It's Time to Liven Up Your Liver!
Your liver weighs about 4 pounds and is your body's largest and hardest working internal organ. A healthy liver fulfills over 500 functions, holds about thirteen percent of your body's blood supply at any given moment, and filters over a litre of blood each minute! In addition, it contributes to production of over 13,000 chemicals and maintains over 2000 internal enzyme systems.
Main Functions of Your Liver
1. Digestion and Bile Secretion: the liver manufactures approximately 1 litre of bile per day, which is stored in the gallbladder and released as needed. It emulsifies fats for digestion, absorbs fat-soluble Vitamins such as A, D, E and K, carries away toxic substances and excess cholesterol for removal. Bile also promotes intestinal peristalsis for regular bowel movements.
2. Processing and Manufacturing: the liver processes almost everything we eat, breathe or absorb. It is needed to synthesize nutrients (enzymes, hormones, lipoproteins, blood proteins, clotting and immune factors). It also produces up to 80% of the body's cholestoerol! In addition, the liver is responsible for regulating your thyroid by converting T4 to active T3, as well as for breaking down sex hormones, deciding if they will convert to another form or clearing the excess.
3. Storage: liver cells store many important substances until they are needed, such as vitamins and minerals (ie. iron). Excess food is also converted into fat in the liver and is then transported to fatty tissues in the body for storage. In addition, surplus blood sugars are converted into glycogen in the liver and then stored as well. When blood sugar levels drop, the liver converts the stored glycogen into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream for energy.
4. Filtering and Detoxification: the liver detoxifies alcohol, heavy metals, drugs, chemicals, toxic by-products and poisons as well as transforms fat soluble toxins into a water soluble state so they can be removed. A healthy liver will ensure toxic substances are safely eliminated via urine, bile, and stool. Phase I liver detoxification works to breakdown toxins into non-toxic substances. Phase II liver detoxification involves 'conjugation' where toxic substances are 'bound' to other substances in the body to be safely removed through the kidneys, bladder or via the bile.
What Burdens Your Liver?
Some factors that negatively affect your liver health include obesity, lack of exercise, insulin resistance or blood sugar imbalances, heart problems, chronic stress and insomnia, estrogen imbalance, poor diet (high in sugar or fructose, refined and processed foods, wrong fats, alcohol, low fibre, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) as well as toxic overload (internal from candida overgrowth, poor digestion resulting in leaky gut, poor gut flora, food sensitivities, low enzymes or HCL, constipation or external factors such as chemincals, hormone minickers in food, personal care and cleaning products, tobacco and your environment.
Note: the health of your liver is very much dependent on the health of your gut!
What Can Go Wrong?
1. Sluggish Liver: described by an impairment in the ability to detoxify or remove toxins.
2. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver: characterized by progressive stages of fat buildup, inflammation, scarring and hardening, tissue damage, limited blood flow and eventually complete failure.
3. Gallstones: occur due to an imbalanced composition of bile, when production/circulation/quality is impaired. Bile is composed of fats (cholesterol, lecithin, and fatty acids), bile pigment (bilirubin), bile salt and acids, water and minerals. Approximately, 80-85% are made of cholesterol and 15-20% of calcium or bilirubin (pigment stones).
4. Congestion: not only creates inflammation and cell damage, but toxins end up overflowing into the bloodstream and re-circulating, eventually being stored in fatty tissues. A burdened liver leads to various signs and symptoms such as headaches, skin problems, body odor, food sensitivities, poor digestion, excess weight retention, cholesterol buildup, constipation, hormonal imbalances (PMS or thyroid), fatigue, brain fog, mood swings etc.
Recommendations for a Healthy Liver:
1. Eliminate Triggers
- avoid toxins from smoking, body care products, cleaning chemicals, food and more.
- improve your digestion - consider digestive enzymes (with bile salts and HCL if necessary) and gut repair nutrients. Avoid food sensitivities. Take a daily probiotic to restore bacterial balance, protect intestinal lining, control overgrowth, regulate bowels, reduce toxicity and lessen the burden on your liver.
- ensure regular bowel movements.
- treat Candida if necessary.
2. Ensure Good Nutrition
- choose whole, alkalizing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich, nutrient dense, high fibre, low glycemic, organic, naturally grown or raised ingredients.
- drink plenty of water (and lemon) to liquefy and stimulate the production of bile.
- consume saturated fats from animal products in moderation and focus on healthy Omega fats (ie. fish oils) to help reduce inflammation and improve liver function.
- consume plenty of fresh, colorful, local and organic produce or juice.
- limit sugars, trans fats, alcohol, refined or processed foods and excess caffeine.
- consider additional fibre, especially in soluble form to properly absorb and help eliminate toxins and excess cholesterol. Try to aim for 35 grams per day.
- take a daily multivitamin to ensure adequate nutrition and fat soluble vitamins.
3. Consider Liver Support Ingredients
- Protect liver cells: milk thistle (silymarin), turmeric (curcumin).
- Stimulate bile flow in the liver: dandelion, artichoke, picrohiza
- Antioxidants to fight free radical damage: selenium, alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin C, NAC, green tea, resveratrol.
- lipotropic factors choline and inositaol for fat metabolism.
- Amino Acids such as L-Taurine, L-Glutathione and L-Methionine.
- For gallstones look for "chanca piedra" and peppermint to help with breakdown.
- Choose a liver cleanse that enhances both Phase I and II detoxification, supports liver functions (hormone processing, blood sugar regulation) and stimulates bile production.
4. Lifestyle Recommendations
- maintain a healthy weight
- balance your blood sugars
- manage stress
- manage sleep
- exercise regularly.