Your beautiful liver. The organ that does the best job of recycling, waste sorting and rubbish disposal. Its huge. I mean literally. Its really quite a big organ. And heavy. It weighs almost 1.5kg. It sits there on your right hand side tucked up under your ribcage, just doing its thing.
If you do ever think about it, it might be the morning after a bender, when you know it’s struggling to get through last night’s mojitos. Or perhaps you consider it a little when you realise your cholesterol is higher than you imagined on a recent blood test. Maybe you think about it in passing when you see the latest and greatest new Shazam Bam Detox advertised at the local health shop.
In actual fact, there are many more times in our lives when we should give some thought to our amazing liver, and how we might do better to support it.
Some of these times might be:
- When we are increasingly grumpier, angrier and more irritable as we age.
- When we suddenly have hayfever, rashes, or allergies for the first time in our lives and it’s a shock because we’ve gone 30 years without them. Or 50 or 60.
- When we have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain.
- When we develop a wee roll of fat on our upper abdomen that doesn’t want to go away.
- When we start to get really intolerant of people wearing strong perfumes.
- When we have a sluggish bowel and tend to constipation.
- When we feel just slightly nauseous all the time.
- When we get more headaches than we ever used to.
- When we get diagnosed with fatty liver or gallstones.
- When we just can’t handle fatty, creamy foods or alcohol like we used to.
- When our skin is lacklustre and we tend to pimples, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or other inflammatory conditions of the skin.
- When we have lots of uncomfortable bloating.
- When we wake up hot or sweaty in the night.
- When we’re just not hungry in the morning, ever.
Ah our fabulous liver! How on earth can one organ be potentially responsible for all these symptoms? What does it actually do?
The liver’s primary job is that golden magic word: Detoxification. But what does this actually mean? Detoxification is the way that the liver filters all of our blood, every single minute, pulling out of it the bits we don’t want anymore, unpackaging them and then repackaging them in a way that they can then be removed from the body. The unwanted bits are the ones that can become ‘toxic’ or detrimental to our body’s function if they are left to accumulate. This includes not only the stuff we put in our mouths (alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, food additives), but all the normal things our body makes, all of the time, like hormones, that need to be broken down and excreted too.
One of the best ways our liver has of getting rid of stuff is to pop it into the potent little bundle of liquid it manufactures called bile. Bile is secreted by our liver and gallbladder and helps to get rid of fats from our digestive system. Fibre-rich foods help get the bile out of our digestive systems via the bowel. That’s why regular bowel motions are so important for helping detoxification.
Other than keeping our bowels moving, how else might we support this stunning organ in keeping our bodies running efficiently?
- Hydration, of course
- Fibre, as we mentioned- linseed, chia seeds, oats, psyllium are all awesome for this
- Eating lots of fresh whole food, especially garlic and onions, broccoli and cabbage, greens greens and more greens
- Limiting the stuff that overloads the liver: alcohol, caffeine, synthetic food additives like preservatives and colourings, cured meats etc
- Using herbal medicine that supports the detoxification pathways in the liver and helps regenerate liver tissue; Dandelion Root, Milk Thistle, Globe Artichoke, Bupleurum, Turmeric and Schisandra are just a few of the potent plant medicines we can enlist to help us
- Making sure we have enough of the right nutrients to support the processing capacity of the liver; B vitamins, zinc and amino acids are especially important
- Just stopping to think about it every now and then! Bringing awareness to the phenomenal functions our organs perform for us naturally encourages us to take greater care of our most precious asset- our health.