When was the last time you thought about your liver? Now, if you are a student of arts or commerce and are healthy, there is every probability that you might not have given it a second thought after high school. Students of Life Science may have read and contemplated about the liver and its functioning, courtesy their curriculum. And of course, students of medicine and the physician community at large are frequently in touch with subjects concerning the human body.
Human liver has the distinction of being the largest internal and most metabolically complex organ in human beings. Also, did you ever realize that the liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself? This is the reason why it is possible for a person to donate a part of it to another person.
A liver functioning at optimal capacity provides a multitude of benefits that enable our good health and well-being. It is responsible for increased energy levels, stronger immunity, digestive regularity, oral health and clear skin. In women it also regulates the menstrual cycle. In addition to all these benefits it gives us a sunny mood and a sharp mind.
So you can see why the health of the liver is crucial for our continued good health and cheer.
Functions of the liver
- Stores energy – The food we eat is converted into glucose. The glucose cannot be stored as such and is processed into glycogen. This is stored in the liver. When our body needs energy, the liver then releases this glycogen in the form of glucose and that helps give us the needed energy boost.
- Stores iron and vitamins.
- Responsible for clotting factors – The liver produces proteins that are essential for the blood to clot.
- Removes toxic substances from the blood – The liver processes the toxic substances in our food and converts them into harmless materials that the body can safely eject.
- Aids digestion – The liver produces bile, which is essential for the digestion of foods we ingest. The bile is stored in the gallbladder. The liver has lobules, which transports blood and cells throughout the body. It is communicates constantly with other digestive organs, about level of nutrients in the body, threats of new toxic substances or medications so it can aid the body in getting rid of them.
- Produces cholesterol – It is required for the body to function.
Taking care of your liver
The best way to take care of our liver and ensure its optimal functioning is through a healthy life style. That includes opting for a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Be aware of your weight and make sure it is within a healthy range. Obesity is one of the main causes of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). It causes a layer of fat build-up on the liver, which leads to liver damage.
The good news is, it is can be treated with a good diet and regular physical activity.
Things you can do to protect your liver
As always, a good diet and exercise are a great starting point to maintain or get the liver to perform at optimal capacity. The best diet would be one that is rich in antioxidants and low in carbs and sugar.
A sugar high burdens the liver. It pushes the liver to convert and store the excess sugar. If there is already enough glycogen present then the liver converts the excess sugar fructose to fat, which gets stored in the liver contributing to fatty-liver disease. Some of it gets circulated into the blood stream as triglycerides.
The best anti-inflammatory diet for the liver
The best diet for good liver functioning is one that is low in sugar and high in fiber and antioxidant content.
An antioxidant rich diet can even help reverse liver damage and liver disease. A malfunctioning liver cannot detox the body properly. Which means it cannot flush out the toxins from the body. This leads to inflammation and autoimmune diseases. So to stay in the best of health consume foods that are anti-inflammatory.
For a liver-smart diet include
- Green leafy vegetables – They are rich in potassium, which is a key component for optimum liver health. Leafy greens increase glutathione in the body, which help fight and destroy the free radicals.
The levels of potassium and glutathione in the body decrease with age, so it is good to supplement their levels with natural foods that are rich in them.
Furthermore, leafy greens have high a content of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll soaks up all the toxins from the system. It protects the liver and neutralizes effects of harmful chemicals.
Spinach, arugula and bitter gourd are some good examples of foods that help increase the creation of bile and aids in the removal of waste from the organs and blood.
- Raw honey – Honey that is not refined or heated is classified as raw honey. It has a whole host of wonderful properties that are good for the liver. It is antibacterial, meaning it eliminates harmful bacteria. It is antimicrobial and antifungal, meaning it helps fight harmful parasites and viral infections.
It also lowers inflammation in the liver, nourishes the digestive tracts and improves the overall health of the gut and the liver.
- Garlic – Garlic activates the enzymes in the liver that help flush out toxins. It contains compound Allicin, which is an antimicrobial agent. It helps lower inflammation and increase circulation and blood flow.
- Berries and melons – These are rich in antioxidants and electrolyte minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium. It functions like hemoglobin in improving circulation of blood.
- Grapefruits – They have high concentrations of Vitamin C and antioxidants and support cleansing of the liver.
- Beets and carrots – They are rich in plant – flavonoids and beta-carotene. They help stimulate liver function.
- Avocados – They produce glutathione which helps the liver cleanse harmful toxins
- Green tea – It contains antioxidant called catechins that assist in liver functioning. They help combat the free radicals and lower stress on digestive organs. One thing to note though is that this only refers to green tea itself and not any form of their extract.
- Coconut oil – It is the best source of medium chain-fatty acid. It has healthy fats that the body needs. It has a plethora of properties, which include it being antifungal, anti microbial and antiviral. It aids in liver detox and helps reduce craving for unhealthy food. It also supports increased energy levels.
- Apples – Apples help release toxins in digestive track. Apple cider vinegar, which is made from apple and a version of fermented yogurt is also good for the liver.
- Olive oil – It provides the body with a lipid base that absorbs harmful toxins in the body and eases liver functioning.
- Cruciferous vegetables – Increase digestive enzymes glucosinolates that help detoxify the liver. They also contain indole compounds, that kill cancer and eliminate carcinogens from the body,
- Lemons and Limes – They are high in vitamin C. They help the liver processes toxic materials into substances that can be absorbed by water and later easily ejected. They help stimulate the liver.
- Walnuts – They contain an amino acid called arginine. This helps to detoxify ammonia that is produced in the liver as a byproduct of its functions. It also contains Omega 3 which aids in normal liver cleansing.
- Cabbage – It has enzymes that help the liver detoxify and flush out toxins.
- Turmeric and other herbs – Herbs such as coriander, parsley and oregano boost glutathione that lowers inflammation.
Turmeric has a compound called curcumin that restores healthy blood pressure, improves blood circulation and fights toxin buildup.
Other herbs help maintain the PH balance and increase digestive enzymes. All these help boost overall liver detoxification.
- Coffee – Coffee in moderation optimizes the flow of bile, which is essential to digestion, liver and gut health.
Pay attention to food preparation
Even when you are maintaining a healthy diet it is essential to pay special attention to actual food preparation. This is because; grains, beans, nuts etc. are rich in anti- nutrients that keep away bugs.
These are natural toxins that humans cannot digest properly. They interfere with the liver’s ability to absorb nutrients and process proteins. This burdens the liver unnecessarily.
So, it is always best to always soak and sprout grains, nuts, beans, legumes and seeds in order to lower the toxin levels and increase the nutrient absorption.
Another thing that would help is opting for organic produce that is not contaminated with synthetic hormones or pesticides, which will be difficult to digest and affect the liver adversely.
Boost your liver function with supplements
From ancient times herbs have been used as supplements to boost liver functions. Although we had a comprehensive list of foods that aid liver function listed above, here are just a few supplements that bear to have a special mention: Holy basil, milk thistle and dandelion root.
The liver changes amino acids from protein foods. This is used for energy. As a byproduct of this process Ammonia is produced. The liver sends most of it out to the kidneys to be disposed of. In any case of liver malfunction the ammonia expulsion slows down and the ammonia itself gets re-circulated into the body.
These supplements boost liver function and help convert nutrients and remove toxins keeping the liver healthy.
Reduce stress for a healthy liver
Chronic stress impacts the body negatively in many ways. It affects the endocrine system, reproductive system, the digestive system and the immune system in the body.
Stress affects the pituitary. It changes the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. That produces an inflammatory response, which worsens liver damage.
A damaged liver implies a block in emotional flow. This increases a feeling of frustration and produces feelings of anger & rage.
A poor liver function is associated with various physical and psychological disorders from brain fog, digestive disorders to dizziness, headaches and joint or tendon problems.
Be physically active
An active lifestyle gets the blood flowing. Regular exercise is good for both physical and emotional wellbeing.
Things you can avoid to keep your liver healthy
- Reduce alcohol intake – It damages liver cells, leads to fatty build up in the liver and scarring.
- Be aware of your medication – If you are taking any medication, be aware of its side effects. Consult with your physician, because some cholesterol medications have the disastrous side effect of liver damage.
Also acetaminophen commonly found in cold medicines, pain medication etc. is harmful to the liver.
According to Canadian liver foundation, the liver performs over 500 different functions including fighting off infection, neutralizing toxins, manufacturing proteins and hormones, controlling blood sugar and helping to clot the blood. If you have any concerns regarding liver health, consult a Portea doctor without delay.