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  • Spectrum of Life

Love Your Liver

Liver is the largest organ and the only one that can regenerate itself. But if it is damaged severely enough, scarred through cirrhosis, for example or become infected with a virus such as hepatitis, your days may be numbered.

The liver’s many functions

The brain thinks. The heart beats. The stomach digests. But there’s no single verb to describe what the liver does. This is because the liver has so many different jobs to perform. It is important to know that 2 basic functions of the liver.

First, virtually everything that enters the digestive tract – foods, drinks, medicine and everything that is breathed in the air and absorbed through the skin must pass through the liver to be purified and detoxified.

Second, the liver ensures that the other organs in the body are supplied with sufficient amounts of the various fuels, such as carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins.

Other than that, more than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver. Some of the more well-known functions include the following:

  • Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage.

  • Produce cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fast through the body

  • Produce bile which carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion.

  • Neutralize poisons. Everything from aspirin to herbs to chemical solvents to recreational drugs is considered potentially dangerous.

  • A warehouse for the storage of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, copper and iron. For example a normal liver contains approximately a two years’ requirement of vitamin A.

  • Regulate blood clotting

Beware of various liver diseases

Liver is the largest organ and the only one that can regenerate itself. But if it is damaged severely enough, scarred through cirrhosis, for example or become infected with a virus such as hepatitis, your days may be numbered.

Symptoms of liver disease differ by person. In some, there may be no symptoms. But the most typical symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin, darkened urine, nausea, loss of appetite, unusual weight loss or weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, light coloured stools, abdominal pain in the upper right part of the stomach, malaise or a vague feeling of illness, varicose veins (enlarged blood vessels), fatigue, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), muscle ache and pains, depression.

Start to protect your liver today!

To protect your liver, the Mayo clinic suggests:

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.

Avoid risky behavior. Get help if you use illicit intravenous drugs. Don't share needles used to inject drugs. If you choose to have sex, use condoms. If you choose to have tattoos or body piercings, be picky about cleanliness and safety when it comes to selecting a shop.

Get vaccinated. If you're at increased risk of contracting hepatitis or if you've already been infected with any form of the hepatitis virus, talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis B vaccine. A vaccine is also available for hepatitis A.

Use medications wisely. Only use prescription and nonprescription drugs when you need them and take only the recommended doses. Don't mix medications and alcohol. Talk to your doctor before mixing herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription drugs.

Avoid contact with other people's blood and body fluids. Hepatitis viruses can be spread by accidental needle sticks or improper cleanup of blood or body fluids. It's also possible to become infected by sharing razor blades or toothbrushes.

Take care with aerosol sprays. When you use an aerosol cleaner, make sure the room is ventilated, or wear a mask. Take similar protective measures when spraying insecticides, fungicides, paint and other toxic chemicals. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Watch what gets on your skin. When using insecticides and other toxic chemicals, cover your skin with gloves, long sleeves, a hat and a mask.

Choose a healthy diet. Choose a plant-based diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Limit high-fat foods.

Avoid fatty foods. You liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Eating a well balanced, nourishing diet rich in whole foods will help your liver do its job properly. Ripe, raw fruits, vegetables and grains are best. Whole food concentrates can fill in the gaps.

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which may include fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis.

The “bitters”

In the traditional medicine of both Europe and China, bitter herbs are thought to tonify and strengthen the liver. Bitter tonic formulas, often called “bitters” usually contain bitter herbs like gentian, goldenseal, artichoke, milk thistle, neem plus some aromatic or spicy herbs ( ginger, fennel or cardamom) to help counteract the formula’s ability to cool and contract the digestive tract in some people.

Vegetable like bitter gourd, artichoke, horseradish, cress/water cress, kale, dandelion greens can help in cleansing the liver.

How to Eat for a Healthier Liver

Deciding how to eat for a healthy liver is actually a no brainer. The less industrial processing your food undergoes the better. The less added fat and sugar your food contains the better. Avoid fried foods, especially meats. Eat the highest quality organic food, preferably straight from the garden. Always make sure do not overcook your vegetables. They should remain slightly crunchy.

Protein – Both too little and too much can disrupt liver enzymes. About – 35-60 grams per day is optimal. Most people in industrialized countries eat far too much protein. When bacteria in the large intestine act on protein residues, toxins that may be absorbed into the bloodstream are produced. Good source of protein include, fish, occasional organic meat, nuts, seeds, beans and grains and nutritional yeast.

Sulfur containing food – such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, kale are potent enzyme builders. Have at least one serving a day of these foods, especially vegetables from the brassica family, which provide excellent enzyme for the liver. Spice up your food with ginger and garlic. Both ingredients have been shown to have amazing liver protecting qualities. Garlic contains strong anti-oxidant principles and also provides important sulfur compounds the liver uses to build certain enzymes.

Fats are difficult for the liver to process, yet they provide a good source of essential fatty acids. A variety of raw, organic seeds like linseed/ flaxseed and fish oil can supply the best quality of omega 3 fatty acids.

Vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and flavanoids protect the liver and should be present in ample amounts. To make sure you are getting enough, I recommened live vegetable juices ( carrot, beet, celery or parsley).

Green tea has immune-boosting properties and contains less caffeine than coffee. Drink lots of water (6–12 cups per day) because it helps the kidneys to get rid of the toxins that the liver has broken down.

Eat foods that are rich in glutathione or help to produce glutathione in the body. Asparagus, watermelon, broccoli, onion, are good sources of glutathione while papayas and avocados are foods that help the body to produce glutathione.

By: Ms Esther Peh - SOL Senior Naturopath

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