Liver Loving Herbs and Superfoods for Beautiful Skin

by Carla Hernandez Natural Remedies, Skin HealthComments: 23

Liver Loving Foods

In previous articles on skin health, I wrote about the importance of healing the gut, optimizing digestion, and proper intake of certain skin beautifying vitamins and minerals in order to heal most skin conditions.

While this is all well and good, there is more to improving digestion than just healing the gut and optimizing digestion. The digestive system is made up of your gallbladder, liver and pancreas in addition to your actual stomach. These organs therefore also need TLC to function optimally. If not, they become congested and overwhelmed, leading to symptoms, which for some can result in skin issues.

The Liver Lowdown

The liver is our second largest and most important detoxifying organ in our body. Can you guess the first?

Yes, it’s the skin, which is why if the liver is sluggish, skin problems can develop. In essence, the liver supports the health of the skin. Every toxin in our body is taken to the liver to be cleaned and transformed (fat-soluble into water soluble forms) that can then be excreted so that the body is able to expel it via the colon. It removes harmful bacteria, chemicals, toxins, and even removes excess hormones. The liver also stores vitamins A, D, B-12, iron, copper, and is even a site for glucose storage.  It is where the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats take place.

Bile production is an especially important role of the liver when it comes to the skin. Bile is stored in the gallbladder which contracts every time we consume fat.  It breaks down lipids into smaller particles so that we can absorb and utilize them, otherwise we don’t get the benefits of eating good fats. The other important role of bile is to stimulate peristaltic action, which is the muscle contraction that happens in the digestive track to move food and waste through the intestines. If bile doesn’t get released, this doesn’t happen and it can become difficult to produce a bowel movement.

So what does this have to do with the skin? It’s all about toxins. The more toxins, the more stress the liver endures 24/7 and this shows like a mirror via skin health.

An overworked liver means that it’s not functioning optimally, and therefore can’t keep a clean home. One of the first signs that the liver is congested are bowel problems. If constipation is an issue, or you’re going less than twice a day, this can keep extra toxins hanging around. This happens because the colon reabsorbs toxins if transit time is slowed and bowel waste is sitting there longer than it should be. Think of each bowel movement as a meal. Typically we’re eating three meals a day, which means we should be moving our bowels nearly as often too!

Other symptoms of a sluggish liver include:

  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Acne/skin rashes
  • Poor tolerance to coffee, alcohol, smoke or fragrances
  • Brain fog
  • Indigestion after eating
  • Constipation, diarrhea or light or dark colored stools
  • Difficulty losing weight even with diet efforts
  • Pain in the lower right rib
  • Waking at night between 2am and 4am

A large part of maintaining healthy skin is making sure you take good care of your liver and gall bladder, as well as healing the stomach if needed. The good news is the liver can and does regenerate every 5 months, relatively quickly and effectively compared to other organs. The liver responds extremely well to foods, but especially herbs. Here are some liver loving herbs and foods you can introduce into your diet to make sure you are supporting it properly.

Liver loving herbs:

  • Dandelion
  • Milk thistle
  • Bitter Greens
  • Nettle leaves
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley


  • Chlorella/ Spirulinahelps clear toxins from the body, boosts immunity and Increases oxygen uptake.
  • Brewer’s Yeasthigh in nucleic acid which is an important component of cell development. Also a rich source of B vitamins, folate, potassium and chromium.
  • Garlic-High in allicin and selenium that can aid in cleansing the liver.
  • Lemons, limes and Grapefruit- Eating or drinking the juices of these fruits, or warm lemon water first thing in the morning, can help your liver flush out toxins and assist in cleansing.
  • Beets- high in flavanoids, which your liver loves! Eat them raw, juiced or in Kvass form.
  • Leafy Greens-The abundant chlorophyll and minerals contained here are super supportive in the detoxification process.
  • WheyAdding whey to your diet can help your body produce glutathione, which is needed for phase I and II of detoxification.
  • TurmericAssists in fat digestion as it stimulates bile production and studies have shown it to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Liver! A true superfood. Think of the term “like cures like”. Liver has all the nutrition your own liver needs to stay healthy, just make sure you get the highest quality from pasture raised animals!
  • Burdock Root- A published study found that burdock helps heal and protect against liver damage. Research’s link this to its antioxidant properties.

Tips to get these foods into your daily diet:

  • Start your morning off with some lemon water upon rising.
  • Make a protein shake with whey, berries or grapefruit, spirulina and coconut milk for a quick breakfast or snack.
  • Drink herbal liver detox teas daily instead of coffee.
  • Make a large raw salad with beets, leafy greens, and garlic (great in dressings).
  • Sprinkle Brewer’s yeast onto veggies, salads or onto any dehydrated veggie chips (my favorite)!
  • Make a stir fry, curry, or soup with Turmeric (great for the fall and winter months approaching)
  • Learn to love liver! Pate is my all time favorite but you can cook it up or add it to main meats as well if you prefer not to eat it as a spread.

Support your liver in all phases!

Many times I find that people respond wonderfully from just supporting and restoring methylation and glutathione levels to help properly detox the liver. The liver has a total of three phases. Common support to address liver health usually focuses around phase I only, which is to convert fat soluble toxins to a water soluble form to be excreted.

This can be extremely harmful when free radicals are being formed but not exiting the body quickly, because an accumulation can rapidly happen rather if not all phases are working properly.  Phase II goes further to make toxins less harmful to the body by pairing it with a glutathione molecule and making it more water soluble. This is why many people’s glutathione levels are depleted, because they are too toxic and the body is using mass amounts to deal with the congestion. Phase III is the elimination phase. Toxins are now carried to the bloodstream to be expelled out of the body.

Methylation and glutathione are both extremely important to make sure these phases all happen. For our bodies to produce glutathionewe also need nutrients such as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), alpha lipoic acid, selenium, B12, folate, B6, and glycine. Raw dairy is one of the best food sources of glutathione, as it is not absorbed well in supplement form via the digestive track. Focus on all the food sources above, as well as relieving liver stress by using the skin to release toxins: via sweat, exercise, sauna, epsom salt baths.  The more ways you support it, the healthier your liver will be which will correspondingly show through both how you feel and how your skin looks!

About The Author

Carla is a  Board Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She is the founder of Wise Roots Nutrition, which is an integrative approach that focuses on customized plans to support the root cause of a person’s health challenge.

Carla educates and empowers you to make responsible and healthful food choices that restore balance and proper function to your body, as well as offers lab testing to provide accurate recommendations and effective solutions.

She believes in finding the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Carla works with people locally in San Francisco, as well as long distance via phone and Skype. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions.

Sign up to get Carla’s weekly nutrition tips, ideas, and the latest health information on her site, or connect with her on Facebook.

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Comments (23)

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  • Carla

    Most should be ok, but I would definitely double check as many of these are detoxifiers, so you will be releasing toxins that could leek into the breast milk.

    October 13th, 2013 6:02 pm Reply
  • Liz

    So interesting! I’m nursing my little one; is it ok to start these herbs and superfoods while nursing?

    October 13th, 2013 3:01 pm Reply
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  • Rebecca

    Do you have any comments about Karen Hurds bean diet for gallstones? I know from personal experience that it works when you eat beans every15 min. till the pain goes away. BUT can it work over 6weeks and totally clear out the gall bladder?

    October 12th, 2013 2:28 am Reply
    • Carla

      Hi Rebecca,
      I have no experience nor have I heard of Karen Hurds bean diet, but it sounds interesting! There’s a few different gallbladder cleanses out there, just make sure and take precaution as they are not something to rush into if your body is not prepared for it. I would highly recommend working with someone who has experience doing this.

      October 13th, 2013 5:58 pm Reply
  • Marie

    Ask and you shall receive! Thank you for talking about detox. I believe that not enough importance is put on detox. I always like to go to the source of the problem and when you find out that you have X disease always ask but why do I have that, After you find the answer, ask the why question again and again then you might find the true cause… I’ve learned recently that I have Hashimoto’s disease and that it is probably link to a mercury poisoning (after some dental work…) After a lots of research I came a cross Dr. Chris Shade of Quick Silver Scientific (interview and presentation on Dr. Mercola: I found his method and protocol very interesting and I’m in a process of finding a health professional to help me with the mercury try-test and the detox protocol. I was looking to find infos on how to prep my liver and kidneys before starting the protocol and that’s when I found your article… Thank you! Now I was wondering if you could talk about how to prep the kidneys for better elimination. Thanks!

    October 11th, 2013 5:08 pm Reply
    • Beth

      I would love to see a guest post by Chris Shade. According to my knowledgeable sources, he is doing some of the most promising work in the area of mercury testing and detox.

      October 11th, 2013 11:12 pm Reply
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  • Diane

    What if dairy intolerant? How would you replace the whey for glutathione?

    October 11th, 2013 11:35 am Reply
  • Candace Coffin

    I am concerned about your statement: “Should have two bowel movements a day or at least as many bowel movements as meals.” I know many healthy folks who have one bowel movement a day. When folks read they should be having 2-3 a day, they panick. : )

    October 11th, 2013 11:23 am Reply
    • Carla

      Hi Candace,

      It’s all dependent on how much someone takes in and the size of their bodies. I’ve just noticed most people who don’t go as often are backed up or have other symptoms even though digestive wise they may feel ok.

      October 11th, 2013 2:47 pm Reply
  • Leta Wellman

    I don’t care much for liver in its more common forms, such as “liver and onions” or pate. But there is a uniquely Carolina food that utilizes the heart and liver of pigs and cows, called “liver mush” or “liver pudding”. My understanding is that it is very much like pate, just in a “block” form. We slice it and fry it. Liver mush and eggs for breakfast, liver mush sandwich for lunch and liver mush, pinto beans and cornbread for supper.
    I was wondering if you had any thoughts as to the food value of liver mush/liver pudding?
    And yes, it’s a silly, rather off-putting name… but, man-oh-man, that’s some GOOD eating!!!

    October 10th, 2013 10:27 pm Reply
    • Julia

      Leta, can you share the recipe?, please :-). Liver mush sounds great. My son will not eat liver – in any form. My husband and I love it though. I’d love to try the mush. Thanks!

      October 10th, 2013 10:38 pm Reply
    • Carla

      HI Leta, it’s all about the quality! Organ meats are great and provide a lot of nourishment but please do make sure they are coming from healthy animals otherwise you will be getting a heavy dose of toxins as well!

      October 11th, 2013 3:00 pm Reply
  • Dionne Lewis

    I would agree that this is a good article for supporting liver function, and I plan to put more of these into practice. To Kristi, my humble suggestion would be to eat three meals a day, without snacking (every time, you eat, that puts a strain on the digestive system) and eat the meals with broth and with some digestive enzymes like the bitters Carla mentioned. There are a number of good formulations around in a herbal store. No need to forgo the fats, as long as you are eating traditionally – but you definitely need the bitters to help with digestion,

    October 10th, 2013 4:14 pm Reply
  • Kristi

    I would love to read/hear what you have to say to those of us who no longer have a gall bladder. Unfortunately, I had mine removed years ago — when I was told I had gall stones and had no other option for the pain, and before I knew about REAL food diets. Ever since then, it seems to be a very common procedure for people to just go and have their gall bladders removed. I was told it was no big deal, that I didn’t need the organ, and that I’d be fine without it. I since think otherwise. Why would we have been created with gall bladders if they weren’t necessary, or, at the very least, good for us?
    I will get off my soap box…but would love to hear your response as to how best to proceed from here on out. Thank you!

    October 10th, 2013 2:25 pm Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Hi Kristi, perhaps this article can help in some way:

      October 10th, 2013 4:42 pm Reply
    • Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

      Hi Kristi,

      This is so important to address that I think a whole article should be dedicated to this! I had gallbladder attacks for years without knowing what they were and they only got worse with added fat until I supported it and eventually it started to heal. In your case though without a gallbladder, you definitely need to get on bile salts or ox bile to “replace” as much as possible the function of your gallbladder. I use professional products and usually these are not sold on the market, but something like this should help:

      October 10th, 2013 5:38 pm Reply
      • Beth

        I would be very interested in reading an article devoted to those without a gall bladder. I also had mine removed about 10 years ago after an attack and xray that showed it was full of stones. I continued to eat a SAD diet at the time with no noticeable differences in my digestion. In the past few years we eat WAPF friendly for the most part and I eat more good fats. I have never noticed a problem in my digestion without a gall bladder. So reading about it further would help me see why I might need to add bile salts or ox bile. Also, the doc said I would still produce bile but not store it. Thanks for the great article today!

        October 11th, 2013 2:41 pm Reply

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