Detoxification is the elimination of toxins from the body. This process involves the liver, kidneys, bowel, lungs and even our skin! The liver is a major organ of detoxification, taking fat soluble toxins and making them water soluble via two phases of enzymatic reactions.

The function of our detoxification/elimination organs is influenced by our diet. What we eat can burden the liver and cause bowel stagnation, especially if it is high in refined sugar, refined grains, preservatives and other artificial additives.

Our diet can also support the optimal function of our detoxification organs. A number of nutrient cofactors found in certain whole foods are required for our liver enzymes to function, which is why eating a nutrient-dense whole-food based diet is so important.

There are also certain foods that help to normalise bowel movements, aiding the removal of toxins. This blog post details 5 foods that you can include in your diet to support the liver, encourage healthy bowel function and the elimination of toxins.

1. Beetroot

Beetroot helps to activate liver enzymes and supports healthy gallbladder function, improving the production and flow of bile. Bile flow stimulates peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions) in the intestinal tract, which helps to normalise bowel movements and relieve constipation.

Beetroot contains betaine, which supports methylation – a process that is required for liver detoxification and healthy bile flow. It is also high in betalains, antioxidants that lower inflammation and oxidative stress, protecting the liver from damage.

Beetroot can be grated fresh into a raw salad, roasted with other root vegetables or freshly squeezed with ginger and lemon into a juice.

2. Turmeric

Sprinkle some into your curry or make yourself a spicy golden latte. This anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich spice has a special active ingredient called curcumin, which supports liver detoxification and protects the liver against damage from free radicals and toxins.

Since curcumin is fat-soluble, it is best to consume it alongside fat rich foods (e.g. coconut cream, coconut oil or ghee) to aid its absorption.

3. Cruciferous vegetables 

The cruciferous family of vegetables include broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collard greens. These vegetables contain sulphur containing compounds known as glucosinolates that aid liver detoxification.

Sulfurophane is a glucosinolate that directly supports both phase I and phase II liver detoxification. It is also a potent Nrf2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) inducer – a transcription factor activated in response to oxidative stress that promotes the expression of many antioxidant genes and those involved in detoxification.

DIM (Diindolylmethane) is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol, a glucosinolate found in cruciferous vegetables that upregulates detoxification enzymes.  These vegetables are also high in fibre, which supports the bowel to eliminate toxins and feeds beneficial gut bacteria for a healthy microbiome.

4. Flaxseed

Flaxseed has a good balance of soluble and insoluble fibre, helping to normalise bowel movements. The insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool, promoting bowel regularity which  removes waste containing harmful toxins processed by the liver.

The soluble fibre is what gives flaxseed its gel-like consistency when combined with water. This form of fibre is a prebiotic which feeds healthy bacteria in the gut. It also helps keep blood sugars stable and lowers blood cholesterol.

The best way to include flaxseed in your diet is to soak it whole overnight and add this to smoothies or other meals or sprinkle freshly ground flaxseed to salads, oats and other meals.

5. Lemon

We’ve all heard of kickstarting the day with lemon water, but did you know that lemon and other citrus fruits stimulate the liver, support detoxification and promote healthy bowel function?

The vitamin C and flavonoids in citrus are antioxidants that protect the liver from oxidative damage and pectin supports a healthy gut lining, reducing the burden on the liver.

Written by Shaz Andrew, Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist