Support the Liver to Help Thyroid Disease?

I just returned from a trip to Poland to visit family with my five year old son, and I am reflecting so much on how far I have come in my health! The last time I visited my family in Poland was in 2014. I was newly in remission from Hashimoto’s (due to eliminating a lot of things), and I had to be so careful about what personal care products I had packed and what I ate (I was following a diet close to the AIP diet at the time). I was so nervous during the trip, and felt withdrawn, passing on many family activities because I wanted to conserve my energy… yet I still got sick with digestive issues, joint pain and skin breakouts on my short five-day trip.

The previous trip to Poland was in 2009, when I had a lot of health issues, but not yet a diagnosis. I ended up with traveler’s diarrhea, hives, tons of inflammation, bloating, and acid reflux. I was exhausted, too.

And I skipped another trip in between those two when I had already been diagnosed, and was following an extreme elimination diet, but was still extremely symptomatic. I was too scared that I would feel awful the whole time and wouldn’t have anything to eat. I missed my cousin’s wedding. 🙁

During this latest trip though, my luggage was delayed by almost five days – so even though I had packed my own personal care items and snacks, I ended up using my family’s personal care products, shampoo, and soap – and I’m happy to report that I had no reactions to any of them!

While I avoided gluten, I was still able to eat most of the other foods and drink yummy European wine (previously, I would be hungover for days and suffer from reflux at the mere sight of alcohol). And yes, I was jetlagged, but I still had enough energy and mental clarity to fully experience the trip – sightseeing, shopping, eating local foods, spending time with loved ones – all while showing my beautiful and energetic (and also jetlagged) five-year-old my home country. And I got to hug my grandma, go shopping with my godmother, play with my cousin’s children, and connect with 30+ family members that I hadn’t seen in far too long.

What changed between 2014, when I first got into remission, and now?

I discovered liver support and that clearing a toxic backlog could make the body less sensitive.

And it was all thanks to my clients.

When I first got into remission from Hashimoto’s, I thought that foods and personal care items were either “good” or “bad”, and that I needed to eliminate all of the bad things from my life to heal.

But my clients made me question that.

You see, I had some clients that would react to even the “good” personal care items, “good” foods, and supplements that are usually deemed to be beneficial and benign – and they didn’t feel any better, even when seemingly eliminating EVERYTHING!

Two clients in particular had me scratching my head. They had been living such a clean and perfect lifestyle. Why were they still sick? And so instead of my usual recommendation of an elimination diet, functional medicine testing, and supplements, I had them support their liver. I was surprised at how quickly they felt better (despite being sick for a very long time), and were able to reintroduce more food, fun, and joy into their lives!

Let’s be honest, having Hashimoto’s can cause you to feel frustrated with your body and how it overreacts to everything around it. Some days you may feel downright miserable and remember how your life used to be when you were able to feel fearless, energetic, symptom-free, and alive.

You may want to feel better and reclaim your life, but you may not know where to even start. Or, you may invest in some supplements and medications, only to discover you have an adverse reaction to them. This can be discouraging. Or, you may even be scared to try a new intervention in case you have an adverse reaction to it.

You may feel lost and hopeless about your current situation. Can you relate? If this resonates with you, know that there’s hope — and you could be feeling better in as little as two weeks! There’s a protocol that I recommend to all my clients looking to start their healing journey. It focuses on supporting one of your most important detox organs: the liver.

I, myself, have personally been there. At one point in my journey, I had multiple chemical sensitivities and experienced allergic reactions to almost EVERYTHING because my poor liver was overwhelmed with the toxins from my medications, cosmetics, partially digested foods, and the breaking down of all the antibodies I was forming to my own body… I learned to manage many of my symptoms by eliminating a lot from my life, but it felt like a game of whack-a-mole. I kept reacting to more and more things, so I would eliminate more things, until those two clients that got better with liver support inspired me to dig into toxins, and support my own liver as well! These days, I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before, because I know how to clear my toxic backlog through proper liver support.

Sometimes we must focus on the liver as the first step, to start being “livers” of life again.

In this article, we explore:

  • Liver backlog and toxic overload
  • The link between liver congestion and Hashimoto’s
  • How to detoxify your liver
  • How to address any “side effects” you may experience during liver support

Liver Function 101 (What Does the Liver Do?)

The liver is an important organ that is responsible for a multitude of processes: it filters the blood, stores glucose for energy, produces and secretes bile for fat digestion, and is necessary for converting T4 to T3, the active thyroid hormone. [1] It’s also our primary detoxification organ.

The liver has two pathways for detoxification. The elimination of toxins is done through a two-step enzymatic process.

The Phase I Detoxification Pathway

Phase I of liver detoxification involves the clearing out of toxins that are stored inside our fat cells. This phase utilizes chemical processes like oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration, and dehalogenation of fat-soluble toxins. There are a number of nutrients needed to support this phase, including vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, glutathione, and flavonoids. These nutrients clear out the toxins from our fat cells and prepare them for elimination in Phase II. These freed-up toxins can worsen the body’s toxic load if Phase II doesn’t appropriately kick in afterwards to remove them.

Phase 1 Liver Detoxification

The Phase II Detoxification Pathway

Phase II is all about removing the freed-up toxic waste created in Phase I. This phase includes sulfation (adding a sulfur group), glucuronidation (adding glucuronide), glutathione conjugation (pairing), acetylation (adding an acetyl group), amino acid conjugation, and methylation. Amino acids play a pivotal role in the efficiency of Phase II. If the body is deficient in certain amino acids (this is very common in Hashimoto’s due to protein malabsorption), the pollutants freed up in Phase I can become more toxic.

Phase II needs amino acids and other nutrients, including methionine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, taurine, magnesium, glutathione, alpha-ketoglutarate, vitamins B5 and B12, vitamin C, folate, and choline.

Note that methylation, which occurs during Phase II, will be impaired if you have the MTHFR gene variation.

Phase 2 Liver Detoxification

In other words, to support both detox pathways, the liver needs to be given an abundance of vitamins and nutrients. I think of the liver as an office worker who needs the right kind of tools to process an incoming stream of paperwork — this may be the right kind of office supplies, the right kind of computer programs, and her cup (or pot) of coffee. 🙂

Liver Backlog and Toxic Overload

However, when the office worker keeps getting more and more paperwork dumped on her desk without replenishing the tools she needs to complete her work, a backlog can occur. A similar situation happens with our liver and toxins.

Our detox pathways may become overwhelmed and overburdened, and we end up with a toxic backlog. Toxins may build up and circulate in our bodies or become stored in our fat instead of being properly excreted. This often results in multiple symptoms, as well as reactions to substances that are normally harmless… Imagine asking an overworked colleague for a small favor — there’s a chance she may snap at you — or it may take her way too long to do something that should take a minute or two.

Another thing that happens when we have a toxic backlog (or extra paperwork), is we often require more storage… In overburdened government offices, this may mean overstuffing our current file cabinets, or getting even more file cabinets. In the human body, those filing cabinets are our fat cells. The solution to pollution is dilution, and I have found that weight gain, excess fat, and weight loss resistance can be consequences of too many toxins. The body is always adapting to our environment and trying to keep us healthy and safe.

Sometimes this leads to hormonal imbalance (or hormone hoarding as I call it), as the body is unable to properly metabolize estrogen. This leads to estrogen dominance (often causing weight gain in the thighs, abdomen and cellulite) and inhibits the body’s ability to properly produce T4 thyroid hormone, leading to poor production of the active thyroid hormone (T3).

How do you know if you have an impaired ability to process toxins, or an overburdened liver?

A sign that you may have a toxic backlog and that your detox pathways need comprehensive support, is if you have a reaction to normally helpful Phase I supplements, such as B vitamins, glutathione, or flavonoids. That’s because if you use Phase I supportive supplements as a standalone, they will begin to convert the toxins into intermediate byproducts, but many of these byproducts are more harmful than the original toxins and may not clear from the body if you don’t have enough Phase II-supporting amino acids.

Here are the other signs and symptoms of impaired liver function: [2]

  • Digestive problems, including gas, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Itchy skin
  • Rashes
  • Breakouts
  • Joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Weight loss resistance
  • Right-sided chest pain

If you checked off a lot of these symptoms, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people with Hashimoto’s are likely to end up with a high toxicity score in the beginning stages of their journeys before they start to make changes.

Whenever I see a high toxicity score in my clients, I see this as a big opportunity for improvement, knowing that once you remove some of the toxins from your life, you’ll start to feel better.

How is Liver Congestion Related to Thyroid Disease?

It is important to note that in addition to causing impaired detoxification symptoms which may mimic those related to thyroid disease, liver dysfunction can also affect the thyroid. If your liver is impaired, your body may be unable to convert T4 to the active T3 hormone correctly, which can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism. [3] (It’s important to have sufficient levels of the active T3 version, as it’s our “go” hormone that tells our body to grow hair, boost metabolism, and create more energy!)

Some Hashimoto’s patients with a sluggish liver may also notice an extreme sensitivity to foods and drugs. Many of my clients who have reported chemical sensitivities and allergies to different foods and medications, would frequently react to just about any benign and helpful supplement that I would give them. These reactions are often due to the toxic backlog that is present in their body, which can cause them to react to everything in their environment as well.

Izabella's dog
How could I be allergic to this cute face?

I personally know how miserable this can feel. When I started my journey with Hashimoto’s just after getting married in my 20’s, I started becoming allergic to EVERYTHING, both indoor and outdoor — including my Pomeranian Boomer and all the trees in California! My allergies were so awful, I was dependent on eye drops and antihistamines 24/7.

Furthermore, right after getting married to the love of my life, I discovered I was allergic to our bed and couldn’t sleep on it! I was miserable and felt like I was falling apart.

At that time, I didn’t know that having toxins on board was actually delaying my healing.

What Causes Liver Congestion?

I like to say that those of us with Hashimoto’s are the canaries in the coal mines, and our symptoms are the signs of the invisible dangers surrounding us. Unfortunately, escaping toxins in our environment can be challenging — they’re everywhere! In fact, in 2006, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the average American has 116 out of 148 synthetic compounds in their body!

Whatever we inhale, ingest, and absorb into our skin eventually ends up circulating in our body. From our cosmetics and skin products to pesticides and exhaust fumes, we’re exposed to thousands of chemicals a day — many of which are especially detrimental to our thyroid health. [4]

Xenoestrogens such as BPA, soy, phthalates, and parabens, for example, are chemicals that mimic the effect of estrogen. These chemicals, by increasing estrogen levels in the body, may also increase TSH and perpetuate the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. [5] You’re likely familiar with BPA, which is found in plastic containers and on store receipts, and antagonizes T3 receptors in the thyroid. [6] Xenoestrogens can be found in personal care products, plastics, and some foods, including soy.

Triclosan, found in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, deodorants, and hair sprays, has a structure that resembles that of thyroid hormones and was thankfully banned from antibacterial soaps by the FDA in 2016 due to thyroid toxicity. [7]

Furthermore, halogens like bromide and chloride may take up receptor sites in the thyroid gland, build up in thyroid tissue, and lead to inflammation and thyroid cell death, as they are structurally similar to iodine. [8]

This can lead to the development of autoimmune thyroiditis. Studies have shown that those exposed to high levels of halogen-containing substances have been found to have a higher incidence of thyroid antibodies. [9] These halogens can be found in swimming pools, baked goods, and even our mattresses! (They’re everywhere!)

Fluoride is another halogen that can wreak havoc on the thyroid. Common sources of fluoride include supplements, bottled beverages, toothpaste, black and red tea, canned foods, chewing tobacco, black/red rock salt, and certain medications. Fluoride has been added to most water supplies in the United States, Canada, and some parts of the UK to prevent dental decay.

However, fluoride is also an endocrine disruptor. It was actually used to treat hyperthyroidism up until the 1950s, as it is an effective thyroid suppressor at daily doses of 0.9 to 4.2 mg. [10] Studies show that today, most adults in fluoridated communities ingest between 1.6 and 6.6 mg of fluoride a day, effectively suppressing their thyroid function. [11]

Are You at Risk of Having an Overburdened Liver?

Some people may never have been exposed to heavy toxins, but they have the perfect storm of vulnerabilities that may lead to a greater accumulation of toxins, and put them at a greater risk of having an overburdened liver.

For example, some people may have the MTHFR gene mutation that elevates their homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels have been associated with difficult pregnancies or miscarriages, birth defects, inflammation, and heart disease. [12] Individuals with the MTHFR gene variation may also have a difficult time processing folic acid (a manufactured version of folate that is present in low-quality multivitamins and added to processed foods). [13]

Moreover, they are more likely to be deficient in folate, B6, and B12, and may require activated versions of these nutrients to address these deficiencies. [14]

The MTHFR gene mutation also prevents people from properly methylating, which is one of the body’s key detox processes. Methylation impairment can result in a liver that needs a little extra help when it comes to clearing out heavy metals from their body.

Individuals who have had mold exposure (asthma is a red flag for this), or who have been exposed to excess chemicals (such as hairdressers, construction workers, and many other professionals), can be at risk for a liver backlog.

Furthermore, those with an autoimmune disease, and Hashimoto’s in particular, are especially prone to liver congestion.

This risk can increase when one’s intestines are compromised. A healthy GI tract allows beneficial nutrients to be absorbed, while blocking the absorption of toxins and pathogens.

Studies have shown that everyone with an autoimmune disorder, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, has some degree of intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”. [15] Intestinal permeability is defined by gaps in the gut lining that can develop as the result of various factors, including:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Gluten
  • Gut infections
  • Stress
  • NSAID use
  • Toxins

The gaps in the gut allow for irritating molecules and substances to “leak” into the bloodstream. A leaky gut can result in the absorption of potentially problematic substances and lead to impaired detox abilities. [16]

Additionally, the decreased ability to sweat, which can be common in those with hypothyroidism (and a great “perk” of thyroid disease in social settings ;-)), can make you more prone to liver congestion.

Gluten intolerance, low HCl levels, and other absorption issues present in Hashimoto’s can also prevent us from properly absorbing nutrients needed for our detoxification pathways.

Finally, food sensitivities, which are particularly common among those with Hashimoto’s, can contribute to liver congestion. When you continually ingest the proteins of foods that you are sensitive to, you could develop antibodies to them. Reactive food proteins can attach to these antibodies, creating what’s referred to as circulating immune complexes (CICs). When the body becomes overwhelmed by too many CICs, the complexes accumulate in the liver, leading to impaired liver function.

So, those with Hashimoto’s are especially likely to develop a chemical backlog in their body!

The Potential Dangers of Detox Treatments: Why Strong Detox Therapies May Not Work

In my experience, people who do not begin with liver support (and instead start with addressing the gut or adrenals, or taking supplements in general) are more likely to react to medications, supplements, and even foods. Supporting the liver can really kick-start your healing and even make you feel brighter, happier, and more alive.

However, I want to be clear about the differences between gentle liver support and forceful detox.

You may have heard about forceful “detox” strategies such as taking high dose iodine, coffee enemas, or chelating agents like spirulina, chlorella, or DMSA for healing. I know that they can work for some people, but unfortunately in my own personal experience, and in that of my clients, “forceful” detox methods may, in fact, be potentially harmful to your health and lead to serious consequences.

High doses of iodine, for example, can cause increased thyroid gland destruction in those with Hashimoto’s. I have had a lot of clients come to me after attempting high dose iodine protocols either on their own or under the guidance of high iodine practitioners or advocates. One woman was bedridden, had a TSH of 100 μIU/mL and antibodies over 1000 IU/mL, after attempting high doses of iodine for subclinical hypothyroidism that was mostly asymptomatic. 🙁

Meanwhile, coffee enemas may result in perforated bowels or colitis when people don’t perform them correctly, or have an adverse reaction to the coffee. Unfortunately, I’ve had clients who came to me after working with enema advocates that had to be hospitalized due to coffee-induced colitis, resulting in inflammation of the inner lining of the colon.

Chelation is another popular and “powerful” detox method. It causes the metals to detach from your body and allows them to start moving freely around it. Unfortunately, “powerful” doesn’t always mean “effective”! If you can’t get rid of these metals via the liver, they are just going to circulate and attach themselves to other types of body tissues — which could be problematic and potentially make you feel even worse.

I learned this the hard way, more than once. The first time, I tried a “forceful” detox with spirulina, which led to the development of a new autoimmune condition called giant papillary conjunctivitis. This resulted in giant pimples on the inside of my eyelids, and yes, it was as awful as it sounds! Don’t make the same mistake I did! I don’t have any photos of my giant eye pimples (though I was NEVER again able to wear two-week contact lenses after that incident), but I do have photos of my (failed) attempt at chelation with DMSA.

Chelation caused me to become sulfur sensitive and made me break out in an angry rash that resembled hives on my whole body (including mucous membranes like the inside of my mouth and even my digestive tract). The rash was raw and painful. Eating, showering, and using the bathroom hurt so much I wanted to cry. It took a week or so for the “angry” rash to go away, but my skin texture changed. It became rough, patchy, dry, and prone to breakouts. 🙁 I was no longer able to eat cruciferous vegetables or eggs.

I was put on steroids and antihistamines, but they didn’t do much, until I started implementing a sulfur protocol (that I have since perfected and now use to help people reverse sulfur issues and many cases of egg sensitivity!). This was over 10 years ago, and now even though I’m in my forties, my skin is so much clearer and has a glow.

Izabella Wentz rash

Izabella Wentz rash

As you can see from my photos, forceful strategies can make those with autoimmune thyroid disease feel worse, as aggressively drawing out toxins can overwhelm the detox pathways that are already overburdened due to Hashimoto’s.

I can’t stress enough the importance of being gentle on the liver. I don’t recommend “intensive” or more advanced detox interventions until you’ve had your liver properly supported, your adrenals balanced, your nutrients supported, and your gut function restored (as covered by the Fundamental Protocols of my book, Hashimoto’s Protocol). Even then, I recommend you proceed with caution, as some of these detox strategies are potentially dangerous.

When it comes to healing, being gentle and putting safety first is key.

Natural Treatment Options for Liver Support and How It Can Help

I like to utilize natural protocols and gentle methods to support the liver and detox pathways, and I’ve found that this approach can help people start feeling better in as little as two weeks.

Liver support is one of the things I recommend for everybody with Hashimoto’s, especially those who report severe issues with allergies, have a lot of breakouts, and score really high on toxicity level tests. When people have a lot of reactions to different supplements, it’s usually a liver issue.

I would recommend supporting your liver by following the Two-Week Liver Support Protocol in my book, Hashimoto’s Protocol.

Benefits of Liver Support

I’ve found that my 4-step liver support protocol is helpful for most people, and it can “jumpstart” the healing process. In fact, 65 percent of people who completed the Liver Support during my Hashimoto’s Self-Management Program – many of whom had been sick for over 10, 15, and even 20 years – said they felt significantly better after completing the Liver Support Protocol.

I loved all of the messages I received from my clients who were able to go to the mall again because they were no longer experiencing multiple chemical sensitivities, became active again because their joint pain had reduced, and overall felt more energetic and happier.

Some additional benefits of liver support include a reduction of fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and depression, as well as clearer skin, improved vitamin and mineral absorption, and better bowel function.

As triggers are removed and nutrient deficiencies are addressed, the liver is able to clear out toxins and process hormones more efficiently. This means that estrogen and progesterone levels will be better balanced. Those with thyroid disease will also begin to feel better because as more of the liver enzymes are freed up to work on hormones instead of toxins, the body will have more access to T3.

Since the body produces the active T3 hormone through a conversion process from either endogenous T4 that’s produced in the body or exogenous T4 that is taken as a medication, having a healthy liver means that our bodies can utilize our own thyroid hormones, as well as our thyroid medication, much more efficiently! This means more energy, better hair growth, and even effortless weight loss for some!

There are four steps to my Liver Support Protocol:

  1. Remove potentially triggering foods
  2. Add supportive foods
  3. Reduce toxic exposure
  4. Support both detoxification pathways

Step 1: Removing Triggering Foods

The first thing you should do is remove all the foods that could be causing toxin buildup or are irritating the gut and disrupting nutrient absorption.

I recommend removing triggering foods from your diet if you have Hashimoto’s, regardless of if you are doing the Liver Support Protocol, because this results in symptom improvement for many people, and for some they’re even the root cause of their Hashimoto’s. For example, these foods contribute to leaky gut syndrome, which we know is present in nearly everyone with Hashimoto’s. Healing the gut is also an important step in healing autoimmune disease, so removing triggering foods can be helpful with this, and at the same time, with reducing our toxic load.

Potentially triggering foods include:

I recommend removing these foods for a minimum of three weeks, but if you’re feeling good and your symptoms are improving, you can continue to eliminate them. You can learn more about how to do an elimination diet in my article here.

If you’ve already removed these foods from your diet, that’s great news! You can skip to step two and begin adding liver-supporting foods.

Step 2: Add Supportive Foods

During this Protocol, it’s very important to support your liver because it’s doing a lot of heavy lifting. By introducing the following foods to your diet, you’ll be supporting a gentle and effective detoxification process while adding superfoods to your diet.

Here are the 11 most supportive foods I recommend, listed in order of importance:

  1. Hot lemon water
  2. The Root Cause Green Smoothie
  3. Beets
  4. Cruciferous vegetables
  5. Cilantro
  6. Fiber
  7. Sprouts and seedlings
  8. Green juices and chlorophyll
  9. Fermented foods
  10. Turmeric
  11. Berries

I recommend starting your day with a cup of hot lemon water soon after you wake up. About an hour after your morning cup of hot lemon water, I recommend making a green smoothie for breakfast in a Vitamix blender. The Root Cause Green Smoothie is nutrient-dense and packed with plenty of protein, fat, and fiber to help you support your body’s detox pathways. Since the smoothie is blended into tiny particles, it’s much easier to digest compared to a regular breakfast, and the nutrients are more readily available so they can fuel your body and help you feel energized throughout the day. You can find my go-to green smoothie recipe here!

Adding in the other supportive foods listed above to your daily diet, such as cilantro to get rid of heavy metals, and beets, which are rich in folate and betaine which help to break down homocysteine and can be particularly helpful to those with the MTHFR gene mutation, can also aid your body in eliminating toxins.

Step 3: Reduce Toxic Exposure

Our modern world exposes us to an unprecedented number of toxins every day. We inhale toxins through the air we breathe, absorb them through our skin when we use personal care products, and ingest them when we eat foods that have been steeped in pesticides. New, unregulated chemicals are constantly introduced into our society without any consideration for long-term effects on us or our planet.

Common products that we use everyday, like household cleaning supplies and personal care products, are packed with toxins. During the Liver Support Protocol, we pay extra attention to every chemical source you encounter throughout the day.

Some common toxins that are found in our day-to-day life include:

Herbicides and Pesticides

Unfortunately, our agriculture system uses hundreds of herbicides and pesticides that are known to contribute to toxin burden. The herbicide Atrazine (which is banned in the EU but not the United States) has been linked to mitochondrial dysfunction, obesity, insulin resistance, and hormonal dysfunction. [17]

Glyphosate is another one you’ve likely heard of. Research on the health impacts of glyphosate is limited and conflicting, but the company who manufactures the number one glyphosate-containing product has paid out billions of dollars in settlements over the years… and there are thousands of lawsuits against them still pending.

Generally, it seems that any toxin we are repeatedly exposed to has the potential to be harmful to our health, and I recommend reducing your exposure where possible.

Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases lists of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”, which highlight produce items that contain the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue. This can help you prioritize which foods to buy organic. I would recommend buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, especially for anything with a soft skin. Keep in mind that organic food has a higher nutrient content, which may make it worth the added cost. [18]


Mercury is most commonly found in dental fillings and in fish, such as tuna. Mercury is known to interfere with thyroid function, especially in those with Hashimoto’s.

Mercury vaporizes when heated, and chewing food can cause mercury to be released from dental fillings into your blood. [19] Removing mercury fillings can reduce thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO antibodies) in the blood. [20]

Mercury consumption from fish can be controlled by avoiding species with the highest mercury content such as tuna (ahi, bigeye), mackerel (king), and swordfish. I also recommend limiting your intake of species with moderate mercury levels to a couple times a month. These include tuna (yellowfin, canned), mackerel (Spanish, Gulf), and sea bass.


Aluminum is found in many cooking pans and antiperspirants. High levels of aluminum in the body have been linked to the development of autoimmune disease, as well as breast cancer and cognitive impairment. [21]

Scratched non-stick pans are a common source of aluminum toxicity, which is why I recommend using stainless steel pans, ceramic cookware, or cast iron pans. I also recommend switching to an aluminum-free deodorant.


Fluoride is a thyroid-suppressing halogen found in our water, toothpaste, and even black and green tea. A 2015 British study found that medical practices in areas with fluoridated water were twice as likely to have patients with hypothyroidism. [22]

I strongly recommend using a reverse osmosis filter to get rid of the fluoride in your water and avoiding toothpaste with fluoride in it. One of the most cost-effective reverse osmosis filters out there is AquaTru’s countertop filter.

Beauty Products

The average woman applies an estimated 168 chemicals to her body every single day, and many of them are known to contain toxic impurities. [23] This is a staggering number of chemicals we are applying to our skin each day.

How to Avoid Toxins

I love Annmarie Skin Care because they really go the extra mile to ensure the products they create are free of toxins! Please check out my post on beauty products for more information and more non-toxic options.

Air Pollution

Have you ever walked into a building and just felt off? Sick Building Syndrome is a recently coined term to describe a collection of health symptoms experienced by one or more people due to exposure and time spent within a specific building. [24]

This is due to poor indoor air quality that may be caused by various airborne toxins, such as off-gassing building materials, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), air pathogens, pollens, or molds. This is usually combined with faulty heating, air conditioning, and/or ventilation systems.

I recommend getting an air purifier for your home (especially your bedroom where you sleep) to clear out airborne toxins. I keep the AirDoctor in my bedroom!

Less industrial and more decorative options include getting houseplants. Plants such as the Golden Pothos, the Corn Plant, and the Sansevieria species have been used as purifiers and have gained a reputation for even being able to mitigate the effects of Sick Building Syndrome! Sansevieria absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen at night, making them excellent bedroom plants. However, as their leaves are poisonous if ingested, they should be kept out of reach of children (two- and four-legged). Boomer is a chewer, so I keep my Sansevieria plants in high places. 🙂

Other Common Toxins

Hare are some other toxins often found in our environment that are good to be aware of:

  • Xenoestrogens: chemicals that mimic estrogen
  • Bisphenol A (BPA): common chemical found in plastics
  • Chlorine: found in water systems and swimming pools
  • Bromine: found in plastics, baked goods, sodas, and even mattresses (as a flame retardant coating)
  • Lithium: used as a medication and found in drinking water
  • Other heavy metals: lead, cadmium, cobalt, etc.

Step 4: Supporting Detox Pathways

Finally, you’re going to want to support your detox pathways. Since the lymphatic system is responsible for transporting and eliminating toxins, I recommend giving it support by doing the following:


Movement increases blood circulation and assists in moving lymph fluid throughout the body. While any kind of movement is going to be beneficial, rebounding (jumping on a mini trampoline) is especially effective when it comes to stimulating the lymphatic system. The rapid changes in gravity help to open lymphatic channels and enhance circulation of fluid. Not to mention, it’s super fun! 🙂

In addition to rebounding, most types of exercise will support the movement of lymph fluid, including gentle movement. Walking, jogging, yoga, and pilates are all wonderful forms of movement to support your health and lymphatic system.

Infusing more movement throughout your day is also helpful. Getting up between periods of sitting at a desk, for example, is going to be beneficial to help get your joints moving and lymph fluids moving throughout your body.

The only way to move your lymph fluid through the lymphatic system is through movement, so it’s vitally important to be able to move and push that fluid through your body.

Dry Brushing

A dry brush is a coarse-bristled brush that’s used to exfoliate the skin, but can also be used to stimulate the lymphatic system. It is thought to do this by stimulating blood circulation, and may help open up the pores, making it easier for you to sweat. You’ll want to start with dry skin, and brush your body with large strokes, always moving towards the heart. You can start with long strokes on your legs, then more circular strokes on your torso, and long strokes again on your arms. You want the pressure to be firm, but not so hard that it hurts the skin. Take a warm shower afterwards to rinse off any dead skin. You can do this a few times per week.

I love the Queen of Thrones dry brush.

Lymphatic Massage

Different from a regular massage, lymphatic massage (also known as manual lymphatic drainage) uses a special technique that promotes the flow of lymph. The massage is very gentle and uses long strokes, to help move the fluid. I recommend finding a practitioner in your area who is skilled in this technique.

Other ways to support your lymphatic system include drinking plenty of water, reducing your exposure to toxins in personal care and household cleaning products, and having regular sauna sessions.


Additionally, since the skin is the body’s largest elimination organ, I also recommend engaging in activities that induce sweating. Hot yoga and sauna therapy are some of my favorite sweat strategies!

There are many different sauna options available, such as sauna blankets, suits, and various brands of portable saunas (infrared and steam). However, they are not all created equally, so I wanted to share two options for saunas that I feel comfortable recommending and using.

I love all models of the Sunlighten saunas. Whether you would like a walk-in sauna, or need to save on space or money with a portable option, they have you covered.

Another portable option is Therasage’s Portable Infrared Saunas, which are tent-like boxes that you can sit in, with openings for your head and arms. (Note: for safe and proper use, your head should remain outside of the unit while in use.)

Both saunas are made with non-toxic materials and are low in EMFs, which have been shown to alter thyroid hormone levels.

I’ve also curated a collection of Rootcology supplements that are specifically meant to support the efficient removal of toxins. The Liver Support Kit, which I highly recommend to help you with Step 4 of my Liver Support Protocol, includes the following supplements, which are designed to support both liver phases at the same time:

Rootcology Liver Support Kit

  • MTHFR Pathways – This helps maintain a healthy homocysteine pathway. An optimally functioning homocysteine pathway provides methyl and sulfur groups for biochemical reactions such as detoxification, healthy immune function, brain, and cardiovascular health.
  • Liver Reset – This contains a natural pea protein isolate to fuel natural detoxification pathways. It includes the nutrients needed to support and balance phase I and II metabolic pathways, high levels of antioxidants for safe detoxification and a comprehensive array of herbal hepatics and cholagogues to promote healthy liver function and elimination.
  • Liver & Gallbladder Support – A comprehensive formula designed to support bile flow for the normal processing and elimination of toxins through the specific combination of nutrients and herbs in this formula. By supporting liver and gallbladder function, Liver & Gallbladder Support supports the elimination of fatty substances from the liver and the digestion and assimilation of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Amino Support – This is useful for preparing the liver for phase II detoxification. Providing nutritional support for phase II detoxification helps conjugate toxins and prepare them for safe elimination from the body.
  • NAC – NAC supports tissue levels of glutathione, a key component of the antioxidant defense system.
  • Magnesium – Activates the enzymes necessary for a number of physiological functions, including neuromuscular contractions, cardiac function, and the regulation of the acid-alkaline balance in the body. It is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats; also for energy production, and the utilization of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. [25] This vital mineral also helps utilize B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It supports the liver, can help ameliorate detox symptoms, as well as promote regular bowel movements (necessary for detoxification).

Additionally, I often recommend curcumin, which provides powerful support for maintaining a healthy inflammatory response, promoting cellular health, and supporting healthy liver, colon, and musculoskeletal function. [26] Curcumin Absorb is a highly bioavailable curcuminoid formulation. It contains a unique combination of three bioactive, health-promoting curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin and demethoxy curcumin, along with turmeric oil.

Potential Liver Support Side Effects

Although the liver support protocol is generally well tolerated by 80 percent of people who utilize it, some people may experience symptoms that may appear to be an adverse reaction to the liver support supplements. However, since removing caffeine and processed foods — which can result in detox and withdrawal symptoms — is part of the protocol, this may well be what they are actually experiencing.

Headaches, fatigue, breakouts, nausea, and changes in bowel function are some withdrawal symptoms to expect. These symptoms, while annoying and uncomfortable, should not be painful or debilitating. Typically they are the worst around three days after making diet changes or introducing supplements, and then people start feeling better. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms after introducing a supplement, stop taking the supplement immediately and consult with your healthcare provider.

About 65 percent of people actually report positive things such as feeling lighter, being less inflamed, being less reactive to a variety of substances, and having more energy, within the first week or so! However, when I see clients with intolerable symptoms that may still persist after the first three days, this is a sign that they may have to dig deeper for the reason why they’re not getting rid of toxins properly.

Causes of Liver Support Side Effects

There are many factors to consider when looking for the root cause of your liver support side effects. Perhaps you are also implementing a few other major lifestyle changes while getting your thyroid health back on track. Have you recently started following a new diet such as the Root Cause Intro Diet recommended in Hashimoto’s Protocol, which restricts certain foods like caffeinated drinks and processed foods?

Dietary changes can have a big impact on your body. Caffeine, for example, is an addictive substance, so some people may get withdrawal headaches, nausea, irritability, diarrhea, and even vomiting — especially if they quit cold turkey instead of weaning off gradually. #thingsilearnedthehardway

You may also experience withdrawal symptoms if you’re reducing your sugar intake. I personally experienced headaches, irritability, unusual vaginal discharge, and lethargy for about two weeks after kicking my sugar habit cold turkey.

Likewise, if you’ve recently cut out gluten or dairy (common dietary Hashimoto’s triggers) from your diet, you may also experience various “withdrawal” symptoms!

It has been hypothesized that when gluten is digested, opioid peptides called gluteomorphins are released into the gastrointestinal tract and taken up into the bloodstream. [27] These peptides are considered exorphins, as they have morphine-like effects on the brain. In other words, they can have “addictive” properties, so suddenly cutting gluten out of your diet can cause strong withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, casomorphins, which are ingested via the consumption of milk products, have been suggested to cause similar withdrawal symptoms when removed from the diet. [28] As such, a sudden removal of gluten and dairy products from your diet may trigger some discomfort similar to that of liver support side effects.

If you’ve already been gluten, dairy, sugar, and caffeine free and still react to liver support, there’s a chance a nutrient deficiency may be to blame.

In my experience, the main reason why people have an adverse reaction, and only about 5 percent of people do, is because of magnesium deficiency. If you are irritated, anxious, experience insomnia, menstrual cramps, leg cramps, pain or constipation, you are likely magnesium deficient. Taking a magnesium citrate supplement can help tremendously. Most importantly, the citrate version of magnesium has a slight laxative effect, making sure we are clearing our bowels properly and not recirculating the toxins.

Interestingly, magnesium becomes depleted as toxins begin to leave the body, so please note that magnesium requirements may increase while taking liver support supplements.

Troubleshooting: How to Mitigate the Side Effects with Diet and Supplements

There are lots of strategies you can implement to mitigate the side effects of detoxification with the help of supplements, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

As a deficiency in magnesium can cause unwanted side effects during a detox, I recommend taking a magnesium citrate supplement, such as the one by Rootcology or Pure Encapsulations, at bedtime. Please note, you should not take magnesium within four hours of your thyroid medications — the doses of magnesium in most supplements can lead to impaired absorption of thyroid hormones.

Epsom salt baths are also beneficial for magnesium depletion, and can be taken daily. All you need is 1 cup of Epsom salts in a bath of hot water. (Don’t overdo it though — you can overdose on Epsom salts!)

Adding supportive foods and beverages is another thing I recommend to help mitigate detox side effects. Drinking hot lemon water first thing in the morning and throughout the day will not only support your liver’s detox pathways but also your stomach acid. Green juices are also wonderful for maintaining energy levels, and the chlorophyll can help with binding toxins. You can drink hot lemon water or green juices instead of caffeine, and you’ll likely see a marked difference in your energy levels.

As I mentioned earlier, cruciferous vegetables are great for helping us detoxify. Please note, however, that if you find you’re sensitive to them, you may have a CBS mutation and sulfur sensitivity, which may be exacerbated by crucifers. If you suspect that this may apply to you, be sure to test for the CBS gene mutation using a genetic test like the one offered by 23andMe, as well as check out the Sulfur Toxicity Protocol in the Advanced Protocols section of Hashimoto’s Protocol! (Yes, there may be an explanation as to why you’ve always disliked broccoli since you were a child! ;-)) If you can tolerate them, however, they’re very helpful veggies to add to your meals as you follow the Liver Support Protocol.

Closing Action Steps: Some Encouragement for You…

My goal is to empower you and encourage you that it’s definitely possible to heal from what you’ve been going through – and the first step is supporting the liver.

I know working on your health can be both scary and confusing, especially in the digital age with so much competing information everywhere, yet if you’re struggling with your health, it often takes you to get yourself better.

If you’re ready to optimize your liver health, there are a few ways I can support you.

The first is my Root Cause Reset, which is a four-week program that guides you through the steps mentioned in this article, to jumpstart your healing, making you feel brighter, happier and more alive — quickly, without opting for a forceful detox.

I’m excited to announce that I have created a new “self-paced” version of the program you can purchase now and begin anytime! I am also launching my “live” version that includes Facebook group support and weekly Q&As with me and my team nutritionist.

Like my son, this program turned five this year – and as such, I have added some additional resources to help you get the best results. You’ll find all of this in the Reset:

  • A Gentle Caffeine Wean Protocol
  • A Guide to Mindset Exercises
  • A Guide for Getting Better Sleep so that you can get refreshing, healing sleep
  • Your very own Natural Medicine Cabinet eBook to give you tools for healing
  • A full color cookbook with over 130+ gluten-, dairy- and soy-free recipes to support thyroid and liver health
  • A Guide on Meal Prep to simplify your time in the kitchen
  • A Comprehensive Guide on Using Binders to Remove Toxins Gently and Safely from Your Body
  • A Comprehensive Guide on Overcoming Mold Toxicity
  • A Protocol on What to Do If You Have Sulfur Sensitivity that has helped many of my clients eat eggs again
  • 100+ science-backed protocols for addressing various toxins, from arsenic to salicylate toxicity
  • A Comprehensive Guide on Supporting Your Detoxification Pathways
  • Guides to help you create a non-toxic home

For a limited time, join the Self-Paced version for just $97 (regularly $297)! Or, opt for the Live Reset and get access to personal Q&As with me and my team nutritionist, plus community support, for just $197 (regular price: $497)!

I’ve been running this program for five years now, and the results from participants after just two weeks continues to amaze me. Check them out:

  • 82 percent reduced weight gain
  • 80 percent experienced less fatigue
  • 78 percent experienced improved feelings of anxiety
  • 78 percent reduced mental fog
  • 77 percent experienced improved feelings of depression
  • 77 percent reduced joint pain
  • 75 percent reduced feelings of nervousness
  • 75 percent experienced less trouble sleeping

If you’re ready to kick your symptoms to the curb with gentle liver support, in a format that’s easy-to-follow and understand, then the Root Cause Reset is for you! You can sign up sign up for it here.

Enrollment into the Live program, as well as enrollment into the Self-Paced version at a special discount, both close at 11:59pm PT on September 18th, so grab your spot ASAP!

You may also wish to check out the Liver Protocol in my book Hashimoto’s Protocol for more in-depth information and support, and a list of recommended supplements.

Supporting the liver may be daunting at first, but believe me, it is well worth it. You may notice a significant amount of change in a significantly short amount of time. Your body will thank you for taking action and being your own health advocate. And, you will feel much better!

The word “liver” comes from the Old English word lifer, which is etymologically related to “life” — so it makes sense that the liver plays a key role in helping you restore your LIFE!

I hope this encourages you, and I wish you all the very best on your healing journey! 🙂

P.S. You can download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 thyroid-friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter of my first book for free, by signing up for my newsletter. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways, and helpful information.

For future updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest!


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Note: Originally published in October 2017, this article has been revised and updated for accuracy and thoroughness.