Detox Every Day 2: Watch Your Drinks

Photo by my friend, Gregory Bodwell.

The most popular social beverages happen to be the ones that slug up your liver.  There are numerous other drinks to pick on, like soda, and even worse, diet soda, but it’s a lot cooler to drink coffee or alcohol than it is to down a can of diet coke (this is certainly the case in Seattle).  Maybe because coffee and alcohol are more natural.

If you want to make detoxing an every day part of your life, coffee and alcohol are beverages to minimize or avoid altogether.  Why?  Because they both impact the liver.  Your liver is the detox powerhouse of your body.  It processes not only environmental chemicals and pesticides, but also detoxifies pharmaceutical agents, hormones, and toxic metabolites produced from normal body reactions.  A slugged up liver makes a less effective detox system, which paves an avenue for chemicals and toxins to float around your body and wreck havoc on your health.

By avoiding coffee and alcohol, you free up your liver to process other, perhaps more harmful, substances.  Some chemicals can even compete for the same detox spot that caffeine or alcohol uses in the liver.  This means that if coffee and alcohol are detoxified in their special liver hot spot, another chemical may need that same hot spot to be detoxified, but can’t be processed because the seat is taken.  Basically, the metabolic machinery in the liver that’s used to detox alcohol and caffeine could be used for bigger and better things.

I don’t like to pick on coffee, and I’m not saying its BAD.  Coffee can actually be beneficial in some conditions.  It can inhibit gallstone formation and help with constipation.  Coffee can even stimulate glutathione, one of the most potent detox enzymes in the body (but there are other, better ways to do this).1  The main concern with coffee and detoxing is the caffeine.  So why not grab the decaf?  Most detox protocols suggest to eliminate all of it:  the decaf and the regular.  Decaf coffee still contains some caffeine, and if it’s not decaffeinated with water, you’re not really doing your liver a favor by opting for the decaf.

If I had to pick one social drink over the other, I’d go for the coffee.  Alcohol is not only hard on the liver but it is also a mitochondrial poison.  [If you don’t know what mitochondria are, check out wikipedia.  We can talk about them another day.]  Some alcohol is better than others.  Wine has resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grape skins.  Beer can also stimulate glutathione (mentioned previously).

Not up for completely eliminating coffee and alcohol from your diet?  That’s why I say to watch them:

  • Don’t want to give up your daily cup of coffee?  Make sure it’s organic.
  • Like to drink decaf?  Make sure the caffeine is water extracted only.
  • Enjoy an alcoholic beverage every now and then?  Cut the coffee on the days you have alcohol.
  • Drink beer or wine instead of spirits.
  • Consume your social drinks in light of the big picture of your toxic exposure.

1 Hoffmann, David.  Medical Herbalism.  Healing Arts Press, 2003.
2 Pizzorno, Joseph.  Class Lecture.  Healing Systems.  Bastyr University.  Spring 2011.

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4 Responses

  1. Renee

    A few months ago earlier in my pregnancy, my liver got angry with me. Really angry – really quickly. I had to add beets, fresh lemon juice, olive oil (straight up) and dandelion root supplements to my diet. When I went back three weeks later for a check up, my liver was perfectly clean again. I still take the dandelion root and drink fresh lemonade everyday, but I’ve allowed myself to give up the beets and olive oil.


  2. Dr. Archer

    What do you mean by an angry liver? All of those things are definitely great for the liver!


  3. Mhoover

    Are you talking black coffee or espresso shots? I drink a hemp latte everyday because I am addicted to the taste. Would it be best for my liver to do it every other day?


    Dr. Archer Atkins

    Hi Melinda,

    Since I wrote this post, there has been more research that has come out on the benefits of coffee in terms of detox. I’m not really worried about coffee anymore, as long as it’s organic and brewed in a non-toxic way.


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