Why is my liver important?
The liver processes everything you eat or drink. While the intestines break down food and help the body absorb it, the food then goes to the liver, which does the work of metabolizing it. The liver stores most nutrients until the body needs them. The liver helps the body use what is good for the body’s systems, and eliminate what is not. When you are consistently consuming food and drinks that are not good for the body (as most Americans are), the liver has to overwork in order to process out all that is bad. Even when you do eat clean, it is difficult to eliminate all environmental toxins, such as smog, plastic, car fumes, etc., which most people are exposed to daily. While the liver works hard, it cannot always process everything out. When it cannot keep up, it can send damaging substances (toxins) to the organs. The potential for damage (to the liver and other organs) remains high as long as exposure to difficult-to-metabolize chemicals remains high.
How can I take care of my liver?
A healthy diet is vital to a well-functioning liver. Get protein from mainly plant-based sources. Eat natural foods, foods you have to prepare, foods consumed in their raw state, not packaged. While the body needs fat, reduce fat to natural sources, such as avocados, nuts, fish, and seeds. Other good foods include beans, legumes and lentils, and vegetables and fruits that are not produced or processed with harmful chemicals. Purchase organic foods and products as much as possible. Learn about and avoid foods such as wheat, which is sprayed with over ten chemical treatments from seed to store. Get to know who grows your food and what they use in its production. Think about visiting a farmer’s market.
Exercise regularly and keep your weight in check. Weight gain can cause your liver to slow down, which can slow your metabolism down, which can cause you to gain more weight. Obesity is linked to fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, and liver failure. Liver disease is rising even among adolescents due to juvenile obesity.
Exposure to cleaners, nail polish, hair dye, makeup, paint fumes, alcohol, and other synthetic chemicals requires the liver to filter them out of the body to keep them from getting into the bloodstream. Even with a healthy diet, chemical exposure can cause the liver to overwork. (See below for how to cleanse the liver.)
How could I suspect that my liver is malfunctioning?
Symptoms of liver damage include fatigue, nausea, decreased appetite, discolored (dark) urine, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). While there is a liver function test, the liver has to be functioning very poorly in order to trigger results.
What can I do if my liver is damaged?
In order to detoxify the body (hair, skin, nails, intestines, etc.), begin by detoxifying the liver. I recommend doing a liver cleanse. In fact, it is recommended to do a liver cleanse yearly, due to overexposure to toxins in the environment. Liver cleanses are not advised for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or while sick.
I recommend Metagenics 10-day Clear Change (or 28-day for a more comprehensive cleanse), Global Health Center Liver Cleanse Kit, or Gaia Liver Cleanse. In addition to taking the products, liver cleanses are paired with a specific diet during the cleanse that helps facilitate your body getting rid of massive amounts of toxins. Your body will eliminate liver stones, which are clumps of toxins, along with bile, fat, and excess dietary cholesterol that crystallize into pebbles (see picture). At the end of the cleanse, you can opt to do a stone elimination with USP epsom salts and olive oil. Following the cleanse, continue with clean eating and keeping your weight in check for healthy maintenance. Without a heavy cleanse, regular intake of green teas, and herbs such as milk thistle, turmeric, and dandelion root help promote liver wellness, and can also be used to follow up a liver cleanse. More information can be found here.
Taking care of your liver is vital to a healthy life. Rather than experiencing chronic fatigue, depression, headaches, constipation, digestive difficulties, and chemical sensitives, as you would with a sluggish liver, and also increased risks of chronic and autoimmune diseases, you can give your body the best chance at health by keeping your liver as toxin-free as possible.
Jaimeé Arroyo Novak, FNP