Your liver is your very own detox center – it flushes out all the toxins that you get bombarded with every day, whether through your environment, your diet, or something else.
It’s very easy to absorb these toxins, which is why so many of our patients came to us originally for naturopathic detoxification support.
Let’s take a closer look at your liver – what it is, what it does, and how a naturopathic doctor in Toronto can help you keep yours healthy and strong.
What Is Your Liver?
Your liver is the largest organ in your body, about the size of a football when fully grown.
Just like the heart and lungs, a functioning liver is required to sustain life.
An interesting fact about the liver is that it’s able to regenerate itself, kind of like a gecko’s tail.
Your liver’s amazing regenerative powers mean that it can bounce back easier after injury or surgery; it’s also what allows people to be liver donors while still being alive themselves.
What Does Your Liver Do?
The liver has a massive amount of blood flowing through it on a regular basis.
First, it breaks down and converts certain substances in your blood required for your metabolic process.
It keeps the balance between glycogen and glucose, and converts them as necessary.
Your liver also detoxifies impurities and removes them from your bloodstream.
This is accomplished by your liver cells, which are called hepatocytes.
Their job is to sort which nutrients to process, and which to store.
They also determine what gets converted to waste and eliminated, and what should be returned to your blood.
To maximize the amount of healthy fats that your body gets, your liver produces bile that bile ducts carry to your small intestine.
There, it helps to further break down and absorb fats that serve many beneficial functions.
Your liver also produces elements necessary for your immune system to fight against infections.
It creates proteins that are responsible for blood clotting.
You can easily see why it’s so important to keep your liver healthy and functioning efficiently.
What Sort Of Diseases Affect Your Liver?
There are several conditions that are the result of an unhealthy liver.
I’ll review the most common below.
Cirrhosis of the liver is generally caused by heavy alcohol use, hepatitis, or some genetic disorders.
When your liver is damaged by these diseases, the healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue.
This scar tissue has no function, so as it grows and replaces more liver tissue, your liver has less and less ability to do its important work.
2. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (aka nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH) is another way that your liver’s capacity to do its job gets undermined.
This is a disease whereby an excess of fat builds up in the liver – throughout the liver – and causes inflammation, scarring, and/or fibroids.
People with type-2 diabetes are more likely to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as are those who are obese or who have other obesity-related conditions.
3. Hepatitis A, B, And C
Hepatitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation in the liver, generally speaking.
The inflammation can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.
There are different types of hepatitis, characterized with different letters.
While there is hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, I’m going to focus on the ABCs here only.
Hepatitis A is the least severe, and doesn’t necessarily cause long-term complications or liver failure.
It is usually a result of lack of clean water or good sanitation, and is most commonly found in developing countries.
Hepatitis B has the potential to cause a longer-term infection, depending on how young you are when infected.
In Western nations, “hep B” is usually caught through sexual contact or using a contaminated needle.
Hepatitis C can turn into an acute or chronic infection, and is mostly passed along through contaminated needles used for drugs or tattoos.
Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.
4. Autoimmune Hepatitis
As implied by the name, autoimmune hepatitis is when healthy liver tissue gets attacked by your body’s immune system.
This destroys the healthy tissue, and can lead to scarring and other damage.
Symptoms Of Liver Disease
Before we talk about the symptoms of liver disease, it’s important to note that a damaged liver doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms.
However, when symptoms do occur, the most common is a jaundicing of the skin and eyes, where they turn an abnormal yellow colour.
Other symptoms may include:
- Bruising easily
- Abdominal swelling, including pain
- Dark urine or pale stool
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss or lessening of appetite
- Swelling in your legs and ankles
Naturopathic Solutions For Liver Support
Now we know what could go wrong and what to look out for, let’s review what we can do to treat the liver and support healthy cells and function.
Artichokes contain cynarin and silymarin, which both improve liver function.
A delicious vegetable, artichokes help to increase bile production for detoxification.
Silymarin is a flavonoid that protects the liver by keeping out toxins and free radicals, and by scavenging any that may have gotten through its defenses.
2. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle’s power is in its seeds, which contain the same flavonoid as artichokes – silymarin.
It is commonly used all over the world for its ability to repair the damage caused by drugs, alcohol and viral hepatitis.
Glutathione is found in highest quantities in the liver, and milk thistle not only helps create it, but helps prevent its depletion.
Turmeric root is a well known spice, especially in eastern cuisine.
It gives both curry and mustard their distinct yellow colour.
But from a health perspective, one of its most important elements is curcumin, which is a renowned antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
When we experience stressful situations, it physically affects the endoplasmic reticulum and causes fatty liver to develop.
Curcumin, however protect against free radicals and can help prevent cancer cells from forming.
Beets are root vegetables that come in bright purple, rich gold, and other colours.
It has long been used as a detoxifier and cleanser, due to its high nutrition, fibre, and pectin content.
Beetroot can also be used as a treatment for oxidative stress and inflammation.
And since your liver is one of the major organs to be attacked by oxidative stress, this is good news.
5. Dandelion Root & Leaves
The humble dandelion – yes, the one from your garden that you spend endless hours uprooting and composting – is an amazing tool for your liver.
Easy to gather, dandelion leavescan protect against liver injury that’s caused by a methionine- and choline-deficient diet.
The roots can be used to prevent damage caused by environmental factors including chemicals and alcohol.
Book An Appointment With Annex Naturopathic
Haven’t yet heard enough about your liver?
There’s plenty more information – book your appointment with a naturopathic doctor at Annex Naturopathic.
Your naturopathic doctor will be happy to answer any other questions you have.
We can have a look at what liver your concerns are, what your lifestyle habits are, and put together a plan just for you and your liver.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND