Whether it's before, during or after the Christmas season - our bodies (and livers) probably could do with a detoxification! Nutritional Therapist Ola Mazurkiewicz has offered us her best advice on how to combat digestive problems associated with the liver.
The Job of the Liver
The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver is arguably one of the most important organs in your body’s natural detoxification system. To prevent our fat tissues and cells from absorbing them, the liver turns fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins, from which point our bodies can easily flush them. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines.
The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions. This is just one small role that the liver plays in our body, however; it has more than 500 functions, from metabolizing fat to regulating hormones, and if it spends too much time working to remove toxins, your health can falter. Supporting the liver is therefore crucial and those foods, herbs and nutrients may become very handy:
Milk thistle known also as Silybum marianum, has been used for 2,000 years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver, kidney, and gall bladder problems. Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle (especially a flavonoid called silymarin) protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs and alcohol. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and it may help the liver repair itself by growing new cells.
Boldo extract has a long history of use in folk medicine. In North America, boldo is arguably best known as a liver tonic and for its ability to stimulate the production of bile. The tea may help to treat a variety of liver and gallbladder-related disorders such as jaundice, hepatitis and gallstones. The tea is also used to stimulate the appetite, enhance digestion, promote bowel health and relieve flatulence and constipation.
Artichokes have been used for thousands of years by Mediterranean civilizations, including the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. It is in silymarin and cynarin, therefore your liver loves artichokes as it is is extremely beneficial to proper liver function. One of the major benefits of artichokes to your liver is that they are a natural defense against hepatoxicity (toxicity of the liver). As a natural diuretic and choleretic, artichokes stimulate bile production, improve gallbladder function and aid in a more efficient breakdown of foods for overall improved digestion.
Commonly known as a weed and grown in nearly every part of the world, dandelion root is extremely bitter and bitter foods are known to have a cleansing effect on your liver. However, dandelion root is even more beneficial to your liver because in herbal medicine it was traditionally used for hepatitis, jaundice, gallbladder infections and for helping to dissolve gallstones. It is very helpful for people with a sluggish liver, related to various health problems.
Burdock Root supports liver and gall bladder function, and the herb is considered an immune system stimulant. Burdock root shows a protective property against cellular damage and abnormal growths, and reduced liver damage from toxic chemicals. The polyacetylene in burdock root is what is believed to give burdock root its antibacterial and anti fungal properties.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant shown to decrease the amount of hepatic fibrosis associated with liver injury. Because alpha-lipoic acid is fat soluble, it can penetrate the cell membrane to exert therapeutic action. It has been shown to effectively scavenge harmful free radicals, chelate toxic heavy metals, and help prevent mutated gene expression. Another of its most beneficial functions is enhancing the effects of other essential antioxidants including glutathione, which is vital to a healthy liver.
This is the single most powerful antioxidant your body produces and recycles. It’s made in the liver, the organ most responsible for detoxifying your body, so optimal liver function is absolutely essential. If your liver isn’t functioning well, glutathione production suffers, toxins overwhelm it and illness, both short term and long, are not far behind.
When the liver is seriously overloaded for an extended period of time it can cause liver damage. Liver damage caused by degenerative conditions is irreversible. One causal factor is alcohol: stopping alcohol intake will help stop progression. Ending the use of hepatotoxic drugs and removing sources of environmental toxins will also stop progression. The possible presence of metabolic diseases (eg, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease) should be investigated. Identifying the presence of hepatitis viruses is also essential. Because obesity plays an important role in fatty liver, attention to weight control is also essential.
Increasing your intake of any or all of the above foods and nutrients can help to detoxify your liver over this years festive season. If you are worried about the current health of your liver we would suggest visiting your local GP.
Thanks to Ola for contributing to the our blog this week as part of the Nutritional Therapy Awareness Week 2016. She is a member of the Nutritional Therapists of Ireland Organistaion. Ola's qualifications include
- Nutritional Therapy at the Institute of Health Sciences
- Nutritional Counselling at the Institute of Health Sciences
- Functional Sports Nutrition Counselling at the Institute of Health Sciences
- Lorisian Practitioner certificated by Lorisian
- Member of Nutritional Therapists of Ireland