Get to know your liver
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ, weighing about three and a half pounds. It manufactures, processes, stores many chemicals and produces bile. The liver has over 250 individual functions, the most important ones being the storing and releasing of blood sugar (glucose) for energy, sorting and processing vitamins and minerals, breaking down toxins into less harmful substances and recycling old blood cells.
Like the heart the liver also has a dual blood supply: the hepatic artery brings freshly oxygenated blood from the heart and the portal vein brings blood from the stomach and intestines laden with nutrients from your food.
Our livers work extremely hard, everyday, all day, to protect us from the damaging effects from toxins. It is very easy for our liver to become overworked; this in turn significantly compromises our health significantly. Since the liver is the primary organ the body uses to expel toxins, if your liver is not happy it cannot do the job and your entire system can be thrown off balance, all the way to the point of illness in multiple areas of your body.
According to liver expert, Dr. Karl Maret, M.D.,”The thousands of enzyme systems that are responsible for virtually every body activity are constructed in the liver. The proper functioning of the eyes, the heart, the brain, the sex organs, the joints, and the kidneys, are all dependent on good liver activity.”
What can happen if your liver is unhappy?
If even one of the thousands of enzyme systems the body requires is compromised, there is impairment in overall body function with the end result being greater metabolic stress on the body. When this occurs, symptoms such as allergies, headaches, and chronic fatigue can develop–and that is just the beginning.
There has been a sharp rise in NAFLD or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in not only adults but children in recent years. The condition used to be extremely rare and never seen in children. Children are at extreme risk for NAFLD due to rise in obesity associated with the excess fat they carry.
When excess fat accumulates in the liver, it can lead to inflammation and scarring leading to NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. This causes scarring of the liver and it can no longer function normally. In its most severe form, this can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. NASH is a liver disease no one may know that they have; the only definitive way to diagnose it is with a biopsy of the liver. there are no reliable tests to let you know if you may have either NAFLD or NASH. The key then is to prevent it by cleaning up your diet.
Improving your liver’s function
Exercise of any kind is better than none at all, since exercise fights fatty liver disease. Studies have shown exercise to be very important in getting rid of excess fat in the liver as well as other organs of the body. So, what are some things you can do to start improving liver function?
- Do not overeat, overeating puts a strain on your liver.
- Drink at least eight to 12 glasses of filtered (not distilled) water daily since this helps to cleanse the liver and kidneys. The body requires small and frequent sips of water otherwise the cells shrink with dehydration and the membranes dry out.
- Avoid eating large amounts of sugar, especially refined sugars and fructose. The liver will turn these into fat, especially triglycerides and cholesterol, and this in turn can build up inside the cells and cause fatty liver disease. Fructose is very hard on the liver in much the same way as drinking alcohol. After eating fructose, 100% if the metabolic burden rests on your liver, because only your liver can break it down. Fructose is converted into fat that then gets stored in the liver as fat.
- Avoid foods that you may be allergic to or that you know upset your digestive system. Take enzyme supplements if you have a weak digestive system. The more whole raw foods you consume, the less enzyme supplements you will need, because raw foods contain living enzymes.
- Avoid foods that are packaged and processed as they contain preservatives and other chemicals that can upset the balance of the intestines.
- Do not eat when you are stressed. Under stress, the blood flow is diverted away from the intestines and liver, and that can cause poor digestion and bloating.
- Eat organic, fresh grown produce that is free of pesticides so your liver does not have to deal with those toxins.
- Eat small amounts of animal protein and try to obtain a good portion of your proteins from beans and healthy grains.
- Choose your breads wisely, as well as the things that you place on them. Limit intake of breads, as they convert to a sugar in the body.
- Never allow yourself to be constipated, as this allows toxins to back up into the body. If you eat enough raw foods this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you tend to have issues consider a probiotic to help displace unfriendly organisms in your gut.
- Avoid saturated and damaged fats as they harm your liver and can eventually lead to a fatty liver. Healthy fats are essential. Known as EFA’s (essential fatty acids) these enable the cell membrane to eliminate toxins, and are vital for liver cells to cleanse the blood of toxins.
Foods that can help maintain a healthy liver
- Garlic contains sulfur compounds that activate liver enzymes that are responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. Garlic also contains allicin and selenium, both are proven to help protect the liver from toxins damage and also aid in the detoxification process.
- Grapefruit is rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, both are powerful liver cleansers. Grapefruit contains naringenin, a flavonoid compound that helps the liver burn fat rather than storing it. (Note: do not take grapefruit with medications, as studies have shown it can increase absorption rates.)
- Green Tea contains an antioxidant called catechin that has been shown to eliminate liver fat accumulation and promote healthy liver function. Green Tea also protects the liver from toxins that could cause serious damage.
- Green leafy vegetables contain cleansing compounds that neutralize heavy metals that can burden the liver. Green leafy vegetables also assist in the elimination of pesticides and herbicides by stimulating the production and flow of bile. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower are especially good for the detoxification of the liver.
- Avocado is rich in glutathione producing compounds and actively promotes liver health by protecting it from toxic overload, as well as boosting its cleansing power. There are some research projects that have shown that by including as little as two avocados a week in a healthy eating program, liver damage can be repaired in as little as 30 days.
- Walnuts contain high levels of l-arginine, glutathione, and omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts help oxygenate the blood, and can help detoxify ammonia from the liver.
- Turmeric has been shown to protect the liver against toxic damage and regenerate damaged liver cells. Turmeric boosts the natural production of bile, shrinks engorged hepatic ducts, and improves overall function of the gallbladder.
There are also a number of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other supplements that have shown to be helpful in the detoxification of the liver.
- Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, E and natural carotenoids
- Herbs and minerals that are helpful include milk thistle, dandelion, selenium and zinc.
- Amino acids: arginine, glutamine, glycine, methionine, taurine and cysteine.
- A good vitamin B complex that includes, B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, B3
- pantothenic acid, B5 pyridoxine, B6 cyanocobalamin, B12 folic acid, biotin, and inositol.
- Essential fatty acids: primrose oil, flaxseed (either oil or ground seeds), lecithin, and cold pressed olive oil.
Your liver is your internal cleanser. Treat it with respect and allow it to do the important job it was designed to do, and you will improve your health and reduce your risk of illness.
Knowledge is the key to your good health.