What Does the Liver Do?
While we commonly think of detox as some 30-day program for troubled celebs, the natural detox program happens inside your liver all the time.
Most of what you put into your mouth isn't exactly pure. Plants are sprayed with chemicals, animals are injected with potent hormones and lots of foods are genetically engineered with so much stuff that they make Frankenstein look as natural as a puppy. What's that mean to us? For one thing, it means these toxins enter your body and can potentially destroy tissues or damage cells. It's the liver's job to cope with these toxic chemicals as they travel from the environment via food into your body, almost like a drug smuggler trying to make it past customs.
How does the liver do this? In your liver, there are rows of liver cells separated by space. Together, those spaces act like a sieve through which the blood flows. This sieve—like a customs agent finding out what illegal goods you're bringing across the border—removes toxic substances from the bloodstream. Those toxins can come in the form of everything from drugs and alcohol to chemicals and microorganisms.
The way it does this isn't with drug-sniffing dogs but with special Kupffer cells, which eat up and break down the toxins. In short, these cells disarm the toxins by converting a dangerous chemical to a less harmful one or by packaging them for easier disposal through our bile or urine. The latter approach reveals how the sly liver doesn't always have to fight its enemies head-on. Instead, it often uses a martial arts approach and paralyzes toxins by wrapping them in a water-soluble chemical so they land in your toilet rather than in a vital organ.
Downsides of Detox
There are two main downsides. Some toxins cannot be packaged and hide in the fat part of the cells in your liver. Others create damaging free radicals, which cause harmful oxidation in your body. These free radicals take a toll on the liver. That's why your body's natural antioxidants are essential to your frontline defenses and why vitamins like folate, B12, B6 and vitamins C and E are so important for liver health.
Without these nutrients, the risk of failing to keep up our detox system shoots up and increases the possibility of allowing cancer-causing or atherosclerosis-enhancing inflammatory substances through the border patrol.
A variety of foods and nutrients can ensure that you increase your natural antioxidants and that the detox process is as smooth as a freshly laid marble floor.
What can go wrong with your liver?