The liver may just be our most under-appreciated organ. It is commonly known as the star of detoxification, but what about its role in metabolism, digestion, nutrient storage, protein synthesis, immune function, hormone regulation and blood filtration? Protecting, supporting and regenerating your liver can positively impact your health in holistic ways as it works behind the scenes to achieve homeostasis in your body.

Because the liver has such an integral and widespread role in our bodies, it is also vulnerable to damage from a wide variety of sources. The most well-known toxin causing damage to the liver is alcohol, however, all medications, environmental toxins and household chemicals must also pass through the liver for processing and can cause damage in the process.

Additionally, the liver is responsible for proper fat metabolism – the synthesis, breakdown and transport of fat. “Fatty liver” is the result of an imbalance between fat uptake and metabolism. This imbalance is actually more often due to an excess of refined carbohydrates and/or sugars in the diet, which your liver converts into fat for storage.

The best way to monitor liver function is by testing your liver enzymes through routine blood work, which can alert you and your doctor to injury even before specific symptoms arise. Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), upper right abdominal pain, swelling and fluid retention, dark urine, pale stools and itchy skin can be signs of more severe damage and should be communicated to your doctor right away.

The good news is that the liver has the remarkable capability to regenerate damaged tissue. The first step is to identify and remove offending substances. We will never be able to completely avoid exposure to toxins, but we can always be more mindful and limit damage to this vital organ. Using the Environmental Working Group’s databases ( and apps can help you to identify your top toxic exposures. 

Diet plays a crucial role as well; limiting refined carbohydrates and sugar puts less strain on your liver and all of your other organs. Beneficial foods include organic leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and berries. 

Detoxification is a complicated process involving multiple biochemical reactions which all need to be powered by cofactors from micronutrients in our foods – think B-vitamins and minerals like magnesium. 

It may also be necessary to supplement vitamins, minerals or herbs to assist a particularly burdened liver. Antioxidants such as glutathione, NAC, vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium have been studied for their ability to support liver function and protect against damage. The herb milk thistle and its active compound silymarin also possess powerful protective qualities. Since the liver processes medications as well, if you are taking supplements, make sure you share the list with your doctor to avoid potential drug/herb interactions. 

An essential portion of any liver promoting protocol is ensuring the “pathways of elimination” are clear so that waste products can leave the body rather than getting recycled and continuing to burden the liver. These include daily bowel movements, adequate hydration and urination and moving lymph through exercise, deep breathing and sweating.

Everyone can benefit from giving their liver a little extra love! 

Dr. Delaney Quick is a primary care naturopathic doctor at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. The clinic offers B vitamin injections, IV nutrients (in house and mobile services), and functional lab testing for a personalized health plan. For more information, call (760) 771.5970 or visit

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