The Liver is the major organ of detoxification in the body and is greatly imbalanced in the majority of people. When working properly, the liver clears 99% of bacteria and other toxins from the blood. Around 4 pints of blood pass through the liver every minute for detoxification and each day the liver manufactures about 2 pints of bile. The bile helps carry away the toxins. Complete Liver renewal takes place between 18months and 2 years, if it is functioning as it should.
Apart from detoxification, the functions of the liver are to; store vitamins and minerals, manufacture bile and non essential amino acids and breakdown protein and carbohydrates into fats and sugars.
The Liver has two detoxification pathways called Phase I and Phase II. The work of each of these phases requires specific vitamins and minerals. These vitamins and minerals in turn need nutrients called phytochemicals and amino acids to help them.
In Phase I - the liver can change a toxic chemical into something less harmful, but free radicals are formed ( unstable particles that damage the body’s cells). To reduce these, our body needs antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Phase II – during this phase the liver makes the less harmful chemicals, water soluble. It can then be moved out of the body in the urine or faeces. During this phase foods rich in sulphur compounds are needed along with minerals, B vitamins and amino acids.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the liver does most of its work between 1am and 3am in the morning, and liver dysfunction will often wake a person up between these hours. The liver will detox better whilst we are lying down and relaxed (as in sleep), so ‘burning the midnight oil’ over these hours is going to put a greater strain on the liver’s detoxification abilities.
The nutrients required by the body to allow both Phase I and Phase II to happen:
Phase I - Vitamin B1, 2, 3, Vitamin C and E, beta carotene, selenium, copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur and zinc.
Phase II – Cysteine, D-glucarate, Glycine, L-Glutathione, Taurine, Methionine, N-acetyl cysteine, Folic acid, Vitamin B, Germanium, Manganese, Molybdenum, selenium, sulphur and zinc.
From this we can see how important it is for us to have a healthy, balanced diet, rich in nutrients.
Signs of Liver Imbalance
PMT, Migraine, Fibrocystic breast disease, sore or burning feet, gallbladder problems, aching joints and muscles, acne, psoriasis, slow wound healing, itchy peeling skin, dry skin rashes, fatigue, depression, headaches, dizziness, nausea, mood swings, bad breath, bitter taste in the mouth, bloating, bowel toxicity, light coloured fatty stools, constipation, yellowish skin and sclera, unexplained worry or nightmares, hypoglycaemia and many more.
Foods that support the Liver
Broccoli – contains vitamin B, C and folic acid along with natural sulphur compounds
Carrots – contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids
Spinach – contains folic acid and other B vitamins
Tomatoes – contain vitamin C and E and the antioxidant lycopene.
Pepper – contain vitamin C and antioxidants
Cabbage – contains natural sulphur compounds
Garlic – contains methionine and glutathione
Onions – sulphur compounds and glutathione
Asparagus – contains glutathione
Avocado – contains glutathione
Mushrooms – contain glutamic acid which is needed to produce glutathione
Brazil Nuts – contain selenium
Walnuts – contain arginine, glutathione and essential fatty acids
Caraway seeds – contain flavanoids and carotenoids
Orange, red, purple and red coloured fruit – contain high levels of antioxidants
Melons and Papaya – contain Vitamin C
Watermelon – contains natural source of glutathione
Cayenne Pepper – contains beta-carotene, lutein and vitamins B, C and E
Soya Beans – contain lecithin which helps the liver breakdown fats and helps to reduce high cholesterol, it also helps maintain healthy membranes around liver cells.
Wheatgerm – contains selenium and vitamin E and phytochemicals.
Supplements that may support the Liver
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – Comes from the amino acid cysteine, it is very important because it makes glutathione, which has a vital role in liver detoxification.
Glutamine - glutamine along with NAC helps to support the production of glutathione.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid – Offsets the damage of free radicals. It is both water and fat soluble and therefore works in all parts of the body. It increases the levels of the antioxidants vitamin C and E and Coenzyme Q10 in the body. It also raises the level of glutathione in the body.
Herbs that may support the Liver
Tumeric – Helps to protect the liver against damage, fights inflammation and oxidation, aids in digestion by stimulating bile flow and supports liver
detoxification. Try it in soups or stews
Ginger – it contains 8 liver-protecting compounds. It aids digestion by stimulating bile flow and contains more than 12 antioxidant compounds
Use in cooking or make into a tea.
Dandelion – Used as a herb to stimulate bile flow. It can be used in salad or cooked like spinach or as a tea.
Burdock root – acts as a powerful antioxidant and blood purifier. Good for gastrointestinal problems and may help to restore liver and gallbladder function. Can be added to soups and stews.
Licorice root – may help to reduce injury to liver cells. It has been used in the treatment of cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis.
Milk Thistle – It may help to stabilise the cell membranes and limit the number of poisons that enter the cell. It also acts as an antioxidant, and may help to repair liver cells and help the liver make new cells. It can be used in tea or capsule form.
Eat two portions of fresh fruit and 5/6 portions of vegetables every day, lightly cooked to avoid losing all the nutrients.
Try to use organic where possible to avoid chemical toxins.
Drink at least 2 litres of filtered water per day as this will help the kidneys to eliminate the toxins that the liver has broken down.
Make sure you get enough omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, good sources are oily fish like salmon (un-farmed), trout and mackerel or nuts and seeds.
Balance blood sugars by eating 3 healthy meals and 2 healthy snacks per day this may help reduce the livers work during the healing hours.
Avoid or cut down your alcohol intake. Binge drinking is very damaging for the liver.
Avoid highly processed foods, like sugar, white rice, bread or pasta. Add whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa or whole grain breads and pasta.
Limit caffeine as it is broken down by the liver and may make it more difficult to cleanse the liver. Coffee, tea and fizzy drinks contain caffeine. Try drinking alternatives like herbal or fruit teas. Green tea (it has smaller amounts of caffiene so don’t over do it) is a very good antioxidant. Or, as an alternative to coffee, Nocaf or dandelion coffee.
Avoid recreational drugs as these are also very stressful for the liver
Ask your practitioner to advise you before using any herbs or supplements.