Most people who have spent time with me would know that I love talking about the liver. Whenever this obsession started, it came with a lot of consciousness about what I was eating, putting on my skin and surrounding myself with. In this world of increasing toxin levels everywhere we turn, I have become petrified of the future of our generation.
The liver is a vital organ that is located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, below the diaphragm. The liver has a wide range of functions, including detoxification of various toxins, protein synthesis, and the production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. It also plays a role in metabolism, regulation of glycogen storage, decomposition of red blood cells and hormone production.
In other words your liver is awesome and it’s vital, meaning you cannot live without it.
So now let’s see how exactly your liver cleanses your bloodstream and why it doesn’t automatically cleanse itself.
There are two mechanisms the liver uses to cleanse your bloodstream:
1. It is a mechanical filter consisting of spaces (sinusoids) lined by the fenestrated endothelium. As the blood flows through the liver sinusoids, the toxins pass through the fenestrated endothelium into the space of Disse and then into the liver cells.
2. The phase one and two detox pathways. A series of enzyme reactions in your liver cells convert toxins into a less harmful state, so that they can be excreted.
So if the liver can cleanse the bloodstream, the liver should be able to cleanse itself and is in no need of extra help – right? Or is the liver filter like the air and oil filters of an engine which need regular cleansing and maintenance. If these filters become dirty, blocked and over worked they malfunction and eventually the engine breaks down.
Well this is what happens in the body and eventually an overloaded or “dirty liver filter” can cause wide ranging symptoms of poor health in the body.
What is it that can overload or impair the liver’s ability to detoxify?
1. High exposure to environmental toxins, alcohol, heavy metals, and/or certain medications – there is an unprecedented amount of chemicals that are integrating themselves into our environment – dyes from printing, hair colors, plastics, alkyl-phenols, PCBs, phthalates, paints, insecticides – thousands of tons of these chemicals go into the environment around the world every year and get into the food chain. The effects of these chemicals are not fully studied. An enormous amount of research literature associating toxin exposure to disease has been published and current estimates suggest that up to nearly $800 billion is spent in the US and Canada every year on toxicity-related diseases.
2. Generation of excess free radicals from immune complexes or viruses. People with allergies and autoimmune diseases have an immune system that is continually spilling out inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals and immune cells eventually make their way to the liver where they can overwork it. Infection with viruses, bacteria or parasites also places a strain on the immune system. Plus these infectious agents release a number of their own toxins.
3. Fatty infiltration of the liver, and we all know that the condition fatty liver is now an epidemic. When fat infiltrates the liver it can displace healthy liver cells. Fat in the liver can damage liver cells, promote inflammation in the liver and cause raised liver enzymes. The majority of toxins are fat soluble; if you have a fatty liver it is like a magnet for toxins.
4. Nutritional deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and sulphur-bearing amino acids that are required for the detox pathways in the liver. Poor diet, trans fatty acids & excess sugar can inhibit phase one and two pathways. Excess caffeine stimulates too fast phase one detoxification; this is a problem because free radicals build up in the liver before they enter the phase two pathway.
5. Enzyme polymorphisms. These are genetic conditions where there is a deficiency or abnormality in an enzyme required for proper detoxification.
6. Leaky gut syndrome. This is an extremely common condition whereby the intestinal lining becomes more permeable than it should be, allowing bacteria, toxins and undigested food into the bloodstream. These substances then pass directly to the liver.
7. Medications. Several medications can either inhibit or modify detox enzymes.
You could be wondering why does this matter or why should you care. Here’s why:
So we said your liver detoxifies the body, but it is also the one organ in your body that can metabolize fat. So if your toxins build up in your body your liver will be overworked trying to filter and your metabolism will slow down significantly and that will cause you to gain a lot of weight (and not from the good one). Besides the whole fat gain, your liver health deteriorates giving you more chances of developing one of many liver diseases over time.
I could end the post here but I don’t like leaving you without some solutions. Luckily there are numerous strategies to improve the health and detoxification abilities of your liver. So let’s now look at how you can cleanse your liver:
1. Your liver cell membranes are largely composed of fatty acids. These fats are delicate and fragile, and easily damaged by chemicals that act as free radicals. It is important to avoid hydrogenated vegetable oil and all food that is fried in vegetable oil, because you don’t want these damaged fats making up your liver cells.
Taking omega 3 fish oil and vitamin E in supplement form can protect and repair liver cell membranes. Increasing the quantity of antioxidants in your diet, through eating more fruit and vegetables will also protect your cell membranes from damage.
2. Correct leaky gut syndrome (if you have been diagnosed with it).
Nearly everyone with leaky gut syndrome has one or more food allergies or intolerances; these will need to be identified and avoided. Herbs with natural antimicrobial properties help to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria, yeast, fungi and Candida in the bowel; these herbs include wormwood, thyme and barberry. Garlic and onion also help to control harmful microbes in the gut.
Glutamine and slippery elm help to reduce inflammation and irritation to the intestinal lining and make the gut lining a stronger, healthier barrier. A probiotic supplement, containing beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus is also essential in correcting leaky gut syndrome.
3. Support and facilitate the phase 1 and 2 detox pathways. The efficiency of these pathways is highly dependent on your nutrient intake. There are also specific nutrients and herbs that improve the activity of phase 1 and 2 liver detox pathways. Many of these also act as antioxidants, to mop up the free radicals generated in the liver during detoxification. Some of these substances include:
St Mary’s thistle: This herb is also known as Milk thistle and it contains the powerful liver protector silymarin. This compound can protect the liver cells from toxic damage, enhance repair of liver cells and it is a strong antioxidant. Silymarin increases levels of glutathione in the body; this is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. Clinical trials have shown that the most effective dose of silymarin is 420 mg per day.
Green tea: It contains a group of antioxidants known as catechins, of which the most powerful is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Catechins are thought to be a 200 times more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C. Along with reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease, green tea improves the efficiency of phase two liver detoxification reactions.
Turmeric: This is a plant in the ginger family. The active component of turmeric is curcumin; it is a powerful antioxidant, raises levels of glutathione in the body and may offer protection against cancer.
Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds contain sesamin, a compound that protects the liver cells from damage. It is a powerful antioxidant and reduces the breakdown of vitamin E in the body, thereby increasing levels in the body. Sesamin particularly protects the liver cells from the effects of alcohol.
Watercress: This herb is in the same family as cabbage and broccoli. It promotes the excretion of cancer causing substances and may particularly protect against lung and colon cancer. Watercress enhances phase two liver detoxification pathways. Try to include some watercress in your salads and vegetable juices.
Limonene: This is a compound found in the rind of citrus fruits, particularly lemons. It is responsible for much of the smell of lemons. Limonene is a powerful antioxidant and is capable of blocking the harmful effects of many different free radicals. You can include some citrus rind in your raw vegetable juices and salads, but only if it is organic.
Other foods that help your liver in its missions: grapefruit, beets, carrots, avocados, apples, olive oil and walnuts.
Other things to consider are the pH levels of the water you are drinking. your blood pH is (supposed to be) neutral and any water with an acidic pH (bellow 7 in the pH scale) is harmful to the whole functioning of your body. Oh and try to only drink water or completely natural fruit juices, it’s one of the best things you’ll ever do to yourself.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you treat your liver with love.
love, Knowledge Empress