The typical liver today is weak, congested and overworked. A liver in this state cannot efficiently metabolize or absorb food because toxins are accumulating in the blood and tissues, causing congestion in the lymph system.
This congestion is the result of living in a sea of interference from environmental pollution, poor-quality foods and the overwhelming stream of information and stimulation of modern life—much of it, unfortunately, hard to bear and challenging to digest. And all without the protective natural ingredients from Mother Earth and the traditional rhythmic routines of eating, sleeping and unwinding that would support the liver in its relentless work.
Just as we feel exhausted with too much on our plate and not enough help to get it done, so does our liver.
Awareness of the liver is a central pillar to restoring vitality and unlocking our innate healing potential, which is why a liver-cleansing diet is at the core of my healing program. I've used it for years to help people with all sorts of symptoms and concerns take their first important steps to turn their health around, and then maintain the progress through a new lifestyle of eating and living with energy.
Here are the basics of what—and how—to eat for optimum health.
The Liver-Cleansing Diet
One of the liver's primary functions is to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Yet it needs support to do this. This six-week program, divided into two parts, is intended to help correct congestion in the liver that blocks healthy metabolism. The first three weeks involve following the Strict Liver-Cleansing Diet, which eliminates foods that I have found to slow down liver function.
The diet is supported with liver-and gallbladder-cleansing foods that are prepared using low-heat cooking methods; the meals comprise simple combinations of high-quality protein, vegetables, fruit and cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil.
You will be introduced to the Liver-Cleansing Drink for breakfast, which is recommended for at least the first three weeks of the cleansing program. Many people also choose to continue it throughout the six weeks.
After three weeks on the strict diet, you will shift to the second phase of the program, the Modified Liver-Cleansing Diet, which includes whole grains—such as brown rice, oats, millet and buckwheat—and potatoes. Many people use this as a baseline for their ongoing lifestyle, veering off it only for special occasions.
One caveat: if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can include whole grains for all six weeks of the diet to ensure you have enough food options.
The program is designed to give your liver the support and rest it needs to cleanse the toxic burden from poor diets and overindulgences. It also guides you in preparing and eating foods that heal, and in forging the path for continuing with this way of life.
The diet involves removing foods with congesting or aggravating effects and instead eating foods that support the liver's functions. In so doing, it counters what I have observed to be the primary causes of malnutrition: incorrect food combinations, foods low in minerals and high in chemicals and hormones, and processed, over-refined foods laden with preservatives, food colorings and additives. These foods can impede the ability of the digestive organs to assimilate nutrients and energy.
The four principles of balanced eating
How you eat is just as important as what you eat. These four principles will help you create simple, balanced meals and get the most out of them.
Principle 1: The 80:20 ratio
This principle speaks to the balance between plant foods— vegetables, fruits and herbs— and protein in each meal. The digestion of proteins is essential to the maintenance and repair of all tissues. Yet we don't need as much protein as people think.
I advise that 20 percent of the plate or bowl be protein—a serving size about the size of the palm of your hand. The remaining 80 percent of the plate should be filled with vegetables or fruits. This principle will ensure that the vegetable juices support the digestion of protein.
If you want to ingest more protein, for example if you are doing hard physical labor or are an athlete, then remember to also increase your vegetables to help process the larger quantities of protein.
When filling your plate or bowl with vegetables, aim to use a colorful, seasonal variety, and rotate your choices rather than relying on the same few all the time. 'Finish' your dish by drizzling olive oil on your vegetables or salad.
Principle 2: Proper food combining
Poor digestion can be the beginning of a health challenge. One of its causes can be the way we combine foods in our meals.
While proteins require the digestive juices of mineral-filled vegetables, starchy carbohydrates like grains require pancreatic enzymes, which can act to neutralize the digestive process needed for protein. Eating proteins and hard starches such as wheat at the same time adds an unnecessary challenge to digestion.
Fruits digest well with either proteins or grains, which is why a bowl of oatmeal and berries can be a delicious and nourishing breakfast. However, some very quick-to-digest fruits like melon are best eaten alone.
For optimal digestion, follow these rules:
Do not combine different sources of protein in one meal. Pick one type of meat, poultry, fish, legume or lentils. The one exception is egg, which can be mixed with other proteins or enjoyed on its own. When you return to dairy after liver cleansing, dairy or nuts should also be kept separate from other proteins—the common combination of dairy and meat, such as in a cheeseburger, is difficult to digest.
Eat protein separate from gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye and barley. This includes all bread and pastries, cereals and pastas. There's a learning curve as you adopt this rule, but soon you will see how that (cheese-free) hamburger digests better without the bun. Similarly, oatmeal digests better with cream (a fat) than with milk (a protein).
Eat grains, especially gluten-containing ones, with vegetables—for example, whole-grain pasta with a vegetable-based sauce. I especially like farro pasta, brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta and buckwheat soba noodles in the program. These items are always in my dry pantry.
In general, eat fruits and vegetables separately. They serve different purposes. Fruits are for cleansing and are good for a start in the morning, quick energy at midday or as evening snacks. Vegetables are for building and supporting the digestive force. When making blended drinks, choose fruits or blended vegetables, but don't mix the two. The exceptions are apples, which digest with vegetables, and lettuce, which digests with fruits.
Principle 3: Cook low and slow
Though we tend to cook at high heat and high speed in our busy lives, I prefer low-heat, slow cooking. This both helps to avoid overheating any fats and protects the proteins. Proteins must be broken down into amino acids before they can be assimilated.
There are twenty-two amino acids that are essential to our health, nine of which must be present in the diet because the body has no way to produce them. Two of these are destroyed by high-heat cooking: tryptophan, which is critical for the immune system, and lysine, which stimulates the metabolic rate. This is why a slow-cooking methodology, using lower temperatures, is core to my approach.
Principle 4: Eat in rhythm
If you don't already, get in the rhythm of eating at regular times and allowing two to three hours after meals for digestion to occur. If after two to three hours you want a snack to get you through to the next meal, drink water or a vegetable juice, or eat a piece of fruit or guacamole with raw vegetables. And don't forget to chew your food thoroughly to mix it with the enzymes in saliva. This first phase of digestion is often overlooked, especially if you are distracted or rushed at mealtimes.
Homeopathy for liver and digestive issues
Even with the best diet, you can still experience digestive disturbances. Here's a cheatsheet of homeopathic remedies you can use when symptoms occur. Doses can be repeated 3 or 4 times, 1 to 4 hours apart. Two pellets should suffice for each dose. After taking a remedy, watch and wait to allow the remedy its fullest action. You may need to go to another remedy if symptoms change.
CARBO VEGETABILIS 6C: for bloating and gas in the stomach, with belching
CINCHONA OFFICINALIS 30C: for bloating and foul-smelling gas, sometimes with painless diarrhea
LYCOPODIUM 30C: for bloating around the waist and sour belching with a desire for sweet things
NATRUM PHOSPHORICUM 30C: for a sour taste in the mouth, acid or burning stomach and a yellow coating on the tongue, or digestive problems after consuming dairy products
NUX VOMICA 30C: for the discomfort associated with eating to excess or overindulgence
PULSATILLA 30C: gastric discomfort caused by eating too much fatty food with bloating, belching and slow digestion
SEPIA 30C: for a sore and painful liver, and flatulence with headache
The Liver-Cleansing Diet at a glance
All oils except olive and flaxseed, and all heated oils
Sugar and corn syrup
Milk and dairy products
Grains and white potatoes*
Nuts and seeds
Meat, poultry, eggs and fish
Lentils and legumes
Vegetables, nonstarchy and starchy, raw and cooked
Fruit, raw and cooked
Extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil (unheated)
*Whole grains are allowed if you're vegetarian; non-vegetarians can reintroduce whole grains and potatoes after the first three weeks.
The Liver-Cleansing Drink
Used daily for the first three weeks of cleansing, this drink should be consumed as your first food of the day and taken with no other food. Let it digest for two hours before eating.
1 grapefruit or orange, peeled and chopped
1 lemon, peeled and chopped
1- 2 Tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
Small pinch cayenne pepper
1-2 garlic cloves*
1-2 tsp ground flaxseed
½-1-inch (1-2-cm) slice of fresh ginger
*If you want to avoid garlic breath, use 2-4 garlic capsules instead, available at health-food stores, and swallow with your drink
1) Place all ingredients in a blender and add about a half cup of water—or enough to
blend into a thick drink. (Do not cover with water, or it will be too thin.) Add
more water as needed.
2) Blend on high until the garlic, ginger and flaxseed are thoroughly blended.
3) Drink slowly, mixing the drink with your saliva before swallowing.
Note: The drink should be thick enough to chew, and it's best to make it fresh each
morning. (It doesn't store well due to oxidation.)
No-Fry Stir-Fry Vegetables
Traditional Japanese stir-frying usually uses sesame oil. But it's best not to fry foods on a liver cleanse. While an occasional sesame oil stir-fry is usually tolerable throughout the program and in the maintenance phase (sesame can tolerate heat), the following oil-free method lets you fill your bowl with vegetables easily, no frying required.
Use any vegetables you like. Good combinations include:
Broccoli, carrots, mushroom and Swiss chard
Cauliflower, carrot and snow peas
Asparagus, shiitake mushrooms and fresh water chestnuts
Green beans, red peppers and cremini mushrooms
Potatoes, eggplant, diced green peppers and cilantro
Bok choy, carrots, spring onions and ginger
1) Cut up vegetables before starting to cook.
2) Heat frying pan or wok over medium flame.
3) Pour in 3 Tbsp chicken or vegetable broth.
4) Stir-fry onion, mashed garlic, fresh ginger or chilis for 2 minutes.
5) Add hard-textured vegetables. Stir, then cover the frying pan and steam for 10 minutes.
6) Add softer vegetables.
7) Be careful not to overcook. Cooked vegetables should be tender but not limp.
8) Add a splash of sherry, rice vinegar or wheat-free tamari, if desired.
To enhance the dish, you can add any of the following steps:
1) Add mung bean threads (also known as glass noodles)—soak first and add as the last ingredient.
2) Stir in 1-2 eggs at the end of cooking and slowly cook, stirring, until they are scrambled.
3) Add arrowroot and water to pan juices to make a gravy after cooking the vegetables.
4) Top with slices of leftover chicken or other meat.
5) Serve over brown rice.
Dr Linda's Dal with Veggies
This is my basic dal recipe, which I have used for over 40 years. It can be modified according to the season and what looks good in the market. It can be a staple of your Liver-Cleansing Program whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore. Lentils come in many varieties, yellow, white or red. Red is traditional and works very well in this recipe.
1 cup lentils, picked over for stones
1 Tbsp ghee
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp coriander seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 knob fresh ginger, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
¼—½ tsp ground cayenne powder, according to taste
1 tsp sea salt and more to taste
4 curry leaves
2⁄3 cup carrots, chopped
2 small zucchini, cut into small chunks
10 green beans, cut into 1-inch (2½-cm) pieces
Any greens available in your refrigerator according to season, chopped
1) Wash the lentils thoroughly in water, then drain.
2) Heat ghee over medium heat. Add black mustard seeds, coriander and fenugreek. When mustard seeds begin to pop, add cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger and onion. Let this blend cook until the onions are translucent.
3) Add cayenne and salt. Then add curry leaves, lentils, carrots, zucchini and green beans.
4) Add water to cover and cook for about 1 hour, adding enough water to make a loose/thin dal. Add greens (kale, Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli or any other green vegetable you like) and continue to cook until tender.
5) Taste for seasoning and add more sea salt if needed.