The liver is one of my favourite organs. Why? Because it does so many wonderful tasks for us that go mostly unnoticed, but keep us happy, healthy and good looking.
There is a strong connection between the liver, gall bladder, biliary tract, and pancreas with the stomach and small intestine. These organs influence not just the health of each other, but also have a strong influence on how we feel. It means if your stomach or small intestine are not working well, it is likely that your liver and pancreas are not entirely happy either.
What does the liver actually do for us? The liver plays a few roles, but it is best known for its ability to filter out toxins from the blood. Why are there toxins in the blood? Because of the polluted air we breath, the heavy metals in our environment, medication that is necessary to take when we are sick, pesticides, fungicides, preservatives in our food, fabric softener and body lotion on our skin and the list goes on. The liver also detoxes our body’s natural waste and deactivates hormons if the body produced too many or they are no longer needed (f.ex. high levels of cortisol when we are stressed and then calm down).
Each time we eat something, the food gets broken down and before the nutrients (or whatever was in it) are distributed to the cells in the body, the blood takes everything to the liver first where it gets filtered, thereby protecting the more sensitive organs such as the heart and brain.
The liver plays an important role in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat. It produces bile (stored in the gall bladder) to process fat, stores sugar as a reserve to release it when blood sugar is low (the brain and the nerves need mainly sugar to function), and it filters out old red blood cells (the “leftovers” colour your urine yellow and your stool brown). It also stores iron and produces key ingredients for blood clotting when we f.ex. cut ourselves or hit our shin and develop a bruise. The liver also produces certain proteins which are important for our immune defense and it filters the fetal blood during pregnancy.
The liver itself is very hard working and forgiving, and rarely gets noticed by pain or discomfort. Instead, “tiredness is the pain of the liver”, meaning if someone is chronically tired even when getting enough sleep, there is a chance that the liver is not at its best. If someone has poor digestion, there is the possibility that the liver is suffering as well due to the link between the digestive system and the liver. Other “symptoms” of a weak liver can be problems with the immune system such as allergies, skin diseases (think eczema, psoriasis or acne), or rheumatism. If the liver is very weak or “charged” it can even lead to a person feeling angry or depressed.
What to do if you suspect that your liver might be suffering? Unfortunately (or good for us) the liver is very forgiving, not as moody as other organs, and doesn’t like to complain.
This also means that your liver blood values might still be normal even though your liver is actually already suffering and working extra hard. As long as it somehow can keep going it will keep going. Imagine how you are feeling if you are up too many nights in a row – you can still function, but you are not at your best either and will only do what is absolutely necessary.
What can you do to help make life a little bit easier for your liver? Give it a break. Watch what you eat and to what kind of environment you are exposing yourself to:
- Eat healthy, preferably organic, home-cooked or raw food (so you know what went in it) with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green, leafy, or bitter vegetables)
- Avoid deep-fried food. Listen to your body how it feels after eating. Do you feel heavy or light? Does the food feel dirty or clean?
- Drink lots of water, maybe with some fresh lemon juice to help the body flush out toxins, and if you want to be extra nice to your liver, glass alcohol less. Have a lemonade instead or some kombucha.
- Expose yourself to fewer chemicals at home such as harsh cleaning products, conventional cosmetics, perfume, air refreshers, etc.
- For women, avoid conventional sanitary pads or tampons loaded with bleach and other chemicals (cotton is one of the most heavily treated plants)
You might feel tempted now to go on the internet to do some research what might be good for your liver. There is lots of free advice out there, but as always, it might be worthwhile to verify the information with your health care provider who can advise you on the most suitable treatment for you. You don’t want to make things worse by self-medicating…
Jennifer Eisenecker is an ex-banker, German-certified naturopath, and business owner. Knowing how limited time and mind space often are, her recommendations are practical, easy to follow, and as simple as possible.
Jennifer’s multi-disciplinary approach involves going back to basics, looking at health from a trauma-aware perspective, and achieving health by calming down the nervous system to optimize your body’s innate ability to rebalance itself. She loves herbs and natural remedies.