I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently on how to have more energy. Your energy level is a clear indication that your body is either working efficiently and harmoniously or that it’s experiencing hiccups that slow everything down, compromising your hormonal health, your digestive functions, and your ability to handle stress. When your liver is not optimally functional, you start to feel it: your energy decreases and your muscles fatigue.
Creating energy with food is like building a house. Not only do you need fuel, but you’ve got to have the right materials and tools, right? And nothing can be missing, or you’re in trouble. Neglect a beam or a few nails? Yikes. Our bodies need the same level of care and attention to detail as the house we’re building. We’ve got to have the fuel and all the right materials and tools—nutritious food, special nutrients to address unique needs, good eating habits, healthy digestion, and avoidance of food irritants and toxins.
Having maximum energy levels requires several things to work optimally. Let’s start with liver health.
Understand Your Liver
The liver is a filter. The liver processes every substance that enters the body including food, drugs, and chemicals. You’ll never see me write about some fad detox gimmick– because there are no shortcuts. To get lasting results, and ultimately support your body’s natural detoxification organs like the skin, liver, and kidneys, you need to make lifestyle changes you can maintain forever. (Not just for 30 days!) We can’t always avoid exposure to toxins but you can reduce your toxin exposure and help your liver do its job of getting rid of toxins. Our bodies are exposed to toxins on a daily basis. These toxins come from many environmental sources including pollution, toxic ingredients in household cleaning products, beauty products, and processed foods. The liver is our main detox organ. It is in charge of making toxins less dangerous through biochemical processing inside liver cells.
The science: There are two steps to the liver’s daily task – Phase 1 and Phase 2. A toxin enters Phase 1 in the liver and is reduced to smaller metabolites, which then move onto Phase 2, where they are bound to glutathione, glycine, and sulfate. This new now non-toxic metabolite can be excreted in the bile, urine, or stool.
Food-based nutrients have been and continue to be investigated for their role in the modulation of metabolic pathways involved in detoxification processes. Over the past decade, there has been an investigation into nutrigenomic and epigenetic influences of food constituents on chronic diseases, Similarly, studies have revealed that exposure to and accumulation of toxins play a significant role in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Thus, one’s dietary intake and environmental influences may have a large bearing on the incidence of chronic disease. In fact, these influences may be significant not just for the individual, but for several generations due to the transgenerational inheritance of epigenetic changes. Amazing right?
So knowing our bodies are programmed to eliminate toxins through complex metabolic pathways the question is: how do we optimize our body’s everyday functions? The truth is that detoxifying your body does not have to mean following unsustainable juice cleanses.
Research shows that a whole-foods diet free of processed fare may be your best bet for a successful cleanse In general, the nature of these findings indicates that specific foods may upregulate or favorably balance metabolic pathways to assist with toxin biotransformation and subsequent elimination.
Practical tips on how to love up your liver and will help improve your liver’s ability to detoxify your body:
Reduce alcohol Out of all the toxins that the liver is busy processing, alcohol moves to the front of the toxin line, no matter what. By reducing alcohol consumption to a minimum, you free up your liver to focus on other toxins.
Drink Water Any activity that keeps water-soluble compounds moving through the body helps the liver remove toxins, and there is no better way to achieve this than drinking plenty of clean, filtered water daily. Shoot for half your body weight in ounces each day to stay well-hydrated.
Choose organic when possible The first step is to rid your diet of the obvious toxins from pesticides found in fruits and vegetables as well as hormones and antibiotics found in meat. If you are able, choose non-GMO foods, organic fruits and veggies, and hormone-free meat.
Eat your broccoli Certain vegetables help with liver detoxification, like the cruciferous family of vegetables that include broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.1 Crucifers contain sulforaphane, which helps to improve detoxification pathways.
(see more on this below). The same receptor on cells that environmental toxins use for their negative effects is also used by cruciferous vegetables. That means when you eat more of them, you crowd out the bad environmental toxins and strengthen your mitochondria. Mitochondria is basically the energy powerhouse of our cells. For an extra boost of liver support, eat more broccoli sprouts. Research on nutritional interventions has shown them to be especially powerful.
Boost your glutathione Glutathione is the queen of detoxifiers in the body. It protects cells by cleaning up excess free radicals, the enemy agents with unpaired electrons that damage DNA, cell membranes, and proteins. Protect your cells from damage by raising your body’s internal glutathione with these three tips:
Eat more cruciferous vegetables discussed above to help improve glutathione levels. Add allium vegetables (onions, garlic, leeks) to your daily meals. Alliums are another class of vegetables that help you make more glutathione. Alliums also contain prebiotics, an indigestible fiber that provides critical support for your gut microbiome and digestive health.
Drink more green tea Green tea has been shown to induce glutathione production and help liver enzymes involved in detoxification.
Detox with yoga Exercising mildly and moderately, with calm breathing helps glutathione levels.
Lemon juice Although lemon juice gets a lot of play, it’s not magic. There have been studies with results that showed that lemon juice might be a potential dietary supplement for the prevention and treatment of liver injury. So, why not add a squeeze to some of your filtered water?
Soak in An Epsom-Salts Bath Although there is little direct research on the effectiveness of Epsom-salts baths for detoxification, the salts’ main ingredients, magnesium, and sulfate are both reputed to support detox processes, drawing toxins from the body. Plus, the stress-relieving benefits of a relaxing bath are hard to overestimate.
Exercise To move toxins out of your body, move your body! Sweat removes potentially harmful molecules through the pores, and studies report that some toxins, like heavy metals, are even more concentrated in sweat than in blood or urine.
Take 1,000 to 1,500 mg daily of N-acetyl L-cysteine, which is a direct glutathione precursor.
300 to 600 mg daily Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This antioxidant may be extra beneficial to the liver, in part because it increases glutathione levels.
Milk thistle: The active compounds in milk thistle are collectively called silymarin. Research shows that silymarin provides powerful antioxidant protection to the liver by inhibiting free–radical production during the metabolism of alcohol and acetaminophen, among other substances.
P.S. Non-Alcoholic Hepatic Steatosis (or fatty liver disease) is a condition in which your body stores fat in the liver and causes it to enlarge, which is much more common than you might think. Fatty liver disease can be caused by a bad diet and is more common in people who have obesity and diabetes, but it also occurs in lean people. To determine if you have fatty liver disease, have your physician run a liver function test. A liver enzyme level (called ALT) higher than 19 in women or 30 in men indicates a fatty liver, even though this is within the normal reference range.