Sluggish Liver

Sluggish Liver

In addition to its important roles in the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the liver helps to maintain Cholesterol and Blood Sugar levels. It also metabolises toxic substances and enables them to be excreted from the body, so sub-optimal function can have a wide variety of health consequences.


  • Sluggish liver function causes a number of digestive symptoms, which may include Constipation, abdominal bloating, Nausea, Indigestion, and intolerance of fatty foods and alcohol
  • Additionally, suboptimal detoxification may result in symptoms throughout the body, including Blood Sugar problems, headaches, mood problems, Fatigue, weight problems, hormonal imbalance and skin problems
  • More severe liver problems (such as infection or hepatitis) may cause symptoms of abdominal pain, jaundice, vomiting, fever, swelling of the abdomen, hardness of the liver, and itchy skin


  • Many cases of sluggish liver are due to an inability to keep up with the detoxification requirements of excessive wastes or toxins
  • Toxic compounds in the body may include alcohol, prescribed and recreational drugs, pesticides and hormones
  • A diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, sugars and refined carbohydrates may also contribute, as may inadequate intake of key nutrients including choline, vitamin C and the B-complex group of vitamins
  • Liver function may also be affected if secretion of digestive enzymes is dysfunctional, or if the balance of the friendly bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is compromised
  • Hormonal factors may also play a part. For example, excess oestrogen inhibits liver and gall bladder function

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Milk thistle has powerful antioxidant properties that help protect the liver from toxic damage and stimulate the repair and regeneration of liver cells
  • Milk thistle is often taken in conjunction with globe artichoke, schisandra and dandelion leaf, a combination of liver, gall bladder and kidney cleansing herbs that enhance the body's detoxification mechanisms and support the excretion of toxins, including excess hormones. They are believed to work by helping to increase bile output and stimulate bowel function
  • Taking a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement works with your body's own gastric secretions to enhance your digestion of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and cellulose, and consequently may reduce symptoms of sluggish liver. Look for a formula that also contains herbs such as ginger and peppermint, which are traditionally taken to relieve symptoms of flatulence as well as other digestive symptoms such as Indigestion and Nausea
  • Taking probiotic supplements such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium longum helps restore the balance of intestinal bacteria and normalise bowel habits, aiding detoxification. Oligofructose (sometimes called fructo-oligosaccharides) can be taken at the same time as probiotics to encourage and support re-colonisation by the friendly bacteria
  • Lecithin is a natural source of choline, which facilitates the movement of fats in and out of cells, and is required for healthy liver function

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Severe, persistent or recurrent liver symptoms may be indicative of underlying disease, and require medical investigation
  • Avoid fats that present a high workload for your liver and gall bladder: full-cream dairy products, margarines, processed vegetable oils (hydrogenated or trans fats), deep fried foods, preserved and fatty meats. Instead, choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats
  • Use herbs and spices to flavour your food. Turmeric is an especially good choice as it has traditionally been regarded as a liver detoxifying remedy, and has proven antioxidant properties
  • Fibre has the capacity to bind to toxins, allowing them to be excreted from the body. For this purpose, soluble fibre is the most effective form of fibre; good sources include psyllium, oats, barley and fibre from legumes and pulses
  • Avoid sugary foods (e.g. cordial, lollies, soft drink, commercial breakfast cereals), junk food (e.g. take away, chips), processed foods (e.g. white bread), and artificial colours, preservatives and sweeteners
  • Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet. Choose organic where possible to avoid exposure to pesticides and other toxins
  • Drink two litres of filtered water every day, and avoid soft drinks, cordial, alcohol and caffeine. Dandelion root has traditionally been used as a liver and gall bladder tonic and makes an excellent coffee alternative
  • Ask your healthcare professional to arrange testing for food allergies and intolerances
  • Avoid large, heavy meals, and instead eat smaller portions more frequently, aiming for 5-6 small meals each day
  • Taking the time to chew your meals slowly prepares the stomach for the imminent arrival of food, and triggers the release of gastric acids and enzymes that will enable optimal digestion
  • Physical activity reduces the amount of time it takes for the faeces to be excreted. Even a brisk 30-minute walk has health benefits, and can help improve bowel function and relieve Stress

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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