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Optimize Your Metabolism: Start with your Liver

We often read about the importance of having an optimal metabolism, but what does that mean? Your metabolism determines how efficient your body is at processing different enzymatic reactions from the breakdown of macronutrients to the detoxification of chemicals.

The more fine-tuned your metabolism is, the easier it will be for you to feel your best. In this post, I will concentrate on the most important organ for your metabolism: Your liver. I will also share eight strategies to help you get started on optimizing your liver’s function.

Understand the Liver

The liver is an organ of detoxification located on the upper-right part of the abdomen. It is protected by the ribs and weighs approximately three pounds. It receives all the blood from the body from a series of large blood vessels and it helps in detoxifying it. The liver also makes important proteins, fats and glycogen, and other factors to help keep you feeling healthy1.

Key Insight: The liver detoxifies toxins and hormones by a process called glucuronidation, which makes these waste products more water-soluble and easier to excrete. For this reason, it is very important to keep the liver working efficiently in order to maintain optimal health2.

As we go along, I want to discuss some of the common substances that tax the liver. While they may be harmless in small quantities, larger amounts can ultimately work to slow down your metabolism.

Excess Fuel

When the liver is unable to utilize all of the fuel we consume, it begins to accumulate in the form of intracellular liver fat. This is commonly referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (1).

This extra intracellular fat makes the liver less efficient and is one of the first signs of insulin resistance, even before the blood sugar levels begin to rise3. NAFLD is also extremely common, with human studies having found incidences of up to 19%4.

Common signs of NAFLD are:

  • Abnormal liver enzymes, and
  • Increase in waist size and hormonal imbalances

Bottom Line: Even though, NAFLD can slow down your metabolism, reversing it is possible by smartly reducing your calories.

Alcohol

Alcohol is metabolized in humans by a series of reactions in the liver5. Even if you do not consume alcoholic beverages, alcohol occurs naturally in all sorts of foods (like fruits and grains).

Key Insight: Even if you don’t have an alcoholic beverage, you consume about 3 grams of alcohol daily6.

Alcohol detoxification is mainly done by the liver, so it is important not to overwhelm it. It has been observed that the liver can begin to become inflamed with as little as 30 grams of alcohol per day (which is about two drinks per day)7.

Now imagine having to detoxify hormones, extra fuel, toxins, and alcohol. For this reason, taking a break from consuming extra alcohol can do a lot of good for the health of your liver.

Acetaminophen Toxicity

Acetaminophen toxicity is so prevalent that it has become almost epidemic, with most acute injuries to the liver being caused by acetaminophen toxicity. In fact, about 20% of all liver transplants are due to acute acetaminophen toxicity8.

Over the counter NSAIDs, specifically acetaminophen, are toxic to the liver; once taken orally, it is rapidly absorbed by the digestive tract and is detoxified by the liver into toxic and non-toxic substances9.

The antidote for acetaminophen toxicity is N-acetylcysteine, this helps the liver regenerate glutathione and aids in the detoxification of acetaminophen and other liver toxins10.

If you have used acetaminophen for an injury, headaches or chronic pain, discovering the root cause of your pain is essential since long-term use of acetaminophen is dangerous. After that, appropriate supplementation with N-acetylcysteine could help with your liver detoxification.

Contraceptives

Another class of medications that tax the liver are prescription contraceptives. In fact, women treated with contraceptives for endometriosis are at a higher risk for liver adenomas, a type of liver lesion11. This is a very interesting topic because many women have, at one time or another, contemplated taking birth control medication.

There are many other side effects from taking long-term birth control, like:

  • Loss of menstruation
  • Infertility
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Leaky Gut
  • Dysbiosis

Dr. Jolene Brighten is an expert on mitigating the effects of “Post Birth Control Syndrome”. If you have concerns about post birth control syndrome, I highly encourage you to check out her book “Beyond the Pill” where she offers an easy program to detoxify your liver and to help you escape the effects of these class of medications (2).

High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Your body has distinct mechanisms to process fructose. It was widely believed that all fructose was processed by the liver, but we now understand that the intestines can process fructose and the excess is then sent to the liver to be converted into fatty acids12.

When consumed in normal doses, like those found in nature (such as fruits and vegetables), your body can assimilate it and use it as energy. The problem is when it is consumed in supraphysiologic doses, like soft drinks and even refined fruit juices, the intestines lose the ability to keep up with the absorption of fructose and the excess is shunted to the liver where it causes unnecessary work for the liver.

Key Insight: Did you know that one can of soda is enough to overwhelm the liver for a whole 24 hours?12

A simple rule is to only consume unprocessed fruits and only in normal quantities. Be careful when consuming dried fruits, jams and jellies and avoid syrups (such as agave syrup, corn syrup, and cane syrup), fruit juices, and added sweeteners. It goes without saying that sodas, even the ones made with natural sugars, should also be avoided.

Food Additives

Antioxidants are usually thought to be good for health, but research shows that butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) an antioxidant used in processed food like potato chips, cereals and chewing gum inhibits liver function13.

This is a study performed on rats and human tissue, but it should be enough to at least give you pause. We aim to only use the highest levels of evidence, but there is a saying in science “a lack of evidence is not evidence against.” Even though this is not a meta-analysis or a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, avoiding potential liver stressors is never a bad thing.

Bottom Line: For this reason, and many more, avoiding processed foods and simplifying your diet can help with overall liver detoxification in your body.

Cytochrome P450

Cytochromes p450 (CYP450) is a series of enzymes found in the liver that help detoxify substances that don’t occur naturally in the body such as drugs and other toxins14.

Keeping these enzymes optimized is very important to help your liver function efficiently. Substances can have different effects of CPY450, for example, caffeine can decrease its activity and others like tobacco can increase it15.

Caffeine is a known inhibitor of CPY450, and it makes it harder for your liver to detoxify substances. For example, it hinders the liver’s ability to detoxify hormones and other toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Tobacco causes a different problem, it ramps up the activity of CYP450, and it leads to processing substances too fast. For example, it can decrease the activity of certain medications or impair the absorption of substances.

Bottom Line: We should always look to avoid substances that change the natural processes of the liver.

Rethink Your Metabolism Today

If you want to optimize your liver, you should take some time off and plan an effective and science-based strategy. The Metabolism Reset Diet was specifically designed to give your liver a break and help you maximize your health.

It is a program designed to reduce intracellular fat in the liver, eliminate substances that alter your liver function and provides you with all the nutrients needed to heal some of the damage caused by lifestyle habits. Most importantly, it is a short-term plan that is simple and easy to follow.

If you are interested in optimizing your metabolism, you should join our Metabolism Reset Challenge (3), and join a group of health-minded people that are interested in long-lasting health!

1. Abdel-Misih SRZ, Bloomston M. Liver Anatomy. Surg Clin North Am. 2010;90(4):643-653. doi:10.1016/j.suc.2010.04.017.
2. King CD, Rios GR, Green MD, Tephly TR. UDP-glucuronosyltransferases. Curr Drug Metab. 2000;1(2):143-161. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11465080. Accessed December 3, 2018.
3. Wang AY, Dhaliwal J, Mouzaki M. Lean non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Clin Nutr. August 2018. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.08.008.
4. Amarapurkar D, Kamani P, Patel N, et al. Prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: population based study. Ann Hepatol. 6(3):161-163. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17786142. Accessed December 3, 2018.
5. Teschke R. Alcoholic Liver Disease: Alcohol Metabolism, Cascade of Molecular Mechanisms, Cellular Targets, and Clinical Aspects. Biomedicines. 2018;6(4):106. doi:10.3390/biomedicines6040106.
6. Tillonen J. ETHANOL, ACETALDEHYDE AND GASTROINTESTINAL FLORA Regulatory Factors and Pathophysiological Consequences of Microbial Ethanol Oxidation and Acetaldehyde Production in the Digestive Tract.; 2000. http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/laa/kliin/vk/tillonen/ethanola.pdf. Accessed December 3, 2018.
7. Childers RE, Ahn J. Diagnosis of Alcoholic Liver Disease: Key Foundations and New Developments. Clin Liver Dis. 2016;20(3):457-471. doi:10.1016/j.cld.2016.02.005.
8. Lee WM. Acetaminophen and the U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study Group: lowering the risks of hepatic failure. Hepatology. 2004;40(1):6-9. doi:10.1002/hep.20293.
9. Sweety Mehta. Metabolism of Paracetamol (Acetaminophen), Acetanilide and Phenacetin |. August 25. https://pharmaxchange.info/2012/08/metabolism-of-paracetamol-acetaminophen-acetanilide-and-phenacetin/. Published 2012. Accessed December 3, 2018.
10. Smilkstein MJ, Bronstein AC, Linden C, Augenstein WL, Kulig KW, Rumack BH. Acetaminophen overdose: a 48-hour intravenous N-acetylcysteine treatment protocol. Ann Emerg Med. 1991;20(10):1058-1063. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1928874. Accessed December 3, 2018.
11. Brady PC, Missmer SA, Laufer MR. Hepatic Adenomas in Adolescents and Young Women with Endometriosis Treated with Norethindrone Acetate. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2017;30(3):422-424. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2016.12.002.
12. Jang C, Hui S, Lu W, et al. The Small Intestine Converts Dietary Fructose into Glucose and Organic Acids. Cell Metab. 2016;111(3):307-308. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2017.12.016.
13. Li L, Wu Y, Wu X, et al. Butylated Hydroxyanisole Potently Inhibits Rat and Human 11�-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 2. Pharmacology. 2015;97(1-2):10-17. doi:10.1159/000441034.
14. Nelson DR, Zeldin DC, Hoffman SMG, Maltais LJ, Wain HM, Nebert DW. Comparison of cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes from the mouse and human genomes, including nomenclature recommendations for genes, pseudogenes and alternative-splice variants. Pharmacogenetics. 2004;14(1):1-18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15128046. Accessed December 3, 2018.
15. Research C for DE and. Drug Interactions & Labeling – Drug Development and Drug Interactions: Table of Substrates, Inhibitors and Inducers. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/developmentapprovalprocess/developmentresources/druginteractionslabeling/ucm093664.htm. Accessed December 3, 2018.

Written by Dr. Guillermo Ruiz of Integrative Health. Dr. Ruiz is an Associate Physician with Integrative Health, interested in the treatment of endocrine disease with a focus on thyroid health. Under the mentorship of Dr. Alan Christianson, Dr. Ruiz expanded his knowledge on the treatment of Hashimoto’s and Grave’s disease and has completed advanced endocrinology training in order to better address and resolve endocrine disease.

Learn more about Dr. Ruiz here

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