Do liver cleanses work? Evidence and risks
Liver cleanses promise to rid the body of toxins and impurities, but they are controversial because there is little science to support their use.
Products that claim to detox the liver might even be dangerous, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate them.
In this article, we look at how liver cleanses claim to work and what evidence exists to support them.
What is a liver cleanse?
A liver cleanse may involve may involve choosing or avoiding specific foods, or going on a juice fast.
The liver is the body’s natural detoxifier, as it cleanses the body of toxins and produces bile to support healthy digestion. A healthy liver can detoxify almost everything that a person encounters. The liver is on the right side of the body, just under the rib cage,
When the liver is diseased, the body cannot filter out toxic substances as efficiently. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
A variety of natural health practitioners, supplement companies, and medical websites argue that the liver accumulates toxins during the filtering process.
They insist that over time, these toxins can cause a range of nonspecific symptoms and may even cause serious diseases or increase the risk of cancer. There is little evidence to support this.
Over time, however, exposure to chemicals can damage the liver. For example, drinking alcohol is a well-known way to ruin liver function over time.
In most cases, a liver detox involves one or more of the following:
- taking supplements designed to flush toxins out of the liver
- eating a liver-friendly diet
- avoiding certain foods
- going on a juice fast
- cleansing the colon and gut through the use of enemas
While liver failure is a serious health problem, there is no evidence that dangerous toxins accumulate in otherwise healthy livers without specific exposure to large amounts of these chemicals.
Mainstream medical practitioners argue that the liver does not need detoxing and that doing so might even be dangerous.
Should you try a liver cleanse?
A healthy liver is crucial for maintaining a person’s overall health, but expensive cleanses or diets are just not necessary. In some cases, they may even be dangerous.
A healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and regular consultations with a doctor are far more valuable to the health of the liver than any fad diet or cleanse.
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