In Chinese medicine there is a saying, “You LIVE by way of your LIVER.” It has long been known that our liver is one of, if not the most, important organs in the human body, and it is at the root of “anti-aging.” Unfortunately, it is often overlooked. If your liver is overworked and tired it will show up in three major areas: your skin, immune system, and energy levels.
Liver Function: A large meaty organ that sits behind the right side of your rib cage, the liver has over 500 vital functions. Some of its more known functions include producing bile, which carries away waste and debris and aids in digestion, detoxifying chemicals, and metabolizing medications. It’s also responsible for converting glucose into energy or storing it for later use. All of the blood leaving your stomach and intestines passes through the liver. This is when the liver goes to work trying to break down, balance, and metabolize everything that enters your body. The more chemicals, alcohol, and medications you are exposed to, the harder your liver works; and if it cannot keep up with the demands, then you start to become toxic a.k.a. age faster.
Top 3 Liver stressors:
1. Toxins/Chemicals. Any and all forms. This includes environmental toxins such as pollen and ragweed. Industrial toxins such as paint, cleaning products, pesticides, mosquito sprays, sunscreens, soaps, make up, flame retardants found in mattresses and kids clothing, and many others. And of course, one of the most compelling chemical toxins: FOOD. Of the greatest concern for us are GMO foods, which are exposed to Glyphosate, the active ingredient in a pesticide called RoundUp. We should all run as fast and far away from this as possible!
2. Alcohol/Medications. Not much explanation is needed here. These both put undue stress on your liver. Ignoring this fact doesn’t make it go away. Often, I get the question “What’s the best alcohol for you?” Yikes… Alcohol is never good for us, but maybe the best answer is to drink Organic Dry Farm Wines. These wines still have some good ingredients that haven’t been damaged by the processing. But surprisingly, most wines may be the worst! On average, wines contain 50-70 different chemicals that are not labeled on the bottle.
3. Stress. In Chinese medicine, it is said that emotional stress, especially emotions of worry, obsessive concern, anger, and frustration decrease your liver Chi (energy). You might see now how following a stressful day with a chemical-filled glass of wine could be a habit to modify.
Top 3 Liver support:
1. Hydrate. This is too easy and helpful not to do. Proper hydration takes stress off the liver by helping the body stay clean. Good hydration works as a natural filtering system for your body. Ideally drinking one half of your body weight in ounces of water is a good daily target. E.g.: 120lbs = 60 oz (approx. a half gallon of H20).
2. Emotional releases. We all need more play time! More time spent with family and friends just having good times. A mental break of sorts. Life can have a way of feeling like a struggle, but it’s not designed to be so. Go outside and play.
3. Supplements. Clinically, this is probably where the biggest gains can be made. Two specific ways to help the liver are liver support and liver detox. For liver support, you want to provide the liver with all of the tools the liver needs to function properly. Like gas for a car. In my clinic, I most often use Livaplex from Standard Process. This is an amazing liver support that uses whole food ingredients including desiccated glands.
For liver detox, I use a commonly known herb from Medi Herb called Silymarin (Milk Thistle). This herb can help you increase your natural production of an important antioxidant called glutathione. Eating liverwurst is also a good option.
About lab work: Relying on blood work alone to determine proper liver function is not accurate enough. In fact, most lab work will only show when the liver is under heavy distress in cases like fatty liver. Clinically I recommend evaluating lifestyle in conjunction with the appropriate testing. Consult with your doctor before taking liver support supplements if on medications.
Bonus GOOD news: Your liver is truly an amazing organ. It’s the only organ that can heal itself! The key is that you help it do so by reducing liver stressors and increasing liver support. If your habits i.e.; alcohol, stress, foods have been putting a beat down on your liver for years or maybe even decades, don’t stress! You can rejuvenate your liver by rejuvenating your lifestyle.