The liver is the transmutational center of the body, and by that I mean that it converts everything we eat and absorb into life-sustaining substances. Without the liver, digestion and the conversion of food into energy would be impossible. It metabolizes hormones and is a major blood reservoir, forming and storing red blood cells, along with filtering toxins at a rate of a quart of blood per minute. All of the blood from our bodies keeps returning to the liver.
From yesterday’s post you have more of a sense of where and what the liver is, and what it does. What you may have guessed is that, to a large extent, the health of your liver determines the health of your entire body.
In the U.S. today people face a multitude of stressors at an unprecedented rate. We have polluted our air, our water, and our food supply. We live with electromagnetic frequencies bombarding us 24 hours a day. And we are living in a social, financial, and political climate that seems very dire. To make matters worse, what most people are eating is some version of the standard American diet: a highly processed, high sugar calorie omega 6 and trans fat diet, containing unknown amounts of toxins from preservatives, pesticides, and nitrates. And we are being exposed every day to unknown combinations of man-made chemicals through contact with plastics, building materials, new clothing, furniture, body products, etc. As a result, we are seeing a steep rise in chronic conditions and disease rates.
Why Liver Cleansing Matters . . .
The filter aspect of the liver is a sinusoidal system, and contains specialized cells known as Kupffer cells, which ingest, break down, and package up toxic materials for elimination from the body. These harmful substances can damage the delicate lining of blood vessels, leading to hardening and blockage. They can also increase the workload of the immune system leading to allergies and inflammation. Because the liver and the spleen can remove and destroy cancer cells, these organs must be kept healthy to reduce our risk of cancer spreading. When the liver is overburdened it can’t keep up with the demands placed upon it and you get liver damage. Liver congestion and exhaustion interfere with its ability to detoxify itself.
Many environmental toxins and hormones are fat-soluble and do not dissolve in water. These fat-soluble toxins can only be broken down by the liver cells, which contain enzymes to convert the fatty toxins into water-soluble forms so that they can be excreted. The liver cells perform this detoxification of fatty toxins via the two-step detoxification pathway. But a problem develops when a buildup of inorganic and organic toxins inhibits Phase I and Phase II detoxification.
Removing toxic substances from the body helps the liver keep up with the demand. And because the liver has amazing powers of regeneration, continuing to function when as many as 80% of its cells are damaged, we can support our livers heal and minimize damage. This is where cleansing comes in.
Signs that Your Liver is Stressed
- Bloating and gas
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Skin and/or eyes that are yellowish (a symptom of jaundice)
- Inability to lose weight
- High blood pressure
- Moodiness: irritability, rage, anxiousness, or depression
- Dark urine
- Rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, acne
- Chronic fatigue
- Excessive sweating
- Bruise easily
- Poor appetite
- PMS and PMDD
Things you can do right now to support your liver’s natural detoxification . . .
EAT REAL FOOD
~ Eat whole, organic, non-gmo, real food—that includes grassfed, free-range, organic animal products, if you eat animal products. You don’t want to be introducing more toxins into your body and adding to the overall stress load on your liver. ~ Eat mostly plants—living foods like vegetables and fruits should be the staples of your diet. These foods are where we get the most nutrient-dense building blocks for health. (We are still discovering new phytonutrients, etc. that plants give us. They are information for our DNA.) ~ And consume only healthy fats—Things like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter and ghee, plant fats like those found in avocados, raw nuts and seeds . . . (Good fats, in moderation, are essential to the function of every cell is your body.)
ELIMINATE PROCESSED GRAINS, SUGARS, AND MEATS
~Cut out white flours, brightly colored flour products and candies, high fructose corn syrup, sodas, and diet drinks altogether. Instead of fake juices, eat real fruit. (There are thousands of studies linking sugar to all of our top 10 disease conditions.) Also avoid processed meats, hydrogenated and trans fats, highly processed and nonfat dairy products. (These fake foods will increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and cancer, put you at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, and so on…)
~ Not only is unconscious eating stressful for your digestion, but when you sit quietly and chew your food thoroughly and are grateful you get full quicker and you absorb the nutrients better. (As a culture living in overconsumption we have gotten so focused on weight loss that we have forgotten that the purpose of eating is to digest and absorb nutrients to feed the cells of our bodies so that they can thrive.)
~ Drink clean water; half your weight in ounces every day is the right amount for you. Tricks: start your day with 16-20 oz of room temperature water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Drink the lion’s share of your water between meals, not during. Get all your water in before 7:00pm so that a full bladder doesn’t interrupt your sleep. (Our bodies are between 65 and 75% water. Every chemical reaction in your body requires water, including waste management.)
FEED YOUR GUT
~ The gut deserves a whole blog post of it’s own (and it will get one soon!) The gut lining is one of the barriers or gatekeepers that decides what gets in and what stays out of your body. Due to inflammation, the lining of the gut can become permeable, so called “leaky gut”. The intestinal barrier and microbiome are important because they determine how we tolerate or react to toxic substances we ingest from the environment. The breach of the intestinal barrier causes an immune response which affects not only the gut itself, but also the skeletal system, pancreas, kidney, liver, and the brain. And you don’t have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut. Leaky gut can manifest as skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, heart failure, autoimmune conditions, mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, depression, and more. To start working toward healing, expose your diet to healthy bacteria from things like healthy soil, fermented foods: raw cultured cow or sheep or goat’s milk, fermented vegetables, or fermented coconut products. (Start slowly with a teaspoon or two and observe how your body responds.) Another great source of good bacteria is in your garden, so consider growing your own produce! Go outside—sunlight and fresh air also feed your body. (The health of your microbiota is directly related to overall health, mood, and longevity.)
~ Inadequate rest (getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep/day ) is associated with increased inflammation. Not enough deep sleep also impairs our ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system and to moderate our emotions. It’s associated with heart disease, hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, and a wide range of psychiatric disorders including depression and anxiety. Actions: manage your stress by including a daily mindfulness or relaxation practice, do some form of moderate exercise during the day, go outside some during the day, reduce your exposure to electronic devices and blue light at least an hour before bed, don’t go to bed too full or too hungry – best is to stop eating 2-3 hours before bed, go to bed earlier to give your brain a chance to wind down in a quiet, dark room.