Top 21 liver healing foods

Our liver is extremely important for all bodily functions and health.

A few important reasons why we want our liver in top-notch condition is because the liver aids in the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to T3, stores glycogen, detoxes toxins, regulates blood sugar, and much more.

If we have poor liver function, we could experience low thyroid symptoms, fat gain, low energy, low libido, erectile issues, inflammatory conditions, digestive issues, etc.

That’s why it’s so important to look after our liver.

I’m going to discuss with you some of the best foods that will be greatly beneficial to the liver.

#1 Turmeric

Turmeric is a great well rounded herb when it comes to the liver. It decreases fat accumulation in the liver (by lowering fat synthesis and speeding up fat oxidation), lowers excess iron (excess iron promotes inflammation and fat synthesis), reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, activates NRF2 and helps with restoring gut integrity, which helps to reduce endotoxin and other toxin absorption.

Research shows that as little as 400-1000mg daily is enough for great benefits (R). That is easily achieved by throwing some turmeric over your food.

#2 Orange juice

In dysfunction liver conditions such as fatty liver and other liver diseases, glucose oxidation in dysfunction. Instead of being used to create ATP and CO2, glucose is wasted to lactate, which is energetically ineffective.

Elevated lactate increases the alkalinity of the cell and this increases water uptake in the cell. Cell swelling allows more calcium to enter which excites the cell. If the cell isn’t able to “relax”, fibrosis and calcification can take place.

After glucose is broken down to pyruvate by glycolysis it can either enter the mitochondria and be converted to acetyl-coenzyme A by pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) or be converted to lactate by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH).

PDH uses vitamin B1 as a cofactor, so eating more vitamin B1 rich foods can help with proper glucose oxidation. Orange juice, macadamia nuts and pork are great sources of vitamin B1.

However, PDH is inhibiting by pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK), which is activated by fatty acids. PDK is highly increased in NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) mice and human patients, which could aggravate hepatic steatosis.

So to inhibit PDK and promote PDH, you’ll have to block lipolysis and/or inhibit fatty acid oxidation. You can inhibit lipolysis with aspirin and other anti-inflammatory foods/herbs and inhibit fatty acid oxidation with meldonium or Pyrucet. This will greatly speed up glucose oxidation and restore liver function.

#3 Beef

Red meat, especially organ meat, is a great source of vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 is used to create NAD, which is essential for energy and hormone production.

Animal research shows that mice with reduced NAD+ have moderate NAFLD phenotypes, including lipid accumulation, enhanced oxidative stress, triggered inflammation and impaired insulin sensitivity in the liver.

Putting the animals on a high-fat diet caused even faster deterioration of the liver. Oral administration of a natural NAD+ precursor (they used nicotinamide riboside in the study), completely corrected these NAFLD phenotypes induced by NAD+ deficiency alone or by a high-fat diet (R).

Niacinamide is also able to inhibit the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1, which coverts cortisone, the inactive precursor, to cortisol, the active hormone.

Excess cortisol is also implicated in the development of liver dysfunction.

Additionally, the NAD:NADH ratio can be enhanced with methylene blue and quinones that I’ll discuss below.

#4 Pau’d arco

Pau’d arco is the bark of the Lapachol tea. It’s used to make tea and was used as part of the Gerson method against cancer.

Pau’d arco contains the quinone beta-lapachone, which has powerful cell restorative properties.

Cellular function is compromised in fatty liver and other liver dysfunctions, so aiding cellular function can help lower oxidative stress, inflammation, fat accumulation and fibrosis.

Lapachone can slow excess glycoglysis (the process where glucose is wasted to lactate instead of used to create CO2) and support the electron transport chain to create ATP and CO2.

Lapachone can help to lower oxidative stress and inflammation and increase the NAD to NADH ratio.

A few other compounds that can help assist the electron transport chain to create ATP and CO2 include vitamin C, vitamin K2 (found in butter, milk fat, liver and various dried fruit), methylene blue, PQQ (found in kiwi), ubiquinone (CoQ10) (found in high amounts in the heart, liver and kidney and to a lesser extent in muscle meat) and succinic acid (found in broccoli, rhubarb, sugar beets, fresh meat extracts, various cheeses, and sauerkraut).

#5 Butter

The overconsumption of polyunsaturated fats accumulates in the liver where it disrupts normal cellular function, reducing the energy potential of the cell. PUFAs are highly reactive to heavy metals, endotoxins, free radicals, etc., and they create very toxic metabolites when damages. PUFAs react with heavy metals such as iron to create lipofuscin. Lipofuscin, or the age spot, wastes oxygen and lowers ATP and CO2 production.

Luckily, this can be reversed by eating lots of saturated fat. Saturated fat displaces PUFAs from the “cell membranes” and enhances cellular function, lowers oxidative stress and inflammation, makes the liver more resilient against endotoxins and improves liver function (R, R, R).

I quote from this study:

Dietary saturated fat also decreased liver triglyceride, PUFA, and total FFA concentrations (P < 0.05). Increases in dietary saturated fat increased liver membrane resistance to oxidative stress.

All you have to do to achieve this is to eliminate high PUFA foods and eat only high saturated fat foods instead, such as butter, cream, coconut oil, MCT oil, cocoa butter, nutmeg butter, beef, lamb and buffalo fat.

A specific lipoprotein, called cardiolipin, is very important for normal cellular function. It stabilizes the complexes in the electron transport chain. If the fats in the cardiolipin becomes oxidized, then the cardiolipin cannot stabilize the complex anymore and ATP production reduces, oxidative stress increases and the cell will most likely “die”.

Research have shown that feeding animal fully hydrogenate peanut oil (which consists only of saturated fat) completely restores normal cardiolipin content and significantly improves cellular function.

Now I’m not saying to eat all the high saturated fat you can lay your eyes on, but pick saturated fat rich sources for preparing or flavoring your food. If you eat too much fat (in a surplus), regardless if it’s saturated on not, you’ll most likely gain weight.

#6 Cocoa butter

Oxidative stress, induced by endotoxins, polyunsaturated fats, heavy metals, etc, induces cell breakdown (fission). Excess fission can lead to an accumulation of smaller mitochondria which is less effective than larger mitochondria. This overwhelms autophagy and can lead to liver dysfunction.

To combat this, we can simply eat more saturated fat (as it’s protective against oxidative stress) and promote fusion. Fusion is where two mitochondria fuse together to great a bigger more functional mitochondria. Stearic acid is a promoter of fusion. Cocoa butter is one of the richest sources of stearic acid closely followed by beef and buffalo fat.

Just 30g of cocoa butter can give you 10g of stearic acid. As an alternative, you can also apply the cocoa butter on your skin and that will also absorb and have a beneficial effect in the body.

#7 Oysters & mussels

As mentioned a few times, oxidative stress is greatly involved in the progression of fatty liver to worse conditions such as liver steatosis and cirrhosis.

Anti-oxidant enzymes in the cells, namely superoxide dismute, catalase and glutathione peroxidase can protect the cell against free radicals, such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, peroxynitrite, lipid peroxides, nitrogen radicals, etc.

These enzymes use the minerals zinc, copper, iron, selenium and manganese. Getting enough of these in your diet will help these enzymes do their job properly.

#8 Cranberry juice

Bacterial overgrowth, gut dysbiosis and leaky gut is becoming more and more a concern as of late.

Gut bacteria produce endotoxins which are then absorbed in large amounts due to leaky gut. These endotoxins flood the liver and the rest of the body to produce lots of inflammation.

Endotoxins are greatly involved in the development of fatty liver as well as the progression of liver disease.

Cranberry juice, as well as orange juice, exerts anti-endotoxin effects and lowers gut inflammation and subsequent gut serotonin (RRR).

To kill excess gut bacteria, activated charcoal with coconut oil, desiccated coconut, and essential oils, such as oregano, cinnamon, clove, thyme, etc., can be very helpful.

#9 Mushrooms

Mushrooms have potent anti-microbial properties and is a great source of fiber than can bind to bile and other toxins and help with their excretion.

In this study, higher mushroom intake was significantly associated with a lower prevalence of NAFLD among Chinese adults (R). 

Also, a higher intake of insoluble (and not soluble) dietary fiber is associated with a lower prevalence of newly-diagnosed NAFLD in men (R). 

#10 Kiwi fruit

Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is a quinone than can help to support mitochondrial function and lower oxidative stress by accepting free radicals and by activating NRF2. NRF2 upregulates antioxidant defense mechanisms and protects the cells against further oxidative damage.

#11 Eggs

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is classified as the accumulation of fats in the liver.

Choline and amino acids aid in the transport of fat out of the liver preventing their accumulation. Choline can either be ingested through food or created in the body using amino acids, such as methionine.

Liver phosphatidylcholine is used to build the monolayers of VLDL, and its deficiency increases de novo lipogenesis (R).

People on a higher protein diet have a lower chance of developing fatty liver, by lowering lipolysis and lipogenesis as well as increasing lipid transport out of the liver (R).

Just 4 egg yolks would give you your recommended daily amount of choline.

#12 Coffee

Coffee is not only great for general health, but also for the liver. Research shows that people who drink at least 3-5 cups or more of coffee daily have a lower prevalence of fatty liver (R).

Coffee contains polyphenols similar in structure to silymarin (found in milk thistle) which can increase the production of antioxidant proteins. Coffee helps to lower oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and protect against steatohepatitis. Moreover, the polyphenols in coffee have antifibrotic effects in the liver.

#13 Green tea

The component in green tea, EGCG, can help to reduce liver inflammation and liver fat accumulation (R). You might have to drink a fair amount of tea for this, because about 500mg green tea extract daily is needed for this effect.

#14 Garlic

Garlic is a common ingredient in many dishes and it smells and tastes delicious (but maybe not for everyone). Garlic can help to protect the liver by preventing fat accumulation, lowering oxidative stress and inflammation and protecting against fibrosis (R). Garlic also has potent anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic properties.

Frequent consumption of raw garlic is inversely associated with NAFLD in Chinese men (R).

#15 Rosemary

Ursolic and carnosic acid are two liver protective compounds found in rosemary (R). Ursolic acid prevents fat accumulation in the liver whereas carnosic acid reduces free radical formation, inflammation and cell death. These two work together to enhance the function and survivability of the liver cells.

#16 Ginger

Ginger, another common dirt cheap herb, can help to prevent fat accumulation in the liver and lower oxidative stress and inflammation. Ginger has unique gut protective properties since it’s an antagonist to the 5-HT3 receptor. People with sensitive guts (visceral hypersensitivity, which is a hallmark characteristic of irritable bowel syndrome) can greatly benefit from 5-HT3 antagonists. Ginger can thus help to reduce gut inflammation, endotoxins and serotonin as well, which helps to protect the liver.

Just 2g powder daily is enough for it’s great benefits (R).

#17 Cocoa powder

Cocoa is another great anti-inflammatory food. It’s got mainly saturated fat, has a good amino acid profile, is rich in polyphenols and can be a potent food against liver dysfunction (R). Just 15g or 3tbsp daily should give you sufficient benefits.

#18 Cinnamon

 Cinnamon is commonly used to improve insulin sensitivity and it has liver healing benefits as well. This study found that 1500 mg of cinnamon supplementation for 12 weeks was able to reduce AST, ALT, and insulin resistance compared to the placebo group.

#19 Pomegranate

Pomegranates lower inflammation and improve cellular function, which helps to prevent NAFLD and other liver disorders (R). Fruits, in general, are highly beneficial for the liver and health. Fruits such as goji berry, sweet cherry (R), dragon fruit (R), pineapple (R), kiwi, mango, olive, papaya, red date, tangerine (R), banana, cherry, fig, lemon, pomegranate, watermelon, berries, grapes, etc (RR)..

#20 Artichoke

Artichoke has a high content of the phenolic compound chlorogenic acid which has potent liver-protective benefits (R, R).

#21 Camel milk 

Camel milk has great liver healing benefits. In animals, intake of camels milk for eight weeks decreased liver fat accumulation and inflammatory cellular infiltration, preserved liver function, increased the GSH levels and CAT (catalase) activity, decreased the MDA (malondialdehyde) levels, and ameliorated the changes in the lipid profile, AI (atherogenic index), and IR (insulin resistance)(R).

Camels milk is also a great source of calcium, which has many benefit for the liver.

This study compared multiple groups of rats fed different amounts of calcium. Rats fed on high calcium plus vitamin D diets, especially the very high calcium diet, demonstrated lower fat stores, serum liver enzymes, liver fat accumulation and steatosis. The low calcium diet also decreased liver fat content, but the highest calcium intake had the best results (R).

In this human observation study, higher yogurt (also a great source of calcium) consumption was inversely associated with the prevalence of newly diagnosed NAFLD (R).

You might think, what about magnesium. Shouldn’t the calcium be balanced with magnesium? This study found that magnesium intake may only be related to reduced odds of fatty liver disease and prediabetes in those whose calcium intake was less than 1200 mg per day (R).

If you’re consuming a minimum of 400mg of magnesium daily and your thyroid function is good, then additional supplemental magnesium might not offer much additional benefits (this is person specific of course).

As always, thanks so much for reading my article. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions. And if you found this article to be insightful and helpful please like and share so this information can help others as well.

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