The liver is not always the first organ that jumps to mind when thinking about increasing your longevity, but it is one of the most important. A healthy liver is vital for great skin, weight balance, happy hormones and beautiful hair.
This rather large organ, found under the floating rib on your right side, has more than 500 different functions. All of these important jobs play a major role in your energy levels including storing nutrients and energy, processing fats, clearing out old hormones and cleaning your blood. Depending on whether you support or hinder your liver could make the difference between having the energy of a sloth or of a tiger.
The liver is a large storage unit, keeping reserves of many vital nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and glucose.
Fat-soluble vitamins – These fatty nutrients are essential for your eyes, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system. Vitamin A also helps keep cells healthy and protects your vision and vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from damage. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K all have a key role in bone formation. Even though these vitamins are essential, they can also become toxic if the levels rise too high. This can happen if the liver is under strain. It becomes sluggish an tiny liver pathways can clog up.
Minerals – The liver stores iron and copper. Iron is essential for oxygen absorption therefore a compromised liver can play a role in anemia caused by low iron levels. At the same time too much iron is toxic to the body. Copper is used for blood, nervous system and bone health. And too much copper can result in mental instability.
As well as controlling production and excretion of our healthy cholesterol, our livers contain bile stored in the gallbladder to help break down fats. The liver is also in charge of breaking down old hormones to be excreted, as well as filtering environmental toxins from your blood.
What hinders the liver?
The liver literally has to filter our lives. It deals with all the complex foods, alcohol, dehydration, soft drinks and the onslaught of environmental chemicals. Our normal western lifestyles can often become a little too much for the liver.
The liver filters the foreign parties that enter our bodies like alcohol, tobacco, food additives, and environmental factors. Our bodies have about 700 toxic chemicals in them. A study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that a newborn has 287 toxic chemicals in their urine including mercury, pesticides, Teflon, and others from exposure before birth. There are several signs your liver is stressed.
Refined Carbohydrates and Alcohol
Refined carbohydrates and sugar deposit a large quantity of glucose and fructose into the body. The liver can store 500g of glycogen – our energy reserve made from sugars. More than that becomes a problem. Unlike glucose, excess fructose cannot be kicked out of the liver easily. Fructose builds up in the liver leading to a state known as fatty liver disease. This is the precursor to insulin resistance.
Fatty liver syndrome also occurs from excess alcohol consumption, which, for many years was presumed to be the only cause. Today more and more adults (that don’t drink) and children are being diagnosed with fatty liver syndrome. This state dramatically impairs the liver from functioning as well as eventually leading to type-2 diabetes.
Our immune system is the first line of defence against invading bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Parasites are opportunistic invaders; they take advantage if the intestinal ecosystem or immune system are compromised. Parasites are scavenger organisms. The danger of these uninvited visitors is that their waste material can become extremely toxic aiding the onset of health issues. Parasites thrive in the intestinal tract, liver, pancreas, and even in the brain. They live off a diet of sugars, processed foods, and excessive carbohydrate consumption.
Most medications are processed through the liver. Some prescription drugs put more strain on the liver than others such as; codeine, corticosteroids) steroid medication taken to reduce inflammation), tetracycline (a group of antibiotics), Benzodiazepines (depressant drugs commonly prescribed to relieve stress and anxiety). Valium (diazepam) and Restoril (temazapam) also come with caution when it comes to the liver. Even the contraceptive pill plays a role. The liver can usually handle short periods of medication, but long-term these drugs may have a negative impact.
High meat and dairy
The body needs fiber to process fats. Meat is devoid of fiber. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explains, “Meat also contains animal protein, saturated fat, and, in some cases, carcinogenic compounds such as heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) formed during the processing or cooking of meat. HCAs, formed as meat is cooked at high temperatures, and PAHs, formed during the burning of organic substances.” In addition, the high fat content of meat and other animal products increases oestrogen production. All in all this concoction is quite a task on the liver.
The liver has the job of breaking down old hormones such as oestrogen. It does this in two phases, sulfation and methylation. 40% of people either don’t methylate easily or don’t methylate at all. This is where the problem comes in. During phase 1 – sulfation oestrogens are broken down into various metabolites including 2-hydroxyestrone, a very weak oestrogen, and 16-alphahydroxyestrone, a very strong and potentially harmful oestrogen. During phase 2 – methylation the liver breaks these new oestrogens down into the most harmless version ready to be delivered into the gut and ushered out of the body.
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If the intestines have an abundance of abnormal bacteria, an enzyme produced by these bacteria may inhibit the processing of oestrogen by the liver. The oestrogen that would have been excreted is then reabsorbed back into the body, allowing even oestrogens to build up to excessive levels. The supplement calcium D glucarate (also found in fruits and vegetables) can render the enzyme inactive and prevent this buildup.
- Dark green leaves and green juice provide folic acid and methyl groups to support methylation.
- Vitamins B6 from foods such as chickpeas and B12 are also necessary for healthy liver function.
- SAMe (s-adenylmethionine) is also a rich source of methyl groups and sulfur.
- Foods that contain sulfur should be in the diet, including egg yolks, garlic and onions.
- Broccoli also contains sulphur as well as indol-3-carbinol (I-3-C) with is a key support for methylation.
- Foods such as avocado, walnuts and asparagus are rich in glutathione, a molecule that binds to oestrogen to escort it safely from the body. Vitamin C also stimulates the body to produce it.