I am sorry for the Friday booze-binges.
I am sorry for smoking.
I am sorry for the Coke.
I am sorry for the stress, for the 6th coffee, for the late night thrice-fried-cheesy-bacon-maple fries (it seemed like such a good idea at the time).
Our lovely liver. So regularly forgotten and underrated for its powerful detoxifying and regenerative abilities!
Here is why you should be paying gratitude to the wonder organ, the liver.
Your liver loves you
What exactly does the liver do?
It is a space where macronutrients can be turned into glucose or stored as glycogen for energy; bile is formed for fat breakdown and ability to utilise fat-soluble vitamins; and proteins can be formed for use in the body.
Its major role, however, is the master detoxifier, cleanser of all things we consume, paste on, and breathe. Oh yeah!
Compounds such as toxins, medications, pathogens, stress and reproductive hormones, nutrients, and inflammatory compounds are some of the molecules processed by the liver; broken down from fat soluble to water soluble metabolites, so they are not stored for long periods in fat tissue, and instead eliminated.
This method of detoxification is undertaken in a 2-stage process:
Using the CYP450 group of enzymes, all molecules pass through phase 1 in preparation for phase 2. They can actually become more toxic during the period between phase 1 and 2, so phase 2 enzymes and conjugants must be quick to act to avoid liver cell damage.
Split into several pathways depending on the toxin, various enzymes are produced to contend with the metabolite served up from phase 1. It is converted into a form that can be rapidly eliminated from the body; or if not considered overly harmful, recycled and sent back into the body.2
Basically, without it we wouldn’t exist.
Excess alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease. However non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is encouraged through a diet high in added sugar and simple carbohydrates (primarily fructose), bad fats, processed food and junk food, as well as over eating.3
It can be considered the hepatic manifestation of the metabolic disease set, alongside obesity and type 2 diabetes.1
The loaded liver
There are blood tests that can indicate if the liver is in trouble. Haven’t been near a doctor in years? Whilst not exclusive or conclusive, here are some more generalised signs and symptoms of a liver that is struggling:
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Poor morning appetite
- Alcohol, fat or caffeine intolerance
- Altered sleeping, like waking between 1-3am (a Traditional Chinese Medicine indication)
- Sensitive to smells, like perfume
- Nausea with no other known cause (usually in the morning)
- Low blood sugar
- Bad taste in mouth
- Bad breathe
- High cholesterol
- Gall bladder issues, including stones or pain
The combination of inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance and cellular damage contribute to NAFLD – and there are plenty of things in our diet and lifestyle that contribute to each of these factors, and load on the liver.
However there are plenty of things in our diet and lifestyle we can incorporate to combat these factors and support the liver. Woohoo!
Love your liver
Wanna give your liver a high five and big ol’ squeeze of appreciation? Here are a few ways of how you can show your liver you love it:
- Swap the bad fats for the good fats
Trans-fats and fried foods are high in damaging free radicals and cause inflammation, leading to extra burden on the liver. Stick to the whole food clean fats, like avocado, olives, coconut, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
- Feed up on fibre
Shunt out excess cholesterol, feed good gut bugs, and flush out toxins each and every day by keeping up the fibre and having a good number two.
- Pitch your protein
We need various amino acids for each of the detoxification pathways, but do not overdo the protein! Have small amounts of whole food, high quality meat, wild caught fish at each meal.
- Limit toxin exposure
Use glass instead of plastic, buy organic if possible, and use natural cleaning, cosmetic and body care products.
- Eat your greens
Bitter greens like rocket, mustard and dandelion, along with herbs such as coriander and parsley, are to the liver what Robin is to Batman, helping cleanse nasties and support repair.
- Boost broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts
Veg of the cruciferous family contain indoles, a phytochemical that supports activity of both phases of detoxification, as well as excess estrogen metabolism.
- Go easy on eager eating
Eating too much, too fast or too late at night have been associated with NAFLD. Give your liver, and entire digestive system, a chance to do its job, and rest, by eating until 80% full, and chewing slowly and mindfully.3
Simply, one of the best things you can do for your liver, and your health, is to just eat real food. Keep it simple, minimally processed, and nutrient dense, and your liver will be laughing!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc. Nut. Med)
- Eslamparast, T, Eghtesad, S, Poustchi, H, & Hekmatdoost, A 2015, ‘Recent advances in dietary supplementation, in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease’, World Journal Of Hepatology, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 204-212.
- Hechtman, L 2012, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, Chatswood, N.S.W
- Yasutake, K, Kohjima, M, Kotoh, K, Nakashima, M, Nakamuta, M, & Enjoji, M 2014, ‘Dietary habits and behaviors associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease’, World Journal Of Gastroenterology, vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 1756-1767.