If you follow a typical American diet, the answer to that headline question is likely “Yes!” Sadly, you’re endangering one of your most vital organs and shortening your life. 

The liver handles a huge workload —removing toxins from blood…storing and distributing fats, vitamins and hormones…regulating blood sugar…and a lot more. However, a sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep and especially diets heavy in fat, processed carbohydrates and sugar can lead to excess triglycerides, a type of lipid (blood fat) that clogs the liver with fat.

Signs that your liver is clogged…

  • You are overweight, fatigued and/or have food cravings. A healthy liver easily regulates weight, energy and appetite. Note: You can have a fatty liver without being overweight, so be aware of the symptoms below.
  • You have a chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lung disease and/or autoimmune disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
  • You have high triglycerides. 
  • You have elevated alanine ­aminotransferase (ALT), a liver enzyme measured during a complete blood count test or liver panel. 

If you think your liver may be fatty—putting you at risk for liver inflammation, scarring (cirrhosis) and even liver failure—consider trying this four-week liver-­cleansing diet…*

What to Eat

Studies show that replacing two meals a day with a protein shake burns liver fat, reduces body fat and curbs inflammation while sparing muscle. Many people lose five to 15 pounds and several inches around their waist—a sign that the diet is working. If you shouldn’t lose weight, add an extra daily meal. The shake should include… 

  • A protein powder that contains about 23 g of protein per serving and does not have artificial ingredients (toxic to the liver) or refined sugar (it turns to triglycerides). Good choices are pea powder or blended-vegetable protein powder.
  • Resistant starch (RS), a fiberlike carbohydrate found in such foods as potatoes, green bananas, legumes, raw oats and cashews. RS boosts liver function, regulates blood sugar, reduces deep abdominal fat and helps build muscle mass. Suggestions:Two tablespoons to one-quarter cup of one of the foods above or aquafaba (the liquid left from canned or cooked legumes, such as chickpeas). 
  • Liver-supporting superfoods. Add one cup of greens (spinach, kale, arugula, watercress, etc.)…one tablespoon of milk thistle seeds…one teaspoon of spirulina…one teaspoon of cacao powder…and/or one teaspoon of maca powder, according to preference. 
  • Flavoring. As desired, use stevia, xylitol, cinnamon, ginger, food-grade essential oils such as lemon or wild orange, and natural extracts of ­vanilla, almond and chocolate. 

Place the ingredients in a blender. I recommend a high-powered one such as a NutriBullet, Vitamix or Blendtec. Add enough water to make about 16 ounces and blend for one minute. 

More liver-cleansing diet tips…

  • Snack healthy. Phytonutrient-rich, low-calorie foods such as carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, celery, tomatoes and zucchini support liver function and don’t add extra fat. Have at least three such snacks of one or a combination of these foods daily between shakes and after dinner.
  • Power-pack dinner. When consumed together, cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and apiaceous vegetables (including carrots and parsley) trigger the liver’s fat-clearing process. 
  • Lean proteins. Good dinner proteins include poultry, fish, lean grass-fed beef, cottage cheese, legumes, high-protein grains (quinoa and amaranth), nuts, seeds and soy foods.

Note: After completing the diet, ask your doctor about repeating your blood work, including the ALT test.

*Check with your doctor before starting this or any new diet program, especially if you have a chronic disease or take medication.