“Love your liver!”
If I had a dime for every time I saw that phrase on a blog post or health discussion, I’d be a rich woman.
However if you were to ask me a year ago what that phrase really meant—or moreover what the liver really did in my own body…
I was stumped!
I never really knew what all the hype was about—or really what the liver did—until my intensive year spent in Nutrition Therapy school.
I knew I had a liver in my body—but what it was there for? My guess was probably as good as yours.
What does your liver do?
And moreover—how do you love your liver?! What the heck does that mean anyway?!
It’s crazy how intricate our bodies are—and how long people may spend HAVING NO CLUE about certain aspects about their health and their bodies; how they function…how they best work…how to take care of yourself holistically—from hormone health and gut health, to brain health and bone health, immunity and liver health…and on and on.
Unfortunately, holistic health—a look and study into the whole picture of the human body and practical, laymen’s terms definitions of HOW TO best care for yourself is NOT taught in your 13-21 years+ school.
We grow up learning about eukarayotes and prokarayotes in Biology; A+B=MC-squared in math; Analyzing Twain, Hemmingway and Shakespeare in English; And, memorizing facts about the Civil War and Industrial Revolution in History—yet, not truly ever connecting the dots as to how all this practically applies to our own lives.
Maybe, just maybe you took an anatomy class and had to memorize origins and insertions of muscles, or took your required health credit and learned about STDs and general guidelines for healthy eating and exercise, but, even then, how did all of this carry over into connecting the dots to your own body?
Where were the lessons on:
- The process of digestion and the role of a healthy gut in your mental health and brain function?
- The role of stress (over tests, grades, boys, curfews, friends, fitting in, your style, etc.) in your hormone health?
- The REASONS you had acne in the first place and how to cure it without medication (i.e. liver health, quality food, water)?
- Or the REASONS you really struggled with focus, attention and memory in the classroom—a look into eating?
All this to say: IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOUR LIVER DOES…You are not alone; nor are you next in line for a role in the movie “Dumb & Dumber 3.”
We simply were not SCHOOLED.
Back to the LIVER…and “Loving your liver.”
What does your liver do?
In essence: the liver serves to produce bile (a product which helps to remove waste), break down fat in the small intestine, and helps to produce proteins for blood plasma.
Layman’s terms again puh-lease?
The liver is an incredible workhorse for the body—acting as the body’s major filtration and detoxification system.
ALL hormones, chemicals (including medications), wastes, environmental toxins, bacteria, viruses, fungus and parasites must be filtered through the liver.
In addition, your liver is an active player in our digestion by breaking down fats, proteins and carbohydrates from food we eat.
To say the least: a healthy liver, like a healthy gut, is essential for getting the most (nutrients) out of the food you eat; feeling energetic; keeping your hormones balanced; warding off illness; and keeping your all around health in check.
In fact, if your liver is not healthy in the first place, no matter how much work you do for a healthy gut or probiotics you take…you are still going to struggle with optimal health and function.
How do livers get ‘unhealthy’?
Unfortunately, many of us do NOT have optimally functioning livers.
Why? Toxic overload from…
- Processed and packaged foods;
- Eating commercially raised produce and livestock;
- Not eating our veggies;
- Poor water intake;
- Household cleaners;
- Self-care and hygiene products;
- Poor cooking techniques (overcooked meat; overheated food; etc.);
- BPA use (plastics);
- Paint & glue;
- Nail polish & perfumes;
- Dyes & preservatives;
- Chlorinated and brominated products (found in almost all commercially produced breads and bread products)
- Heavy metal in fish (stick to wild-caught sources);
- Contaminated water;
- Popping over-the-counter medications like candy (NSAIDs);
- Long term use of prescription medications;
- Artificial sweeteners;
- Excessive alcohol consumption;
- Taking synthetic hormones;
- Yo-yo dieting (ingesting commercial diet products, frozen meals, diet sodas, etc.)
- Athletic performance eating (ingesting fake, poor-quality powders and supplements your bod doesn’t recognize)
- The list goes on…
I’ll raise my hand here!
- A kid of the processed food generation;
- A former yo-yo dieter;
- A sucker for the advertising of health and nutrition products for gym performance;
- A BPA consumer (plastic water bottles and Tupperware);
- A beauty product user;
- A tidy household cleaner
…I am guilty as charged of stressing my liver more than it should be…and, unbeknownst to myself, in years past, dealt with side effects because of it on the regular, particularly:
- Sluggish digestion;
- Difficulty breaking down fats (even healthy fats);
- Low energy levels
It wasn’t until I began making some shifts in my lifestyle and dietary choices that I began to feel the difference that a healthy liver can make, namely: Improved digestion, more energy, ability to tolerate healthy fats without stomach pain.
Granted, ‘toxins’ and stressors (in our food and environment) are definitely a part of life, and are NEVER going to be 100% unavoidable…However, by doing what we can to eliminate these stressors, you do your liver a big favor in the long run.
What are signs of an ‘unhealthy’ liver?
There are several signs your liver is telling you it’s not happy.
Here are a few:
- Pot Belly
- Abdominal bloating/Abdominal pain (particularly in the right, upper ab area under the rib cage)
- Acne/Rosacea, or Itchy Blotchy Skin.
- Acid Reflux/Heartburn.
- Unexplained Weight Gain or Inability to Lose Weight (even when trying).
- Sluggish Digestion (Especially fatty foods).
- Low Energy/Fatigue.
- Candida (Yeast/bacteria overgrowth)
- Overheating of the body and excessive sweat
- Dark spots on the skin (liver spots)
- Gallbladder attacks/removal or dysfunction
These are just a handful of signs that your liver is blocked, or clogged—and not functioning at its peak.
Essentially, the cells, that act as a filter of EVERYTHING you come into contact with (food, bacteria, chemicals, medications, metals, pesticides, alcohol, etc.), become too swollen with fat and the liver cannot filter out the many substances being passed through it.
For instance, in the case of a pot-belly, when the liver is congested, a person’s abdomen becomes filled with liquid from the liver that cannot process protein properly; Resulting in edema around the mid-section.
Or, in an instance of difficulty with weight loss: When our livers get too busy working to filter out an influx of toxins, they have very little energy left to filter blood, drugs, hormones or assist in the digestion process, thus increasing cortisol levels (stress hormones that work against you in weight loss), and impeding your metabolic function.
If you have low-energy, toxic build up in your body could be to blame due to an under-functioning liver. Toxins from chemicals, pesticides, water contaminants, food preservatives, heavy metals and radiation, our food, water, air, body and home products all stress your liver out—and over time, if not addressed, these toxins lodge in the bowel, liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and fat tissue. Consequently, the toxic build up prevents the normal uptake and utilization of nutrients, carbohydrates and proteins, thus reducing . your body’s oxygen uptake and creating an acidic, septic, low-energy state instead.
In other words: Lifestyle and environmental factors play a huge
The main takeaways?
- Your liver is responsible for recycling and filtering waste.
2. When we stress our livers beyond what they were meant to handle (packaged and processed foods, frequent alcohol consumption, using toxic hygiene products all our lives, consuming poor quality foods—GMOs, metals in our fish, low-quality meat, pesticides in our produce, etc.), then our livers take a hit;
3. When this happens, your body is NOT thriving (refer to the many signs and symptoms above)
So how can I LOVE MY LIVER–what can I do to improve, or restore my liver function?
GO ON A CLEANSE, RIGHT?!!
The topic of “cleanses”, “detoxes”, and “juicing” have become topics of conversation as common as college football and live music, especially here in one of the ‘top healthiest cities’ in the U.S.— Austin, Texas.
Phrases such as: “Liver cleanse!” Or, “I am thinking of doing a detox” are as commonplace as saying, “Hi, how are you?”
Not so fast.
In fact, if your liver is not healthy, the LAST THING you want to do is go on a cleanse or detox—initially.
Unfortunately, far too many people resort to do the ‘juice thing’ or to try the Grapefruit ‘thing’ or try the Apple Cider vinegar ‘thing’ or the Master Cleanse or switch into a 7-21 day detox and…expect a miracle to happen.
If you go this route out of the gate, you miss a CRUCIAL STEP FIRST before your body is ready to work for you—not against you.
While cleansing allows the body to eliminate used wastes and toxins and helps improve our health as it removes harmful substances we in-hail, ingest and are exposed to every day…
If the FOUNDATIONS of healthier lifestyle, food and environmental exposures are not established FIRST, THEN all of that detoxified waste produced from your cleanse or detox is just going to end up staying in your body and blood stream…making you less healthier, stressed and dig you deeper in the hole.
That FIRST STEP to cleansing and ‘loving your liver’?
A Phase I version of cleaning things up, entailing:
Cutting the crap. Eliminate the added sugar, processed and packaged foods, gluten, trans-fats (hydrogenated oils, vegetable oil), preservatives and dyes, alcohol, heavy metals in fish sources, questionable conventional produce (“the dirty dozen”), eating out more than you are eating in, the cheapest cuts of meat and poorly prepared foods (overheated, overcooked, etc.).
Add foods that sooth and support the liver so it can do it’s job again, such as:
- Leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, parsley, dandelion)
- Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)
- Beets (a SUPER FOOD for the liver)
- Healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, raw nuts)
- Clean filtered water
- Herbs (milk thistle, turmeric, artichoke leaf)
Eat clean. Keep your meals simple: quality-sourced proteins + veggies + healthy fats + lots of water at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Snack on foods such as raw nuts/seeds, a protein source (chicken, jerky-nitrate free, hardboiled eggs, wild-caught tuna, etc.), fresh fruit or veggies (delicious paired with guacamole or nutbutter).
Reduce the toxic exposure in your environment:
- Stop overheating/overcooking your food;
- Put the cigs (smoke) down; And Limit or eliminate alcohol immediately if you’ve had some of the symptoms in this post;
- Be mindful of exposure to paint, glue, gasoline;
- Use the microwave LESS (re-heat your food with original methods: on the stove top or in the oven);
- Switch to non-toxic and plant-based, cleaning and personal care products and eliminate petroleum-based preservatives in skin and hair care products
Before even thinking about a full on cleanse…get these factors into order first.
Get it? Got it? Good!
I’ve got more guidance for you if you are ready to feel amazing, or seeking a bit more guided direction in your own, hit me up at [email protected] to connect.
Let’s do this!