The liver is the largest solid organ of the human body and plays one of the most vital roles. It has over 500 different functions ranging from blood sugar, cholesterol and drug metabolism, to neutralizing toxins, manufacturing the building blocks for hormone synthesis, and helping the blood to clot. It is also one of the most undervalued and overworked organs as well. You can think of the liver as the body’s main filtering system. Just like a vent in a room filters the air we breathe, the liver filters the body’s blood. Over time through our poor diets, alcohol consumption, over the counter and prescription medications, and environmental exposure to toxic chemicals this organ uses up all its resources to keep up with the demand it is presented with. Just like a filter gets clogged after a while, there are times when our liver may become overburdened and need extra support and cleansing as well.
Different causes of liver disease include viral causes (ex. Hepatitis A,B,C), obesity (Fatty liver disease), alcohol, and genetic causes. All of these can lead to cirrhosis, which is permanent scarring of the liver. Symptoms of liver disease can include painful and swollen abdomen, yellow skin, itchy skin, fatigue, nausea and dark urine. Your doctor can assess your risk factors and run blood tests and imaging to determine if your liver is healthy.
Prevention plays a key role in supporting healthy function of our liver. We can detect early signs of liver congestion and stress through symptoms of fatigue, acne, hormonal imbalance, menstrual concerns, excess weight, or rapid weight loss. Lifestyle changes that support your liver’s health play a critical role in decreasing your chances of developing chronic diseases in the future and promotes long term liver health.
What to Avoid
- Processed foods – These foods are often filled with chemicals, artificial flavorings and preservatives, which can put further stress on our liver
- Saturated and trans-fats – Excess dairy products, fried foods and hydrogenated oils cause extra work for the liver and gallbladder
- Alcohol – Excess alcohol damages liver cells, reduce your intake to as little as possible
- Heating your food in plastic containers – Bisphenol A is a toxic chemical that leaches from plastic into your food especially when heated
- Take prescription and over the counter medications only as prescribed and as needed
Five ways to support your liver
- Increase consumption of dark green leafy vegetables – Kale, spinach, dandelion, parsley and cilantro are a few herbs that support the production of bile
- Increase brassica vegetables – Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale contain high amounts of indol-3-carbinol. Try to consume 2-3 servings of these vegetables/day to assist with proper detoxification
- Add spices to your meals – Garlic, onions and turmeric supply resources for the liver during detoxification. Turmeric is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
- Lemon water – lemon stimulates your liver to work more effectively and further supports digestion
- Castor oil packs – Applying castor oil topically to your abdomen can decrease inflammation and promote detoxification