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If there are 50 ways to leave your lover, there must be at least 10 ways to love your liver (ha!).
Have you been thinking about a liver cleanse? There are so many ways to love your liver, so I want to walk you through 10 easy ways you can get to it today. Our bodies deserve love, in general, but our liver is especially important when it comes to treating it with care and showing it that extra bit of love. It’s not hard – it’s very easy – and I’m going to walk you through 10 ways you can do it right now.
Historical Views on the Liver
In ancient cultures, it was often thought that the liver was the “seat” of your spirit (your consciousness). This is definitely a prize position, because it basically states that everything else going on in your body is dictated by the performance of this key organ.
As a naturopathic physician, I consider myself to be one part of a long lineage of those who have upheld the “nature remedy” tradition. As part of this tradition, so much of naturopathic practices were concentrated around what was known as the “emunctory” organs. These were organs of elimination, and liver was one of the main ones (along with your kidneys and skin).
Key Insight: In the past, the idea of “liver stagnation” was considered to be a key determinant in overall health. If your liver simply was not performing, it was thought to be the cause of many symptoms and chronic diseases.
In order to alleviate liver stagnation, one of the favorite go-to categories of remedies were herbs that would drain the liver. These were known as “cholagogues,” and they were widely used. These cholagogues would help your liver make bile, and would help make bile thinner, which allow the liver to drain more readily.
Bottom Line: Think of your liver as a giant filter. Basically, with every heartbeat, your liver is constantly filtering the blood that pumps throughout your system. This means that the liver is doing so many jobs, and is truly regulating every part of your body’s processes. This is why we need to show our liver some love.
The Liver’s Duties
When it comes to the things your liver does in your body, the list is long and imperative to your overall health. Some of the things that we can expect from our liver are:
- Being the central regulator of all metabolic processes in our body
- Fighting infections in our body
- Forming many nutrients
- Activating and converting hormones
- Detoxifies your body in multiple phases
- Regulates blood sugar
- Stores vitamins and minerals
- Converts amino acids
- Creates energy
- Regulates blood clotting
- Helps digestion
Let’s unpack this term a little bit, and how our liver detoxifies our body. This occurs in three unique phases, which are:
- Oxidizing and changing toxins, which makes them more reactive (more volatile). This allows them to become more readily packaged.
- Conjugation, bind toxins with amino acids and other compounds, making them harmless and safe to send out.
- Sending toxins to the small intestine, via bile.
Key Insight: Every step in this process is not foolproof, because something could go wrong. You might be low in nutrients, you could have a high burden of toxins, you might have delayed gastric emptying, you could have poor constipation, or your flora might be compromised. All of these things impede your liver’s ability to do its job.
The most common liver disease is called fatty liver (otherwise known as non-alcoholic fatty liver, which is the milder form of this disease) (1). It is referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), because it looks a lot like an alcoholic’s liver – except in a person who is not an alcoholic.
If this disease progresses, it comes to be known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. The difference here is that there has now been a certain number of cells which have permanently paired themselves together and can no longer filter as readily. So, liver function becomes compromised in more irreversible ways.
There are also many versions of hepatitis involved with the liver. This is where the liver becomes overtly inflamed, which could be from infections and autoimmunity.
The other large category comes from iron overload. Genetically, this is where the body collects too much iron, which can ultimately harm the liver.
Finally, we have gallbladder disease. Here, think about the bile in your liver. Bile can only be created slowly, a little bit at a time, all of the time – it does not really have the ability to go faster or slower. This is where the gallbladder comes in, where it can store the bile all at once to help you manage a fattier meal.
Key Insight: Without a storage of bile, you cannot make it quickly enough to emulsify fats adequately. This is why your gallbladder, and its adjoining health, is so important to your liver’s ability to function.
How do you know if your liver is unhappy?
As far as it concerns liver disease, there can be some very pronounced symptoms that you are likely to notice:
- Upper abdominal pain (especially on your right side)
- Jaundice (yellow skin or sclera – the white of your eyes)
- Clay-colored stools
- Weight loss
- Darker urine
Liver dysfunction, on the other hand, is much more common. While liver disease is definitely important, and you should be aware of the symptoms, there are some symptoms of dysfunction which are sometimes (unfortunately) overlooked. These are:
- Anger or agitation
- Muscle pain
- Skin dryness or inflammation
- Fluid retention
Bottom Line: You might not be able to notice it at first, but pay attention to any of these symptoms and whether or not your liver might be trying to tell you something. As we mentioned before, the health of your liver is so important – and these symptoms are proof. Your life just is not the same if your liver’s health is not optimal.
10 Ways To Love Your Liver
Let’s get right down to it! Now that we have seen how important our liver is, and how we can stay aware of any potential warning signs, we need to know how we can take care of your liver and make sure that it is performing the right way. Here are the 10 surefire ways that you can show your liver that you love it:
1. Body Weight
Try to dial in your body weight, so that you can reach the best level for you and your health. So much body weight, specifically waist circumference, is completely massive liver growth. While we might think of our livers as small, it basically makes up our whole abdomen. When your liver swells, it harms your liver, and that is something we definitely want to avoid.
2. Lowering Alcohol Use
Alcohol is essentially a poison, and every time you ingest it you need your liver to break it down effectively. When it does this, it creates a known carcinogen that damages your liver severely.
3. Limiting Caffeine Intake
The same way as alcohol, your liver does better with a limited amount of caffeine in your system. The reason this is the case is that caffeine speeds up the aforementioned “phase 1” of the detoxification process in your liver – while not having any effect on phase 2. This means that you are agitating the toxins that need to be removed faster than they can be handled, which is a problem – this is what we know as pathologic detoxification.
4. Be Careful with Over-The-Counter Medications
Tylenol, acetaminophen, is one of the big ones. Naproxen and ibuprofen are also big ones, too. These are all just so hard on your liver, and it is best to stay away from them.
5. Avoid Prescription Medications
I am really wary of prescription medications for long-term use. Even short-term, too, it can be questionable. I would ask you to really question the medications that you are on, and whether or not they are a “hall pass” or a “lottery ticket” for you (2).
6. Question Your Supplements
This is the same as the previous point about prescription medications. If you are taking some supplements by themselves, they might just be dangerous on their own. These could include:
- Kava leaves
- Chaparral leaves
- Bodybuilding and weight loss supplements
Sometimes safe ones can even hurt your liver, if you are taking too many of them at once or together. I have seen plenty of patients who take many supplements at once, and they have overt liver damage and cannot figure out why – when it is all in the amount of supplements that they are taking.
Bottom Line: Whatever goes into your body, your liver has to process it. If it is beyond the normal things we see in our diet, it can strain your liver to the point that it gets damaged. If you want to use supplements, stick to a couple short term and a couple long term options that are made to work together – like the Daily Reset Pack, just for example (3).
7. Don’t Smoke
There is just so much data that shows that smoking is hard on your body, in so many different ways. No matter what you are doing with your diet or your other life choices, drop them for now and focus on quitting smoking. In terms of your health, there is literally nothing better you can do for your body than divorcing yourself from tobacco.
8. One Per Day
All you need is one complete, good bowel movement per day, and your liver will thank you. If you have to add in some fiber, magnesium, some extra water, I cannot stress how important it is to try and go to the washroom at least once per day.
9. Quality Protein
Make sure you are getting enough quality protein into your diet, but not too much. It should make up about 20 – 30% of your total calories. What your liver needs is plenty of essential amino acids, especially for the second phase of detoxification.
Bottom Line: Getting good, quality protein into your life is going to go so far in ensuring that your body feels up to the change of detoxifying properly. If you want to give your liver a good chance to succeed, you need to start incorporating more protein into your diet today.
We really do not get enough bitters in our diet, but the bitter taste itself does help bowel secretion and liver function. We can get this from:
- Dandelion leaves
Bottom Line: Bitters help stomach acid and improve digestion, and many are also antimicrobial. They have a powerful taste, and a powerful effect on your liver’s function.
Love Your Liver, Love Your Thyroid
We now know how important our liver is, and the different ways that we can love our liver today. All you have to do is follow these 10 steps, and you are sure to feel better almost right away. While you are here, why not take the time to learn about another important part of your body: your thyroid. Take the Thyroid Quiz (4) today, and learn a little bit more about another essential part of the human body.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.