Our liver is one of the most amazing organs. When you look at it, a blob of smooth, consistent, dense material, you just can’t conceive how it can do as much as it does! Science is now saying that the liver is probably directly or immediately indirectly related to every metabolic function in the body. I find that to be simply amazing! So let’s look at this vital organ.
Nutrition: The liver provides enzymes (bile) necessary to emulsify fats for use by the body; stores many vitamins, minerals (such as iron for hemoglobin and oxygen transport) and sugars; breaks down and balances many nutrients necessary for energy in the body, such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates; is part of a triad of blood sugar balance (liver, adrenals and pancreas), including storing and releasing glucose when needed for brain function, energy, emergencies, etc; helps (along with the kidneys) to maintain our mineral/electrolyte and water balance; helps us to be able to use Vitamins A, D, E, F, and K (our fat-soluble vitamins); produces cholesterol (a good thing!) along with specialized proteins to help carry fats (necessary for many vital functions) throughout the body. In short, the liver is critical to the nutrition in our body. Good nutrition equals good ability to heal, develop and feel vitally healthy.
The liver is vital to our blood. In addition to the above, it processes blood/filters the blood to remove toxins and harmful metabolites, helps the body metabolize drugs so they are easier to utilize (even when many of these drugs have a detrimental effect on the liver), stores extra blood for emergencies, regulates blood clotting and iron levels, produces certain proteins necessary for blood plasma, helps transport oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body, converts harmful ammonia to urea, clears bilirubin, and the list goes on.
Many things can harm the liver. Alcohol is the most commonly thought of, but many medications contribute to liver dysfunction. Overuse of medications, in general, but especially antidepressants, corticosteroids, pain relievers (especially NSAIDS) and mood stabilizing medications, chemotherapeutic medications and some of the stronger medications used for herpes/shingles, and fungus are known to harm the liver. Sugar excesses, especially when it evolves to diabetes, smoking, high table salt intake, and synthetic vitamins (such as beta-carotene form of vitamin A) can impair the liver.
Add to the list: infections and illnesses such as viral or autoimmune hepatitis, tuberculosis and candida (interferes with the ability of the liver to detoxify).
There are many, many toxins which the liver has to filter that can stress or harm it. Top of the list is pesticides, herbicides, and other heavy-metal containing contaminants. How can we support healthy liver function? The liver LOVES beets! In any form. It loves all root vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, kale (and all green leafies), onions, garlic, liver meat and apples. It also loves and needs plenty of water. Many herbs are helpful as well as acupuncture, good whole food supplements and solid nutritional advice as well as lifestyle changes if need by.
© 2015 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.