Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.
Sometimes, we’re so busy going about the business of life that we forget all about the liver! And yet, pay attention to it we must, because after all, as the Hepatitis International Foundation puts it, your liver is your ‘pantry, garbage disposal, food processor, refinery, engine and guardian angel!’
So love and protect your liver, and it will love—and guard—you right back!
Fun Fact: The Greek word for ‘Liver’ is ‘hepar’. That’s why, words related to the liver usually begin with hepato or hepatic.
Your Liver: The Vital Statistics
Weight: About 1.36 kg
Color: reddish brown
Location: on the right side of your abdomen, below the diaphragm
Claim to fame: it’s your body’s largest internal organ and largest gland. Also one of the most hard working.
What the Liver Does
Breaks down fat
Makes bile, which aids in digestion
Makes heparin, a substance that prevents the blood from clotting as it travels through your system
Converts glucose into glycogen
Forms urea (the main substance of the urine)
Produces about 80% of the cholesterol in your body
Stores vitamins and minerals for fuel
Makes certain amino acids
Filters harmful substances from the blood (such as alcohol)
Can swell to hold huge amounts of blood which can be released into the body in an emergency
Generates a lot of waste heat that warms the less active regions of the body
And these are just a handful of the 500+ duties your liver performs, daily, non-stop.
Your Liver Loves…
Salads and light soups
Stir-fries and steamed veggies
Beans, whole grains and nuts
Fresh juice, fruits and herbs
Foods rich in antioxidants: cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, fresh sprouts, beets
Water—plenty of it during the day
Don’t Load Your Liver With…
Unnecessary medication, especially antibiotics
Canned and processed foods
Refined white sugar
Excess oil and salt
The Liver is a Living Miracle!
One of the most magical qualities of the liver is its ability to regenerate: Three quarters of the liver can be removed and it will grow back in the same shape and form within a few weeks! But, there’s only so much your liver can take. Load it with too much alcohol, for example, and it can go into cirrhosis—permanent damage.
Did You Know
Many over-the-counter pain, cold and cough relievers contain acetaminophen, an ingredient that can react with alcohol to cause sudden and severe hepatitis, leading to fatal liver failure. Clearly, you should never combine these two substances. When in doubt about what medicines to take simultaneously, ask your doctor. (Source: Hepatitis Foundation International)
The liver is arguably your body’s most important detoxification organ. It helps with the digestion and metabolism of fat, and detoxifies your body of harmful pollutants, food additives, and other toxins. Here are four herbs to help cleanse your liver:
Milk Thistle (Silybum Marianum)
The primary medicinal ingredient in milk thistle is called silymarin. This compound protects the liver by inhibiting damaging substances in the liver that cause liver cell damage. Silymarin also stimulates liver cell regeneration to help the liver rebuild after it has been damaged. Silymarin also helps to prevent the depletion of the nutrient glutathione—one of the most critical nutrients for liver detoxification.
Silymarin in milk thistle seeds is not very water-soluble so does not extract well into tea. Instead, take a standardized extract containing about 140 mg of silymarin for liver cleansing and protection.
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum Officinale)
Nature grows a liver-cleansing pharmacy every spring. It is the dreaded weed that most people curse as it pokes its yellow-flowered head through the green of their lawn. Dandelion is one of Mother Nature’s finest liver herbs.
The Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism cited two studies that showed the liver regenerative properties of dandelion in cases of jaundice, liver swelling, hepatitis, and indigestion. If you choose to incorporate dandelion root into your liver cleansing efforts, take 500 to 2000 mg daily in capsules. Alternatively, you can make a decoction by using two teaspoons of powdered dandelion root per cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for fifteen minutes. Drink one cup, three times daily.
Globe Artichoke (Cynara Scolymus)
Globe Artichoke contains compounds called caffeylquinic acids which have demonstrated powerful liver regenerating effects similar to milk thistle. Globe artichoke is usually found in capsule form. Doses range from 300 to 500 mg daily.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
A commonly-used spice in Indian curries, turmeric helps regenerate liver cells and cleanse it of toxins. Turmeric also increases the production of bile to help expel toxins and may help reduce liver inflammation. In studies turmeric has also been shown to increase levels of two liver-supporting enzymes that promote Phase 2 liver detoxification reactions. Turmeric comes in capsules and tablets, sometimes under the label, “curcumin,” which is the key ingredient in turmeric. Follow package instructions. You can also add ground turmeric to soups, stews, and curries.
Always consult your holistically-minded physician prior to taking any herbs.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat illness.
Adapted with permission from The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.