5 Foods Toxic to the Liver, Plus 5 Great Raw Foods for Liver Detox : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Monday Apr 16 | BY |
| Comments (61)

You know fast food is out, but what other foods may be bad for your liver?

Dedicated to preserving your health? Into detoxification techniques? Then likely you know all about your liver, and want to do everything you can to protect it.

In the rush of your daily life, however, you may be consuming some foods that are overtaxing this important organ, even though you don’t mean to. Keep reading to find out if any of these items have been on your menu lately, and which foods can counteract any unhealthy indulgences.

Quick Recap on Liver Function
Just to review—the liver sits on the upper right side of the abdomen, just below the diaphragm. It’s the largest internal organ of the human body. Blood has to filter through the liver before it travels anywhere else in the body.

What the liver does: removes toxins from the body, processes food nutrients, and helps to regulate body metabolism.

“Without the liver, you can’t live,” said Leonard Seeff, M.D., senior scientist for hepatitis research at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases. “It’s the metabolic factory of the entire body.”

Five Foods Toxic to the Liver

  1. Fast Food: No surprise here, right? A study from Europe showed that eating too much fast food—a diet high in fat and sugar (including high fructose corn syrup)—could cause serious damage to the liver. Follow-up studies also showed, however, that that damage could be reversed by giving up the unhealthy diet.
  2. Alcohol: Another no-brainer. Too much alcohol can lead to liver disease.
  3. Salt: You know that too much salt can increase blood pressure, but did you know that it can also lead to fatty liver disease? Look out for high-salt processed foods like bacon and sausages.
  4. Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Splenda, NutraSweet, and Equal can all create toxic reactions in the body. The government advises pregnant woman and children to avoid them.
  5. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): A form of concentrated salt, MSG was found in a 1994 study to cause headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and asthma attacks, and in animal studies, to be toxic to the liver. Researchers commented, “There is considerable evidence to suggest that consumption of MSG is a serious public health problem….”

Raw Foods to Clean Up the Damage
Fortunately, even if you fall off the wagon now and then, raw foods can bring you back.

  1. Garlic and onions: they help rid the body of toxins, assisting the liver in its cleansing duties.
  2. Freshly squeezed lemon in hot water: drink it first thing in the morning to encourage detoxification.
  3. Beetroot: it’s got the antioxidant anthocyanidin, which has shown some anti-tumor effects in studies. Healing phytonutrients help counteract the bad effects of fatty foods.
  4. Apples: they contain pectin, which helps escort heavy metals like mercury out of the body.
  5. Artichoke: it actually increases bile production, revving up the toxin-cleansing engine.

What foods do you avoid for a healthy liver? Which do you include on your menu?

* * *

Photo courtesy nicknamemiket via Flickr.com.

Michael Tennesen, “The silent alarm: your liver filters the fallout from a toxic world, but symptoms of disease can stay dormant for decades.” CBS Interactive Business Network, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NAH/is_7_35/ai_n6116715/.

Saint Louis University Medical Center (2008, April 30). Fast-Food Liver Damage Can Be Reversed, Experts Say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/04/080430204519.htm

Hanaa F. Waer and Saleh Edress, “The Effect of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) on Rat Liver,” The Egyptian Journal of Hospital Medicine 2006, Vol. 24: 524-538. http://egyptianjournal.net78.net/24_10.pdf

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Millie says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thank you soo much for all your great articles.

    I wanted to ask you, What is your take on milk kefir? I have been a vegetarian/vegan/raw foodist for a while but have read a lot of articles on the benefits of milk kefir. Is there anything you have to say about this, considering the use of organic raw sheep/goats milk?

    Thank you.

  2. I’ve just reached for an apple on reading your article! I do coffee enemas to help detox my liver as well as eating a very green diet!


  4. Thank you for your articles. I’ve been eating a vegan raw foods for over 7 years. I still get severe migraine headaches and still over weight.

    • Quinny says:

      That may be because you are doing the high fat gourmet raw food diet. Check out Dr. Graham’s book “The 80/10/10 Diet” or google Freelee, the banana girl. Hope this help.

    • Belle says:

      You probably have Candida. I suffered from debilitating migraines for years. Then I read The Fungus Link by Doug Kaufman. I went on his Phase One diet. No more migraines. No more irritable bowel syndrome. Lost weight. Most grains in America contain mycotoxins from fungus that make you sick.

    • I know how you feel Cris Giesbrecht. I have tried many healthy ways of eating, and also can get headaches, and no weight loss.
      One thing I found crucial to headaches is staying hydrated. If you exercise, consume a lot of alcohol, go too many hours without foods or healthy snacks, headache’s will happen for sure.

      DO: Use other forms of water to hydrate, like Gatorade. Since it has a lot if sugar, water it down to half of each in every 8 oz. Serving.

      DO: Another thing is to eat lots of fruits that have water in them, citrus, watermelon & all melons.

      If you suffer from no weightloss, there are numerous reasons why, as just being a vegetarian is not a fool proof way to weightloss, especially if you are eating way too many fatty carbohydrates instead of protein which is needed for weight loss.
      DO: Try to eat Fish, beans, legumes, tofu, low sodium soy and nuts that have very little salt.

  5. Cindy says:

    In the group of the 5 toxic foods for the liver, I avoid all but sea salt & an occasional fast food burger. In the group of 5 good foods for the liver, I include & love all of them.

  6. A lot of people don’t realize how important the liver is. I guess alcoholism is most often associated with liver damage, but that’s not the only cause. Like you mentioned, fast food alone can be harmful to the liver, but you usually never hear this. One of the reasons why vegans and raw foodists feel so great is because their livers are functioning optimally and are not being stressed.


    Check out my raw food review blog at http://www.rawfoodland.com!

  7. Julia says:

    I actualy eat liver and other organ meats on occasion. Millie: I drink raw goat milk kefir as well as water kefir, too, and they’re both great. I recently started drinking raw camel milk and making yogurt out of it for its medicinal effects. I eat apples daily, and some of the other good items, too. I will start doing regular coffee enemas soon as well as wheat grass juice plugs (like a mini enema), otherwise I do regular water enemas routinely. I was drinking the lemon water in the morning for 2 reasons, but now this detox reason is yet another reason. My 2 reasons were to increase HCL in the stomach and to improve the ph of my reverse osmosis water since lemons become alkaline in the body.

  8. Scott says:

    Is there a difference between drink lemon and water in the morning and apple cider vinger and water in the morning ? is one better than the other ?


  9. Carl says:

    Your article is titled “Foods” toxic to the liver. Nothing you’ve mentioned is a “food”.
    None of them contains any nutrients.
    Tops on my list would be shellfish and cheese which caused gall bladder problems initially.
    Luckily, I found a Russian homeopath at that time and her regimen corrected the problem 30
    years ago. Still have the gall bladder. Gall bladder precedes the liver so I am led to believe that my liver would have been gone by now had I not found her.

  10. Dr.D says:

    to cris giesbrecht: I believe you need your thyroid evaluated by a doctor who also includes more comprehensive testing than the standard TSH, T4. There was a really good radio show this week by PBS “People’s pharmacy” that gave a lot of in dept info on diagnosing and treating thyroid disease. You can look it up, it was show number 853.

  11. Tamera says:

    Lots of organic veggie juices, dandelion root tea, and coffee enemas!

  12. Sally Garber says:

    I eat all five good foods, but the artichokes rarely, so I’ll be eating more artichokes with this great information about increasing bile flow. As a colonic therapist, I’m quite aware of the toxic effect of fast food because one sees “mega-colons” almost everywhere! If only people realized how very important it is to clean the colon so that the liver can literally “live” and do all of its 300-500 (depending on who’s estimating) jobs for us. According to Andreas Moritz in THE AMAZING LIVER AND GALLBLADDER FLUSH book, most of us desperately need to do liver/gallbladder flushes until no stones come out after 2 “clear” flushes. First, though, he says we must clean our colon by getting seven colonics or at least thorough home enemas. However, he says the professional colonics always are the best and easiest way to clean the colon, if at all possible. In the book COLON HEALTH by Dr. Norman W. Walker, he said he’d travel 1,000 miles to get colonics for impacted colon or basically any problem before going to a hospital and possibly ending up with a colostomy bag. That condition is so unnecessary if one takes care of the bottom line, literally!
    Thank you, Kevin and Annmarie for all your wonderful work!

  13. Lance says:

    Do you think “Costco” apples are safe enough to eat or do the pesticides counteract all the benefits?

  14. Sergio says:

    I would agree with most, except to say that ordinary salt with aluminum added is toxic, whereas you need some healthy salt such as Himalayan salt in your diet

  15. Maria says:

    I eat all of the foods listed above that help the liver and avoid all of the foods listed that are a detriment, with the exception of a small amount of Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt.

    I tend toward having “near to too low” blood pressure and a twist of salt a couple of times a week seems to keep me energized. It is my understanding that too little salt has it’s drawbacks also. Moderation is a key and usually I find I can find enough salt in the veggies that I eat.

    I have had some chemical exposures and rapid weight loss due to undiagnosed parasites which resulted in a sluggish liver and gallstones, respectively. My doctor at the time, Gabriel Cousens, prescribed (among other things) the juice of 4 lemons a day to help clear out my liver. I now have a little lemon water each day about 15 minutes before my meals and a glass of it before I start my day.

    I know this is a but off topic, but I would like to share that I used reflexology to help cleanse my liver and to dissolve and pass my gallstones.

  16. Jacky says:

    Thanks for this info, already all if it is part of my regime daily–except the lemon juice, I need to start it again. I eat a great variety of foods, just stick with the healthy ones. I am 75 and have no conditions, by the grace and mercy of God. I am a live in care giver for 2 92yr olds, and I feed them good food too. Thanks for keeping us balanced and on track to good health and longevity. Jacky

  17. Del says:

    I’m sitting here drinking non-dairy kefir I made with juice, using water kefir grains… Only my third batch, so I’m not real good at it yet, but it seems to be working well. I have a hard time with dairy products and wanted to home grow probiotics.
    As far as liver detox goes, I’m a coffee enema fan. I don’t drink it, so it’s weird to buy it… “What flavor shall I try this time?” The organic coffee I buy has descriptions like “slightly fruity” “overtones of chocolate” etc, none say “great for enemas!” 😀

  18. Beverly says:

    I love all the information I do all the above plus I take adult stem cell nutrition http://jdimlm.com/miracles, having great results. God Bless

  19. Anlyn says:

    A wise old saying is…
    “Life depends on the Liver”.
    That saying can have two meaning and both are true enough!

  20. Mary Kay says:

    Anlyn, I love the double meaning!

  21. Lori says:

    I avoid all detriments except celtic salt. I do all the healthy foods except artichoke. I do lemon water first thing each morning. Organic green juice and a green smoothie with added milk thistle seeds daily. I chew chlorella and spirulina tablets. I eat lots of avocado which are also healthy for the liver. I do colonics, coffee enemas and castor oil packs. Thinking about doing a liver flush. Besides a healthy diet I think the colonics are most important. Great article Kev!

  22. Jim says:

    Great article Kev. I believe Glutens are toxic to the liver, leastways for me because I have Celiac Disease. As for salt I think it’s advantageous to use Sea Salt which contains Potassium as opposed to sodium.While I eat an apple a day so far it hasn’t kept the DR away!

  23. Dr.D says:

    Sea salt,Himalayan Pink Crystal Salt are healthy salts, and one does need to include in the diet. Check out Dr. Brownstein’s take on salt. One can actually eat more than you think as long as it is the healthy kind. There are serious health hazards to eating low salt diet.

  24. Lisa says:

    MSG can also give you a huge case of insomnia, more likely in women. On vacation we went to an Asian restaurant and had a wonderful meal, so we thought. That night, I literally did not sleep but maybe 30 minutes about 5 minutes at a time. It was like I was on a huge stimulant. By 4:30 in the morning I realized that is was MSG in our food!! When waking, my sister had the exact same problem I did. Ask about MSG before eating out Asian.

  25. Lisa says:

    Yes Jim, I too believe for many, maybe not all of us, that gluten is toxic to the liver. My liver/gallbladder disease has almost left me completely since eating low grain, gluten free diet for over a year now. I had a non-functioning gallbladder, liver pain, acne and fatigue. I am now pain free, with clear skin and have more energy than I remember in years, although this is also attributed to a high raw diet as well.

  26. QC says:

    Thanks for the article Kevin!

    I’m wondering how do you eat artichoke raw…

  27. Vicky Welch says:

    You can get organic coffee for enemas from sa Wilson, Ontario, Canada.

  28. Wild dandelions are GREAT for your liver and help with natural detoxification. The entire plant is edible, from the roots to the yellow flower.

    Though it has a slightly bitter taste that may be off-setting at first, you’ll learn to like it. It is one of the richest plant sources of vitamin A and K, and is a natural anti-fungal as well.

    For people looking to include their liver, PLEASE include dandelions in your diet. Simply pick them from your backyard, or the woods, give them a wash, and add them to your salads, smoothies, or even cook with them (though they are more beneficial raw).

    I always pick them outside and eat them regularly.

    • Karen says:

      i need to make sure about this….have been diagnosed with an extreme fatty liver! did some research and one of the prominent aspects i picked up was to avoid vitamin A which is not good for the liver. if you say dandelions which is rich in vit A is good for the liver then i’m now confused?

  29. *for people looking to IMPROVE their liver

    Sorry, haha.

  30. longyang888 says:

    Hi Beverly,

    Why you keep using this forum to advertise your financial interest?

    18. Beverly
    7:40 pm on April 17th, 2012

    I love all the information I do all the above plus I take adult stem cell nutrition http://jdimlm.com/miracles, having great results. God Bless

  31. Marli says:

    I have been under the impression that artichokes, like most thistles, are good for your liver, but that all conventionally raised artichokes have been heavily sprayed. I have never seen organic artichokes except for those grown in a home garden. Do you know of a source, and do you know much about the hazards of conventionally grown ‘chokes?

  32. pres says:

    Initially I bought some milk Kefir grains. After a few months there were so many more Kefir grains that there was not much room left in my 1qt jar for milk (I changed -refreshed- the milk every couple of weeks). Next I took a couple of spoon fulls of that Kefir and put them into another 1qt jar.
    Filled it with Trader Joes Almond milk. It seemed to take 3-4 weeks for the Kefir grains to become accustomed to their new environment. After that they became prolific producers and reproducers.
    They seem to be much more active in warm weather.
    Now the almond Kefir is my favorite.
    I stir it about once a day and every 2-3 weeks pour out all the clear liquid and refill with fresh. After a couple of days it’s all digested by the Kefir grains and ready to consume.

  33. Dave says:

    What about all the liver damage caused by perscription meds??!!

  34. Castor oil packs are great for the liver. Hot water with lemon, artichokes(steam with mint and garlic). Dandelion greens and tea. Paul Pitchford says raw foods: sprouted grains, beans, seeds, fresh vegs and fruits stimulate liver energy flow. He also recommends apple cider vinegar with a teaspoon of honey per cup of water. Don’t rely on the vinegar forever, imporve your diet. Pitchford has recommendations for foods to stimulate the liver out of stagency and foods to harmonize the liver. Bitter and sour foods help reduce excesses of the liver.

  35. Emily says:

    To support the liver I drink milk thistle tea.

  36. Mist says:

    Digesting fat heavily taxes the liver. Lecithin emulsifies fat and eases the burden on the liver, so take some with every meal containing much fat. Lecithin also contains choline, which is good for brain health. Lecithin supplements come in granules or gel caps derived from soy beans, sunflower seeds or eggs.

  37. olga says:

    Whot about liver with virus C?

  38. How do you eat artichoke raw?

  39. KINDLY see my comment above, on phyllanthus niruri – chanca piedra –
    Be careful whileusing this herb.
    Wishing good health to all.

  40. Tera says:

    I include all the items beneficial to the liver. I generally only include the sweeteners in my diet, because I avoid sugar as much as possible. I splurge on a little salty dish (like canned beans, or other salty, vegan dishes), but I almost never put salt on my dishes. I react badly with salt- I much prefer sweet than salt (hence my avoidance of too much sugar, also). I only really have the sweeteners with gum or beverage flavorings (like crystal light). Honestly, gum and the water flavorings are the my only “dirty desires”. They’re my only splurges (from my predominantly raw, vegan diet) so I think I do well.

  41. debbie says:

    whats a healthy diet for a transplant patient of a whole liver? and making it palatable. he is 60 and donor was 22.

  42. Gabriel says:

    hi good day kevin,

    my name is gabriel from trinidad and tobago and i would like to ask you what good for acid reflux? i have this problem for more than two years now and i drastically lose weight like 40lbs. but i think my liver needs to be detox. i used lemon water 1st thing in the morning but haven’t used that for weeks now cause every minute i does feel hungry like if my body’s dehydrated and starvation.

    i think it’s acid reflux, yeast, candida or parasites that causing me to loose weight.

    take care

    • joan reid says:

      The best thing for acid reflux and indigestion is peppermint tea or candy. It stopped mine and I no longer have to take medicine. Use it every time you get it. I even suck a candy, when I’ve been woken up by pain, until the burning goes away.

      I love garlic and ginger, but find they give me liver problems–nose bleeds.

      Several hours after I eat the wrong thing, I get a nosebleed. I have cirrhosis of the liver.

      I wonder how safe for our liver is fish, when it often contains mercury and pesticides???

      Do you have any does and don’ts for herbs and spices??????

  43. Resa says:

    Having grown up in the deep south, Charleston, South Carolina deep, I was raised on veggies simmered in bacon grease and bacon served up as afterschool snacks. Additionally, you’d’ve been hard pressed to find UNSWEET tea ANYWHERE! While I raised my kids very differently, I have only in recent years taken a good, hard look at the effects a lifetime of toxic eating has had on my own health. My trim figure doesn’t display the damage, but my body began to rebel. I have completely cut sugar out of my diet and LIVE on Stevia, which is how I found your website…googling any toxicity found within the product since i drink it multiple times a day in tea. I have shared this blog with my 14-year-old twiggy teen and will encourage her to begin educating herself by reading your posts. I also plan to purchase the Stevia Leaf powder from your store. Thank you for BE-ing…. Resa 🙂

  44. jim says:

    Beet root??? I thought the beets, the red round tubers are a root.
    Right…same thing???

  45. Christine says:

    Of the 5 “Raw Foods to Clean Up the Damage”, are all of these eaten raw for the desired detox effects?

  46. Valerie says:

    Hi Kevin. Artichoke may not be a good choice if you have a gall stone, would it?

  47. Nick M. says:

    Drinking water with lemon first thing in the morning completely changed everything for me…Apple Cider Vinegar has similar effects as well.
    There are so many amazing and delicious ways to support your liver. In today’s day and age we have to make it a top priority because the liver and the kidneys are under so much stress…I never thought I had liver issues until I get tested by a CEDSA machine now I’m taking lots of supplements and also making a conscious effort to include foods like these. A dandelion green smoothie is amazing too. Thanks for the article Renegade Health!

  48. jenelle says:

    I have been taking Milk Thistle and Dandellion by Nutrilite (75 years experience) which helps protect the liver and has helped me personally with my liver function over the past year and half. So far so good! 🙂

  49. Denise says:

    My doctor just prescibed a mega dose of Vitamin D for me. How much vitamin D is too much. I’ve heard it can give you kidney stones. Is this correct. If I’m very low in vitamin D, how much would you sugges.


  50. Lee Schelin says:

    You didn’t mention one the most important functions of the liver, it is the sole producer of cholesterol, natures band-aid.

  51. M Blanco says:

    just an observation, why is it that all the so call good foods taste so nasty. Not to discourage the masses but just maybe our parents had something to do with we find tastee for consumption. As a kid I was skinny my diet consisted of bread with butter or Corn Flakes with a banana; for lunch or dinner i was a strictly rice and beans with either chicken or beef, pork was not something I cared for much, oh yes I was according to my mother a fruit bat, there was no fruit I didn’t like. When I went into the Armed Forces at 17 yars old I was 5’10” and weight 155lbs, they put me on a gain weight diet. In 12 weeks of training I learned to eat things I had never seen, basically I was forced to eat pork, fish, spaghettis, pizza, hot dogs etc. I did gain about 20 of muscle and kept myself trim and healthy the 8 years I served. As soon as I got back home I went back to the habits I had learned as a child living on my own it seem practical to do. The problem now was that I had incorporated other foods in my diet that cause me to gain 20 in about 2 years. Ever since my late 20s I have been fighting the vulge. I do not diet, I just go in this insane exercise kicks that has now ruined my knees. I still love to eat my rice and beens with whatever protein and have fallen into the diet drink/sugar free society. I have been thinking about changing my intake of food to less butter, bread, white rice, bananas, and all those other things we monkeys eat. I hope to write back sometime ater an update.

  52. I am trying to reeducate my new Egyptian family who eats far too much fried food and sugar. Your comments are very helpful and I would be grateful if you could tell me about coffee and sugar. The children here are allowed to eat sugar by the spoonful whenever they want. I want to translate your comment to Arabic for the parents.
    All the meat is first boiled, then fried and served with fries. They do eat a lot of salad and vegetables as well BUT…..
    The coffee question is for me.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you

  53. Ross says:

    Are the following foods harmful to the liver – chilies, vinegar, sugar, honey.

  54. David says:

    Pectin from apples might help to rid the body of heavy metals however, apples take on chemicals
    sprayed on via the producers, like a sponge. It’s a matter of which is worse for the body, personally
    I would stay away from apples rather than count on them for any sort of help. Our chemical companys
    are ruining our food supply.

    Comments are closed for this post.