Love Your Liver!
This is the time of year when your body is doing its best to spring clean! As we head towards the summer months, the sluggishness of winter is thrown off, and accumulated toxins and acidity are (hopefully) released.
This is when you liver can go into overload. One of the most overworked and under-rated organs in the body it is a veritable miracle worker! It is the major organ of detoxification in the body and even moderate problems here can create and excessive toxic load to build up. And there are a myriad symptoms of this – most of which people don’t relate back to the liver. Depression, digestive upset, headaches, feeling yucky, PMT, haemorrhoids, spots and rashes to name but a few.
Moderate liver function underpins much ill health – and this unfortunately is not something that modern medicine tends to pay much attention to until it gets to crisis proportions. Traditional medicine, by contrast, has a concept of the liver which is physiological ie. It is not working properly and we need to strengthen it.
All of the blood coming from the intestines channels through the hepatic vein into the blood, and then from the liver into the general circulation. This means that the liver effectively acts as the second stage of the digestive and processing abilities of the body to buffer and filter what is coming from the digestive tract. This allows the liver to capture and process nutrients into forms the body can use and also to capture toxins which have been absorbed from the digestive tract and metabolise them out of the body.
It is an amazing chemical factory we barely have begun to understand. It has thousands of enzyme systems which work through different detoxification pathways, it produces bile to digest fats (and also get rid of excess cholesterol) and also breaks down excess hormones and xenooestrogens.
Bombarded by chemicals, malnutrition, allergens, and toxins it is not surprising that it gets irritated – tension headaches are a classic sign of this, as are flushing of the face, irritability, anger and general tension, having difficulty relaxing in the evening, but feeling sluggish and ‘hung over’ when you wake up. Skin disorders are also common – spots, rashes.
If the liver is not supported and the body cleansed at this point, it usually moves on into a sluggish and weakened picture – groggy feeling, depression, PMS, feeling discouraged, foot and/or body odour, skin problems and frequent headaches. At this point liver function has been weakened to the extent it is NOT good to do a cleanse at this stage.
From here it will progress into a stagnant state characterised by a bloated, stuffy feeling under the right rib cage, bloating and wind, a tendency to constipation, impaired fat digestion, greasy stools, headaches behind the eyes, migraines, difficulty getting to sleep, dull and groggy in mornings, mood swings from anger and irritation to depressed and withdrawn.
So what can you do about this if any of the above ticks some boxes for you. Well, unfortunately things have just got a lot harder for us all with the passing of EU legislation banning various herbs which have been safely used for generations and are excellent for aiding the liver. But we still have something left in our toolbox.
Milk Thistle is widely available and is an excellent herb for improving liver function generally. Then we have Dandelion – any part of this plant, root, leaves or flower are helpful – as is Burdock Root. I also like Swedish Bitters (sometimes also called Digestive Bitters) which can be taken just before a meal. The bitter taste of these on the tongue stimulate the liver to produce bile helping with both digestion and cleaning up the liver – important if your liver is somewhat congested, stagnant or fatty.
In addition you might want to consider Lecithin if there are issues to do with breaking down fats, as well as Vitamin B6, and MSM which can be helpful in opening up certain detoxification pathways. MSM is particularly good for the sulphation pathway and can help women whose liver is not very efficient at clearly the hormonal ups and downs from their monthly cycle.
From a dietary point of view, an alkaline diet is particularly helpful in relieving the liver of some of its load, so should be adopted , and there are also foods which are particularly helpful at supporting the liver so you might want to consider increasing your use of grains such as quinoa and brown rice, and vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, broccoli, cabbage, radish, watercress, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kidney beans, tofu, and peas.
In addition, hot water and lemon juice is a great starter each day to help aid the liver in cleansing – much better than a coffee!! And you can even add a pinch of cayenne to give it some zing and get your metabolism going and some raw honey to sweeten it up.
I’m just going to finish with this thought – the word hyperchondria comes from the area of the body known as the hyprochondrium, which includes the liver. So if you doctor labels you a hypochondriac because he doesn’t know what to do with all the vague issues you have, he may well be right – it’s your liver!