I recently had one of those "oh my God, I'll never drink again" mornings. (My resolve lasted about a day.) And then I started thinking, like, if I rinsed out my liver with some herbal potion, would I be cleansed enough to down a few with no problem?
I could be kidding myself. Ya think? What's the best way to take care of your liver?
The bickering over whether internal scrubbing really works will probably go on forever.
Suffice to say, if it sounds stupid, it probably is. And, of course, if it sounds healthy, it isn't necessarily.
What the experts say
"Liver health is not always linked to alcohol intake. The most common cause of liver disease is fatty liver.
It often occurs with obesity and is preventable with lifestyle changes and eating a healthy, low-fat, high-fibre diet. A naturopath will
prescribe detoxification programs once or twice a year. Your liver gets a vacation when you limit certain foods - junk food, wheat, dairy, red meat - and drink lots of water. Your naturopath can give you specific formulas to stimulate the liver and eliminate more toxins. It's like changing the oil in your car. The liver is the only organ capable of regenerating itself."
SARA CELIK, naturopath, Toronto
"Being overweight is bad for your liver. So is alcohol. What people might not know is that marijuana stimulates something that forms scar tissue in the liver. Milk thistle is very well studied. In general, people agree it's very safe and makes your blood test look better, though some things that make your blood test look better will kill you, whereas coffee reduces the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer by about 50 per cent. In a 10-year study of 100,000 people, coffee drinkers' cancer rates were less than half of green tea drinkers. [As for a cleanse], it doesn't make any sense physiologically. The liver isn't something that gets clogged unless you have a genetic disease."
DAVID WONG, hepatologist, Toronto
"When you say ‘liver' in traditional Chinese medicine, what you actually refer to is a series of activities or processes in the body. Some of those functions might not match the modern medical functions. The emotion associated with the liver is anger. When people get angry easily, we call that ‘liver fire.' If people are more passive, liver pathology will manifest as depression. Liver governs the free flow of blood and energy in the body. Although there's an emotion for each organ, the liver as a whole affects them all. The liver also relates to connective tissue - tendons, sinews - so one way to relieve liver stress or stagnation is exercise. The liver is very susceptible to heat and is known as the ‘irritable organ.' Sometimes spicy food can be an irritant."
JESSE LOWN, Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto
"If you want to do a fall liver cleanse to support overall liver function, you can make a really nice tea with a combination of burdock root, dandelion root, milk thistle seed, celandine leaf and liquorice root. Use equal parts of all the herbs, and a nice heaped teaspoon of the blend for one cup of boiled water steeped for five minutes. Three or four cups per day is a good dosage."
CELINA AINSWORTH, herbalist, Toronto