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Do Liver Flushes Work

The ice-cream liver flush is marketed as a way of cleansing the gall bladder and liver of stones but to assess the claim, we need to understand a little about how the liver and gall bladder actually work.

The liver is a large organ that has many functions including cleaning the blood of breakdown products of metabolism that might be harmful to us. It also produces hormones, is involved in protein synthesis, and stores glycogen as an energy source, but the function we are particularly interested in is the production of something called bile.

What is bile?
Bile is a yellowy green liquid and around a litre per day is produced. It is produced in the liver and passes down numerous bile ducts until it is stored in a small sac called the gall bladder. When food passes through the small intestine, a hormone signals the release of bile into the gut. The bile mixes with the food enabling the digestion of fatty foods.

The bile is alkaline and neutralises the acid from the stomach, and the salts in it break up fatty food into very small fragments which expose a bigger surface for the enzymes to work on. The bile also contains cholesterol that the body doesn’t need – the liver produces 70% of the cholesterol the body needs so any excess just gets excreted.

Gall stones
These are small hard round objects which can form in the gall bladder or bile duct and can sometimes grow large enough to cause a problem. The are typically solid, heavy and do not float in water. They are usually green in colour, from the bile, but can sometimes be yellow or white.

They contain between 30 and 70% cholesterol, but also contain calcium carbonate and various phosphates. This mineral content allows them show up clearly on x-rays.

They are treated either by taking a drug that helps dissolve them away which is a long-term treatment, or else they are removed surgically.

Ice Cream Liver Flush Therapy
There are products available which claim to be able to remove gall stones and flush the liver through a diet which contains a high oil content. Typically it involves eating a lot of olive oil, together with some fruit juice, and sometimes with Epsom Salts. The process is supposed to enable the liver and gall bladder to flush out the stones.

It is claimed that the evidence is visible in the faeces, as small round stones. They are identified as floating on the water. So what is actually happening here? Is this really evidence of gall stones being removed, is the liver really being flushed out?

The evidence is actually a useful clue. Gall stones are always heavier than water so they will never float. But what does float on water is oil. The pellets formed in the gut by talking a mixture of oil and fruit juice is actually a form of soap. The soap is produced by the alkilinity of the gut, causing a reaction called saponification. The green colour is caused by the absorption of some of the bile.

So the pellets are not actually gall stones at all. They are soft, will melt, and float. They are not gall stones. Some sellers of the liver flush will claim that the fruit juice actually softens the stones which is why they are soft and light. In fact, there is no way for anything from the gut to get into the gall bladder: there is a very powerful ring of muscle called a sphincter to prevent that happening. Nothing you eat will get into the gall bladder so nothing can be eaten to soften the stones if they are there.

To dissolve gall stones, we need to use either ultrasound which shatters them allowing them to pass into the gut, or else to take a drug that goes into the blood stream and affects the gall stones through the liver itself.

Can Ice Cream Liver Flush work?
Unfortunately not. There is no way that it can work, and those people who think it is working are mistaking the soap pellets they find in their faeces, for gall stones. They can often produce a greater volume of soap pellets than the size of the gall bladder itself, which should suggest that these cannot be stones. Ice cream contains a high fat content and this is what produces the quantities of soap in the gut when it reaches the small intestine and saponifies.

It is simply not possible to flush either the liver or the gall bladder through eating something. Regardless of the contents of the food, it will have no effect on gall stones if they exist. Many users of these flushes are worried about the possible presence of gall stones but the best advice is to go to a medical practitioner have get an examination. An x-ray will identify any gall stones present.