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What Does The Liver Do?The liver is a super organ that pretty much cleans out our entire body. The liver is the largest reservoir (storing blood and iron) and filtering system for blood, ridding the blood of impurities before it is pumped back into the bloodstream. It is a major secretory organ, producing and releasing bile, which is necessary for proper digestion and absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, as well as the excretion of waste products. As a metabolic organ, the liver metabolizes and stores our everyday basic macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The liver also activates/deactivates medication, hormones (such as estrogen), and toxic environmental chemicals (such as pesticides, BPA, and food additives), through three stages of detoxification. The liver is essential for the production of antioxidants, molecules that protect the body from oxidative damage from the toxins listed above. Many health conditions, such as mood disorders, cardiovascular disease, hormonal disorders, cancer, and inflammatory disorders are started by oxidation, highlighting the importance of liver function to our long-term health.
How Does An Unhealthy Liver Impact Me?Several daily habits can slow down liver function. The consumption of a large amount of saturated and trans fats, excessive caffeine, sugar, and alcohol use, and foods high in preservatives can overwork the liver, draining the liver of its resources to function. Also, these types of toxins do not provide anything useful to regenerate and rejuvenate the liver. Our daily exposure to environmental pollutants will do the same thing. Once the liver function is compromised, many people can experience some symptoms such as fatigue, skin eruptions, poor digestion, and headaches. For example, a congested/sluggish liver can also be related to digestive problems due to the poor production and secretion of bile necessary for digestion and breaking down fat-soluble substances; after many years of sluggish bile, that stagnant bile can form into stones. The skin is also an organ of elimination and when the liver is unable to process toxins and metabolic by-products, they will find other routes to be excreted, such as through the skin, manifesting as conditions like eczema and acne. Poor liver function can also increase cholesterol levels, as regulatory mechanisms to stop endogenous production become compromised.
What Can I Do To Improve My Liver Function?As our exposure to toxic environmental chemicals increases, we will be relying on the strength and health of our liver to keep us healthy and energetic. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) we get through our diet are ESSENTIAL for our livers to function optimally. If we continue to feed our bodies foods that do not possess any use for our bodies other than quick sugars and sustenance and turn away foods that offer a melange of vitamins, and minerals, our livers will not be able to keep up with the toxic burden and our health will decline. Along with a healthy, vegetable-rich diet, here are 6 ways to make sure your liver is functioning at its best.
Lemon waterIt enhances liver enzyme function, encourages bile production, and is a good source of the antioxidant, vitamin C. Antioxidants protect against oxidative damage to the liver by the very toxins the liver is required to process.
B vitaminsThey serve as cofactors for enzymatic/metabolic processes in the liver, allowing the liver to function optimally. Food high in B vitamins includes whole grains, legumes and of course veggies.
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Dark Leafy GreensKale, dandelion greens, rapini, collard greens, swiss chard, and broccoli, are the superfoods for the liver. These vegetables exhibit some properties that make them essential for optimal liver function. They tend to be bitter, a taste that stimulates the secretion of gastric/digestive juices. The general rule of thumb is the more BITTER the veggie is, the BETTER for your liver. They are rich in folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium and potassium, and micronutrients important for liver function. Lastly, leafy greens contain a rich amount of fibre, which takes some of the toxic burdens off the liver’s back.
Castor oil packsApplying castor oil over the liver with heat (instructions here) allows the oil to be absorbed through the skin, and positively stimulates the liver function. It also enhances immune function and promotes lymphatic drainage, both important in detoxification.
Herbal medicineSometimes, the toxic burden on the liver may be larger than what you can handle from just a healthy diet. That’s when herbs come into play. Hepatic herbs such as Milk Thistle, Dandelion Root, Artichoke, Schisandra, Chelidonium, and Goldenseal, all have properties to protect the liver from environmental damage, and repair damaged liver cells, as well as optimize liver function by directly enhancing metabolic processes of Phase I and II detoxification. It is important to consult with your healthcare practitioner before using these herbs.
Eat and Be CleanAt the very least, makes sure to check out the Dirty Dozen, a list of vegetables and fruits recommended to be consumed organic due to the heavy pesticide use in their non-organic farming practices. Also, attempt to eat hormone and antibiotic-free meats, and reduce your saturated and trans-fat intake by cutting out deep-fried and processed foods. Try to avoid plastic use, heavy-chemical household cleaners and body products – there are some natural, organic and plant-based cleansers on the market these days that do a fantastic job. This will reduce the daily toxic burdens on your liver, reserving its energy for chemical compounds you can’t avoid.
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Yours in Health,Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D Annex Naturopathic Clinic 572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1 –https://goo.gl/maps/uVRBvcyoUa62