When it comes to all the organs in the body, often the liver gets overlooked for organs like the heart and lungs which are typically considered more important. Most doctors don’t focus on liver health, but instead listen to the heart and lungs during regular visits. And yet, when it comes to health, the liver is very important. And an unhealthy liver translates to health issues and symptoms! Knowing how to support liver detoxification in your clients is a vital part of helping them to restore their health.
Showing the liver some love
The primary purpose of the liver is detoxification of the body, but its job duties go far beyond detoxification alone. The liver is an impressive multi-tasker, with over 500 known functions. It is involved with digestion, the endocrine system, immunity, controlling blood sugar, and protein and fat metabolism. While the heart and lungs are important, because of the extensive list of functions it performs, the liver is perhaps the most important organ in the body.
Some of the liver’s most important functions
- Storage of vitamins, sugars, and iron for energy
- Production and removal of cholesterol
- The production of immune factors and removal of bacteria
- Production of bile to digest and absorb food
- Makes clotting factors possible so we won’t bleed to death
- Metabolizes proteins
- Controls hormonal balance
But the liver’s most important function, and the one that puts it at greatest risk for damage, is detoxification.
In Western culture, external cleanliness is important. Most people bathe daily. They wash their hair and clothing, and brush teeth regularly. To function well in society, people are expected to both smell and look clean. Some people are so concerned about cleanliness that they use hand sanitizers to kill any germs that they may encounter. But, most people don’t give much thought to how clean they are on the inside or how well internal cleansing mechanisms are working. Modern, allopathic medicine places little importance on detoxification and it’s often hard to know when those detoxification mechanisms are not working as they should be.
What happens when the liver gets overloaded?
A toxin is a substance that creates harmful effects in the body. Some toxins, called endotoxins, are the natural by-products of body processes. For example, during protein metabolism, ammonia is formed, which the liver breaks down to urea to be excreted through the kidneys.
Most toxins come from the external environment. They enter the body and are consumed through food and drink, such as alcohol, caffeine, hydrogenated oils, genetically modified foods, and chemical food additives. Some travel into the body’s systems from over the counter or prescription drugs. People are also exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, car exhaust, secondhand smoke, mold, bacteria, viruses, and indoor pollutants from paint, carpets, and cleaners, just to name a few.
Thank goodness the body has systems designed to eliminate waste and to detoxify these poisons. The liver springs into action and chemically converts toxins to be easily eliminated by the kidneys.
Under ordinary circumstances, the body handles toxins by neutralizing, transforming, and eliminating them. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals then fat-soluble chemicals are transformed to water-soluble ones which can be eliminated through urine, feces, sweat, mucus, and breath.
With the help of the lungs, skin, kidneys, and intestines, a healthy liver detoxifies many harmful substances and eliminates them without contaminating the bloodstream.
Detoxification is an ongoing process, and the liver is no stranger to working overtime. However, the sheer volume of chemicals in the environment and in the diet has caused many people to reach their threshold of tolerance, which adversely affects their health.
When the body is burdened with more chemicals than it can efficiently detoxify, chronic health problems can occur. Problems like allergies, skin problems, digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and a variety of ailments can be caused by chemical exposure.
How to Lighten Up on the Liver
As you can see, people need the liver to survive, so to help it stay healthy, it is important to lighten the load. If the liver is clogged up or damaged due to poor treatment, everything suffers. People then get sick, get fat, get hormonal, can’t digest what nutrients they eat, and can’t protect themselves from the environment.
What are the signs that the liver needs some TLC (targeted liver cleansing)? Here are some common symptoms that appear because of an overloaded liver:
- weight gain, especially around the belly
- abdominal bloating
- indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn
- trouble digesting fatty foods
- high blood pressure
- elevated cholesterol
- mood swings
- skin rashes or dark spots on skin
Other signs to watch for include pain around the rib cage, sleep apnea or snoring, and fatty yellowish lumps around eyes. These are signs t action, detox, that action needs to be taken, and diet and lifestyle need to be altered to heal the liver.
Is it a fatty liver?
Experiencing any combination of these symptoms may be an indication that the liver is blocked or clogged up. In extreme cases, this condition is referred to as “fatty liver.” Most people associate liver disease and “fatty liver” with over consumption of alcohol. But over 90 million people in the US, about 30 percent of the population, have some type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Doctors divide fatty liver disease into two types. If the liver is just fat but no damage has been done, the disease is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If there is fat in the liver plus signs of inflammation and liver cell damage, the disease is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While the latter is far more serious, both types are a cause for concern.
Fatty liver disease means that there are fat deposits inside your liver. These deposits may keep your liver from doing a good job of removing toxins from your blood. If this situation is not reversed, you end up with recycled toxins traveling through uncleansed blood. This can damage your other organs, tissues, immune system and lead to weight gain, skin conditions, rapid aging, and a variety of health conditions.
How to clean up the liver
The liver can be cleaned up and (NAFLD) can be reversed. The best way to show the liver some love is by decreasing the amount of toxins that it is exposed to, while at the same time supporting the body’s natural detoxification and elimination systems.
It is important to stay properly hydrated to keep the body flushing appropriately. This consists of moving the bowels and urine regularly. Proper hydration keeps the blood fluid, easily delivering toxic material to the lymph and liver. Water flushes toxins and removes wastes. Lemon water is great to support liver detox. Those who can tolerate it can start each day with a mug of hot lemon water using half a lemon to assist the kidneys and liver. Everyone should drink plenty of clean water throughout the day, at least half of their body weight in ounces is a good place to start.
The body sees processed, lifeless foods as a toxin. Removing all food sensitivities is key. Avoiding sugar/caffeine/alcohol will take a burden off the liver. Include plenty of liver-loving foods in the diet, including LIVER itself. Liver-loving foods include beets (a healthy bile builder) and cruciferous vegetables (contain substances that improve the ability of the liver to detoxify harmful chemicals and pollutants). Inulin foods, like Jerusalem artichokes are also beneficial, if tolerated.
A cleansing diet is a great way to reduce inflammation and enhance metabolic cleansing – this helps to address toxic overload, harmful bacteria, heavy metal toxicity, and leaky gut. It is important to avoid all gluten grains (wheat, rye, oats – which can be contaminated with gluten, and barley), processed foods, alcohol, caffeine (coffee, black teas, sodas), soy-based foods, sodas, fruit drinks, conventional pork or cold cuts, all meats that contain hormones/antibiotics (use only hormone/antibiotic free or pastured grass-fed), canned tomato products (most contain common allergens, some even contain gluten), and avoid hydrogenated oils/fats, all refined sugar products, and any foods to which there is an intolerance.
Removing grains/legumes from the diet removes a heck of a lot of fiber. It will be critical to consume plenty of vegetables at every meal along with supplementing with fiber. Psyllium husk is a great option. Seeds such as chia are also a good option. If you don’t tolerate these seeds, just be sure to include sources of fiber in your diet that you do tolerate. Low glycemic veggies are great for this; eat as many as you want and with every meal, if possible. Some people with gut issues don’t tolerate raw veggies well, so cooked veggies are fine in that case, and consume plenty.
Testing for hidden food intolerances, yeast overgrowth, and heavy metals can help to uncover areas that are contributing to liver toxicity. Addressing these issues can help to reduce the toxic load to the liver and help it to heal.
For liver health is it important to mover regularly. Daily movement helps to keep the lymph flowing and toxins moving out of the body. The lymphatic system moves when the body moves, so a sedentary lifestyle will allow toxins to remain trapped, putting a toxic burden on the liver.
Perspiration is a great detoxification pathway. It is good to break a sweat daily. The best way to do this is through regular exercise. Spending time in a sauna can also help to remove toxins.
Detoxification doesn’t have to be difficult, sometimes it can be very relaxing. A regular, relaxing soak in the tub promotes cleansing and detoxification. Detox baths can assist elimination of toxins through the skin in a gentle, non-invasive way. It’s a simple as adding 1 cup of Epsom salts to the bathwater.
Oil pulling is a great method for pulling toxins out of the blood as well. The swishing action done during oil pulling can trigger enzymes that draw toxins from the blood. It is important to note that the oil has become very toxic by doing this and by no means should it be swallowed. With oil pulling a small amount of coconut oil is swished around in the mouth for as little as three minutes, ideally working up to 7-10 minutes as the process becomes more comfortable.
Elimination of Environmental Stressors
It is important to eliminate as many toxins as possible from the home and personal hygiene products. Reading the ingredient label on cosmetics and cleaning products and choosing less toxic products, storing leftovers in glass instead of plastic, and installing a filter for the shower can all help significantly reduce environmental stressors.
Circadian rhythms impact fat production in the liver. Studies have shown that disrupting circadian rhythms in mice causes the animals to develop excess liver fat. The same could be true in humans. Because sleep rejuvenates the body and immune system, insomnia affects energy level, mood, and overall health. Long-term sleep deprivation increases the severity of chronic disease, including all kinds of liver disease.
Unfortunately, insomnia is a common complaint among those with liver disease. Sleep apnea, stress and anxiety, and medication-induced sleeplessness are often to blame. When trying to heal liver, getting adequate sleep must be a priority.
Individual supplementation needs vary tremendously from person to person; however, at the very least, taking a good multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplement is certainly advisable to support the body’s needs. The body easily burns through minerals more quickly during times of stress, therefore mineral intake should be increased during these periods.
Consume Probiotics Daily
The best way to get probiotics is through fermented foods (if tolerated) or supplements. Probiotics help to neutralize toxins and break down and prevent synthesis of bacterial toxins.
There are many other vitamins, supplements and herbs that have been proven effective in cleansing and supporting the liver including vitamins like B-complex, C, E, and natural beta carotene, herbs like milk thistle, turmeric, dandelion, and globe artichoke, and several specific amino acids. As a trained practitioner, you can help clients understand their individual needs to determine which supplements and what doses will be most effective for them.
One Month to a Cleaner Liver
After just 30 days of implementing some of the above daily detox tips, your clients should be starting back on the path to wellness. They may experience more regular bowel movements, more energy, clearer skin, less pain, and weight loss. Hopefully, these positive changes will inspire them to continue this liver-friendly lifestyle for many months to come. This will help the liver to rebuild itself and heal.