This is the time of year that everyone has a treat or two … or three … or four … However the organ that is left bearing the brunt of this merriment is of course our poor liver. So we should give some care to this poor mistreated organ.
Why do we need to look after our liver you may ask?
Well, the liver performs over five hundred functions in the body daily, you only have one and if you don’t have one then you can’t live. So that should be reason enough. It is used to detoxify the body and filters over 1 litre of blood per minute. It removes toxins accumulated from our environment like pollution, alcohol, smoking, junk food, chemicals and metabolic wastes from the production of energy.
The liver is also involved in the breakdown of foods when we eat. It then processes the majority of your food (especially fats) and modifies them into a form your body can use. It is also used in the balancing of our blood sugar and the processing of cholesterol.
How do we know if our liver is not working well? Some signs are:
- Weight gain round the middle
- Indigestion of fatty or spicy foods
- Allergies get worse
- Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, itching
- Chronic constipation
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Raised cholesterol
So how can we help our liver?
There are many herbs that are great for supporting the liver in general, and when it faces a challenging time. Interestingly many of them belong to the daisy family such as Milk thistle, Dandelion, Globe artichoke and less commonly known chicory. Milk Thistle and Globe artichoke are both great herbs that help the liver in the processing of toxins. They are known as liver tonics, so great for supporting the liver all year round. They also have a restorative function that helps the body repair the liver if it has been damaged by illness or excesses. Infact the German Commission E has approved the use of milk thistle for liver damage due to toxins as well as liver inflammation or cirrhosis (fatty liver).
Dandelion is a great herb with supportive actions for both the liver and the kidneys; the other major detoxification organ. It also helps improve bile flow by increasing bile production in the liver and by enhancing bile contractions to increase the release of stored bile from the gallbladder. Bile is important for transporting toxins and bad cholesterol from the body and for the breakdown of fats.
Turmeric (Curcumin its active constituent) is very popular at the moment and also helps increase bile. I really like to use this herb for people who are sensitive to strong smells (perfumes, paint, petrol for example) as this is often linked to imbalances in the phases of liver toxin processing. It can help the body in many ways with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.
Schisandra is also a lesser known liver herb, which is popular with herbalists as it has many other actions in the body, so can cover many bases. Schisandra has also been shown to help regenerate body stores of the amino acid antioxidant glutathione, which is really important for binding toxins in the liver’s phase 2 detoxification process. It is also known as an adaptogen, which means it can help us with stress, something else that seems to increase over the Christmas holiday period.
Antioxidants are also important to the liver to help bind toxins, so taking them daily helps to keep the elimination process going. This includes vitamins A, E, Zinc, vitamin C, selenium, and the super antioxidant alpha lipoic acid. You could also increase these nutrients by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Water is important as you need to flush the toxins out of the body. Coffee, alcohol and warm weather can all lead to dehydration, so keep an eye of your water intake. You could also start the day with a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it as it helps to flush the liver. Keeping the bowels moving daily is also important to remove the toxins processed by the liver. If you don’t go daily this can cause circulating toxins, which can lead you to feel fatigued and unwell. Taking psyllium each day can help or eat a couple of kiwi fruit for a high dose of vitamin C.
Finally supporting the digestive system so your food is processed will lighten the load on your liver. To improve digestion you can increase digestive enzymes, which help to break our food down into smaller components so they can be absorbed. Many of these enzymes come from fruit, so eating some pineapple or kiwi fruit before a big meal will help the digestive process. Bitter tasting food like your dark green leaves (rocket, spinach, mesculin) and herbs such as basil and parsley stimulate the liver to produce bile, which we know is a good thing.
By Jane Cronin
Clinicians LiverProtect Plus is a botanical and mineral based formula to support liver health, liver protection, liver detoxification and antioxidant protection. Buy it now from our secure online shop.
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