One of the most important and hardest working organs of detoxification is the liver – it is considered “the General of the Army” in Chinese medicine – because it really is numero uno when it comes to detoxifying the body. The largest solid organ in the body, it is fortunately also one of the most resilient… if you cut a chunk off – it could literally regrow back (if there are healthy cells to regrow)!!
The liver is responsible for over 600 functions including production of enzymes and bile, the break down and removal of excess hormones, blood sugar regulation, filtering the blood, conversion and absorption of vitamins and minerals, storing of extra glycogen, and removal of chemicals, drugs and other toxins.
In our stressful and increasingly toxic and processed world – our liver has to work harder than ever. Below are 20 signs that your liver could be in need of a little TLC (newsflash – most of our livers’ a little TLC nowadays)!
One important way that we need to support our liver is to make sure our bowels are moving along – so toxins that are processed through the liver get excreted. We can do this by eating diets rich in fiber, drinking plenty of water, and eating plenty of plant based foods. Below are 5 foods/drinks that are especially helpful to the liver.
*note: Drinking coffee does have it’s downsides: its’ acidic, dehydrating, can stress out our adrenals, and many people load it up with sugar – which totally negates much of the good effects. Studies do show that coffee supports the liver – but if it is causing you to sweat, dysregulate your blood sugar, and leave you feeling too amped up – it can signal adrenal issues and may not be ideal for you. Perhaps that is why the trendiest way to take your coffee is to not drink it at all!! Read this article about Coffee Enemas to see what all “the buzz” is about! I also love this hilarious (and informative) article about one woman’s experience with coffee enemas too. Here is one more excellent resource from Dr. Lawrence Wilson. If you do decide to try a coffee enema, I encourage you to do some of your own research before embarking on this for the first time! The two most important things – only use organic coffee, and make sure it is cooled to body temperature or cooler before using it. I have found that a dark roast organic coffee is the best.
How do we know if our liver is in good shape or not? Liver enzymes are commonly checked when your doctor orders a complete blood count (CBC), if they are elevated that can be an indication of excess fat.
But the thing is, your doctor might not even mention it if you have elevated liver enzymes! They are so common nowadays – that they are kind of dismissed and considered “normal.” But “normal” and “optimal” are not exactly the same thing.
If you do have elevated liver enzymes, first, don’t panic – the next step is to have an ultrasound done – that shows if there is excess fat on your liver. It is normal to have some fat on the liver, but when there is an abundance, that is when changes need to happen.
But one of the most common suggestions patients will hear is “you need to eat less fat.” Yes, you do want to avoid all trans fats, fats high in omega 6s, and fried foods. But dietary fat is not the primary thing that is causing fat to accumulate in the liver.
We all know that excess alcohol is not good for our liver. But perhaps the #1 insult to our liver is a food that is labeled “harmless empty calories.” But when consumed in excess, it can harm the liver:
Dr. Mark Hyman says that it is excess sugar and carbs in our diets (not excess fats) cause the fat to build up in our livers. He says we can compare fatty liver to “fois gras,” which is caused by feeding ducks lots of starches.
Our liver is not the only reason to cut way back on the sugar – read my article 20 Reasons to Break up with Sugar.
Excess sugar in the diet (especially high fructose corn syrup/sodas) is making livers look like those of an alcoholics’ (yes, even kids). This build up of fat in the liver is called:
According to the Mayo Clinic, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a term used to describe “the accumulation of fat in the livers of people who drink little or no alcohol.”
If your liver is fatty – that is a signal that your liver needs some TLC. NAFLD is reveresable when caught early enough and properly treated. So that is why this is important to not ignore. It is estimated that 30 million people suffer from NAFLD, with 8 million having the more serious form of the disease NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis), which can eventually lead to cirrhosis – which can lead to permanent and irreversible damage.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend is that we are seeing NAFLD in kids – experts say that it is the most common liver disease in children – affecting 40% of overweight/obese kids, and 1 in 10 normal weight kids. (Learn More).
Read this article to learn more about the link between excess sugars and NAFLD from Sugarscience.org. Watch the below video to learn more from Dr. Hyman about fatty liver disease – which he says now affects 70-90 million Americans, and it is the #1 cause of liver transplants.
Remember – that the liver is very resilient. If caught early enough – some simple dietary and lifestyle changes can reverse fatty liver disease. But if allowed to progress – some of the damage can become permanent. So it is important to not ignore the signs, and get tested if there are concerns.
Support the liver by avoiding sweet drinks and foods, limiting alcohol, and avoiding trans fats & omega 6 oils. Other ways to support the liver include getting acupuncture treatments, eating more plant based foods, staying hydrated, doing a gentle detoxification diet/protocol guided by your natural practitioner, and taking a high quality B vitamin and consider taking liver supportive herbs/supplements.
This is a liver support supplement that I like.
A healthy liver is important for achieving and maintaining and healthy weight too. Learn more in chapter 5 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan – “Lose the Toxic Fat” – because for an optimal metabolism and weight, it is important to support the liver and other organs of detoxification.
Genetic-related and carbohydrate-related factors affecting liver fat accumulation.
The Mediterranean diet improves hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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