Heather Caspersen is a certified health coach with a bachelors in health promotion and management. She works for Family Resources of Greater Nebraska. Learn more about Heather here.
Your liver is the largest gland in your body and the only internal organ that will regenerate itself if partly damaged. Unfortunately it may also be the most congested organ in the modern person.
Too much stress, rich and greasy foods, late heavy meals, alcohol, too many animal foods, chemicals and intoxicants all interfere with our liver's natural processes.
There are several important functions of the liver:
Release of bile. Bile is a mixture of water, mucus, fats, salt and cholesterol needed for the digestion of fats. It also helps our bodies absorb fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins A,D,E and K, and assimilate calcium. This fluid is stored in the gallbladder and is released as needed for digestion.
Creates Glucose tolerance factor. GTF acts with insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Detoxifies. Protein digestion and the bacterial fermentation of food in the intestines both produce ammonia as a by-product. Our liver combines the toxic substances we ingest – insecticide residues, drugs, alcohol and other harmful chemicals – with substances that are less toxic to neutralize them.
Works to prevent hypothyroidism. This is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones. Symptoms include anything from weight gain to thinning hair.
Purifies the blood. If the liver is clogged, blood purification may be hindered. Toxic blood can contribute to many degenerative conditions.
Now knowing how much your body relies on the liver, what happens when it becomes clogged – aka overworked and bombarded with toxins? This happens when sediment forms what's referred to as “stones” outside the bile.
Think of a wet sponge stuffed with black beans. If you were to wring out the sponge, you wouldn't be able to squeeze out all the moisture due to the beans clogging it. When your liver becomes clogged, it can't do its job.
This can turn out to be the root of many health issues – fatigue, vascular disease, allergies, chronic indigestion, neck and back tension, menstrual problems, muscular pain, spasms, cramps, dizziness, pulsating headaches, nervous system disorders, insomnia, acne, eczema, anemia, cancer, arthritis even emotional issues like anger or depression. A weak liver may also weaken the kidneys and contribute to digestive problems or how well our bodies absorb iron and vitamin B12.
Here are five natural ways to show this organ some love.
Don't overburden your liver. Your liver works hard enough without having to process things like alcohol, preservatives and over-the-counter painkillers.
Drink plenty of lemon water. Water is important to the natural detox system. The citric acid in lemon juice encourages the liver to produce bile, another tool used to get rid of toxins.
Take herbs that support your liver. According to the Mayo Clinic, herbs such as mistletoe, skullcap and comfrey can be used to support liver health. Some experts also believe turmeric, milk thistle and dandelion have cleansing and protecting powers as well.
Eat cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, arugula, collard greens and other cruciferous vegetables are shown to help detoxify your liver.
Get enough minerals. Sea vegetables, like kombu, contain up to 20-30 times the minerals of land plants. A four inch piece of kombu (found at your local health food store) thrown in soups, stews or beans is a great way to incorporate a sea vegetable into your diet.