I bet you didn’t know that you liver is actually a gland! Yes, the biggest gland you’ve got, but a gland nevertheless.
It basically has two functions:
- To produce bile and send it to the gallbladder (where it is stored until needed in the small intestine). Bile breaks down lipids (which are types of fat) in such a way that fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients can be absorbed.
- To filter toxins from the body. Every time you drink a glass of wine, or take an aspirin, or get a chemo treatment (God forbid), it’s your liver’s job to make sure those toxic chemicals are taken from the bloodstream and sent to the exits. Otherwise, toxins would very quickly build up and you would die.
The two most common issues that people have with their liver is general liver toxicity and inefficiency (a sluggish liver) or liver stones. It’s surprisingly easy to over-toxify your liver in today’s modern world. In fact, more than 900 pharmaceuticals on the market in the U.S. today are known to damage the liver. And that includes everything from over-the-counter ibuprofen to antidepressants to chemotherapy. 80 percent of liver toxicity issues that require hospitalization are caused by reactions to prescription drugs.
Liver stones, on the other hand, accumulate when there is simply too much dietary cholesterol present in the body. It’s the same phenomenon that creates kidney stones.
Other liver issues
Cirrhosis of the liver is perhaps the most commonly-known liver disease, with the sort of stigma that it happens to people who drink too much–which is true–but it can also be an end-product of hepatitis. About 5% of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer.
Fatty liver can also be the result of alcoholism, or it can be the result of obesity. Basically, the liver becomes enlarged with fat cells. Generally speaking, this is an easy one to fix. Simply stop drinking or lose weight and the fatty liver takes care of itself. Easier said than done for most, but simple and effective nevertheless.
Hepatitis can be the result of alcoholism, but more often than not, it’s one of 5 strains of hepatitis virus. Most are treatable, but the most dangerous is Hepatitis B, which leads to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
Eating uncooked pork and fish can sometimes lead to liver parasites, namely liver flukes and trichinosis. There is also a parasite called schistosomiasis that can enter through the skin on your feet when walking barefoot in freshwater that contains the organism.
Promoting liver health
If you eat pork (something I’d advise against), make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Same goes for non sushi-grade fish. Wear sandals when walking in freshwater to avoid schistosomiasis. Limit your alcohol intake and drink in moderation (or don’t drink) and manage your weight by limiting (or eliminating) carbs, sugars and processed foods. Do your best to stay off medications, OTC or prescriptions. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the restroom (as Hepatitis A is often caused by contact with urine). These steps alone will all but guarantee you lifelong liver health.
However, if you’re looking to go the extra mile, there is a lot you can do.
Eat a lot of healthy fats, particularly those found in things like avocados, coconut oil and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and anchovies.
Watch your protein intake. Too much protein really confuses your liver, causes a buildup of ammonia and actually results in mental disorientation. 30g of protein per day should be your upper limit.
Make a good portion (20% – 40%) of your diet be raw vegetables and some fruits, with a particular emphasis on leafy green vegetables.
If you’re interested in cleansing your liver, both to promote efficiency and health–and to avoid liver stones–you can do monthly coffee enemas. There is a tube, called the hepatic portal, between your large intestine and your liver that allows you to “wash” your liver by giving yourself an enema. Clean coffee has been shown to be particularly effective in doing that.
You can make teas, tinctures or simply add these herbs to your diet to promote liver cleansing as well:
- Chanca piedra
- Chicory root
- Dandelion leaf
- Dandelion root
- Greater celandine
- Milk thistle seed
- Peppermint leaf
- Yellow dock root
Don’t neglect your body’s main filtration system. A happy liver is a happy life.