The liver is the unsung hero of metabolism and well-being, insists nutritionist Haylie Pomroy, dubbed the “Metabolism Whisperer” by Dr. Oz and a roster of A-list clients including Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and Cher. “Everything we eat and absorb must be processed by the liver. And in today’s world, it’s so easy to overburden the organ, causing it to slack on over 600 metabolic functions.” The result is weight gain, fatigue and health issues galore. “You might think you’re experiencing inevitable changes caused by aging, but really all you need is a liver boost!” That’s why she created the simple liver cleanse she’s sharing on these pages. “Women tell me their energy shoots up, their moods improve and they lose up to 17 pounds — all in just 10 days.”
Many of us have been given the impression that wine and cocktails are the biggest threat to liver health. That’s usually not the case. “Excessive alcohol is damaging, but most of us don’t drink enough for it to be a big factor,” notes Pomroy. The far more common culprit: refined carbohydrates. Turns out, one of the liver’s most time-consuming jobs is turning excess carbs into fat for storage. Since the average person downs 300 pounds of sugar and flour a year, modern livers pump out far more fat than they were designed to handle. “The fat gets stuck inside the liver,” Dr. Oz explained. These fatty deposits build up, clogging the organ and making it more and more sluggish over time. Luckily, the liver is able to clean itself out if you just give it a break from refined carbs — so that’s exactly how Pomroy has you get started on her plan. Then she helps you take it to the next level with some detox superfoods!
Ignite Fat Burn
Our livers aren’t just clogged, they’re swollen. “Fatty deposits cause inflammation, making it even harder for the liver to function. So a great way to enhance results is focusing on anti-inflammatory foods,” Pomroy says. That means plenty of antioxidant-rich produce, herbs and spices along with healing protein and soothing good fats to nourish the often-overworked organ with liver-supporting foods can help restore healthy hormone production and jumpstart fat burning — in just 10 days. “Each nutrient you put into your body triggers the release of a different hormone or enzyme that allows the liver to function optimally,” Pomroy explains. “These are not going to be secreted unless you add the right foods. The quicker you can add them to the mix, the more fuel the liver will have to be as effective as possible.”
Beginning is easy: After starting your day with breakfast, Pomroy recommends eating at least every three or four hours to ensure that the liver is constantly fueled and functioning at its peak. For example, at around 11 am you’ll have a mid-morning snack of tea or a smoothie (Pomroy recommends liquid snacks, which ensure speedy nutrient absorption) followed by lunch at 2 pm, a smoothie or soup at 5 pm, and dinner at 7 pm. In building your meals, you’ll fill up on vegetables, lean animal proteins, healthy fats and low-sugar fruits to fuel the liver, while avoiding processed foods, grains, beans, corn, sugar and dairy, all of which inhibit the liver’s production of weight-regulating hormones.
You’ll also aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day, which Pomroy says will help the liver collect and secrete toxins. “Water also fills you up,” adds NIH nutritionist and physician Christine Gerbstadt, MD. “So it helps regulate calorie intake in addition to keeping the liver healthy.”
But your secret weapons are the foods that will support your liver, regulate hormone production and help it eliminate fat and toxins, says Pomroy. She advises rotating these seven detox superfoods into your diet.
It delivers a compound (D-limonene) that activates key detoxification enzymes in the liver, improving the organ’s ability to flush harmful toxins and burn fat by 30 percent. Says Pomroy: “Grapefruit also contains unique phytonutrients that trigger the production of enzymes in the liver that burn fat and help intensify liver metabolism.” Snack on one whole grapefruit to get the benefits.
Mushrooms are high in fiber, which Pomroy calls “kindling for the metabolism,” plus they contain compounds that help restore and strengthen the liver after toxins have been expelled. According to scientists at Georgetown University, eating mushrooms can kickstart belly fat burning within 48 hours and help you shed up to five extra pounds of belly fat per month. Pomroy recommends enjoying at least ½ cup.
They help the liver banish stubborn fat. “Sunflower seeds have a very high natural lecithin concentration, which is one of the compounds the gallbladder uses to dissolve and break down fat,” Pomroy explains. The result: Speedy liver cleansing and optimized fat burning. To get the perks, you can snack on sunflower seeds by the handful or blend ¼ cup into a smoothie.
It’s made up of medium-chain fatty acids, the liver’s favorite kind of fat to utilize for energy. “There are certain fats that are very easy for the liver to break down,” explains Pomroy. “Short-chain fatty acids (those produced in the gut) are very easy to break down, so the liver doesn’t get very active. Long-chain fatty acids (like those in meat and olive oil) are harder to break down, so the body can get overwhelmed. But medium-chain fatty acids are just right — they entice the liver to produce the enzymes needed to start fat burning.” The proof: Medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to increase metabolism by 56 percent. To get the perks, cook with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or add it to a smoothie.
They deliver cholesterol, the building block for all hormones, as well as lecithin to help the body break down and utilize cholesterol. These gems are also rich in choline, a nutrient the liver uses to prevent fat accumulation within the gland itself. British scientists say adding two eggs to your daily diet can help you shed up to 17 additional pounds and trim an extra 3 inches off your waist.
It stimulates enzyme secretion in the liver and increases production of bile to help speed the breakdown of fat. All told, bitter foods like fennel can increase metabolism by up to 53 percent. Pomroy suggests adding ½ to 1 tablespoon of fennel to meals, saying, “Fennel is really good when people have a lot of lumpy, bumpy fat or cellulite in areas they have never had it before.”
It’s best known as a potent anti-inflammatory, but it can also help the liver break up fatty deposits in the body. That’s why Pomroy recommends adding ½ teaspoon or more of turmeric. “Warming spices like turmeric increase blood flow, helping break up fat deposits.” The payoff: Turmeric has been shown to whittle waistline fat by 30 percent.
Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and blood sugar issues, Sarah Strong began packing on pounds. Even though she felt lethargic all the time, she pushed herself to use brutal diets. But there was only so much she could take. “As soon as I returned to ‘normal,’ I’d regain every bit I’d lost and then some,” recalls the 44-year-old. “A coworker and his wife started having tons and tons of success using Haylie’s approach, so I did some research.” It was the first time she learned that “priming” her liver could help rebalance her hormones and shrink her waist. She gave it a go, tucking into veggie scrambles, soups, steak dinners. “I couldn’t believe how often I was eating — every three hours, even late at night. I had a panic attack, thinking I’m going to end up gaining weight.” Instead she lost about a pound a day. “It was a miraculous experience,” says Sarah, who stuck with it, shrinking from a size 18 to an 8. “Once I started nourishing my body instead of starving it, everything changed. This way of eating has gotten me healthy again and brought me so much joy!”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Detox Your Way (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).