The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Liver
In this article, though, we’re exclusively talking about the liver as an organ in our bodies. It’s hefty compared to other organs (weighing 3 pounds on average) and found behind the ribs, below the diaphragm, and above the stomach—and most important of all, it’s an organ we just can’t live without.
Above all else, however, the liver is an organ we can’t forget about when it comes to taking care of our overall health. It’s the same with digestive health, heart health, and brain/nervous system health, too.
Like basic immunity, emotional health, energy levels, and so much more as well, the liver provides yet another dimension of wellness for us to pay close attention to—and which can be kept in tip-top shape with the help of nutrition, herbs, and stellar lifestyle habits.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE POOR LIVER HEALTH?
But why should we pay so much attention to the liver? What does it do? More importantly, what are the first things we feel when it starts to struggle?
Here are some signs of an unhealthy liver:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Increase in skin problems (acne, psoriasis, etc.)
- Greater fatigue, lower energy, inability to focus
- Itchiness and inflammation
- Worsening of/development of new allergies and sensitivities
- Digestive and bowel irregularities, indigestion
- Hormonal imbalances
- Weight gain and sluggishness
- Yellowing of skin or eyes (extreme)
In addition to this list, here are the many reasons why maintaining a healthy liver is so important to one’s health regimen—and why it’s a great organ to target with beneficial nutrition and herbs holistically for improving wellness everywhere else.
WANT TO DETOX? LIVER HEALTH IS ESSENTIAL
Heard of all the latest detox diets and cleansing fads? We hate to break the bad news: most of them are probably false!
But there is something to some of them, and that’s the liver. In fact, while studies on the success of detox diets are scant, the ones that have shown any promise involve food, herbs, and nutrition that target liver support—though ultimately more study on the reliability of detox diets is needed.
The supposed success of any detox diet that aids the liver is because the liver is in and of itself our major detoxifying organ (with the help of the kidneys). The blood that flows through our digestive systems—carrying nutrients, toxins, and medicines—ends up in the liver where the good is sorted out from the bad.
No single diet, food, or herb literally “detoxifies” the body. But if people want to get the closest possible to a detox diet (and one that would have any sort of good, cleansing effect), all that needs to be done is some improvements to liver health—which are easier to incorporate than some of these out-there diets on the market today.
IT’S CENTRAL TO GUT & DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Since the liver detoxifies what we eat (and that which passes through the stomach and intestines firsthand), we often think of the liver as part of the digestive system. This is definitely true.
Without the liver, all the various systems of the body—muscles, bones, nerves, blood, and more—wouldn’t receive the precious nutrition they need in order to function without exception.
Sure, the stomach helps break down food, while the small and large intestines play important roles in absorbing some nutrition and processing out waste. But the liver is the center of command, and the ultimate crossroads for nutrition in many ways:
- It separates nutrition from toxins and medicines, so certain body parts only get the good stuff
- It breaks down digested fats and turns them into energy
- It produces much of the bile needed to digest various foods
- It’s also pivotal for processing carbs and proteins to release energy
IT’S NEEDED TO CURB CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND ALLERGIES
While most of us associate the liver with digestion and detoxification alone, in truth the organ deals with other aspects of health that have wider implications, too.
One of these is inflammation. Studies like this one in 2010 progressively show that the more damaged and unhealthy the liver becomes (as in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, for example), the more it produces proinflammatory proteins that lead to unhealthy chronic inflammation in the body.
This chronic inflammation is, in fact, linked to sped-up free radical damage and oxidation. Science is just starting to point out the likelihood that an unhealthy liver may be the fastest vehicle for rapid aging, deteriorating health, and much more—but that it could be combated with more antioxidants and better liver care.
The more chronic inflammation one experiences in the body, the more one may encounter issues like itchiness, autoimmunity, possible thyroid problems, and even a worsening or development of new allergies.
That’s right: issues like hay fever may get worse, while sensitivities to certain foods could get a lot deadlier. Chalk this up to another reason to take care of that liver!
IT HELPS MODULATE A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Because a damaged liver can accelerate chronic inflammation and cellular damage, this establishes yet another important link: the link between the liver and the immune system.
As it so happens, inflammation is considered the body’s immune response, a trigger that helps scavenge for harmful damage and the presence of unwelcome invaders. And because the liver produces proinflammatory proteins, this makes the liver arguably a big part of the immune system.
Recent research has also taken a deeper look at this. A 2013 review of the liver gathered evidence from various studies of the liver’s different perceived functions and made a case that the liver could actually be the center console for controlling and distributing out immune actions.
- The innate ability to sense pathogens and send out the right types of antibodies and immune agents to fight them
- Plays a role in the capture of pathogens in the blood and lymphatic system
- Responsible for creation and distribution of proteins and antibodies that help combat infections and foreign invaders in the first place
- Establishes the differentiation between food particles, human tissues, and foreign invaders so autoimmunity and other illnesses don’t develop (rheumatoid arthritis, e.g.)
Want to boost overall immunity? Then maintaining good liver health may be an important step in this goal.
IT’S RESPONSIBLE FOR ADEQUATE HORMONE BALANCE
Once again, the liver shouldn’t be thought of exclusively as a digestive organ—and neither should it be limited to immunity and inflammation. It has even more roles that could be surprising.
More specifically, the liver could be considered a gland, since it stores, produces, and circulates proteins, amino acids, and hormones throughout the blood and to the rest of the body. By definition, this also makes the liver a part of the endocrine system!
As a matter of fact, the liver is responsible for producing important and hormone-related substances, making it important to many other bodily systems (and even the reproductive system):
- Albumin – necessary for transporting thyroid hormones
- Transcortin – required to transport progesterone and cortisol, the stress hormone
- Sex hormone-binding globulin – carries sex hormones like testosterone
- Vitamin D-binding protein – binds to vitamin D—a hormone-like nutrient—to ensure that vitamin D is transported to needed places
Again, another case in favor of holistic care through the liver!
IT’S IMPERATIVE TO REGULATING BLOOD SUGARS AND CLOTTING
Because the liver helps purify the blood itself, it also has an important part to play in the vascular system, heart health, blood health, and beyond. A focus on liver health could also help reduce one’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
The liver helps metabolize carbohydrates—basically forms of sugar—and in the process, also makes sure that blood sugar levels are maintained at a healthy level. In this way, the liver helps reduce the dangerous blood sugar spikes that, over time, may increase one’s diabetes risk.
What more, the liver is also important to clotting of the blood—and thus the speed of wound healing and recovery.
A 2013 medical review found that especially among patients with damage or disease of the liver, the ability for the body to adequately clot and form platelets was weaker—though could be improved, such as through supplementation with vitamin K or added help of coagulants.
As such, make sure to keep that liver healthy to also keep blood sugars level and keep those wounds healing quickly.
WHAT ARE SOME QUICK WAYS TO BOOST LIVER HEALTH?
Can one take control of liver health on a self-care level? Certainly.
In fact, it can actually be quite simple, with the help of a few diet, food, nutrition, and lifestyle tips:
EAT DETOXIFYING, LIVER-SUPPORTING FOODS
That’s right—detoxing can be a good thing. Even better, detoxing with a focus on getting that liver in a healthier state is the very best total-body cleansing approach there could possibly be.
That means getting more liver-healthy foods into the diet. Foods rich in antioxidants, which slow down free radical damage that wears the liver down over time, are great choices according to a 2015 review—including beets, grapes (and grape seed), and even burdock, for example.
Also, the liver needs plenty of healthy vitamin K to support its blood clotting capabilities. Foods rich in vitamin K are celery, broccoli, kale, and garden-variety dark, leafy greens. Loads of beneficial dietary fiber are also a help—and conveniently enough, good fiber can be found in a host of dark leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables, which also tend to be high in antioxidants and vitamin K.
Last but not least: apparently probiotics may have a strong tie to liver health. A 2010 review found that probiotics could assist in slowing down an overload of fats during digestion, which may, in turn, take a burden off the liver.
Loading up on fermented foods, kimchi, and probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir could thus be an unexpected source of great liver health and overall wellness—and they’re enjoyable, tasty victuals to boot.
AVOID FOODS AND SUBSTANCES THAT ARE HARD ON THE LIVER
And there’s more than people might think. Excessive carbs, proteins, fats, sugars and processed foods all push the liver into doing overtime, which causes the organ to become weak or even damaged (though studies do say that healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are actually more help than harm).
But this isn’t just limited to diet and foods. We need to stay away from too much alcohol, cigarettes, and even dependence on certain over-the-counter medications, recreational drugs, or other toxic substances if we want to see any noticeable improvement.
While some of these might be fun, they are not only habit-forming but some of the worst enemies of the liver. If we care about our livers, we’d be wise enough to reduce our use of these unnatural, chemical substances.
STAY ACTIVE AND KEEP A HEALTHY WEIGHT
It’s a sad truth: the more a person weighs, the more likely they are to have an overburdened liver.
A 2010 study confirmed this, showing that being overweight and obese immediately stimulated more inflammation triggered by the liver. This inflammation was not only connected to an unhealthy liver and an increased risk of liver diseases, but also an increased risk of cancers.
For this reason, diet alone may not be enough. To really care for that liver, get up off that couch and take care of that body—get moving! After all, exercise is the only way to really trigger fat loss that foods alone cannot accomplish.
CERTAIN HERBS & BOTANICALS MAY HELP THE LIVER
Diet, exercise, and weight management are the ultimate trifecta for maintaining liver health and helping reduce the chances of the very worst liver damage or disease.
Here’s some more good news: science shows that certain herbs and fungi can support this regimen. Some of these are:
- Dandelion root – A classic folk medicine for liver ailments and detoxification, studies show that the common garden weed may also help promote the growth of healthy liver cells, slow liver damage, help its detoxing as a diuretic, and improve digestion
- Licorice root – Research suggests it can help increase immunity and balance hormones, specifically as an antioxidant that can reverse free radical damage in the liver
- Milk thistle seed – An herb with the strongest connection to boosting liver health, studies have shown that compounds in the seeds may protect liver cells, and also speed their growth/recovery following damage
- Poria mushroom – Used anciently as a liver tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine, science today supports this use with studies that suggest it could protect as an antioxidant while reducing cancer risk
- Reishi mushroom – Research shows that it could boost immunity via liver pathways, while it may also reduce the chances of liver damage and fatty liver disease resulting from a poor diet
- Schisandra berry – Another stellar antioxidant that could protect free radical damage in the liver, thus encouraging better liver health
- Turkey tail mushroom – Like reishi, it may boost immunity via the liver and reduce the impacts on the liver due to an unhealthy diet—while also reducing cancer risk as a potent antioxidant
We happen to include each of these herbs in our all-new LVR-RENEW botanical extract formula. Finding dietary liver support has never been more convenient. Click through to our product to explore the research and studies supporting these effects.
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A.V. Klein, H. Kiat (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 28(6) 675-686. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jhn.12286/full
Ji-Yuan Zhang, Zheng Zhang, Fang Lin, Zheng-Sheng Zou, Ruo-Nan Xu, Lei Jin, Jun-Liang Fu, Feng Shi, Ming Shi, Hui-Fen Wang, Fu-Sheng Wang (2010). Interleukin-17-producing CD4 T cells increase with severity of liver damage in patients with chronic hepatitis B. Hepatology 51(1) 81-91. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.23273/full
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Silvia Wilson Gratz, Hannu Mykkanen, Hani S. El-Nezami (2010). Probiotics and gut health: A special focus on liver diseases. World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics 16(4) 403-410. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811790/
Eek Joong Park, Jun Hee Lee, Guann-Yi Yu, Guobin He, Syed Raza Ali, Ryan G. Holzer, Christoph H. Österreicher, Hiroyuki Takahashi, Michael Karin (2010). Dietary and Genetic Obesity Promote Liver Inflammation and Tumorigenesis by Enhancing IL-6 and TNF Expression. Cell 140(2) 197-208. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867409016389
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