How to Nourish & Optimise Liver Function

by Mindy Duncan | Nourish Naturopathy

Our liver is an incredibly important organ, it plays an essential role in a number of bodily processes including detoxification, digestion & production of energy. Whilst the liver is also a very powerful & resilient organ there are unfortunately a number of aspects within modern life that, overtime, impact the livers capacity to do it’s job efficiency & healthily. Here we will discuss the main functions of the liver, tell-tale symptoms of compromised liver function & how you can support your liver on a daily basis. It’s the small things we do everyday not the big things we do occasionally that have the most benefit for our long-term health.

Main Functions of the Liver

  • Detoxification of drugs, chemicals and poisons
  • Bile production (essential for the digestion of fats)
  • Storage of vitamins (especially fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D & K) and minerals
  • Breakdown of blood cells
  • Storage of sugar in the form of glycogen (energy reserve)
  • Storage of blood, which can quickly be released if needed
  • Energy production from the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Protein metabolism & production of non-essential amino acids
  • Breakdown excretion and/or recycling of hormones (i.e. oestrogen, cortisol)
  • Production of cholesterol (essential for brain function & base molecule for many hormones)


Liver detoxification is an incredibly complex & eloquent process. Everything that enters our body either through ingestion (mouth), inhalation (respiratory) or absorption (skin & mucous membranes) is broken down, processed & eliminated via the liver. That’s right everything! It’s a pretty busy organ.

Total liver detoxification occur over 2 separate phases. Phase 1 & Phase 2.

Phase 1 consisting of 1 pathway that basically catches everything & prepares it for metabolism via Phase 2 which consists of 6 different pathways. Each of which is responsible for detoxifying different substances & requires sufficient nutrient status to support them.  The individual operations & requirements for each pathways is beyond the scope of this post & will be discussed another time, so stay tuned for that. However, what we will discuss is what impacts these pathways.

There are a number of factors which can place excess burden on the liver & those that really assist it’s function. Here are a few recommendations for what you can limit in daily life & what you can do to promote a healthy thriving liver. 

How to properly care for your liver

To ensure a long life of vibrant health, it is essential that we put into place daily measure to support the liver basic function but reducing excessive burden from toxic substances & ensure we are consuming a well-balanced diet that nourishes it.

Factors which SUPPORT liver function

  • Try having a few alcohol free nights each week
  • Try sticking to 1 coffee daily
  • Eating a whole-foods, natural diet with LOADS of vegetables
  • Swap over to more natural skincare
  • Start making your own cleaning products
  • Regular exercise (esp. cardio – getting a sweat & your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes is essential)
  • Water
  • Rest

Factors that BURDEN liver function

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee / Caffeine
  • Trans fats (think margarine..yuck!)
  • Refined sugars
  • Synthetic substances & chemicals
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Dehydration
  • Illness & Infection

When discussing the topic of detoxification it’s important to understand that even though the liver is considered our principle detoxification organ it’s part of a symphony or other organs which work perfectly together to protect, process & eliminate many different compounds from the body. To truly support our bodies holistically we also need to support each these systems simultaneously…there’s no I in TEAM remember. The other organs involved in detoxification include:

Digestive Tract / Colon

Once all of those lovely compounds are processed successfully via the liver they are sent to the next portal of elimination from the body, the bowel. Unfortunately for a number of reasons, such as constipation & poor bowel regularity a number of these compounds to be re-absorbed & “re-toxed” back into body to be reprocessed, adding unnecessary excess burden on the liver. It’s a wicked case of double handling really. For optimal elimination, it’s important the bowel is moving regularly. We recommend increasing intake of dietary fiber & water. Fibre supplements including psyllium, slippery elm & partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) may be of great benefit to you if you struggle with constipation.


The kidneys are endlessly filtering your blood & removing waste from medication, food & toxic substances. First, the liver packages waste products up into a water soluble form in order for them to then be removed from the body via urine. Ensuring you are consuming at least 1.5-2L water daily to support healthy kidney function is essential.


Not only is our skin larges organ that protects us from the outside world but it’s a major detoxification portal for waste to leave via perspiration.

Respiratory system (lungs)

The lungs play a vitally important role for detoxification, filtering out airborne toxins, fumes, moulds & allergens (even the hairs in your nose play an important role in filtering the air we breathe).


What should I eat for optimal liver function?

To really nourish & promote excellent liver (& whole body) health there are a number of foods & herbs that can help optimise the function of the liver.
At the end of the day the rule of thumb is simple. Eat a wide variety of colourful whole-foods as close to the way nature intended as possible.
Here are a few example of some delicious liver loving foods …

Foods to Support & Nourish the Liver

Green leafy vegetables
Bitter  Tasting Foods (i.e. rocket, racchio)
Coriander (Fresh)
Parsley (Fresh)
Turmeric (Fresh)
Protein (animal or vegetable)
Flaxseed meal

Supplements to support liver function.

Milk Thistle

  • Silymarin enhances hepatic glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body which neutralises free radical formation to mitigate oxidative damage, contributing to the antioxidant defense of the liver (1).
  • With regards to the consumption of alcohol, one of the main mechanisms by which it disrupts liver function &/or causes liver damage is via the generation of free radicals formed from its metabolism. Silymarin is an antioxidant which neutralises & protects the liver from free radical damage caused by alcohol consumption.
  • We recommend: NutriVital Premium Liver Support

N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

  • Clinical trials have shown the NAC has potent antioxidant capacity in the liver, reducing peroxidation of lipids in liver membranes caused by oxidative stress (2).
  • Fun fact: NAC has actually been used for a number of decades to treat & prevent the liver damage associated with paracetamol overdose
  • Learn more about NAC here.
  • We recommend: Healthwise N-acetylcysteine (NAC)


Mindy Duncan is a Bachelor qualified clinical naturopath with special interests in women’s health, menstrual & hormonal health, thyroid function & self-esteem. Mindy is available for consultations via the Vive Clinic on Tuesday & Wednesdays.

Nourish Naturopathy 

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