If you have acne, you most likely have a liver that is not functioning optimally. Fortunately, there are many simple and natural steps you can take to detox your liver and therefore your skin.
Back in college, I thought the main purpose of my liver was to filter and process all of the alcohol I was consuming… *sigh* While processing alcohol is an incredibly important job for your liver, your liver also has over 500 other functions. From producing cholesterol, to processing medications, to metabolizing and excreting hormones, your liver is always hard at work. To put it simply, your liver’s main job is to filter blood coming from your digestive tract before sending it off to the rest of your body. Your liver filters approximately 1.5-2 liters of blood per minute.
The liver is located underneath the diaphragm on the right side of the body. Nutrients are absorbed from your digestive system into blood and carried directly to the liver before being delivered to the rest of the body. This ensures any toxic material such as pesticides and chemicals are not transported to other organs.
Functions of the liver in the human body→
- Producing and excreting bile (a substance that is critical in the digestion of fats)
- Processing and excreting pharmaceutical drugs
- Excreting unneeded hormones (from birth control and hormones naturally produced by your body)
- Production of cholesterol (our bodies naturally make cholesterol-we don’t need it from food)
- Storage of glucose
- Resisting infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
- Converting ammonia (a harmful byproduct of protein metabolism) to urea which is then processed by your kidneys and excreted in urine
- And hundreds more
Your liver is incredibly important. Without a liver that functions effectively, the health of your entire body (and of course your skin), will suffer.
Unfortunately, in our modern world, it is almost impossible to avoid substances that burden our livers. The air is polluted, our water is contaminated, and our food is heavily sprayed with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. On top of that, if you take (or have taken) birth control pills, antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals, use toxic beauty and personal care products, use toxic household cleansers, and eat a highly processed diet, your liver is taking a beating day in and day out. There are thousands of chemicals circulating in the world, but only a handful have been tested for safety. These toxins would normally not be much of a problem for a healthy liver. However, poor diet, stress, lack of nutrients, poor sleep, and our hectic lifestyles all effect the health of the liver. Therefore, it’s critical to help detox your liver for clear skin.
The basics of liver detoxification:
There are two phases of liver detoxification.
In this phase, a group of enzymes known as the cytochrome P448 deactivate or modify toxins. These enzymes play a key role in the detoxification of exogenous toxins (such as drugs and pesticides) and endogenous ones (such as ammonia from protein metabolism). When toxin levels in the body get too high, overactivity of phase one liver detoxification can occur. This can lead to a dangerously high level of free radicals in the body. They are then metabolized by phase two detoxification to prevent cell damage. When too many dangerous substances are processed by phase one liver detoxification, the byproducts of metabolism overwhelm the body. Reducing exposure to and consumption of exogenous (originating from outside of the body) toxins can ensure your liver is able to effectively process toxic material. Put simply, phase 1 breaks down fat soluble toxins and requires B-complex vitamins and glutathione (your body’s master antioxidant) to function properly.
This phase combines the partially processed toxins from phase one with various substances to make them less harmful. These toxic intermediate compounds are turned into water soluble compounds when they bind to conjugates such as methyl groups, sulfur, glutathione, and amino acids. The toxic intermediates then enter the kidneys or pancreas and mix with urine or bile so they can be excreted from the body. Efficient phase two detox requires specific nutrients such as sulfur containing amino acids like glycine, glutamine, and choline. If phase two is less effective than phase one, the toxins processed by phase one remain in a dangerous state that cause harm to the body. Phase two requires antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to actually be effective. Put simply, phase 2 makes fat soluble toxins into water soluble so they can then be eliminated from the body.
Signs your liver is stagnant or sluggish
- Persistent acne, especially as an adult, and other skin conditions
- Constipation and overall poor digestion. Your liver produces bile and without it you will be unable to break down fats
- Hormonal imbalances such as estrogen dominance
- Painful, irregular periods, or absent periods
- Bad breath and foul body odor. This is your body eliminating toxins through the skin and sweat
- Deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
- Dark under eye circles
- Chronic fatigue
- Belly bloating and excessive gas
- Hair loss
Can you really detox your liver?
These days, the word detox gets a really bad rap. We often think of strict juice cleanses, water fasts, or other more extreme techniques to help our bodies detoxify. While your body does detoxify on it’s own every day, I do believe a gentle detox protocol is necessary to fully heal your skin and best support your liver. You don’t really “detox your liver” but you help your liver do the detoxification processes that is is already doing naturally. This does not mean you need to go on a formal juice cleanse, starve yourself, or drink gallons of olive oil to flush your liver (I’m not sure why people do this since too much fat burdens your liver). However, the point of a cleanse of any kind is to support your body’s natural ability to detox. Giving your digestive system a break (on a juice cleanse) frees up a LOT of energy for your body to use for detoxification. However, juice cleanses have their pit falls, and are certainly not necessary to heal your body.
To best support your liver, focus on ADDING in more healing foods, supportive supplements, and giving your body a break from chemical laden food and products. By doing so, your liver will be able to heal and detox the remaining waste that resides in your body.
As I mentioned previously, your liver naturally detoxifies your body every day. Because of this, many people believe that we don’t need to do anything additional. The problem is that we forget to take into account just how toxic our modern world is. Plus, the amount of chemicals we are putting into our bodies on a daily basis put an additional burden on our livers. Our bodies and livers unfortunately cannot keep up. This creates a build up of toxic waste matter in the body that contributes to or even causes many conditions and symptoms. Including, but not limited to, acne, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, Raynaud’s Syndrome, high cholesterol, irregular periods, yellowing of the eyes, and many more. Thankfully, when you detox your liver, you support your skin and the health of your entire body in the process.
The best herbs for the liver
- Burdock Root→ Burdock root has been used for centuries for its antioxidant levels and powerful blood, liver, and lymph cleansing properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it helps purify the blood and help the liver filter toxic waste out of the body. It is also a powerful lymph mover.
- Milk Thistle→ This is a potent detoxifying herb that helps support liver function and regeneration. One of the main ways this powerful herb supports your liver is by increasing the production of bile. Silymarin is the active component of milk thistle that is responsible for all of its amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antioxidant properties. Milk thistle helps regenerate old and damaged liver cells. Several studies support that milk thistle is hepatoprotective through several mechanisms.
- Dandelion Root→ Dandelion root increases liver function. While all parts of the dandelion plant have beneficial properties, the root is most notable for its able to support liver detoxification and digestive function.
- Parsley→ This bright green herb is an incredibly powerful liver detoxifier. Parlsey contains a rich array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, and chlorophyll. These key micronutrients support both phase one and phase two of liver detoxification. Studies show that parsley can reduce damage following heavy metal exposure.
- Amalaki→ While technically not an herb, this small fruit is rich in vitamin C, nitric-oxide producing compounds, and antioxidants. I like this powder that I add to smoothies every now and then. Studies have shown amalaki supports healthy liver cells by increasing natural production of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (source). Glutathione is your body’s “master antioxidant.” It is comprised of the amino acids glutamine, glycine, and cysteine and is crucial for liver health.
I personally take this liver formula which contains a blend of herbs, including several of the ones listed above. I take one dropperful twice daily, and have noticed a major difference in my skin, hair loss, and periods since taking this formula.
Other ways to support and detox your liver naturally
- Reduce consumption of refined, processed, and packaged foods. These put a burden on your entire body, but especially your liver. They often contain synthetic chemicals that your body doesn’t recognize and puts added stress on your liver, which means fewer resources to heal your skin!
- Decrease consumption of dairy products. All dairy products come from a cow who has just given birth. Milk, cheese, and butter are all loaded with hormones that help a baby calf grow into a roughly 2000 pow cow. These extra hormones and growth factors put an unneeded added stress onto the body and the liver.
- Substitute poor quality fats like dairy products and refined oils with high quality fats. These include avocados, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish like salmon, and sprouted nuts and seeds.
- Decrease consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- Increase consumption of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli sprouts. They contain a compound called sulforaphane helps support phase 2 liver detoxification (source).
- Consume more vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C plays an important role in protecting liver tissue from oxidative damage. Kiwis, citrus foods, red bell peppers, and strawberries are great sources. You can also take a supplement for an extra boost. I personally take this one to boost my immune system and support collagen product to help with acne and acne scars.
- Decrease stress and increase sleep. Stress utilizes a lot of the body’s resources and nutrients (especially magnesium and B vitamins) which makes it difficult for your liver to function. Quality sleep is necessary to support detoxification and help heal the body. Your body does most of its repairing, regenerating, and detoxifying while you are sleeping, so getting quality deep sleep is crucial.
- Consume more sulfur rich foods such as garlic and onion. Especially when consumed raw, these foods activate liver enzymes needed for detoxification.
- Start each day with a glass of water. Your body has worked hard all night while you sleep to detox and cleanse. Hydrating your body first thing ensures these toxins flush out and are get recirculated into your body. Adding fresh lemon juice is great as well.
- Consider swapping your conventional cleaning and beauty products with natural, non toxic ones. This is a great resource to help you determine what products are safe.
Does your liver affect your skin? Will detoxing make you break out?
Your skin is a direct reflection of what is happening internally. We can’t very easily take a peak inside of our bodies to see what’s happening. However, our skin does a pretty good job of letting us know when something isn’t working optimally. When you have acne, you have toxins and other waste matter coming through the skin because other elimination pathways are not working properly. Your liver and entire digestive system are the two most important organs/systems to repair when healing your skin naturally.
Sometimes, when you start you heal your liver and heal your gut, you will experience a worsening of symptoms. Don’t worry, this is only temporary and indicates your body is working to eliminate all of the toxic waste matter that has accumulated over the years. Make sure to move your body and break a sweat to help process all of the waste.
The good news is you can completely heal and take steps to support and detox your liver. It is the only organ in the body that is able to fully regenerate (that we know of). By following some of the steps listed above, you will be on the right path to healing your liver and ultimately your skin. Lastly, whenever you follow a detox or cleanse protocol, make sure you are sweating or moving your body every day. This allows your lymphatic system to remove waste from the body. Otherwise, it will remain stagnant in the lymph. Your body will then try to eliminate waste through the skin.
Do you need help healing your skin?
I know what it’s like to have acne. I understand the embarrassment and the desire to hide in your room so no one can see you. I’ve been there, but I promise there IS a solution to healing your acne and I would love to help you find it. If you are curious to know more or need extra help with your skin, you can schedule a consultation for health and skin coaching with me here!