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March 27, 2019

A friendly reminder that you can't actually detox your liver

Spoiler: the organ already fulfills that vital function

Alternative Medicine Detoxification
liver detox cleanse Dominik Martin/Unsplash

Millennials love a good detox cleanse.

It can be in the form of a four-day juice cleanse, a week without applying makeup or skincare products (a skin fast) or the age-old colon cleanse. Many view these efforts as a way to hit the “refresh” button on their health.

The liver is the new organ popping up on the seemingly never-ending list of wellness advocates and influencers pushing cleanses via strict diets, supplements or other health regimens. These health “gurus” believe it's important to "detox" your liver – in order to lose weight, boost your immune system, or just recover from drinking a lot of alcohol.

As Refinery29 explains:

But here's the thing: the liver is already a natural detoxifier, explains Elizabeth Goacher, PA-C, MHS, physician assistant at Duke University and the chair-elect of the Hepatology Associates special interest group. Technically, the liver is responsible for converting what we put in our mouths (such as food, drinks, and medications) into fuel that our body can absorb, she says. Additionally, the liver also filters out any "bad stuff" or toxins that your body needs to get rid of. You can think of the liver as both a translator and a power plant, she says.

"You don't ever need to detoxify your liver, you need to leave your liver alone so it can do its job."

RELATED READ: What you need to know about your kidneys – and keeping them healthy

Insider reports:

In the US, supplements aren't regulated like drugs, and may not be as innocuous as they seem. Some may be contaminated with unlisted chemical or drug ingredients. In fact, it's estimated that they send more than 20,000 Americans to the emergency room every year.

Medical News Today notes that diets designed to cleanse the liver may not contain all the required nutrients. A nutritionally-imbalanced diet can eventually result in malnutrition in at-risk populations, including children and pregnant women. 

Of course, this doesn't mean young people — women, especially — should totally ignore their liver health altogether.

The best way to take care of your liver, according to the web site, is not to overburden it — be it excessive alcohol consumption or supplements. Drinking lots of water, staying active and eating a healthy diet are all good for your liver. 

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