Have you ever given thought to the health of your liver? Most of us know our heart and lungs are doing their jobs 24/7 to keep us alive and healthy but may not realize how hard your liver is working towards your health 24/7.
What exactly does the liver do?
The Liver detoxifies – this one is ultra-important since we live in a toxic world and are literally getting fired at most of the day (see this blog). Besides just drugs and alcohol, the liver filters inflammatory foods, environmental toxins, pesticides, herbicides, and steroid hormones.
Production of Cholesterol – although you may think this is negative, your body actually needs cholesterol for the structure of all of your cells. In addition, cholesterol is a precursor to sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen, progesterone) and vitamin D so not having adequate sex hormones can lead to a multiple of physical and psychological challenges.
Blood Glucose Balance – the liver stores glycogen and when needed it releases glucose into the system to fuel your body. When there is too much glucose, the liver continues to try it’s best to help clear the bloodstream (to avoid becoming diabetic) which results in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD) which is not from fat but rather from consuming too many carbs/sugars.
Production of Bile – bile is the agent that is needed to properly digest the fats in your diet in addition to being anti-microbial. Bile also helps eliminate toxins and excess hormones from the body.
Metabolism – the liver is involved with the thyroid hormones and conversation of T4 to T3 and helps with detoxification of fat. If your liver is congested your metabolism will be chronically sluggish.
Storage of Nutrients – the liver stores the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, vitamin B12 and minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc and releases them into the bloodstream when needed.
Besides the above, the liver is also involved in protein synthesis, the immune system and overall health.
If the liver becomes overwhelmed it can easily lead to NAFLD which can progress to NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis where the liver has scarring and inflammation which impairs the detoxification process in addition to the other critical functions above.
The good news is you can immediately start reversing liver stagnation by making lifestyle changes such as lowering the toxic load in the body, exercising (sweating helps detoxify the liver but remember to shower afterward so the body does not reabsorb the toxins), minimizing alcohol, medications, and processed foods/sugars, foods with trans fats and GMO foods.
What are some foods to add for loving your liver?
Artichokes – artichokes contain a phenolic acid known as cyanin which can help clear the liver of excess cholesterol and fat. They also contain chlorogenic acid which enhances bile production.
Dandelion greens – you can buy them at many farmer’s markets or organic grocery stores and add to your salads. Dandelion greens contain vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate. They can prevent oxidation, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduce liver inflammation. I cut them up and regularly put in my salads. Because dandelion greens are bitter they help with digestion and gut health.
Dark Green Leafy and Cruciferous Vegetables – organic greens such as arugula, spinach, kale, mustard greens, and darker lettuce all contain chlorophyll which binds to toxins and heavy metals and helps eliminate them. They also contain magnesium and fiber to help with elimination in addition to increasing bile production.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) contain sulforaphane which are anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory as well as helping the body to make glutathione. Glutathione helps the body rid itself of toxins, mold and bacteria so it plays a crucial part of the detoxification process.
Avocados – besides being a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados contain the antioxidants vitamins C and E and K which help with reducing inflammation. They are also a source of glutathione with helps with detoxification.
Berries – berries contain phytochemicals (think sunscreen for plants) that have antioxidant activity to reduce stress in the liver which can protect against liver damage and even prevent the growth of cancer cells.
Fatty Fish – fatty fish contain the important omega 3’s DHA and EPA which can naturally reduce the amount of fat in the liver and help prevent nonalcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Teas – surprisingly tea is a great way to help with detoxification of the liver. You can purchase many of these looseleaf and make your own mix – dandelion, peppermint, chamomile, turmeric, lemon, and ginger. Teas are a great way to replace the nightcap with something that nourishes the liver for a reset for the next day.
Taking your liver for granted is easy to do and unfortunately leads to many chronic health issues – weight gain, hormonal and thyroid issues, cancer, diabetes, skin issues, and heart disease. Taking back control and being intentional about your food choices is critical if you want to avoid disease, increase longevity, and live a healthy life. Your liver depends on it!