Do you love your liver? I hope you do. It works very hard to keep you healthy and happy. There are so many ideas and programs available for your liver health. The basics of liver care are the same as the basics for any healthy protocol: a clean diet, healthy lifestyle, and specific herbal supplements. All liver detox programs or liver support protocols will include supportive herbs and food.
Your liver is one of the biggest and most important organs in your body. Without a well-functioning liver, you will be overrun with toxins that will slowly destroy your body. The main functions of your liver include detoxing your blood, producing bile for digestion, breaking down hormones, and storing essential vitamins and minerals. There are a variety of supplements you can take to assist your liver.
The most common and most potent herbs for liver health are milk thistle, artichoke leaf, and dandelion root. Milk thistle has been used to treat liver disorders for thousands of years. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, which helps regenerate your liver tissue. The antioxidants in artichoke leaf protect your liver from toxins. Dandelion root supports your liver health by acting as a diuretic. Dandelion speeds up the process of moving toxins through the liver and out of your kidneys.
L-Glutathione is also another antioxidant that is naturally made by your body; the highest levels of glutathione are found in your liver. Glutathione is made up of three essential amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine. These ingredients play an important part when it comes to your body’s natural ability to detoxify. Liposomal Vitamin C is a precursor to the production of glutathione. I recommend taking Liposomal Glutathione to support liver health.
The idea of liver damage causing death may not occur to you, but in fact, the death toll due to liver-related issues has risen 40% since the year 2000. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Death from cirrhosis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease have increased also. The top risk factors for liver disease are alcohol and sugar consumption. Other lifestyle risk factors are lack of exercise, smoking, and obesity.
The most apparent signs that your liver is toxic is fatty liver disease or cirrhosis of the liver. Both are serious and can be life-threatening. There are several other more subtle signs that will give you the cue that it’s time for you do a liver detox program.
Common slow liver function symptoms:
I recommend a liver cleanse at least one time per year. The beginning of the year is a great time because you often consume too much sugar and alcohol during the holiday season. So, by January, your liver and your digestive tract are ready for some rest and cleansing. Even if you don’t overdo the holidays, your liver could probably benefit from a detox. You are exposed to more toxins than you may recognize.
Forty years ago, many of the chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis did not even exist. You will remember from my blog, What You Need To Know About Detoxification, that your body is always detoxifying. When you do a liver cleanse or detox program, you are following a protocol to increase the speed of your detoxification. You can think of this process as cleaning out your closet. You often clean out the front of the closet, but the back of the closet gets ignored. All the while, the back of the closet gets messier, dustier, and, most often full, of junk. Your liver is the same way. It processes toxins every day, but often excess toxins get pushed to the back and stored for too long.
Due to all the toxins in our homes and our environment, your liver is constantly battling a toxic swamp. Liver detox programs are usually 7-21 days long. A basic liver cleanse includes the following steps:
The food you eat can either hurt your liver or help your liver. The top foods to help support your liver include avocados, beets, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. The cruciferous family of vegetables has compounds, such as DIM, that aid your liver in metabolizing hormones. Garlic, grapefruit, artichokes, many kinds of leafy greens, lemons, turmeric, and walnuts also have beneficial liver nutrients.
Potassium-rich foods are essential to all parts of your body. They are critical for the health of your liver and kidneys. Potassium is one of the many vitamins and minerals that is distributed to other parts of the body by the liver. By ensuring that your liver gets enough potassium, you ensure that the rest of your tissues and cells receive enough of it.
Low potassium levels are linked to liver disease. You can become potassium deficient if you eat too many processed foods that are high in sodium (from iodized table salt). Potassium-rich foods include sweet potatoes, beets, and spinach. Potassium is also found in whole food salts such as Celtic sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and US-sourced Real Salt. Skip the iodized table salt, and focus on potassium-rich foods including whole salt.
Beef liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods around and it's relatively inexpensive. It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. It is full of natural B-vitamins and minerals. If you are opposed to eating grass-fed beef liver, I recommend a high-quality liver supplement.
The foods that are hard on your liver are also the foods that contribute to obesity and depression. Processed foods and fast food are loaded with chemical preservatives and sugar. Chemical preservatives do not provide your body with any nutrients or energy. They are included in various foods to keep the food looking fresh. But chemical preservatives have to be metabolized in your liver before they can leave your body. If you eat too many chemicals, then your liver gets too full of toxins.
You can think of this process like waiting in line for a public restroom. Everyone needs to get into the restroom, but if it's too full, then you end up waiting in a long line that goes out the door.
If you have too many toxins in your body, they have to wait to be processed through the line and finally leave your body. While the toxins are waiting for your liver to help them out, they can wreak havoc on your liver and other organs in your body. You will recognize this by common “liver” symptoms listed above.
The best way to improve liver function is to keep your liver healthy to start with. Here a are a few tips to follow to keep your liver in tip-top shape.
A note about chemicals:
Staying away from chemicals is also important. Our everyday food is covered in pesticides and many of our household cleaners have a large number of chemicals. When these products enter your body, the damage occurs as the liver tries to detoxify. The same principle is true for drinking alcohol. Alcohol can be considered a chemical or toxin that is often known to damage the liver cells.
Think about all of the chemicals you put directly on your skin. It starts when you get in the shower. If you don’t use a water filter, you are getting chemicals in your shower water. Then your soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and shaving cream each have an array of chemicals.
Next, you wrap yourself in a towel that has been washed in chemical detergents. Then you put on your lotion, deodorant, perfume, aftershave. It is reported that women put an average of 168 chemicals on their bodies each day, while men put on around 85. If you want long-term health, you must consider how these chemicals affect your liver and your overall health.
For additional recipes, biohacking tips and lifestyle hacks -- check out my other blog on my coaching site www.cleancoachcarly.com! I post weekly about nutrition and lifestyle topics, all backed by science. Happy Reading!
Carly Neubert BA, NC
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