Feeling irritable? Having digestion problems? Uncontrollable allergies? Can’t burn fat? These could be signs of a congested liver. Because spring is when the liver is most active (are we drinking more wine?), you may notice those symptoms ramped up. Spring is the best time for “cleaning” — not just our home, but also our bodies.

No one escapes toxins, even from the most remote places in the world. It’s virtually impossible to avoid pesticides and other environmental pollutants. To defend ourselves against unwanted chemicals, the body constantly cleanses itself which must be eliminated before they create health problems. I’ll spare you the specifics but suffice it to say that when these toxins accumulate over time, they may hinder your immune defenses, contribute to fatigue and other health concerns such as skin rashes and depression.

The liver is our body’s center for detoxification with a system for neutralizing and removing drugs, hormones, alcohol and other toxins. Unfortunately our livers become over burdened by today’s environmental influences. When in overdrive, the liver can’t properly balance hormones, burn fat or diminish anxieties from caffeine at night. An overburdened liver can leave us feeling pretty cranky.

Detoxification is the process of either clearing toxins from the body or transforming them. Fats — specifically oxidized fats and cholesterol — free radicals and other irritating molecules, act as toxins on an internal level. When these start to build up inside, they literally bog us down and affects all levels of energy and moods. Professional colonics play an effective role here.

There are a gazillion detox programs out there. Many are just ramped up versions of smoothies with excess sugar. But there are a good number of plans that include foods that support the liver. They could be in whole or juice form, depending on what cleanse you choose. My favorites also eliminate grains and dairy which are common ‘red flags’ for digestive issues.

Foods that support the liver are: onions, garlic, eggs, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, apples and artichokes (all coming to the farmers’ market this week). Liver friendly herbs and spices are ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, milk thistle, dandelion and peppermint. I add many of these to my juices and smoothies.

Crimson Beet Slaw

Serves 2-4

Remember that eating raw foods increases enzyme activity and makes some nutrients more available in our bodies. And with these liver supporting foods, you, too, will notice a burst of energy.

Salad:

1 bunch dinosaur kale, de-stemmed and shredded – or 2 cups baby kale

1 apple, grated

1 red beet, peeled and grated

4 radishes, diced

1/2 small carrot, cut on bias into 1-inch pieces, for garnish

Dressing:

1/3 cup flax oil

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2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. raw honey

1 Tbsp. miso

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (see health benefits in 3/28/17 column)

2 Tbsp. water

Put kale in medium bowl and break up with fingers to tenderize. Add apple, beet and radish.

Whisk dressing ingredients together until creamy. Pour over salad mix and toss until coated.

To serve, make a mound of salad on plate and top with carrots in a circle to form a flower.

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