Your liver plays an essential role in the digestion process – it performs over 100 functions to maintain optimal absorption.
All About the Liver
Being responsible for synthesizing and regulating substances in the body, the liver is one of the most complex, self-regenerating parts of the digestive system. The liver receives the substances absorbed by the small intestine, then processes and separates it before it can continue to the heart. We only have one liver though, so it essential to keep it working well by eating the foods it requires and utilizing helpful herbs to stimulate bile–a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid that aids digestion. (Bile is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder). The liver is inarguably a remarkable organ! (Bauman, 2015)
Functions of the Liver
• Be the “Super Cleaner” of the digestive system; even cleans blood
• Breaks down alcohols and medications; stores vitamins A, iron and minerals
• Regenerates 75% of itself in a matter of weeks
• Regulates blood sugar levels; produces bile
• Breaks down fats and produces cholesterol
• Removes ammonia from body; produces blood proteins
• Eliminates harmful biochemical products and toxins
Signs of Poor Liver Function
Fatigue • Confusion • Moodiness/Anxiousness • Tenderness on Right Side • Abdominal pain/swelling • Swelling in legs/Ankles • Nausea/Vomiting • Intolerance to Fats • Tiredness After Meals • Itchy skin • Loss of Appetite • Headaches/Migraines • Dark Urine Color • Chronic Fatigue • Easy to Bruise • Constipation • Inability to Lose Weight • Skin and Eyes are Yellowish • Dark Urine • Rosacea • Poor Appetite • Bloating and Gas • Excessive Sweating • Acid Reflux/Heart burn • Food and Chemical Sensitivity
Liver Related Issues
• Chronic constipation – this means there are fats present in the small intestine and the liver is unable to make bile causing slow peristalsis and fat burning
• Hemorrhoids (i.e. stagnate liver) – in this case a castor oil pack will soften and stimulate bile creating a bowel movement
• Yellow Skin/Eyes (Jaundice) – the inability to process waste product from mature red blood cells called bilirubin
• Cirrhosis – damage to the liver resulting in scarring, which can lead to liver failure; if treatment is not sought it can be life-threatening
• Blood Clotting – this is difficulty synthesizing proteins, which results in bruises and possibly bleeding
Contributing Factors to Poor Liver Function
• Overconsumption of Alcohol
• Some Prescriptions Med
• Some Over-the-Counter Meds
• Fatty Foods (too much saturated fat)
• Too Much Salt Intake
• Street Drugs/Marijuana
• Poor Eating/High Caloric Intake
• Tobacco Usage
• Too Much Vitamin A
• Toxin Overload (Environmental, Cosmetics, Food, etc.)
Liver Supportive Foods
The best way to support the liver is by eating a diet rich in colorful organic fruits and vegetables—basically eat the rainbow! Moreover, incorporating bitter foods and herbs stimulates good bile flow in the liver. This helps to clear out the old bile in the liver and gallbladder and keep it moving. Cruciferous and bitter veggies such as arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard and kale are great foods for liver support. Also artichokes and asparagus are liver-friendly spring foods, along with rhubarb and strawberries! Even more, bitter melon, beets and radishes, sulphur rich foods-garlic and onions–are all great foods for liver support. (Murray, 2005) It is also essential to get an adequate amount of protein in your diet. Three to four servings of protein per day is ideal (3oz. of animal/6 oz. Vegetable). The addition of micro algae (spirulina and chlorella) contain trace elements and proteins.
Limonene, which is present in the rinds of citrus – lime, lemon, orange, tangerine – help stimulate liver bile. You may grate the rind of organic citrus into your salads, teas and meat dishes to retain the essential anti-cancer properties of the fruit. One can even try a kumquat for the particular bitter/sour combination our liver loves oh so much. (Bauman, 2015)
Supporting Herbs and Supporting Foods
Milk Thistle (silymarin) Citrus (lemons and limes)
Artichoke Leaf Freshly juiced vegetable Juice
Dandelion root Bitter Greens
Yellow Dock Cruciferous Veggies
Barberry Beets and Radishes
Gentian Onions and Garlic
Radish Organic Pastured Chicken Liver
Use these herbs in warm water as a tea or buy a liver detox tea that combines them all. Hot water with the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon on an empty stomach in the morning is another great way to keep your liver healthy. Add a sprinkle of cayenne for additional digestive enzyme support and detoxification.
Other Liver Detoxification Support
- Have 1-2 bowel movements a day
- Drink 6-8 glasses of purified or filtered water a day
- Sweat regularly with exercise and saunas
- Take probiotics or consume lacto-fermenteed foods everyday
- Increase fiber intake with beans (remember to soak), whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds
Eating consistent, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, as well as avoiding late night snacks improves the balance of the liver. Sleep is also imperative for liver regeneration. It is recommended to go to bed between 10pm – 11pm. In addition, it is important to limit exposure to toxins, such as cleaning products, makeup and chemicals, to lessen the load on the liver. Managing stress and exercising is also imperative for optimal liver health.
Liver Detox Juice
- 1-2 beets
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 lime
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1 inch piece ginger peeled
- Place all ingredients in a juicer, stir and drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Cheers to a happy liver!
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2015). Foundations of Nutrition. Berkeley, CA: Bauman College.
Bauman, E. NC102.3 Digestive Physiology (Power Point Slides). Retrieved from Bauman College: http://dashboard.baumancollege.org
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
Group, E. (2015). Global Healing Center. “17 Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper.” http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/