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The liver detox

It’s the same every year: People put their liver in overdrive over the holidays, then feel sluggish once it’s time to go back to work. If you had one too many wines over Christmas, it might be a good time to do a liver detox.

Woman drinking green tea

Our livers are pretty amazing. In fact, if our body was a car, the liver would be the engine: It keeps our hormones and energy in check and our digestion and circulation running smoothly. When we indulge in alcohol or not-so-healthy foods, our liver has to work extra hard to a) break the food down and b) undo the damage. Chances are, after the holidays your liver needs a good clean out. If you’re ready to look and feel clearer, lighter and healthier, do yourself a favour and go on a liver detox. Forget surviving on peppered water for two weeks straight; this cleanse is all about filling your body with the vitamins and nutrients it’s craving.

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Chug water

Besides herbal tea, water is the only thing you should be drinking on a liver cleanse. Aim for eight glasses, and instead of gulping it down (which actually slows down your digestion), sip constantly throughout the day. Water gets everything moving and works hard to clean out your system, so after a week of drinking the clear stuff, you’ll feel a difference. If you want to amp up your detox, add a sprig of mint or a squeeze of lemon or lime to your H20.

Brew a cuppa

Herbal tea is basically water with benefits, so have as many cups as you like. While ginger, fennel, peppermint and green tea are all great liver cleansers on their own, there are now a few brews on the market that are specifically designed to help the liver process toxins. These multi-taskers are made up of all the “right” herbs, and they are ready to go — it’s almost too easy. We like Dr Stuart’s detox tea, which contains dandelion, peppermint, spearmint and burdock, and T2’s detox loose-leaf tea, which mixes fennel, nettle, lemongrass and spearmint.

Go green

To really give your liver some love, load up on leafy green vegetables — and the darker they are, the better. Spinach, kale, watercress, parsley, basil and mint are superfoods when it comes to detoxing the liver; try tossing them into salads and smoothies. Cruciferous vegetables also deliver serious benefits — and nutrients — to your liver, so munch on a serve of broccoli or cabbage each day.

Up your vegie intake

While greens are the best vegetables you can eat for a liver detox, there are others that come a close second. Plus, you should be aiming for five serves of vegies a day, and let’s be honest, there is only so much kale one person can handle! To eliminate toxins and boost energy, eat tomatoes, artichokes, avocado, carrots, celery and beetroot. As a bonus, these vegies (especially carrot) help to regulate blood-sugar levels, which means you won’t be craving sugar when 3:30-itis kicks in.

Get fruity

Along with your five serves of vegies, it’s super important to have two pieces of fruit every day on a liver detox. Go for fruits that are full of antioxidants, such as berries and pomegranate, as well as ones that contain plenty of water, like watermelon. (That one should be easy to remember.) To really pack a liver-cleansing punch, choose citrus fruits like oranges, limes and lemons. Lemons are a powerhouse: They work to clean out not only the liver, but also the kidneys, digestive tract and lungs.

The extras

As with any detox, supplements will help speed up the process. On a two-week liver cleanse, take milk thistle or psyllium husk daily. These mixes contain antioxidants that help the liver return to tip-top condition (and repair the damage from one too many cocktails). In terms of food, other great liver cleansers include walnuts, pine nuts, onions, garlic and ginger. The last two are especially great: Garlic and ginger cleanse the blood, detox the digestive system and spring clean the liver and kidneys. It’s a win-win, really.

To make the most of your detox:

  • Get plenty of sleep — eight hours of shut-eye will make a world of difference.
  • Go to an infrared sauna — there’s nothing more invigorating than sweating out toxins at a sauna. Try to stay in the steam room for 20 minutes, or if you can’t handle the heat, jump in and out every few minutes.
  • Treat yourself to a massage — if you tell your therapist you’re on a detox, they may be able to give you a lymphatic massage (which stimulates the liver) or at the very least, concentrate on the area around your liver.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol — if you really can’t live without a hit of caffeine, have some dandelion tea; the taste is quite close to coffee, plus it’s a good antioxidant.
  • Stick to low-fat foods — one of the benefits of cleansing your liver is getting rid of all the toxic build-up in your system; eating fatty foods just defeats the purpose.
  • Don’t reach for Panadol — paracetemol and aspirin need to be broken down by the liver, so save it the extra work during your detox.

More about detoxing

Post-Christmas detox ideas for lazy people
Detox with these clever yoga poses
Detox: Quick juice recipes to keep you healthy

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