When you think of fat burning, you probably think exercise, muscle mass, or even thyroid function. But did you know your mighty liver is your most important organ for proper fat metabolism? If you’re on a weight loss plan, listen up: supporting your liver is key to success, especially if you’ve hit a plateau or can’t get rid of that stubborn abdominal fat roll.
Your liver is your hardest working organ; it has over 500 jobs in the body involving digestion, hormone balance, detox, AND burning fat (to name a few). The liver aids in digestion by producing bile to help break down fat and absorb fat- and water-soluble vitamins and minerals. A proper functioning liver carries fat out of the body via the small intestine using bile, which is produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. An unhealthy or congested liver may obstruct bile flow, resulting in inefficient toxin removal and fat that is recirculated through the liver via the portal vein.
Blood sugar regulation is also key for weight loss and hormone balance, and your liver plays a part in regulating glucose, blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol and sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone). It converts blood sugar (glucose) to glycogen (stored energy), and then back to glucose (active energy) as needed. A congested liver means blood sugar and insulin aren’t regulated optimally, contributing to fat storage (insulin is a fat storage hormone).
Your liver requires a number of antioxidants, B vitamins, and amino acids to neutralize and excrete toxins effectively. If you are deficient in any of these nutrients, liver function (and fat burning) suffers. Below is a breakdown of nutrients needed for both phases of liver detox.
When the liver is overworked, it becomes congested, and toxins build up and are recirculated through your system, causing inflammation that is associated with obesity. Your body stores these recirculated, built-up toxins in fat tissues, which is actually a smart way to keep toxins from causing damage in your body. But it also makes burning fat more difficult, as your body is reluctant to burn fat that harbors fat soluble toxins. This causes fat to accumulate, especially around the belly.
Foods & Substances that Contribute to Liver Congestion
- Prescription and OTC drugs
- High fructose corn syrup
- Processed foods and artificial sweeteners
- Chemical cleaning and body care products
- Plastics, BPA
- Fried food
How do You Know if Your Liver is Affecting Your Ability to Burn Fat?
- You have weight loss resistance, meaning you’ve tried everything and can’t lose weight
- You’ve hit a weight loss plateau
- Weight accumulates around your mid-section, giving you a muffin top fat roll or pot belly.
- You have high LDL cholesterol, over 125
- Elevated liver enzymes or bilirubin on blood work (NOTE: you can have a congested liver and still have normal enzymes.)
- You’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver
- You feel sluggish and irritable
- You have slow digestion and tend toward constipation
- You have skin issues and acne
How to Maximize Liver Function for Weight Loss
If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, especially post-menopause, kick off your liver loving fat burning plan with a 21 day detox. This means kicking processed and artificial foods, gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, alcohol, and sugar for 3 weeks to calm inflammation and reduce intake of toxins that contribute to a congested liver. This is particularly effective for weight loss resistance and overcoming a plateau. My recommended detox plan is here, and you can use this handy 21 day kit that supplies all the above nutrients and herbs needed to overcome liver congestion.
Once you’ve finished the 21 day detox and you liver is functioning better, keep it happy with the following:
- Start your day with a liver lovin’ tonic of hot water with the juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/4 tsp turmeric and/or pinch of cayenne (can add stevia if it’s too bitter). This amazing tonic cleanses the liver and boosts sluggish bile flow for effective fat metabolism. Great for skin and digestion, too!
- This liver support aids in liver detox and facilitates bile flow.
- Green smoothies with dairy free protein or collagen are great. Add spirulina, handful of spinach, or kale. I have tons of recipes on my smoothie pinterest board.
- Eat as many cruciferous veggies as you can: kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collard greens. These, along with garlic and onion, are the sulfur-containing veggies that support liver detox.
- Focus on organic protein, vegetables of all kinds, healthy fats, fruit, green juices, nuts and seeds. Make your meals plant-based, meaning 1/2 your plate should be veggies, especially the green leafys.
- Avoid refined carbs (white flour, processed junk food).
- Cut out the alcohol. It offers no health benefit for weight loss.
- Green juices are excellent liver detoxers.
- Include my foods and herbs for a healthy liver
- Dry skin brushing is excellent for liver and lymphatic health.
- Ditch your chemical cleaning and body care products. Here are some handy ways to reduce toxins in your life.
- Drink plenty of water daily. Detox herbal teas are great too.
- Here are 10 additional ways you can love your liver daily.
- Avoid conventionally raised meat and fish. They contain hormones and antibiotics not present in organically raised meat.
- Move more! Rebounding is especially good for lymph and liver.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.