liver health

Give your liver some huggy love! The liver not only clears out waste from the blood (detoxification) it also manages the energy in your body. And anything that protects the liver (ie is hepaprotective) will assist in keeping you feeling bright and energetic. Conversely, toxic overload can occur as a result of overloading the liver’s capabilities to detoxify. Here i’ll provide some guidelines for understanding how this occurs and how to keep your liver in top health with healing and health promoting nutrients. Bon appetit!

Symptoms of a dysfunctional detoxification system:

  • Sensitivity to or craving for alcohol
  • Caffeine intolerance or rapid caffeine metabolism
  • Illness resulting from exposure to perfumes or environmental chemicals
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional outbursts and stress

Toxic overload

Detoxification uses 80% of the energy source the body uses to make new molecules. Toxic overload results in low energy levels as more energy is being devoted to detoxification, leaving little energy for other body processes.

Continual or repeated damage, chiefly through intake of toxic chemicals in food, polluted air, alcohol, caffeine and medications interferes with liver’s ability to function. If the liver slows down, toxins build up. Stress adds to this toxic load, as the liver detoxifies stress hormones. And toxic overload can lead to symptoms of stress: a vicious cycle.

Stress also activates the sympathetic nervous system which draws blood away from the digestive system. This results in impaired nutrient digestion and absorption, which will mean the liver will not receive the nutrients it requires to detoxify correctly. However the liver will be under increased need for these nutrients to process and detoxify steroid hormones associated with stress, and without them, vital detoxification processes will not work properly, leading to increasing health problems.

During liver detoxification, many toxins are made more active and potentially more damaging. For example, if there is an inadequate supply of anti-oxidants, free radical damage to tissues can result. Furthermore, if the liver is under stress, it will be using up more nutrients, reducing its supplies needed to detoxify properly. And with reduced nutrients available this causes decreased ability to detoxify, as well as increased health problems, problems that will generate more toxins, require more nutrients, lead to increased health problems … another vicious cycle.

To the rescue: Fiber

One pathway the liver uses to detoxify the body is to break down toxins and attach them to bile salts for excretion in the faeces. Bile salts, made by the liver, are also important for proper digestion in the intestines.

Fiber from whole grains, fruit and vegetables absorb water in the body and toxins it contains (such as water soluble toxins secreted by the liver in bile salts). Liver excretion of toxins in bile is reabsorbed in the intestines – unless fiber is present to absorb those water soluble toxins. Fiber is not absorbed or broken down: it simply adds bulk and water to fecal matter, which lubricates stool, as well as making it pass more quickly and easily out of body – taking toxins with it.

Nutritional aids to detoxification:

  • Botanical – Silymarin / Milk Thistle seed: enhances detoxification reactions and acts as an anti-oxidant to protect the liver from toxic chemicals and free-radicals
  • Vegetable – Beets and Brassica family vegetables (eg cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts)
  • Protein – a complete supply of amino acids is needed, with special attention to sources for Glutathione, a vital protein in detoxification and anti-oxidant liver protection. Glutathione is found especially in asparagus, avocados, walnuts, Brassica family plants, and fresh fruits, fish and meat
  • Phyto-nutrient – Limonene found in citrus fruits, dill and caraway seed all boost the body’s production of Glutathione
  • Anti-oxidants
  1. Carotenes: in red and yellow fruits, green leafy vegetables, grains and seeds
  2. Flavonoids: in darker fruits, vegetables
  3. Lignans: in flaxseed, whole grains, nuts, seeds
  4. Polyphenols: in green tea, chocolate, red wine
  5. Vitamins C and E

Nutrient inhibitors:

Grapefruit – contains flavonoid Naringen which reduces activity of enzymes needed to detoxify certain prescription medications.

Freeing the liver – and avoiding toxic overload

  • Avoid saturated fats and refined sugar
  • Drink plenty of water – to flush the kidneys
  • Consume plenty of fiber
  • Consume alcohol and caffeine only in moderation and avoid if possible
  • Consider buying a juice extractor or blender – and using it as part of your daily routine
  • Take up regular exercise
  • Avoid toxic chemical intake:
  1. Food additives and colourings
  2. Solvents such as cleaning products
  3. Pesticides in foods
  4. Herbicides in foods (and air)
  5. Drugs (illegal, over-the-counter, prescription)
  6. Naturally occurring toxins in foods and herbs

Adapted from:

Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Press

Murray, M. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York, N.Y.: Atria Books

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