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Spring is just around the corner. And that means it’s liver time.

No, it’s not here yet. Not in northern Ontario, anyway. But it’s coming. The sun’s getting stronger, the birds are coming back, and the snowbanks are (slowly) shrinking.

It’s liver time!

Liver time, you say? What is liver time?

Well, let me tell you.

In Asian Medicine, spring time is liver time. It’s the season to focus on optimizing your liver health. Just like spring cleaning, this is the best time of year for a good liver cleanse.

What the Liver Does

Your liver is a marvel of nature. A thing of beauty – sort of. You certainly can’t live without it.

Most of us have some idea of the liver being an organ that helps detoxify the body. Or as a yucky meat they were forced to eat as a child. Both are true. Liver does taste gross, but it is also super healthy for you. I like to hide mine in chili, where it’s almost undetectable, and actually adds a hearty flavour I’ve grown to enjoy – in appropriately small amounts.

Today, however, we’re going to focus on the detoxification part.

Your body deals with a whole boatload of toxins on a daily basis. Even the most pure, organic, heirloom-variety vegetable, grown in a biodynamic ecosystem full of sunshine and rainbows, contains toxins. Cause hey, nothing really wants to get eaten. Plants have defences, just like anything else. They also contain a whole lot of things that our bodies just don’t need or want. But we can handle all that, because we have livers.

Believe it or not, we also create a whole bunch of toxins on our own. Take hormones, for example. Our bodies make hormones to do useful things. But eventually, those hormones outlive their usefulness. And then they need to be broken down, for their parts to be recycled or disposed of. If they hung around forever, our hormone cycles would get all out of whack. Thankfully, they don’t – because we have livers.

Without a liver, your body would soon become overloaded by toxic substances. So it pays to treat your liver well.

Why Cleanse?

Your liver itself is a cleansing machine. It’s job is to cleanse. So why should we interfere?

Well, in a perfect world, we probably wouldn’t have to. Unfortunately, our world is not perfect. Our bodies are exposed to things that they were never designed to deal with: man-made toxins in our air, water, food, cosmetics, soaps and shampoos. Everywhere. It’s everywhere. And some of these toxins are far more powerful than anything nature ever devised.

And then, there are what I call the liver-killers: alcohol and sugar.

Alcoholics poison their livers with too much alcohol. And sugar addicts poison their livers with too much sugar. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is running rampant in our society, affecting anywhere from 15-50% of American adults, mostly due to sugar. Just like the other sugar-caused disease, type 2 diabetes, younger and younger people are falling prey to this destroyer of health.

We’ll leave the alcoholics for another time. Today, we’ll focus on the sugar.

How does sugar poison your liver? Well, let me tell you. Your liver does not just detoxify your body. When necessary, it can multi-task. Under desperate circumstances, it can act as a storage receptacle for extra sugar – in the form of fat.

Did you know that when you eat more sugar than you need, it is turned into fat? Fat is how we were designed to store energy. It’s a lovely, clean source of fuel. When we eat sugar, it enters our blood, triggering the release of insulin. Insulin helps usher that extra sugar into our cells, where it is either used immediately for energy, or converted into fat, to be used later. But when our cells have too much fat in them, they stop answering when insulin knocks on the door. So where does the poor sugar go? Right into your liver, where it’s converted to fat.

And voila, you have a fatty liver!

Thankfully, your liver has the ability to heal. It’s not easy, but it is possible. And a good spring liver cleanse is a wonderful way to start.

How to Cleanse your Liver

There are many cleansing options, combining diet with herbs and supplements. It can be confusing, and finding the right cleanse for you is important, if you want to reap the health benefits. As always, I recommend visiting your friendly Naturopathic Doctor for guidance.