The liver weighs about 4 pounds and is the body’s largest and hardest working internal organ. A healthy liver fulfills over 500 functions, holds about thirteen percent of the 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 different chemicals and maintains over 2000 internal enzyme systems.
- Digestion/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 (A, D, E, and K) carries away toxic substances & excess cholesterol for removal. Bile also promotes intestinal peristalsis for regular bowel movements!
- Processing/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 cholesterol! In addition, the liver is responsible for regulating 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.
- Storage: liver cells store many important substances until they are needed, such as vitamins and minerals (i.e. 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.
- Filtering/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 others substances in the body to be safely removed through the kidneys, bladder or via the bile.
What Burdens The Liver?
Some factors that negatively affect liver health include obesity, lack of exercise, insulin resistance/blood sugar imbalances, heart problems, chronic stress/insomnia, estrogen imbalance, poor diet (high in sugar/fructose, refined/processed foods, wrong fats, alcohol and low in fibre, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) as well as toxic overload (internal -> from candida overgrowth, poor digestion -leaky gut, poor gut flora, food sensitivities, low enzymes/HCL, constipation or external -> from chemicals and hormone mimickers in food, personal care & cleaning products, tobacco and environment). Note that the health of the liver is very much dependent on the health of the gut!
What Can Go Wrong?
Sluggish Liver is described by an impairment in the ability to detoxify or remove toxins.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is characterized by progressive stages of fat buildup, inflammation, scarring and hardening, tissue damage, limited blood flow and eventually complete failure.
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 salts/acids, water, and minerals. Approximately, 80-85% are made of cholesterol and 15-20% of calcium/bilirubin (pigment stones).
When the liver is congested, it 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/thyroid), fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, etc.
- Avoid Toxins - from smoking, body care and cleaning chemicals, food, etc.
- Improve 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 burden on liver.
- Ensure Regular Bowel Movements - ask about natural constipation strategies!
- Treat Candida - if necessary
Ensure Good Nutrition
- Choose Whole, Alkalizing, Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant-Rich, Nutrient-Dense, High-Fibre, Low Glycemic, Organic, Naturally-Grown/Raised ingredients.
- Drink plenty of water (and lemon) to liquefy and stimulate production of bile.
- Consume saturated fats from animal products in moderation, and focus on healthy OMEGA fats (i.e. fish oils) to help reduce inflammation and improve liver function.
- Consume plenty of fresh, colorful, local and/or organic produce (and juices).
- Limit sugars, trans fats, alcohol, refined/processed foods and excess caffeine.
- Consider additional FIBRE (esp. in soluble form) to properly absorb and help eliminate toxins and excess cholesterol – aim for 35g/day!
- Take a daily MULTIVITAMIN to ensure adequate nutrition and fat-soluble vitamins!
Consider Liver Support Ingredients
- Hepatoprotective (protect liver cells): milk thistle (silymarin), turmeric (curcumin)
- Cholagogues (stimulate bile flow in the liver): dandelion, artichoke, picrohiza
- Antioxidants (fight free radical damage): selenium, alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin C, NAC, green tea, resveratrol
- Also, consider lipotropic factors choline/inositol for fat metabolism, as well as supportive amino acids such as, l-taurine, l-glutathione and l-methionine and in the case of gallstones, look for “chanca piedra” and peppermint to help with breakdown.
Choose a LIVER CLEANSE that enhances both Phase I & II detoxification, supports liver functions (hormone processing, blood sugar regulation) and stimulates bile production.
- Maintain healthy weight, balance blood sugars, manage stress/sleep, exercise regularly.
Ask a health care advisor which products are right for your specific needs and lifestyle!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.