Your liver is amazing, without it you could not digest your food, absorb nutrients or dispose of toxic substances from your body. Protecting your liver does much for your overall health and wellbeing.
What does your liver do?
The liver is one of your body’s most vital organs and plays a key role in most metabolic processes. All aspects of your health rely on a properly functioning liver, since it is the body’s major organ for processing nutrients, metabolites, pollutants and excess hormones- essentially your liver is like a waste disposal factory for your body. The liver cleans the body’s blood supply of dangerous toxic substances by chemically processing them so they can be excreted via the bile, and is vital for fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It makes the blood lipoproteins – LDL and HDL – which regulate cholesterol, as well as making clotting factors and other substances crucial for the blood’s functions.
While the liver is able to regenerate after damage, the broad spectrum of toxins it faces including alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter medications, viruses and other toxic agents, can threaten the capacity of the liver to process and eliminate these bodily wastes. The body’s defences are overwhelmed, and these toxins tend to accumulate in the body’s fat cells. The body can process some of these toxins naturally through the production of bile. Like the way detergent cleans grease off dishes, the liver creates bile to emulsify fats, breaking them down into smaller molecules. Bile helps excrete toxins, promoting a cleaner, healthier liver. However, those with a poorly functioning liver may not produce enough bile for this vital function to occur effectively enough.
Changing to a healthier lifestyle will improve liver health; however, factors such as exposure to viruses, pharmaceuticals and toxins are often beyond your control.
What are the signs your liver needs help?
1. Digestive upset (ie. discomfort after eating fatty meals)
2. Difficulty metabolising alcohol
3. Bowel upset (ie. diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence)
4. Jaundice (a yellowing, sickly tone to the skin and eyes)
5. Increased sensitivity to allergens, itching skin
6. Increased cholesterol levels
7. General feeling of fatigue and being unwell
A poorly functioning liver can affect you in various ways ,the good news is that a medicinal herb used as far back as the fourth century BC can help boost liver health and help improve its performance. This medicinal herb is Globe Artichoke, now-a-days is primarily used as a liver remedy and to help reduce fat levels circulating in the blood. Globe Artichoke (cynara scolymus) stimulates the secretion of bile, which assists in the clearing of fats, cholesterol, and toxins. Popular in Europe for the treatment of mild dyspepsia and indigestion (particularly following a meal high in fat), Globe Artichoke can also help to maintain normal, healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels when used in conjunction with a low-fat diet.
Fresh Globe Artichoke
Much attention has recently centred on Globe Artichoke’s active component, cynarin which is largely found in the leaves. However, it is likely that many other compounds, some related to cynarin, contribute to the observed therapeutic effects. Results from clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of Globe Artichoke in the treatment of dysfunctions of the liver and gall bladder, digestive complaints such as the sensation of fullness, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain. In a randomised controlled study of 274 patients with functional dyspesia, physicians concluded that the overall effectiveness of Globe Artichoke was judged to be significant.1 The extract dose used in trials to produce an effect was 1920mg.
As well as protecting the liver from toxins, Globe Artichoke supports the natural regeneration of liver cells. Studies show this herb is well tolerated but those with allergies to Globe Artichoke or other members of the daisy family of plants should avoid its use. People with existing liver or gall bladder conditions should seek the advice of a healthcare professional before using Globe Artichoke to treat their condition.
The foods your liver loves
1. Fresh vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones such as broccoli and cabbage.
2. ’Green foods’ such as spinach, spirulina and wheatgrass are liver-friendly.
3. Vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruit, strawberries, red capsicum, dark green vegetables and kiwi fruit, boost anti-oxidant levels that protect the liver and help the body’s healing processes.
4. A diet low in saturated fats – these are hard for the liver to process.
5. Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) provide an excellent source of omega-3 fats which helps combat inflammation, a side effect of some liver conditions.
6. Snack on nuts and seeds. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, a powerful anti-oxidant. Almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds are another nutritious choice.
Herbs & Health tips for liver health this festive season
1. Reduce consumption of caffeine, sugary foods, saturated fats and products made from processed white flour.
2. Stop smoking – it adds more toxic chemicals for the liver to process – and stay out of smoky enclosed areas.
3. Reduce exposure to chemicals in the home and workplace as much as possible – try natural cleaning product alternatives, such as eucalyptus oil and bicarb soda.
4. Drink at least two litres of water a day, to flush out the liver. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice or chlorophyll also helps.
5. Breathe deeply to assist the liver in detoxifying, as the liver is dependent on the amount of oxygen coming in through the lungs. Aerobic exercise (even walking) helps for the same reason.
1. Aliment Pharmacol Ther.; 2003 Dec; 18(11-12):1099-105. PMID: 14653829