companies to reduce the risk of people overdosing while taking prescription drugs.
This research on liver detoxification can also help you to have healthy skin and is particularly helpful when for people with eczema.
Phase 1 liver Detox
(and why it can make your skin worse)
Food and chemical sensitivities can indicate that your Phase 1 and/or Phase 2 detoxification pathways are imbalanced. Most drugs and food chemicals are processed through a Phase 1 reaction involving cytochrome P450 enzymes. Their role is to make toxic substances water-soluble so they can be further processed during Phase 2 of liver detoxification.
Williams found that in some cases during Phase 1 liver detoxification, chemicals could become more toxic than the original substances (he thought the term detoxification could be misleading in these instances).
The findings were of great importance because before this time therapeutic agents (such as pharmaceutical drugs) were being prescribed without doctors being aware of the metabolic fate of the drug once a patient had swallowed it.
Malfunctioning Phase 1 or Phase 2 liver detoxification reactions have been implicated in adverse reactions to drugs.
Phase 1 can greatly increase free radical production, which can damage DNA and cause genetic mutations if your diet is not rich in antioxidants. When Phase 1 detoxification is high you can experience a worsening of symptoms and you may feel lethargic, and it is around this time that antihistamine drugs are often prescribed.
How anti-histamines block detoxification
Antihistamine medications can make you temporarily feel better as they can mask the symptoms, but there is a catch: antihistamine medications temporarily block Phase 1 liver detoxification. This is not ideal as blocking liver detoxification reactions creates an increased workload for your kidneys and your skin as both are left with the task of chemical waste elimination – which is ideally the liver’s job.
While antihistamine drugs can be useful in emergencies (such as a severe eczema flare up suffered by a child), there are natural alternatives to antihistamine drugs which can be used on a daily basis.
Vitamin C and vitamin B6 are natural antihistamines but they must be taken in gentle doses if you have eczema as they are both acidic nutrients. For this reason, the buffered form of vitamin C is advised, such as magnesium ascorbate.
Drugs that hamper Phase 1 detoxification
(and what that means to your health)
Phase 1 detoxification is reduced by antihistamine drugs, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs), ketoconazole (an anti-fungal drug), fluconazole (Diflucan®, an anti-fungal drug), erythromycin (an antibiotic), acid blockers (anti-ulcer medications), grapefruit (it contains a compound called naringenin which reduces cytochrome P450 activity) and the liver-protective herb St Mary’s thistle (yes, it blocks liver detoxification, phase 1).
While short-term blockage of Phase 1 can be useful to temporarily relieve symptoms, long-term use of these substances can be problematic as reduced liver detoxification function can burden the kidneys. I suggest you keep taking your prescribed medications and speak with your doctor if you are concerned (kidney function tests can be performed).
Phase 2 liver detoxification
(and why it can prevent chemical sensitivity)
Instead of blocking Phase 1 detoxification, there is a much healthier solution: boost Phase 2 detoxification.
In Phase 2, a toxin that has been partly processed in Phase 1, joins with a substance, such as an amino acid, so it can be safely removed via the urine or bile. Preservatives, salicylates, MSG, toxic heavy metals, histamines, amines and other chemicals, both natural and artificial, are also processed during Phase 2 liver detoxification. Drinking the low-salicylate and alkalising juices in The Eczema Diet are a gentle way to improve Phase 2 liver detoxification. Read more about salicylates here.
The following questionnaire highlights symptoms that can indicate your liver detoxification function needs dietary support. This questionnaire is suitable for adults and children. If you have a baby with eczema, you can use this questionnaire to assess maternal diet (the diet of the mother during pregnancy and/or the diet of both parents before conception).
Liver Detox Questionnaire from The Eczema Diet
Analysis of the Liver Detox Questionnaire
If you have fewer than two symptoms, then your liver is probably in pretty good condition. If you answered yes to three or more questions, or if you suffer from eczema or other skin rashes including rosacea and psoriasis, then a low-salicylate, alkalising cleanse is recommended (if you have eczema or psoriasis, refer to The Eczema Diet). If you don't have eczema or skin rashes, refer to The Healthy Skin Diet. Liver detoxification function tests are also available via prescription if you live in Australia. If you would like more information about testing, email us via our Contact page here.
This is an edited extract from The Eczema Diet (Exisle Publishing).