The liver enjoys a bright spotlight — but common recommendations are often misguided, too intense, or too narrowly focused.
Perhaps two of the biggest threats to liver health are poor gut health and environmental exposures (including mold).
When liver health suffers, gut health suffers — and vice versa. Working on one usually improves the other.
It’s almost always best to improve gut health prior to focusing too much on the liver. Liver “detox” is extremely difficult in the presence of an unhealthy gut: increased bile stirs up pathogens, the gut lining is hyperpermeable (allowing mobilized toxins to reabsorb into the bloodstream), and nutrients are rapidly depleted.
Instead, improve gut health first — reducing inflammation and improving nutritional resilience.
As the system becomes stronger, we can to support the liver more directly, with fewer confounding side effects, and a truly clear path to healing.
First, let’s explore foods and supplements. After, we’ll put the pieces together — into a coherent approach.
Four Functional Liver Foods
Utilize these foods daily for constant liver nourishment.
In America, the best olive oil is sourced from California. Look for quality sources that guarantee the olive oil is not cut with cheaper oils, and which is certified ‘extra virgin.’
Lemon Juice in water
Cut washed lemon in half, store unused half in refrigerator. Use a Blender Bottle (amazon) and add a dash of apple pectin (see more below). Drink right away, with or without food.
(decaf or caffeinated)
A strong argument for decaf: While caffeine certainly has liver benefits, it often disrupts blood sugar regulation and energy homeostasis/adenosine sensitivity whenever not being consumed — so consider decaffeinated coffee (which still has some caffeine) a wise choice. Caffeine may not be helping you if you chronically feel wired or have trouble sleeping.
Without fiber, toxins are reabsorbed into the bloodstream where they burden the liver again.
First, find the fiber that works best for you (soluble fiber in vegetables –versus– insoluble from whole grains).
Then, eat two meals per day with low-to-moderate fiber content.
NOTE: Many restrictive diets fail to provide the total nutritional support required by the liver.
Consider supplementing any of these 1-2x/week, if well tolerated.
TUDCA and apple pectin are gentle enough for daily use, while the rest should be cycled.
+ TUDCA / Taurine
TUDCA is more gentle than taurine and can be taken daily, indefinitely. Taurine is best cycled.
A simply incredible, highly-tolerable supplement for folks in dire straights.
Very powerful for cleansing the liver and boosting energy production, but must be balanced with glycine. Isolated amino acids can be hard on the kidneys, so avoid large doses.
+ (Nutrient Balance)
Large nutritional imbalances cause inflammation, disrupt fluid balance and metabolism, and burden the liver.
All B-Vitamins Matter
…especially B1 & choline.
Hydration is critical for the liver.
Glutathione is the body’s primary antioxidant and the liver’s primary detoxification molecule.
Glutathione is best taken on an empty stomach.
While glutathione is traditionally “hard” to take, especially in the depleted body, Thorne’s new SR approach could be revolutionary. This product wisely uses a smaller dose, and allows it to release slowly over the course of hours — potentially reducing the intense impact on the system while still yielding detoxification support.
Best for sensitive people:
Glutathione-SR (Thorne) — iHerb.com
This product contains 60mg of glutathione (a very low dose), while also releasing it slowly throughout the day. This form is highly tolerated.
Also great for sensitive people, with a lower dose:
BlueBonnett Glutathione 100mg (amazon — no affiliate)
Find on Amazon (no affiliate)
This product is slightly less gentle than the Thorne -SR. It contains 100mg (still a small dose), but it’s released all at once rather than over a few hours.
I recommend people start with the Thorne -SR, but if affordability is important, the Bluebonnet is the 2nd best option I’ve found.
How I Take Glutathione
I take glutathione 1-2 time per week, as part of a regular liver health regimen. More than that can cause unpleasant side effects, deplete valuable nutrients, and disrupt gut function — and I don’t consider that necessary for healing. Tolerance does seem to improve over time, indicating progress is being made through supplementation. If tolerated well, daily supplementation seems safe.
AFTER my body adjusted to The (expensive) Thorne-SR, I found myself able to tolerate cheaper products with higher doses (like the Bluebonnet and others) — up to 250mg of glutathione. I usually still take GLutathione 2x/week, Often as part of my “liver stack.”
+ Glutathione Precursors?
Note: After years of taking these, with some success, I now believe taking actual glutathione is more effective (and safe) than taking its precursors. Research has demonstrated glutathione’s safety, therefore, there is much less reason to take precursors in lieu of the real thing.
The building blocks of glutathione are: glycine, cysteine, and selenium.
Glutathione has a long-won reputation for being “hard” on the body — creating lots of unwanted symptoms. The same is true of glutathione precursors — most should be handled with caution, focusing on balance rather than a “more is better” mindset.
I choose to get my NAC in smaller 100mg doses from the Vitamin Shoppe Liver Cleanse.
I personally do not take NAC more than 4-7 days out of every month.
The common, standard NAC dose is 600mg — but many don’t tolerate high doses very well.
NAC is not recommended for daily use — it can weaken the gut microbiome (via antimicrobial properties) and disrupt collagen production around the body. Instead, use NAC intermittently, as part of a targeted plan.
(NAC from iHerb)
- Sulforaphane is a high-sulfur compound with potent liver-cleansing potential, but — like most liver supplements — it can disrupt the gut in high doses.
- Selenium must be balanced with iodine (and other minerals). Therefore, avoid high doses unless you are certain you need it. Overdose can cause intense side effects, including bodily, garlic-y odor.
- Glycine must be balanced with other amino acids, includine taurine. Can be stimulating in the presence of high glutamate, and can contribute to high glutamate levels; insomnia can result. Less is more with glycine — keep the long run in mind.
- Sulfur can easily be overdone via supplements — after which it can be difficult to bring levels back down. High doses of sulfur are virtually never necessary.
Excellent Mineral Balance for Glutathione
Many minerals and nutrients are involved in synthesizing and recycling glutathione — including magnesium, zinc, B2, B6 and more.
Keep a broad perspective when it comes to nutritional supplementation — as we discuss in the nutrient section.
Binders (a colloquial term for substances that trap compounds for removal by the body) behave like super-absorbers of toxins in the gut, similar to fiber.
Jarrow Fulvic Acid / Shilajit (standardized)
A gentle binder that also nourishes the gut, while providing antioxidant potential. Jarrow sources from Primavie, a standardized form that is safe to take.
This is an superb supplement for the gut and liver.
However, even safe binders like these should be taken in small, careful doses to avoid disruption of the gut microbiome.
All prebiotic fibers are safest when taken after notable progress has been made toward improved gut health.
Not recommended for folks with hemochromatosis or suspected mercury issues. Small doses are best for this.
With your liver health, where do you begin?
It always makes sense to begin with steps that are:
How to start:
The steps that best meet these four criterion are my personal favorites:
for liver health
A gentle, powerful prebiotic binder.
Consider improving gut health while (or before) taking this.
Remember: Start slow, back off with any negative side effects, and use small doses. With health, consistency is key — not brute force. These supplements are powerful.
Use these supplements to increase intensity of your liver support — for up to two days a week, or one week per month.
After testing each for tolerability, begin stacking multiple together. These supplements are probably not appropriate to take daily.
Read more about these supplements in the section above called ‘Supplements.’
The Pillars of Health & Your Liver
Your Nutrient Status
The liver cannot heal without adequate nutritional support.
And unfortunately, a sluggish liver and gut means nutrients are not well-absorbed from food — leading, potentially, to broad deficiencies.
Therefore, I highly and fully recommend the single best multivitamin I’ve found on the market, the Naturelo 1-a-Day, which is bringing excellent results for so many clients and members:
The Pillars of Health & Your Liver
Your Gut Health
Improving gut health is critical for restoring an overburdened liver.
In fact, much of our liver’s stress results directly from the microbes/pathogens in the gut.
When gut pathogens release toxins into the bloodstream after a meal, it stimulates an immune response and on-going inflammation — all of which burdens the liver.
Secondly, liver toxins dumped into the gut should be excreted in a healthy bowel movement.
But in poor gut health they are re-absorbed into the bloodstream – to burden the liver again.
Therefore, it is imperative that gut health improve either before or alongside steps to support liver function. Otherwise, toxicity can pile up in the sluggish gut and be reabsorbed.
Keep in mind, further, that most liver-boosting steps have an inherent antimicrobial effect on microbes in the gut — either directly or by boosting liver function and bile production. This may create the need for repopulation via probiotics.
Regular Bowel Movements
The Pillars of Health & Your Liver
Movement is necessary for proper liver function.
What is movement? Is it the same as exercise?
Basically, yes — however, the term ‘movement’ can embrace more balanced and restorative activities than are typically thought of as exercise.
Whereas exercise usually focuses on reps, weight, and heart rate (BPM) — and specifically, pushing those things to their limit — movement focuses on nourishing the entire body, with an eye on recovery from disease and restoration of youth and vitality.
Movement understands that too much exercise can be just as bad for a recovering body as too little, and that imbalance in motion creates imbalance in the body.
How does exercise, generally, help the liver?
In the liver, exercise increases fatty acid oxidation, decreases fatty acid synthesis, and prevents mitochondrial and hepatocellular damage through a reduction of the release of damage-associated molecular patterns.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954622/#:~:text=In%20the%20liver%2C%20exercise%20increases,to%20improve%20fatty%20liver%20disease.
It doesn’t take much exercise to improve liver health. In fact, if you’re moving on a daily basis — no matter how little — you’re taking steps in the right direction to improve the health of your liver.
What Types of Movement?
Any movement is great for the liver, but some are more effective than others.
Among the best movements is jumping. Up-and-down motions aggressively move lymph throughout the lymphatic system so it can be detoxified by the liver.
Modifying this — making it easier on weak legs — can be just as effective. Try simply bending/straightening your knees rapidly for 10-15 seconds.
Keep your lymphatic system clear — by any means — but especially via movement.
The Pillars of Health & Your Liver
Remarkably, our living and work environments appear to have a great — and ever-increasing — effect on the health of our liver.
The common threats from the environment appear to be from:
If your environment is causing inflammation via these factors, it will dampen your efforts to recover health — in part by overburdening the liver.
This is not a reason to allow chronic worry or stress — but instead, to become informed.
Not all information on the internet is wise or helpful concerning environmental factors. There’s a lot of fear-mongering and product hyping.
So keep your wits about you, grow your awareness, and proceed forward with your health journey.
Whatever you do, never pause your health adventures simply because your environment isn’t perfect.
After all, no environment is perfect, and the wisdom you gain — even in a subpar environment — will serve you later when your environments do improve.