What are the most important organs in your body? I bet the heart and lungs come to mind. Most believe that if these organs are healthy, then we are healthy. After all, when we visit the doctor, no matter what the reason, there are a few things that they always check. They listen to our heart and check our blood pressure. They also have us take some deep breaths so they can listen to our lungs. But it’s not so common to have the doctor say, “Let’s take a look at your liver.” Yet, when it comes to overall health, the liver just might be the most important organ.
Showing the liver some love
The liver is the main organ for detoxification. But it does much more than just internal cleansing. The liver is an impressive multi-tasker, with over 500 known functions. It is involved with digestion, endocrine system function, immune system function, controlling blood sugar levels, hormone balance, and protein and fat metabolism. The liver’s part in all of these vital body functions is what makes it quite arguably the most important organ.
The liver’s most important function is detoxification. But that is the one function that puts the liver at the greatest risk of being damaged.
Culturally, we are very aware of our external cleanliness. We brush our teeth daily, most people bathe daily, and we wash our hair and clothing regularly. But we don’t give much thought to how well our internal cleansing mechanisms are working. Western medicine places little importance on detoxification. And so 8it’s often hard to know when our internal cleansing systems are not functioning well.
An overloaded liver
A toxin is any substance that irritates or creates harmful effects in the body. Some toxins, called endotoxins, are the natural by-products of body processes. For example, during protein metabolism, ammonia is formed, which the liver breaks down to urea to be excreted through the kidneys.
The majority of toxins come from our environment. They enter our bodies and are consumed through food and drink, such as alcohol, caffeine, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified foods, and chemical food additives. Some travel into our systems from over-the-counter or prescription drugs. We are also exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals in our environments such as pesticides, car exhaust, secondhand smoke, mold, bacteria, viruses, and indoor pollutants from paint, carpets, and household cleaners, just to name a few.
Thank goodness that the body has systems designed to eliminate waste and detoxify these poisons. The liver springs into action and chemically converts toxins so that they can be easily eliminated by the kidneys. Under ordinary circumstances, your body handles toxins by neutralizing, transforming, and eliminating them. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals then fat-soluble chemicals are transformed into water-soluble ones which can be eliminated through urine, feces, sweat, mucus, and breath.
With the help of your lungs, skin, kidneys, and intestines, a healthy liver detoxifies many harmful substances and eliminates them without contaminating the bloodstream. Detoxification is an ongoing process, and the liver is no stranger to working overtime. However, the sheer volume of chemicals in the environment and in the diet has caused many people to reach their threshold of tolerance, which adversely affects their health.
When the body is burdened with more chemicals than it can efficiently detoxify, chronic health problems can occur. Problems like allergies, skin problems, digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and a variety of ailments can be caused by chemical exposure.
Give your liver a break!
As you can see, we need our liver to survive, so in order to help it stay healthy, we need to lighten the load. If your liver is clogged up or damaged due to the way we treat our body, everything suffers. We get sick, we get fat, we get hormonal, we can’t digest what nutrients we eat, and we can’t protect ourselves from our environment.
How do you know if your liver is in need of some TLC (targeted liver cleansing)? Here are some common symptoms that appear as a result of an overloaded liver:
- weight gain, especially around the belly
- abdominal bloating
- indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn
- trouble digesting fatty foods
- high blood pressure
- elevated cholesterol
- mood swings
- skin rashes or dark spots on skin
Other signs to watch for include pain around the rib cage, sleep apnea or snoring, and fatty yellowish lumps around the eyes. These are signs you need to take action, detox, and alter your diet and lifestyle to heal your liver.
Is your liver fat?
Experiencing any combination of these symptoms may be an indication that your liver is blocked or clogged up. In extreme cases, this condition is referred to as “fatty liver.” Most people associate liver disease and “fatty liver” with overconsumption of alcohol. But over 100 million people in the US, about 30 percent of the population, have some type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Doctors divide the fatty liver disease into two types. If you just have fat but no damage to your liver, the disease is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Fat in your liver plus signs of inflammation and liver cell damage, the disease is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While the latter is far more serious, both types are a cause for concern.
Fatty liver disease means that you have fat deposits inside your liver. These deposits may keep your liver from doing a good job of removing toxins from your blood. If this situation is not reversed, you end up with recycled toxins traveling through uncleaned blood. This can damage your other organs, tissues, immune system and lead to weight gain, skin conditions, rapid aging, and a variety of health conditions.
How to keep your liver clean
The best way to show your liver some love is by decreasing the number of toxins you put into your body, while at the same time supporting your body’s detoxification and elimination systems.
Think of it as a shower for your insides. We must keep properly hydrated to keep the body flushing appropriately, which consists of moving the bowels and urine regularly. Proper hydration keeps the blood fluid so that toxic material may be delivered to the lymph and liver. Water flushes toxins and removes wastes. Lemon water is great to support liver detox. Those who can tolerate it can start each day with a mug of hot lemon water using half a lemon to assist your kidneys and liver. Everyone should drink plenty of clean water throughout the day, at least half your body weight in ounces is a good place to start.
Highly processed, lifeless foods are seen by the body as a toxin. Removing all food sensitivities is key. Avoiding sugar, caffeine, and alcohol will take a burden off of your liver. Eat plenty of liver-loving foods in your diet.
Foods that are good for your liver:
- Liver itself
- Beets (a healthy bile builder)
- Cruciferous vegetables (contain substances that improve the ability of the liver to detoxify harmful chemicals and pollutants)
- Inulin foods like Jerusalem artichokes are also beneficial if you tolerate them.
A cleansing diet is a great way to reduce inflammation and enhance metabolic cleansing – this helps to address toxic overload, harmful bacteria, heavy metal toxicity, and leaky gut.
Foods to avoid:
- All gluten grains (wheat, rye, barley and oats – which can be contaminated with gluten)
- Processed foods
- Caffeine (coffee, black teas, sodas)
- Soy-based foods
- Fruit drinks
- Conventional pork or cold cuts
- All meats that contain hormones/antibiotics (use only hormone/antibiotic free or pastured grass-fed)
- Canned tomato products (most contain common allergens, some even contain gluten)
- hydrogenated oils/fats
- All refined sugar products
- Any foods to which you are currently intolerant.
Don’t forget the Fiber
Removing grains/legumes from the diet removes a heck of a lot of fiber. It will be critical to consume plenty of vegetables at every meal along with supplementing with fiber. Psyllium husk is a great option. Seeds such as chia are also a good option. If you don’t tolerate these seeds, just be sure to include sources of fiber in your diet that you do tolerate. Low glycemic veggies are great for this; eat as many as you want and with every meal, if possible. Some people with gut issues don’t tolerate raw veggies well, so cooked veggies are fine in that case, and consume plenty.
Essential fatty acids
This is why strict low-fat diets are not beneficial for general health, weight control, or liver function. Good sources include coconut oil and butter (if you tolerate dairy).
Test for hidden food intolerances and yeast overgrowth, and consider heavy metal testing.
Get moving! Even if it’s only a brisk walk or something minimal, it works. Daily movement is very important. It keeps the lymph flowing and toxins moving out of the body.
Work up a sweat
Perspiration is a great detoxification pathway. Be sure to break a sweat daily, which will probably happen if you are getting in your exercise; however, you can head to a sauna, as well.
Detoxification doesn’t have to be difficult, sometimes it can be very relaxing. Treat yourself to a relaxing soak in the tub. Detox baths are an excellent way to promote cleansing and can be done regularly. You can assist elimination of toxins through the skin with detox baths in a gentle, non-invasive way. It’s a simple as adding 1 cup of Epsom salts to your bath.
Eliminate environmental stressors
Try eliminating as many toxins as possible from your home and personal hygiene products. Check the ingredients on your cosmetics and cleaning products, store your leftovers in glass instead of plastic, and consider installing a filter for your shower. The skin is the largest organ in your body….what is applied to your skin is absorbed right into your body. So, if you would not eat it, don’t use it on your skin.
Fat production in the liver is known to be affected by circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that disrupting circadian rhythms in mice causes the animals to develop excess liver fat. It is believed that the same could be true in humans. Because sleep rejuvenates the body and immune system, insomnia affects energy level, mood, and overall health. Long-term sleep deprivation increases the severity of chronic disease, including all kinds of liver disease.
Unfortunately, insomnia is a common complaint among those with liver disease. Sleep apnea, stress and anxiety, and medication-induced sleeplessness are often to blame. When trying to heal your liver, do everything you can to make sleep a priority.
Individual supplementation needs vary tremendously from person to person. At the very least, take a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement is certainly advisable to support your body’s needs. During times of stress, you may want to increase your mineral intake, as stress causes you to burn through your minerals more quickly.
Take probiotics daily
Through fermented foods (if tolerated) or supplements. Probiotics help to neutralize toxins and break down and prevent the synthesis of bacterial toxins.
There are many other vitamins, supplements, and herbs that have been proven effective in cleansing and supporting the liver including vitamins like B-complex, C, E, and natural beta carotene, herbs like milk thistle, turmeric, dandelion, and globe artichoke, and a number of important specific amino acids. It’s best to consult with a trained practitioner who understands your individual needs to determine which supplements and what doses will be most effective for you.
One month to a healthier liver
After just 30 days of implementing some of the above daily detox tips, you should be starting back on the path to wellness. You may experience more regular bowel movements, more energy, clearer skin, less pain, and weight loss. Hopefully, these positive changes will inspire you to continue this liver-friendly lifestyle for many months to come.
If you are still having chronic health issues or experiencing symptoms consider taking on a deeper detoxification plan. You should get liver testing done, and work with the guidance of an FDNThrive coach.
The good news is that the liver can rebuild itself. It can be cleansed.