Apart from our brain, our liver may be our most complex organ. Performing over 500 functions, it has a huge capacity to keep us healthy, strong and full of vitality. It metabolises hormones, fats and sugars, is our primary organ of detoxification and helps balance mood, sleep, skin, weight, energy levels, appetite and cholesterol levels and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
As the liver bears the load of all the toxic substances that pass through our body, nutritional approaches to health put huge emphasis on the liver and lightening its load. Liver disease is on the increase and is currently the fifth biggest killer in the UK. Many of us are aware of the toll alcohol takes on the liver but increasingly, health care professionals are associating the condition with the daily consumption of sugar, saturated fats and a sedentary lifestyle.
How the liver works
- A total of about 4 pints of blood pass through the liver every minute removing 99% of the toxins.
- The difference between 2 people exposed to the same toxins or carcinogenic material respond depends predominantly on how effective their liver is.
- The liver functions in 2 phases; the objective of phase 1 is to prepare water soluble toxins to make them safe for excretion via the kidneys and in the urine. The fat soluble substances will also be prepared by the liver enzymes so that they can move safely to phase 2.
- The job of phase 2 is to take the remainder of the toxins and excrete them into the bile to be eliminated. After the toxins are metabolised they are carried away by bile (the liver makes about 2 pints of bile a day) and sent to the bowel where ideally, plenty of fibre assists the final elimination. Without enough bile, fibre or water toxins are simply reabsorbed back into the system, adding to the toxic load.
To support a healthy liver here are some basic lifestyle and diet tips:
- Protect the liver from the effects of alcohol and fatty food by having at least two alcohol-free days a week and cutting down on saturated fats caffeine and refined sugar in the diet, and limit any additional toxins; this means choosing organic foods where possible.
- Consider organic cosmetics and toiletries as the skin absorbs a huge amount of whatever is put on it. Generally it’s best not to put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t put in your mouth. In the case of our body’s health; every little does count. We breathe in around 120,000 toxins before we consider the additional pesticides sprayed on our foods, the chemicals housing our cosmetics, cleaning products and drugs, the heavy metals and contaminants in our water and fish and the hormones in our livestock – and we don’t yet understand the true impact of the concoction of toxins we are exposed to, so when we can avoid a toxin, we should.
- Include plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre includes apples, pears, soft root vegetables such as sweet potato and squashes. Slippery elm and psyllium. Good sources of insoluble fibre include whole grains like brown rice, millet, buckwheat and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, asparagus and broccoli.
- Stay hydrated. Sufficient bile quantities will be affected by dehydration as will the overall function and detoxification capacity of the body so ensure that you drink plenty of fresh spring or filtered water; a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses a day is essential.
- Lemon juice supportsphase 1 detoxification, so start each day with the juice of half a lemon and some warm water. Magnesium, zinc and vitamin C are also essential for phase 1 so include oats, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and berries in the daily diet.
Shani Shaker BA (hons), dipION, mBANT, CNHC, is a registered nutritional therapist with a focus on regenerative and functional nutrition, disordered eating, addiction and mental health. Based in London her services include one-to-one coaching, group classes and Skype sessions. Contact her at email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Supplementation should only be temporary. If you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet, extra supplementation should only last for a month or two, just long enough to resolve the deficiency.