The Journey of Digestion – Part 5

Our Liver is the largest internal organ of the body, located right beneath the diaphragm and abdominal cavity.  The liver has four functional roles: filters blood; metabolic regulation; bile production and detoxification.  Without the liver, it’s impossible to have a properly working metabolism, healthy circulation, balanced hormones, clean blood, and strong digestion.  

There are approximately 500 vital functions of the liver including: immunity against infection; releasing vitamins when needed (vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12); manufactures glycogen to help stabilize blood sugar levels; produces enzymes; regulation of fat storage; cleanses the blood; discharges waste; neutralizes & destroys poisons; manufacturers new body proteins (production of albumin, the most common protein in blood serum); metabolizes alcohol; maintains hormone balance; controls production & secretion of cholesterol; converts iron to ferritin; blood clotting factors (fibrinogen and thrombocytes); and responsible for regenerating its own damaged tissues.

Being the mother of feline fur-babies, I have had my share of gifts from them.  On more than one occasion, my fur-babies have surprised me with gifts of gecko tails.  If you’ve ever received such a gift, you may have noticed that the tail still moves, even without the rest of the gecko.  So what happens to the gecko once his or her tail has been savagely torn off by feline predators?  Well, they are regenerated.  Our liver has this same capability – in the event of liver damage as a result of trauma or chronic disease, the main liver cells (hepatocytes, which are responsible for all basic liver functions) are able to regenerate by dividing into new hepatocytes.  Amazing, right?

So how do we know if our liver needs some lovin’?  Here are a few signs of liver impairment: tenderness under ribs on right side; headaches; dizziness or disorientation; dark colored urine; constipation and light tan stools (telling us there isn’t enough bile); jaundice; fatigue; lack of appetite; rashes on the back or an itchy sore back; bruising easily; bloated belly or extreme edema and weight loss resistance.

Listed below are ten things that can harm our liver:

  1. Too much protein in the diet can stress the liver. This of course will vary for each individual, so it is hard to say what is “too much” protein.
  2. Too much sugar and simple carbs can also stress the liver. The body converts excess sugars into triglycerides, which are stored in the liver as fat.
  3. Over-eating can stress the liver.
  4. Not balancing our body with enough enzymes as enzyme-deficient food can be taxing to the liver.  Adding more raw, sprouted and/or fermented foods to our diet to get more enzymes.
  5. Residue from medications, whether medicinal or recreational, need to be processed and purified for elimination from the liver.
  6. Too many toxins, heavy metals, or pesticides damage or stress the liver.
  7. Lack of exercise forces the liver to do the elimination that should be relegated to the lungs and skin.
  8. Alcohol causes inflammation in the liver, making it more difficult to filter, leaving it clogged up with fat. This can lead to cirrhosis and the inability of the liver to regenerate itself.
  9. Diseases of the liver, like chronic hepatitis C, harm the liver and devastate its function.
  10. Chronic stress – our hormones get out of whack, and our liver metabolizes our hormones

Now that we know what not to do, what can we do to help the liver?  There is a lot of talk about cleanses and detoxes that it’s hard to know the good from the not-so-good.  And, of course, it also comes down to preference and what works best for each individual.  Let’s first look at some herbs that can be made into teas to drink daily:  dandelion root, ginger, clove, burdock root and horsetail are helpful for liver detoxification. Herbs that help to regenerate the liver include: milk thistle, wormwood, black walnut and garlic.

Here are seven key points to support a healthy liver:

  1. Avoid late night snacking as the liver’s regenerative cycle is between 11pm and 3am, so it’s best to be asleep by 10pm.
  2. Improving the quality of what goes into your body: organic food, good water and increased fiber to bind the toxins to get them moving out of the body.
  3. Fat – clean fat is good, especially essential fats our systems need to support liver health. Stay away from fried foods – no oxidized oils!
  4. High quality protein – but not in excess.
  5. Nutrient-dense whole foods such as:
  • Greens, particularly bitter greens like arugula, chicory, mustard and dandelion
  • Fruits and veggies, especially citrus fruits and peel
  • Essential fats
  • Choline from eggs
  • Non-genetically modified soy
  • Avocado
  • Medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, maitake
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Artichokes
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Plenty of vitamins B, C and E
  • Turmeric, coriander, parsley, cilantro and oregano
  • Apple cider vinegar

    6. Consider adding superfoods such as spirulina, chlorella and chlorophyll.

    7. Milk Thistle, Holy Basil

May this information empower you in taking care of your liver.

Our Digestive Journey continues in our next and final blog, as we focus on the colon.

Until then,

To Your Health & Happiness,

Michele Root ~ Empowering You!