How Protein Can Support Liver Function

Detoxification is synonymous with holistic nutrition. I always find that when the topic of holistic nutrition comes up, a question or comment in regards to detoxification makes it’s way into the conversation. I’m ok with this because supporting the detoxification and elimination process is a large part of what we as nutritional practitioners do. The downside to this is that there are many misconceptions regarding liver detoxification. Also, for some reason a lot of people assume that I walk barefoot and put flowers in my hair while sipping kombucha as I talk to the birds because I’m involved with holistic nutrition. This I can live with because it actually sounds like a really cool thing to assume of someone. Anyways, in this post I wanted to set two things straight. First, I don’t walk barefoot in the streets, and secondly, I don’t believe  a low protein diet is required in order to maintain a healthy liver. I guess I should address the second statement before someone assumes I’m applying “bro science” to detoxification. I do believe that in some cases protein should be restricted when liver function is taxed and that fasting has its time and place in jumpstarting liver function. However, long-term protein reduction is definitely not the answer to everyone’s problems.

A little insight into how the body uses protein with regards to liver function (I promise this won’t bore you with this).

In the liver, toxins are neutralized in two phases. To keep things simple, just know that phase 2 of the liver detoxification entails something called “conjugation”. This is where the toxin that leaves the liver is accompanied by a conjugate before being excreted into our waste. Think of a really drunk girl at the club. She can’t leave alone, she’ll need someone to accompany her out of the club, into the taxi and finally into the toilet. Same thing goes for toxins. Literally. See what I did there? Amino acids can serve as the friend that attaches to the toxin and out the body. The liver uses glycine, taurine, glutamine arginine and ornithine (all amino acids). This is why a balanced diet of protein is actually required for normal liver function. It’s also an important aspect of methylation but we’ll leave that for another post.

The main point I wanted to get across is that protein is not all that bad! Normally, we’d be hard pressed to find blog posts that preach about protein being a supportive macronutrient to the liver. I understand that we live in a society where overconsumption is more widespread than under consumption, but amino acid conjugation is just one thing to consider when looking at the overall function of liver detoxification.

Some tips on choosing protein sources…

  1. Opt for organic and sustainably farmed meats.
  1. If organic is too expensive, keep in mind that you won’t be buying the same amount of meat if it were commercially farmed. Higher quality = better bioavailability (usability).
  1. Avoid over consuming on protein. You can easily come up with your protein amount using apps or websites that will calculate Macros for you. Consult a nutritionist if you’re totally in the dark about amount.

Eat your protein.