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The Truth About the “Liver Flush”

Imagine drinking an entire cup of olive oil and half a cup of lemon juice.

This overdose of fat supposedly causes your liver to “flush” stones that are stuck in in it.

That’s the liver flush (which also often involves coffee enemas and a day of drinking only apple juice).

I tried it in 1999, after a lecture from David Jubb, and it’s not an experience I would recommend to anybody.

What about “liver stones?”

After the “flush,” I saw my “stones,” I was shocked. There were at least 12 of them, and some were as almost as big as a golf ball, but most less than half that size.

My first thought was: “No way!”

I knew that these “stones” were not what they were claimed to be. They looked bright green, just like the olive oil I had drunk.

Wouldn’t it make sense that they were just the olive oil I had just drunk, but solidified?

I asked the question to David Jubb. He looked at me angrily and said, “Are you a microbiologist, Fred? No! Well, I am, so I can tell you that these stones are not just oil. It’s your liver flushing them out.”

I wasn’t sure why being a microbiologist would be a requirement for common sense, but I knew something wasn’t right with the liver flush theory.

I talked to some people who told me they had done the flush and kept their “stones,” and found to their amazement that the stones had melted overnight.

The stones are nothing but saponified oil – the result of indigestion.

Proponents of the liver flush claim that the procedure can improve digestion, eliminate allergies, and even get rid of all kinds of body aches and pains in addition to giving more energy.

If giant gallbladder or liver stones were so common, they would be detectable by a simple ultrasound.

The bile duct itself could never accommodate a stone the size of a golf ball and pass it.

A medical study published in the Lancet in 1999 concluded:

A 40-year-old woman was referred to the outpatient clinic with a 3-month history of recurrent severe pain after fatty food.

Abdominal ultrasound showed multiple 1-2 mm gallstones in the gallbladder.

She had recently followed a “liver cleansing” regime on the advice of an herbalist. This diet consisted of free intake of apple and vegetable juice until 1800 h, but no food, followed by the consumption of 600 mL of olive oil and 300 mL of lemon juice over several hours. This activity resulted in the painless passage of multiple semisolid green “stones” per rectum in the early hours of the next morning. She collected them, stored them in the freezer, and presented them in the clinic.

Microscopic examination of our patient’s stones revealed that they lacked any crystalline structure, melted to an oily green liquid after 10 min at 40°C, and contained no cholesterol, bilirubin, or calcium by established wet chemical methods. Traditional fecal fat extraction techniques indicated that the stones contained fatty acids that required acid hydrolysis to give free fatty acids before extraction into the ether. These fatty acids accounted for 75% of the original material.

Experimentation revealed that mixing equal volumes of oleic acid (the major component of olive oil) and lemon juice produced several semi-solid white balls after the addition of a small volume of a potassium hydroxide solution. On air drying at room temperature, these balls became quite solid and hard.

We conclude, therefore, that these green “stones” resulted from the action of gastric lipases on the simple and mixed triacylglycerols that make up olive oil, yielding long chain carboxylic acids (mainly oleic acid). This process was followed by saponification into large insoluble micelles of potassium carboxylates (lemon juice contains a high concentration of potassium) or “soap stones”.


Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets.