Dr. Uribarri adds that a variety of toxins or undesirable compounds get into the blood circulation once absorbed through the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. Some of these toxins, he says, are already present in what we ingest. To expel these compounds, they are first filtered through the liver, which he says breaks them down or attaches them to other molecules to make them less harmful for when they reach the kidney to be eliminated there. The kidneys are then responsible for excreting these undesirable compounds in the urine which are flushed out when we pee.
He says that this detoxification works well on its own when both organs are healthy. There are some situations where medication is needed — such as the presence of lead or other heavy metals that are known to overwhelm this process in one’s system— to remove certain minerals from the body. But for the most part, there’s no need for special medications or supplements to improve the process.
It’s also important to note that liver and kidney failure is something that cannot be self-diagnosed. Should you be experiencing symptoms (the Mayo Clinic lists yellowing of your skin and eyes, pain in your upper right abdomen, and a swollen belly as signs of possible acute liver failure and decreased urine input, swelling in the legs, ankle, or feet, and shortness of breath as signs of possible acute kidney failure), you should seek medical help immediately.
If either or both of these organs fail to do their job properly, that’s when your health can start to deteriorate. “If the kidneys do not function, there is a buildup of nitrogenous waste that causes injury to a variety of organs and impairs the ability of a variety of enzymes in the blood to function,” says Dr. Dranoff. “If the liver does not function, there can be a buildup of a variety of substances that would normally be excreted, such as medications and their metabolites, heavy metals, and even cholesterol.”
He adds that the liver is a major organ for expelling a substance called bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment that is formed from the breakdown of red blood cells. If the liver starts to fail, you may end up with yellowish skin, a.k.a. jaundice. Dr. Uribarri lists neurological disorder metabolic encephalopathy and essential compounds such as potassium and phosphorus, which are essential for our nutrition, building up and reaching toxic levels as some of the other dangers that can occur when these organs aren’t functioning properly.
Supplements and herbs don’t really support the liver and kidneys.
Even if you did have a buildup of toxins due to an organ failure, supplements and herbs likely won’t help fix the problem. Dr. Uribarri says with a whole, well-balanced omnivore diet containing enough nutrients to support both the liver and the kidney, there is no need for additional herbs or supplements under normal circumstances. Dr. Dranoff adds that there are no herbal medications or supplements that can actually support the liver.