8 Simple Steps to Detox the Liver

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link.  If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission.  The commission is paid by third parties, not by you.  I only recommend products that I genuinely love.  Thank you for your support! 

My Healing Journey

At the height of my health challenges this past year, I was suffering from a debilitating case of insomnia and its evil counterpart, anxiety, which negatively impacted pretty much every area of my life. I just had stopped breastfeeding my daughter (for two years) and I just knew deep down something was majorly wrong. My hair was falling out in chunks, I had night sweats, I had lots about 15 lbs, lost my appetite, I had acne all over my face and I would go for 4-5 days in a row without being able to sleep for one single hour.


But despite my ridiculous symptoms, no doctor seemed to be able to help me or point me in the right direction.  I took every drug known to man (natural and pharmaceutical) to help me sleep and went to just about every type of doctor you could imagine that might be able to help me get a restful nights sleep to no avail.  No doctor was giving me the answers I needed.  I felt hopeless.  I was a tired, frustrated zombie.  The longer I went without sleep, the more my anxiety would rise and it became a viscous downward cycle.  I became depressed and angry about everyone’s lack of answers about why the heck I couldn’t sleep. 

It wasn’t until I stopped playing the role of the victim and started to take charge over my health and healing and regain control over my thoughts that things began to change for the better.

In the end, though no doctor was able to be my saving grace and no drug proved to be my fix-all, by the Lords’ goodness, I managed to make it out of my pit of despair (what I lovingly call it now to my kids) and talk to all of you on the other side of this about how the heck I managed to get out of the awful mess that is insomnia

The insane amount of tests, pricks and physicians appointments I underwent during that time finally gave me some useful information to go off of  - I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (a  sluggishnish of the thryoid gland, which is especially common during the post partum period), and a possible autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid gland. 

Knowing what I know now, insomnia occurs for a physiological reason.  Toxicity, hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, stress and thyroid dysfunction are all common culprits and they all feed off of one another.  Since the thryoid gland is the master regulator of the hormones in the body, it was no wonder I was having night sweats and excessive hair loss (a common sign of hormonal imbalances).  I also tested high in some heavy metals, which raised a red flag that my body needed to detox.

It was not by chance that I was handed Kelly Brogan’s gift of a book, A Mind of Your Own, right in the middle of some of my most desperate hours.  Kelly Brogan is a clinical psychiatrist who treats women suffering from insomnia, depression and anxiety strictly through diet, optimizing thyroid function, addressing adrenal fatigue, fixing the gut and naturally balancing the hormones.  Her protocol for healthy sleep and hormones involves detoxification, diet and nourishing the hormones, adrenals and thyroid.

In her book, I learned how gut health affects the function of the thyroid.  And the adrenals affect the function of the thyroids production of and balance of hormones.  I learned how a toxic liver can be a precursor to poor gut health, poor thyroid function and wacky hormones.  It finally all made sense to me.

I hoped and prayed that the protocol in her book would be the answer to all my prayers.  With her help, I sort of became my own doctor and began addressing each issue one by one.  I decided to start her protocol religiously as a last ditch effort (through a grain free, dairy free diet and supplements to heal the gut while nourishing the thryoid gland and adrenals) for 30 days, no looking back. 

And finally, after not sleeping for over 8 months, I began to sleep through the night on day 4 of her protocol and began my slow journey into feeling like myself again.  My hair slowly started to grow, I started gaining weight again, my skin started clearing up and I felt clarity and calm in my mind in the first time in forever.

I won’t lie that prayer and a whole lot of faith, in combination with a ton of internal work I had to do on learning how to control my thoughts to combat my anxious mind, played a huge role in this entire healing process.

So as I look back on my year of healing, I want to firstly emphasize the mental and spiritual aspect of all of this.  That before I could actually heal, I had to firstly believe that I could heal and stop partnering with this fearful mindset of thinking I couldn’t ever get better.  The mind is a powerful place.  And if we partner with fear and panic over physical symptoms for too long, we can become overwhelmed by them and lose faith in the beautiful design of our bodies, that knows instinctively how to heal itself in the right environment.

I decided to partner with peace and healing and this was a crucial step to my healing journey.

When I realized I needed I needed to detox

After months of reading and researching gut health, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue and thyroid related disorders, I became to quickly realize that the first thing I needed to address is the state of my liver.  After living on this earth for 33 years, as toxic as our environment and our food and water systems are, it was more than time to start getting rid of my congested liver, in order to properly heal all the other areas.

Gut infections and parasites within the gut can often hide within toxic environments both in the gut and in the liver.  A toxic or congested liver is not only a pre-curser to developing all sorts of cancers and hormonal imbalances but it also can manifest in symptoms of anger, anxiety, depression, etc.

I was also surprised to learn how an overburdened liver can manifest in leaky gut syndrome, which can negatively impact thyroid health and lead to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

So in part 1 of this series, I will talk about how I detoxed my liver, and in the follow up articles, I’ll write more specifically about adrenal fatigue, gut healing, thyroid health and hormone balancing.

Signs of a Sluggish Liver

To begin, lets just take a look at a few common symptoms of an overburdened or sluggish liver:

  • Acne

  • Disrupted sleep patterns

  • Exhaustion or chronically tired

  • Brain fog or inability to focus

  • Inability to handle stimulants or depressants like alcohol or caffeine

  • Emotional outbursts

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Allergies or an inability to handle toxins in the environment (cleaning supplies or perfumes)

Tips to do an effective and safe liver cleanse:

If you’re serious about detoxing your liver, I recommend you stick with a detox plan for anywhere from 2-4 weeks.  Personally,  I followed these steps for 4 weeks and felt convinced I needed to continue, so I did it a second time again for another two weeks. Feel free to follow it for less or more time, depending on your individual needs and always consult a physician before starting any regimen.

The first thing I want to point out about starting a safe and effective liver cleanse is to be careful and to go SLOW.  Find a holistic practitioner who understands liver detoxification (this can be hard to do, since most western medical doctors like to pretend the body’s organs are all on their own islands and don’t work together synergistically and many don’t even recognize the gut-brain connection.)

Detoxifying your liver can actually be dangerous if your organs start to purge and release these stored toxins too fast and without the proper toxin binders (like chlorella or activated charcoal.)  Forceful detoxification methods may lead to potentially serious consequences.  There is something called a herxheimer reaction, or a detox reaction, which happens naturally during any detox but can be extreme in some cases.  What happens is that the liver begins to release these toxins but they often end up being redistributed right back into other areas of the body and in the brain.  You can actually end up in the ER if you go too fast.  Take my advice and move slow and always take a binder.  I personally experienced crazy herxheimer reactions the first time I began to detox (when I went too fast/forceful).  I experienced migraines, overwhelming fatigue, swollen lymph nodes as if I had strep throat, weird seizure-like activity and nausea. 

A detox reaction is not a sign that you should give up, it is a sign that your body is detoxifying (the lymph, stool and urine carries the toxins out of your body).  It is, however, a sign that you may need to go more slowly and take the right toxin binders.

Also note that intense detoxes are not safe for pregnant and/or breastfeeding women.

Steps I took to cleanse my liver:

  1. Eliminating (for at least 2-3 weeks) gluten, conventional dairy, caffeine, alcohol and non-organic food.  The biggest and first thing you need to do is to simply commit to detoxing for a set amount of time and dedicate yourself 100 %.  Personally, I set aside one whole month for detoxing and eating very clean, but I was in quite a dire situation.  Gluten and conventional dairy are the biggest culprits in leaky-gut and inflammatory bowel disease so they were the very first I knew had to go.  Other things to consider avoiding during this time period is all alcohol and caffeine (which can negatively impact liver purging).

  2. Focusing on eating a plate full of fruits and veggies with plenty of healthy fat and protein sources

    Whether you’re vegan or paleo, or whichever category your diet falls under, we all need to focus on eating a variety of plant foods and balance them out with healthy fat sources (olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish like wild-caught salmon, sardines, avocados, etc) and healthy protein sources (nuts, seeds, healthy organic pasture raised protein sources, organic liver is a great source of protein and nutrition for detoxification as it includes many key nutrients of both phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification pathways).

    When detoxing, if you don't have a clear set plan of what you can actually eat, many people don’t eat enough.  Not eating enough is counterproductive, even in a detox period, as you to be nourishing and replenishing the body and the organs so that they can perform their proper functions. 

    Have a plan or protocol.  Have guidelines and recipes to use to nourish your body.  I highly recommend Kelly Brogans 30 Day Reset program (this has so many great recipes.)

    Helpful herbs to add in: cilantro, dandelion root, ginger, lemon, turmeric and milk thistle are some of my favorite liver friendly herbs.

  3. Reduce your Daily Toxic Load Exposure: 

    This is huge!  We live in a very toxic world.  We are exposed to toxins and chemicals in our water, in our food system, through our skin with personal care products, etc every single day.  During a liver detox, it is absolutely essential to rid yourselves of the toxins that clogged up your liver in the first place.  I started by replacing all of my makeup, lotions and investing in a high quality water filtration system.  Buying organic food significantly reduces your daily toxic exposure load.

    The Aquatru water filtration system was a key part of my healing journey.  It has a reverse osmosis system that even filters out chlorine and fluoride (most filters do not).  Fluoride is extremely toxic to the organs as well as the brain and it disrupts the function of the thyroid gland.

    Here are a few other extremely common toxins that occur everyday in our world: 
    -Xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body) Xenoestrogens are contained in a variety of self-care, beauty and cleaning supply products as well as in our food.  The biggest danger is that these estrogen-mimicking chemicals contribute to a rise in estrogen dominance, which is a pre-curser to breast cancer.  Xenoestrogens include BPA, GMO soy, phthalates and parabens.  Dump your toxic make-up brands and look for non-toxic labels.

    -Heavy Metals are found in foods, personal care products, supplements, cookware/utensils and vaccines.  Some common offenders are lead, cadmium, mercury, barium and arsenic.

    -Halogens including bromide, chloride, fluoride all mimic iodine in the body and therefore, take up receptor sites for iodine on the thyroid gland, disrupting thyroid function.  These halogens are heavy in water and food products, making buying organic even more important.

  4. Add in these healing foods any way you can

    Focus on consuming a lot of fresh smoothies and juices and salads with an array of healing plant foods. Try to work in at least a few fresh juices and smoothies every week.  If you can, try to start each day off with a fresh juice with all of these healing foods.

    Here’s what a sample day menu looked like on my detox:

    Breakfast: I started my day with a fresh juice or my go-to smoothie of wild blueberries, a greens powder, collagen, coconut oil, banana, cilantro, nut butter/avocado and coconut water.  I add in lots of healthy fat sources to keep my body fueled and my blood sugar stable.
    Lunch: Arugala salad with avocado, kalamata olives, onions, sardines, sunflower seeds and an olive oil based salad dressing.  Pastured eggs are great to add in too, because they contain choline, which is a co-factor of detox.
    Dinner: Lots of veggies with a protein of choice.  Veggie soups and bone broths are very healing as well to incorporate.  Quinoa is a safe gluten-free, detox friendly grain.
    Snacks: veggies, fruit, nuts, hot lemon water and a hot dandelion tea with honey.
    Juices to add in: Celery juice, my detox juice (ginger, apple, carrot, celery, lemon) fresh carrot juice

    Healing foods to add: Cilantro, celery, arugula, papaya, pineapple, wild blueberries, beets, carrots, turmeric, ginger, apples, lemons, etc.  Dandelion tea and hot lemon and ginger water are great add ins as well.

  5. Take liver supporting herbs to support all the pathways for detoxification (phase 1 and phase 2)

    The liver expels toxins via two different pathways - first through phase 1 (which is more complicated) and then through phase 2 (through the urine, bile and stool).  Phase 1 and phase 2 pathways require different vitamins and nutrients.  It is essential during any detoxification period that the body has all of the essential nutrients to help the toxins to exit the system along each pathway properly.  If a toxin is expelled and makes it out of the phase 1 pathway, but doesn’t make it through the phase 2 pathway, it will likely get recycled back into the system instead of exiting through the urine or stool.

    Phase 1 detoxification pathway requires: B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, folate, glutathione & flavanoids
    Phase 2 detoxification pathway requires: Methionine, cysteine, glutathione, magensium, B12, B5, Vit C, glycine, taurine, glutamine, folate, and choline

    My favorite liver detox herbal capsules are made by Dr. Jess and you can find them on her website here and liver pills provide many of the additional detoxification nutrients.

    The best herbal support for detoxification is milk thistle, since this herb naturally boosts glutathione levels, which is involved in both phase 1 and phase 2 of detox.

    Other extremely helpful supplements to take during any detox period are both N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) and glutathione.  NAC is a wonderful supplement because it turns into glutathione, which aides both detox pathways AND it helps to heal intestinal permeability.

    These supplements are great to take daily to support the natural detoxification process but they are especially beneficial if you are going on a specific detox protocol

  6. Make sure to take a binder to help to bind and eliminate toxic heavy metals that emerge from the liver. 

    To put it simply, binders help to capture and eliminate the metals and toxins that are being expelled during the liver cleanse.  My favorite heavy metal binder is chlorella but I’ve heard many people use activated charcoal or bentanite clay.  The downfall with activated charcoal is that it can also bind to important vitamins and minerals and essential pull those nutrients from the body as well.  I feel personally, chlorella is a bit more gentle but also very effective.

    Here is the brand of organic chlorella that I use and trust.

  7. Sweat every day

    Sweating is the one of the bodies most effective and most natural methods to detox or rid the body of toxins.  This is so important!  Make yourself exercise for at least 20 minutes or until you get a nice sweat going every day if you can.  Saunas work well for this too.  I personally, worked out in my garage or my home gym and intentionally left the AC off to sweat out more toxins.

  8. Look into the science behind coffee enemas

    Well, I truly never thought I would see the day when I was talking about coffee enemas openly on the internet (my husband will likely die of embarrassment).  While I’d honestly love to leave out this “dirty” little detail from my healing journey, I would never feel right about omitting it, since it was such a key element to my healing process.  If it even helps just one person feel better, its worth the temporary embarrassment in the short term.

    Coffee enemas are known for supporting the liver in detoxification by means of increasing the production of bile.  They help the liver to purge toxic heavy metals that are clogging it up and they also help to clean out the digestive tract of undigested foods, biofilm, gut pathogens and parasites.

    Do your own research and decide if this is best for you.  I personally have never felt better than when I was doing these.  I felt an immediate improvement in my energy levels and I felt clear headed for the first time in my life.  For me, coffee enemas worked wonders and I truly feel they were necessary.  I did about 2-3 enemas a week.  Here is some great information about this practice here.

    Tips for safer coffee enemas: drink plenty of fluids beforehand.  Take your binder with lots of water and a teaspoon of ghee or coconut oil (atleast 30 minutes before) to help bind the metals that are expelled.  Replace your electrolytes with plenty of coconut water and fluids.

    Here is the coffee enema kit that I use and trust.
    Here is the organic enema coffee I use and trust.

Supplements, Supports + Herbs I love for Liver Detox:

Any of the products on this page may be an affiliate link.  If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase within a specific amount of time, I get a small commission.  The commission is paid by third parties, not by you.  I only recommend products that I genuinely love.  Thank you for your support!   

-Happy healing, Ashley