Spare a thought this New Year for your overworked liver. Many of us don’t give this amazing organ a second thought, but did you know your liver performs over 500 essential functions for you each day?
In this article, we’ll find out why your liver is your best friend and how you can give it a helping hand.
Your liver sits in the upper right section of your abdomen. It’s about the size of a rugby ball and weighs around one and a half kilograms.
When we think of the liver we bring to mind its role in detoxifying harmful substances, but its other important roles include:
producing bile, needed for fat digestion and the absorption of fat–soluble vitamins like vitamins E, A and D
metabolism of cholesterol and protein
making enzymes needed for chemical reactions all over the body
storage of vitamins and miner
helping us produce and deactivate hormones
production of certain antioxidants
With so much going on it’s not surprising your liver can become overworked and its function compromised.
Every other system in your body depends on healthy liver function – so if your liver is not functioning well, the effects may be felt all over the body.
Almost a litre and a half of blood passes through your liver every minute to be filtered, and in fact it contains around 13% of your total blood supply at any one time.
As blood passes through, the liver extracts harmful toxins and stores nutrients for later use.
Toxic substances include drugs, alcohol, chemicals and natural waste products produced by the body. It’s amazing to think every single substance you swallow, absorb though your skin or inhale will pass through your liver.
With more than 85,000 environmental chemicals now known to be in existence, your liver has a pretty thankless task.
During detoxification, substances are added or taken away from toxins to render them harmless so they can be excreted in the urine or faces. This process occurs in two stages. At the end of stage one, substances may be temporarily produced which are more toxic than the original molecule.
You can see why it’s important for the two phases of detoxification to keep pace with one another – if the second stage lags behind, these intermediary products may not be quickly converted onwards and can damage our body’s cells.
Your liver not only helps to regulate hormonal balance by detoxifying hormones when they’re no longer needed, but it also creates specific proteins which enable hormones to be carried around the body. These proteins also determine if the hormone is active.
The liver also regulates which types of oestrogens we produce. It’s worth remembering some oestrogens are much stronger than others and high levels of these powerful oestrogens are linked with hormone-dependent cancers.
The gut and the liver are closely connected. If the contents of our gut move too slowly, or if our intestinal lining becomes permeable, toxins in the gut destined to be excreted to the outside world can be absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. Because a major vein drains from the intestines to the liver, these toxins end up being directly shunted back to the liver. Here they’re detoxified and transported to the intestines again in a kind of toxin carousel, adding to the liver’s workload.
So having regular bowel movements and a healthy intestinal lining are crucial to good detoxification and liver health.
Fortunately, your liver is capable of amazing powers of regeneration.
Your liver is dependent on certain nutrients to function effectively. It needs protein to supply amino acids which assist with detoxification. Other liver-friendly nutrients include vitamin C and B vitamins.
Certain antioxidants found in fresh fruit and vegetables also support liver function. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are especially beneficial as they contain substances which can help the breakdown of oestrogen.
Garlic and turmeric can also support liver function by assisting with the production of liver enzymes.
Organic produce is best because otherwise you’ll be taking in chemical pesticides and herbicides which means extra work for the liver.
With such a crucial role to play in your overall health, it’s impossible to ignore your liver.
Poor liver function may play a role in inflammation, food and chemical sensitivities and auto-immune disease.
Liver support is therefore central to supporting any chronic illness.
If you would like to explore how supporting your liver could contribute to optimal health, a Functional Medicine consultation will examine how your organs and systems are interconnected. Your therapist will recommend personalised nutritional and lifestyle modifications to support both liver and overall health. Contact me today to enquire about a consultation.
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