With the festive season now a distant memory, thoughts might well refocus on new goals and intentions for the year. If like many, you overindulged over the Christmas break and are feeling the effects as you begin 2024, it might benefit you to give your liver some love.
Every organ and system in the body is hard-working and vital, but did you know that your liver is responsible for over 500 vital functions in the body? All of which happen without our input or conscious knowledge. So perhaps we can start the new year off by showing this mighty organ some appreciation.
Your liver plays a role in blood clotting, it produces cholesterol, makes bile which is a vital component of your digestive system, and it also stores important vitamins. But what the liver is probably most known for is working around the clock to eliminate toxins.
When you’re exposed to toxins, they enter the bloodstream. Then it’s your livers job to detoxify the toxins and expel them from the body before they start causing harm. The liver is remarkable in identifying and shipping the toxins out of the body, but it can only process so many toxins at a time.
When your liver reaches its limit, toxins remain in the bloodstream without getting removed. They are then stored in your fat and tissues, ready to start exerting their damaging effects.
A Toxic World
Supporting your liver is more important now since toxins are more pervasive than ever. They are literally all around us, in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, in products we put on our skin, in products we clean our homes with and they are even held in household furniture such as sofas, mattresses and carpets.
Our liver needs to constantly be functioning well to deal with thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to daily. After periods of high indulgence, our liver needs to work even harder.
By not supporting our liver, we run the risk of our body accumulating and holding onto toxins because the liver is too overwhelmed to do its job properly. A build-up of toxins in the body can cause havoc on our health.
A Toxic Body
The effects of a build-up of toxins in the body may cause common and wide-ranging symptoms and conditions. This can sometimes make it difficult to pinpoint the cause back to high toxic load.
Some signs and symptoms may include:
Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or lacking energy.
Digestive issues: Such as constipation, diarrhoea, feeling bloated and gassy.
Skin problems: Such as acne, eczema, unexplained rashes.
Headaches: Frequent or persistent headaches.
Muscle and joint pain: Generalised body aches and joint pain.
Allergies: Increased sensitivity or reactivity to certain substances.
Brain fog: Difficulty concentrating, memory issues.
Mood changes: Irritability, anxiety, depression.
Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, poor diet, lack of exercise or underlying medical conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to identify the root cause of your symptoms.
If your symptoms are indeed from a tired and overwhelmed liver, there are simple ways to support it to function better and get back to eliminating more of those pesky toxins.
Love Your Liver
Luckily, there are ways to support the liver, decrease your toxin load and start improving symptoms and your overall health.
Maintain a healthy diet:
Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit intake of processed foods, saturated fats, and added sugars.
Up Your Antioxidants
The liver chemically changes a toxin during the detoxification process, which can produce free radicals. These are unstable atoms that can cause harm to cells they come in contact with. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals and so prevent them from causing damage. Up your antioxidants by eating organic fruits, veggies and herbs or consider taking an antioxidant supplement.
Up Your Leafy Greens
The liver uses a process called methylation to make some toxins dissolve in water. This allows you to excrete the toxins through your urine. Poor dietary and lifestyle choices or a lack of vitamin B12 and folate can decrease the amount of methylation that is possible. Up your intake of organic leafy greens to support the process of methylation.
Up Your Cruciferous Vegetables
Veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower contain a sulfur-based compound called sulforaphane which supports the liver in two critical ways. First, sulforaphane is a powerful antioxidant, which can protect the liver from free radicals produced as you detox. Second, sulforaphane stimulates phase II detoxification in the liver.
If the thought of eating broccoli and Brussels sprouts makes you grimace, another way to increase your sulforaphane levels is by sprouting organic seeds at home. This can be a quick, low cost and relatively easy process which ensures high amounts of pesticide free sulforaphane and nutrients. Broccoli sprouts are easier to add to your diet and may be up to 25 times more potent in sulforaphane than regular raw broccoli.
Up Your Fibre
25 grams of fibre a day acts like a sponge and soaks up toxins that are in your digestive tract and excretes them through your stool. Fibre also helps slow down the release of sugar which also highly benefits your liver.
Decrease or Cut Out Sugar
Studies have demonstrated that excess sugar can contribute to non-alcohol related fatty liver disease(NAFLD).
Fructose is processed in the liver unlike other sugars. Excess fructose gets converted into triglycerides, leading to excess fat in the liver. Cutting back on sugar can help relieve this issue and help your liver regenerate.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help flush toxins from your body. This is an easy and simple strategy to support detoxification and shouldn’t be overlooked. Your kidneys eliminate waste and toxins through your urine. This process is impaired if you are dehydrated, which will slow down the filtration rate of your kidneys, meaning fewer toxins will be excreted.
Limit alcohol consumption:
Excessive alcohol intake can damage the liver. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Consider taking a break from alcohol by doing a “dry” month to give your liver a break and restore it to peak functionality.
Regular physical activity helps improve blood circulation and supports overall liver health. Studies show that sweat contains heavy metals after exercise, which may support an effective detoxification strategy. If you are new to exercise, start slow and build up or seek the support from a health professional. Regular exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight which is crucial for liver health.
Stress can have various effects on the body, and the liver is no exception. Chronic stress can impact liver function, so finding healthy ways such as meditation to manage stress is important. The relationship between stress and the liver is complex and involves multiple physiological mechanisms. One of which is the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Elevated cortisol levels over the long term can contribute to insulin resistance and may lead to an increased storage of fat in the liver.
Consider herbal supplements:
Some herbs, like milk thistle, have been traditionally used to support liver health and protect it from damage and reduce inflammation. This is important because liver inflammation or damage can hinder its ability to detox properly. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal supplements.
You can also be proactive in keeping your liver functioning optimally by following preventative measures and limiting exposure to toxins.
You can avoid harmful pesticides such as glyphosate by opting for organic food. If your budget does not support a complete organic overhaul, then consider switching some noted in the Dirty Dozen, which are fruit and vegetables known to contain the highest amounts of pesticides. By reducing your exposure to glyphosate, you could improve the rate at which your liver is able to process toxins.
Your liver is only capable of processing and eliminating a number of toxins in a given moment. It’s clear that given the immense amount of toxins out there in the world today, it has its work cut out for it. Excess toxins that are not able to be eliminated can compromise your body and leave you vulnerable to health issues. Even a few of strategies mentioned here can help to improve your liver’s detoxification function.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions. If you suspect liver issues or need personalised advice, it’s crucial to seek guidance from a healthcare provider.