Other common name(s): gallbladder flush, liver cleansing
Scientific/medical name(s): none
Liver flushes are recommended by alternative medicine practitioners to detoxify or drive "harmful chemicals and germs" out of the liver and gallbladder. They are often used as part of a larger metabolic treatment regimen (see Metabolic Therapy).
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that liver flushes are useful for preventing or treating cancer or any other diseases.
How is it promoted for use?
Proponents claim that liver flushing rids the organ of unwanted food by-products, fats, toxins, parasites, and gallstones, thereby preventing or treating a range of diseases, including cancer. They also claim that because the liver is an important hormone regulator, cleansing it will help conditions caused by hormone imbalances.
Liver flushes are a key part of several alternative metabolic therapies promoted to treat cancer.
What does it involve?
A liver flush involves eating or drinking a combination of juices, Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate), and oils, often with selected herbs, enzymes, and other components. Liver flush formulas vary widely by practitioner and can also be purchased. The flush is usually done over the course of 2 or more days and results in several bowel movements. Practitioners often recommend a liver flush once or twice a year.
Some practitioners advise combining liver flushes with fasting or other alternative treatments such as coffee enemas. They are often recommended before starting other forms of alternative treatments, as a way to begin with a "clean slate."
What is the evidence?
Promoters of liver flushes and alternative detoxification regimens as a treatment for cancer often cite the belief that cancer is caused by the accumulation of toxins. They say that the process by which cancer develops can be reversed through treatments intended to remove the toxic substances. However, this view is not consistent with modern concepts of how DNA mutations cause cancer to develop and grow.
There is no reliable evidence to support any of the claims made for liver flushes. No studies on the use of liver flushes for any condition have been reported in available peer-reviewed medical journals.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
People may have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea during the flush. Oily or fatty components of liver flushes may cause the gallbladder to contract, which could lead to problems in people with gallstones that could get stuck in the bile duct. Individual components of the herbal mixtures used in a liver flush may present their own health hazards.
Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.
More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
American Cancer Society. Questionable cancer practices in Tijuana and other Mexican border clinics. CA Cancer J Clin. 1991;41:310-319.
Moran P. The Truth about Gallbladder and Liver "Flushes". Accessed at: http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/flushes.html on June 11, 2008.
PDRhealth. Detoxification therapy. 2004. Accessed at: www.pdrhealth.com/content/natural_medicine/chapters/201160.shtml. Accessed July 8, 2005. Content no longer available.
UC Berkley Wellness Letter. Liver supplements. July 2002. Accessed at: www.berkeleywellness.com/html/ds/dsLiverSupps.php on June 11, 2008.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
Last Revised: 11/01/2008