The liver and your health - why it matters
The liver is one of the largest and hardest working organs in the body, yet it doesn't seem to get the attention and care it deserves. The liver, part of the digestive system, is responsible for more than 500 functions in the body. The main ones include:
- Detoxification of our own by-products of endogenous day to day cellular activity, as well as outside chemicals and toxins, including medications - a huge task.
- Synthesising bile (to break down fats).
- Filtering and cleansing our blood.
- Creating and storing hormones.
- Creating and activating enzymes.
- Storing vitamins and mineral reserves.
- Making clotting factors (to allow our blood to clot).
The primary function of the liver is detoxification. This is where waste products from our bodily processes and toxins from outside are transformed so that they can be safely excreted from the body via the stool and urine. There are two main phases of liver detoxification.
Fat-soluble toxins get ready to be made into water-soluble forms to allow them to leave the body. They are essentially 'broken down' into smaller parts so they can be excreted. This process requires many nutrients to happen effectively. However, in doing so, it also creates 'free radicals', which are unstable molecules that can do harm to our cells. This is a normal part of the process, but it means we also require lots of antioxidants to counteract the free radicals.
Now the toxins are water-soluble and almost ready to be excreted from the body, they just need a little bit of help to be transported out safely, so they don’t go back into the body. This is called conjugation. There are six different pathways in conjugation, each requiring different nutrients and enzymes to carry out their functions. Essentially, each pathway will help to transport different types of toxins by binding them to something that can transport them out of the body safely via the stool or urine.
As the liver is a very active, busy, and large organ, it needs a constant supply of nutrients to do its jobs effectively. It’s 'nutrient hungry', let’s say, so a good diet underpins good liver health. And yes, 'you are what you eat', but in reality 'you are what you absorb', so it’s important to make sure you’re absorbing all those important nutrients.
If your liver is not working well, it has huge implications on the rest of your health. Some telltale signs could be:
- digestive issues
- waking in the night
- strong smelling urine
- skin issues
- trouble losing weight.
In our modern, busy lives, we are often lacking in time, sleep, and are stressed. We are also bombarded with toxins on a daily basis. The good news is there is so much that can be done to support liver health!
5 top tips to get started
1.) Sleep – quality and adequate amounts of sleep allows the liver (and other organs) to rest, rejuvenate, and repair.
2.) Stress management – toxic emotions are harmful. The body’s stress response means the liver has to deal with the fallout of all those stress hormones flying around. Find a way to manage stress that works for you, whether it’s meditation, exercise, talking therapies, spending time in nature, or laughing with friends.
3.) Hydrate – water is needed for all bodily processes, we are made of mostly water, after all. All of our chemical reactions take place in a fluid too. Filtered water is best, as it alleviates the burden on the liver due to the toxins often found in tap water.
4.) Eat green – broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, chard, carrot tops, and dandelion greens are all good choices. Green plants are full of nutrients which support liver function.
5.) Clean up your routine – personal care and cleaning products are a major source of stress for our liver as they often contain toxic ingredients which our liver then has to detoxify. Use natural and organic skin care, hair care, deodorant, and cleaning products where possible.
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