By Ann Louise Gittleman PhD, CNS, Experience Life
After more than two decades working as a nutritionist specializing in weight loss and detoxification, I am still completely in awe of the liver. As far as I’m concerned, this amazing organ, nestled away in the right side of the abdomen, has more than earned its name, which derives from an Old English word for “life.”
Your liver is your largest internal organ, and it’s responsible for an astonishing variety of life-sustaining and health-promoting tasks — including those that make healthy weight loss and weight management possible. Integral to countless metabolic processes, the liver supports the digestive system, controls blood sugar and regulates fat storage. It stores and mobilizes energy, and produces more proteins than any other organ in the body.
One of your liver’s most important functions, though — and the one most crucial to your weight loss — is chemically breaking down everything that enters your body, from the healthiest bite of organic food to the poisonous pesticides that may linger on your salad; from the purest filtered water to a glass of wine; from your daily vitamin supplement to your blood pressure medication.
It’s your liver’s job to distinguish between the nutrients you need to absorb and the dangerous or unnecessary substances that must be filtered out of your bloodstream. But when the liver is clogged and overwhelmed with toxins, it can’t do a very effective job of processing nutrients and fats. The upshot: The more toxic your body becomes, the more difficulty you’ll have losing weight and keeping it off.
The Low-Carb Diet Problem
Ironically, many of the low-carb diets that people adopt only make matters worse. By encouraging us to eat a lot of meat (much of which is laden with toxins) and discouraging us from eating enough fiber-rich, water-dense fruits and vegetables, such diets can slow elimination. By loading us up with so many proteins that our stomachs can’t produce enough acid to digest them all, these diets also can inhibit proper digestion, overloading our livers and intestines with a stream of nasty, internally produced poisons such as indican, ammonia, cadaverine and histide.
Fortunately, the liver, in its infinite wisdom, produces bile, a crucial substance for detoxifying our bodies. Bile lubricates our intestines and works with fiber to prevent constipation. Bile is also where the liver dumps all the drugs, heavy metals, xenoestrogens, excess sex hormones from birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, medications, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and other toxins, so they can eventually be eliminated from the body.
One of bile’s other main duties is to help our bodies break down the fats we need and to assimilate fat-soluble vitamins. Without bile, we couldn’t convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, nor could we use calcium. But when our bile becomes overly congested with the toxins it’s trying to filter out, it simply can’t function properly. It becomes thick, viscous and highly inefficient in breaking down fats. The result: You are more likely to gain weight and to have greater difficulty losing it.
Cleansing the liver helps it produce better, more efficient bile. That helps your body flush toxins and break down fat more effectively. It also makes more energy-giving nutrients available to your body and reduces strain on your digestive and immune systems. Your elimination improves, and your colon is relieved of unnecessary burdens. The net effect: You look and feel better, and it becomes far easier for you to achieve and maintain your ideal weight.
The Fast Track: A Three-Stage Process
Ready to give your liver a healthy boost — and give your entire system a thorough cleaning? Challenge yourself to complete the three parts of the Fast Track Detox plan. The three parts include a seven-day preparation, a one-day juice fast, and a three day-sequel. All parts are described in great detail in my book, The Fast Track Detox Diet (Broadway, 2006). Below you will find part one of the detox diet; Care2 members, stay tuned for the second half of the diet plan, coming next week.
Next: The Fast Track Detox Plan: Part One
Part One: Seven-Day Prequel
Before you begin the detoxifying one-day juice fast, it’s essential that you prepare your body by strengthening your liver and colon for the work ahead. If you don’t do this, you might end up more bloated, constipated and more “toxic” than you were before. You may also inadvertently put the brakes on desired weight loss.
Fasting can be dangerous if it’s not done properly. Why? Fasting releases toxins that were previously lodged in your fat cells and shuttles them into your bloodstream for filtration and transport through your body’s elimination channels. But without prior liver and colon support to help these toxins clear from your system, the poisons may simply get relocated within the body, settling into any number of sensitive organs and making you feel tired, anxious, headachy and more fatigued than when you started.
1. Each day, for seven days, choose at least one serving from each group of the following liver-loving foods:
- Crucifers, such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccoli sprouts
- Green, leafy vegetables and herbs, like parsley, kale, watercress, chard, cilantro, beet greens, collards, escarole, dandelion greens and mustard greens
- Citrus, like oranges, lemons and limes (avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice, which contain a compound called naringen that can interfere with the liver-cleansing process)
- Sulfur-rich foods, like garlic, onions, eggs and daikon radish
- Liver healers, such as artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery, dandelion-root tea, whey and nutritional yeast flakes
2. Each day, choose at least two of the following colon-caring foods: powdered psyllium husks, milled or ground flaxseeds, carrots, apples, pears, or berries.
3. Each day, drink half your body weight in ounces of filtered or purified water.
4. Each day, make sure you have at least two servings (the size of the palm of your hand) of protein in the form of lean beef, lamb, skinless chicken, turkey or fish, or, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, at least 2 tablespoons a day of a high-quality blue-green algae or a spirulina source (available in natural foods and health stores).
5. Each day, make sure you have 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the form of olive oil or flaxseed oil.
6. Avoid the following “detox detractors”:
- Excess dietary fats, especially trans fats and fried foods
- Any form of sugar, including honey and maple syrup
- Artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, including white rice and products made from white flour Gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley and all their related products, such as packaged cereals, macaroni and cheese, pizza dough, pasta, tortillas, pancake or waffle mixes, and cookies.
- Gluten also appears in many “low-carb” products, vegetable proteins, some soy sauces and distilled vinegars
- Soy protein isolates, found in many protein energy bars and processed soy foods
- Alcohol, over-the-counter drugs and caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, etc.)
Stay tuned for next week’s Fast Track Liver Detox, which includes the latter portion of this detox plan.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is the award-winning author of more than 30 books, including The New York Times bestsellers Before the Change: Taking Charge of Your Perimenopause (Harper San Francisco, 1999) and The Fat Flush Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2002). This article was adapted with permission from The Fast Track Detox Diet (Broadway, 2006). More at www.annlouise.com.
Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelifemag.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter.