Your Liver Explained
Your liver is the hardest working organ in your body. In addition to protecting us from environmental toxins, the liver:
• Filters out toxins produced by the body such as bacterial waste and hormones.
• Is crucial for digestion and the building of tissues such as muscle.
• Contains specialist cells which help fight infection.
• Is the site of red blood cell production.
• Is the storage site for several nutrients including iron and vitamin A.
So what goes wrong?
Your liver relies on a number of essential nutrients, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in order to function properly and remove harmful toxins from our bodies. The rate at which the liver processes toxins is determined by both genetics and lifestyle. If the process is put under pressure (by exposure to too many toxins) the system becomes unbalanced and the liver will be unable to effectively eliminate toxins. This leads to symptoms of toxic overload. The body’s response and ability to deal with toxins varies amongst individuals and is thought to be a primary factor in susceptibility to certain diseases.
Common clinical symptoms and conditions associated with environmental toxicity
If you have any of the following symptoms you may benefit from a liver support programme:
• Abnormal pregnancy outcomes
• Broad mood swings
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Chronic immune system depression
• Contact dermatitis
• Fertility problems
• History of increasing sensitivity to external exposures, odours, or medications
• Joint pain
• Kidney dysfunction
• Learning disorders
• Memory loss
• Mineral imbalances (particularly zinc and calcium)
• Multiple chemical sensitivities
• Muscle pain and weakness
• Non-responsive or recurrent yeast infections
• Panic attacks
• Parkinson’s disease
• Unusual responses to medications or supplements
• Worsening of symptoms after anaesthesia or pregnancy
How to reduce your exposure to common toxins
Modern life exposes us to a multitude of chemicals and toxins on a daily basis so it is almost impossible to live a toxin free life. To reduce your exposure to toxins follow these basic rules:
• Shift your food purchases and consumption to organic when possible. Especially dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) and meats and eggs.
• Minimize the consumption of large fish (swordfish, tuna, etc.) as they are higher in mercury.
• Refer to the Environmental Working Group or Consumer Reports web sites to stay current about which fruits and veggies are most important to eat organic.
• Water quality will vary but in general it is better to filter tap water with a multi-stage carbon filter or reverse osmosis filter.
• Try to avoid bottled water in soft plastic containers as the plastics often leach into the water.
• Minimize the use of plastic water bottles that have been in a hot car.
• Avoid plastic bottles and containers with the numbers 3, 6 and 7 on the bottom. These are most likely to leach plastics into the food, juice or water that they contain.
• Buy juices and water in glass containers when possible.
• Do not microwave in plastic containers.
• Minimize the use of cling wraps; try to use paper wraps.
• Purchase the most natural cleaning and other household products you can find.
• Avoid spraying pesticides or herbicides in your home or property.
• For hair products (including shampoo and colours) look for products without alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, paraben, phthalate or other petrochemicals.
• Avoid perfumes or other skin or hair care products that use synthetic fragrances.
• Use low-toxin make-up and skin creams (avoid products with: phthalates, parabens, propylene glycol, alcohols and fragrances). In general, skin care products from health food stores without the above ingredients are a safer bet.
Help your liver to work optimally
Luckily we have a great system for dealing with the daily onslaught of toxins. We just need to make sure that it is working properly by giving it all the materials it needs to function optimally. Reducing exposure to toxins whilst consuming key nutrients will support liver function.
Foods to aid the liver include:
• Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and watercress.
• Antioxidant rich, vibrantly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as berries.
• High quality proteins, such as pulses, nuts and seeds.
• Wholegrain rice and quinoa.
• Reduce exposure to toxins by moderating consumption of:
- Caffeine, including cola and chocolate
- Refined sugars
- Food additives
Bioflavonoids - these plant compounds are very powerful antioxidants.
Diindolylmethane - a compound found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage) that aids the metabolism of female hormones.
Co-enzyme Q10 - found in flesh food such as meat and fish, it is crucial for the release of energy in cells.
Amino acids - these “building blocks” of proteins are a major part of the detoxification system.
Turmeric – this tasty spice helps the liver to eliminate toxins from the environment.
Green Tea Extract – Catechins from green tea are thought to boost liver detoxification pathways. They are also potent antioxidants.
Dandelion – a diuretic and laxative, dandelion has traditionally been used to support the liver.
Milk Thistle – contains the compound silymarin which has been shown to protect liver cells from toxic agents.