The following tips for how a healthy liver (and life) are written by our lovely friend and certified naturopath, Georgia. Georgia has a keen interest in plant based, holistic living and nutrition and we are so excited to have her share some wisdom here! Before we go, is this article for you?
SIGNS YOU NEED A FEW TIPS FOR A HEALTHY LIVER
- You’re tired, ALL the time
- You drink alcohol regularly, but feel rubbish the next few days when you do
- Greasy food just doesn’t agree with you
- You’re quick to anger
- You experience headaches, poor digestion, difficulty sleeping, PMS, acne/dry and dull skin, mood swings
- bad breath
Sound famlar? For most of us that will be a hell YES. The modern diet and lifestyle is a big contributor to widespread liver congestion, and over burden of our ‘garbage disposal’ unit. There are so many trick and tips for a healthy liver that we can follow, and giving some much-needed attention to this organ is almost a given in 2019.
Happy Liver, Happy Life
Written by Georgia Prisco
“My poor liver.” “My liver hates me right now.” “I think I need to give my liver a rest.” Sound familiar? We all love to throw around the ‘liver card’ after a big night out or a weekend of festivities, because we learn quite young that liver + alcohol = no love lost.
But even so, the liver is an enigma to many. Its seemingly simplistic layout conceals its truly mind-blowing capability and importance, turning it into a mysterious, almost magical organ. In truth, it is a one-stop shop, a master of much, an integral cog in the cycle of life that is occurring within us every day. And we are 100% correct – our liver is not our best friend when we overindulge and double its workload. Our normally composed liver must then juggle many balls, and unfortunately that means that some may drop. This is when we begin to feel the consequences! More on that later…
So yes, your liver is magical, but what the heck does it actually do?
- METABOLIC POWERHOUSE
1.5 litres of blood circulates through your liver for filtration every minute. From that blood, the liver extracts waste, handpicks nutrients for use, as well as packing them away for later. A master creator, destroyer and storage unit – bow down people.
This is your liver’s priority, to take harmful substances, make them safer, and get them the hell out of your body! This includes alcohol, medication (even the oral contraceptive pill!), recreational drugs, pesticides, chemicals in cleaning or beauty products, traffic pollution, and waste generated within your body. Remember this for later – detoxification is your liver’s priority – everything else gets shelved for another time when its detox workload gets out of hand.
- TOILET TIME
It’s our dear old liver’s job to generate bile and deliver it via the gallbladder right smack bang into your small intestine, where it’s essential for digestion and nutrient absorption– magic, right? The timely delivery of bile is necessary for the dreamy regularity of bowel movements that makes you feel oh so satisfied.
- HORMONAL STABILITY
The liver produces cholesterol, the crucial backbone of hormones that control fertility, energy, mood, bone health and much, much more. The liver also takes pre-loved hormones and packages them nicely for excretion (spoiler alert: a critical step in reducing PMS symptoms).
HOW CAN I ASSES MY OWN LIVER HEALTH?
I’m sure you’re getting the picture that the liver carries out some very important daily tasks, and we’ve only just skimmed the surface! Let’s think back to those balmy summer days, the abundance of social events on the calendar, and the expectation of alcohol at nearly all of them. One cider leads to another, and then another five, and come the end of February you just don’t feel quite right.
- You’re experiencing more PMS than ever before.
- Typically stress-free work meetings are anxiety producing.
- You end the day bloated and looking seven months pregnant.
- Your skin is dry and dull and your make-up doesn’t come close to concealing your dark circles.
- ‘Morning breath’ becomes ‘all day breath’.
- The way your partner walks/talks/breathes/eats starts to grate on you.
- You begin to fart and burp like a sailor.
How’s that for a romantic and elegant visual? Unfortunately many of you will be nodding your heads in understanding and desperation. On a more sinister level, alcohol can alter the physical structure of the liver, and the body. Fatty acids accumulate when they aren’t metabolised quickly, creating a ‘fatty liver’. The early stages of this can be seen after only one night of heavy drinking! Likewise, our delicately balanced pH level is thrown into disarray, and our body becomes acidic and inflamed. It is now a well-known fact that inflammation is the driver for countless pathologies.
On a more encouraging note, these signs and symptoms can certainly be remedied, and will improve quickly if we take charge, change a few habits and use naturopathic tricks of the trade to support and love our body as much as it loves us. Here are my top tips for a healthy liver;
TIPS FOR A HAPPY LIVER
STEP ONE: Lay an airtight foundation!
- Enjoy alcohol in moderation – that means no bingeing. Your liver can detoxify almost anything, in moderation. Enjoy no more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men (The discrepancy is due to biology ladies! Women break down less alcohol in the stomach, which means more alcohol for absorption in the intestine – read: we get drunk more quickly, placing a larger strain on the liver.)
- Swap to organic produce where you can, or thoroughly clean your fruit and veggies in an apple cider vinegar wash to reduce pesticide exposure.
- Choose home cook ups instead of eating out to reduce your intake of processed foods and rancid oils.
- Switch from conventional cleaning products, beauty items and make-up to those with natural, chemical-free ingredients (A few of my favourite brands are Dr Bronner’s, Perfect Potion, Eco Store, Inika and Mukti Organics).
- Include both yin and yang-style exercise in your weekly routine. Yin style activities are things like Qi Gong, slow flowing/yin yoga, walking and Tai Chi; these are important for mental health and muscle recovery. Yang style activities are anything that gets your heart beating and blood pumping! My favourites are uphill hiking, cycling, power vinyasa yoga, dancing and kickboxing. Extra points for thinking outside the box.
- Pay attention to your protein intake. While I never encourage obsession with macronutrients, the amino acids that we obtain from protein-rich foods are extremely important for liver function, and occasionally a check-up on our protein intake is important. Think of it like a stocktake, or an oil change for your car. Easy ways to increase your intake: carry a good quality trail mix for snacking, swap brown rice for quinoa or teff, add beans to your salad, choose extra seedy bread, add a blob of nut butter to your porridge, use black beans in your brownies and substitute tofu with tempeh.
STEP TWO: Get by with a little help from your (plant) friends
- Sulphur. Do rotten eggs, smelly farts and factories come to mind? You will never think of sulphur in the same way again, because it is actually a handy, and incredibly powerful, way to boost liver function. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, onion, bok choy and kohlrabi are examples of sulphur-rich foods that contain an abundance of phytochemicals. Consume these every day. Yes to kale chips, steamed broccoli, cauliflower pizza, roasted brussel sprouts, or a big stir-fry.
- Bitterness. You know that feeling when you sip your coffee and you feel your digestive system kick into gear? I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to control your digestion to the same degree, but with bitter herbs and food. Think regular bowel movements minus the heart palpitations, dehydration and anxiety that often tag along behind cappuccinos and long blacks. Use dandelion root tea, dandelion, mustard or rocket salad greens, grapefruit, herbal tinctures (i.e. gentian or globe artichoke), and diluted apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to encourage bile production and release.
- Anti–inflammatory. A particular favourite tool on the naturopathic work belt is St Mary’s Thistle, or Silybum marianum. This herb has been used for thousands of years (not kidding) to reduce inflammation, support bile production and reduce oxidative stress. A good quality supplement, herbal tincture or tea is a perfect add-on to an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Foods that are colourful and fresh are phytochemical-rich and reduce inflammation in the body. Eat the rainbow, indeed.
So there we go. I’d like you to imagine your liver as a highly competent personal assistant to you, the CEO, who keeps your business afloat, every day without fail. Follow these tips for a healthy liver- a well-fed, happy, and supported personal assistant will be the greatest asset to your company. And so it goes, a well-fed, nourished liver with plenty of time and space to do its job will be the greatest asset to your physical, mental and emotional health. Love your liver, and it will love you right back.
Hechtman, L. (2012). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine.
Trickey, R. (2003). Women, Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle.
Whitney, E. & Rolfes, S.R. (2011). Understanding Nutrition.