Of all the organs that could derail your best efforts to eat well and stay active… it’s the liver. Less than luminous skin, sluggishness in the morning, intolerance for certain foods, cravings for foods you know are best saved for treats, reliance on coffee or sport drinks, lines and dry skin, stiff dry hair and feeling older than you want to… could all be attributed to a liver that is struggling to cleanse and process, generate and regenerate.
The liver is one of the larger organs in the body. It is actually a gland and serves an imperative portion of the entire metabolic (energy production) cycle.
The liver is located in the right upper portion of the abdomen. It ideally sits under the ribcage, which protects it. If the liver becomes sluggish it will swell and hang down into the abdomen. It may feel tender and give a ‘stuffed’ feeling. If it becomes diseased it will harden as well and function will degrade rapidly.
The liver collects excess sugars from the blood and safely stores the sugars as starches, until needed. If the blood sugar drops, the stored sugars are allowed out of storage and back into the bloodstream (glycogenesis). This often happens at night when signaling from the pancreas may tell the liver that energy (sugars) is too low. The cells of the body and brain rely on food being broken down into specific sugars to be burned as energy. If there isn’t enough fuel to burn, then the brain is sluggish (low blood sugar) and the body is forced into extreme measures to get enough energy for functioning. If metabolic functioning becomes deranged then too much of these sugars can be released which causes blood sugar resistance and then high blood sugar.
The liver breaks down fats and protein into glucose (sugars) and fat and protein digestion are how we maintain the most constant fuel for cells. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Some of these proteins help with blood clotting, and help with maintenance of body temperature, the production of hundreds of functional and reproductive hormones, and nourishing of the cells. When fats are broken down by the bile, (which is produced in the liver and stored in the gall bladder), they are known as Essential Fatty Acid Omega groups. These are critical for communication and function of all cells in the body and brain. Fats and proteins work together for energy production, hormone regulation, body temperature and optimal function of the body.
All fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K1 and K2) as well as Iron, copper and the very essential B12 are all stored for present and future needs in the liver.
Bilirubin is produced in the liver as it breaks down old red blood cells (erythrocytes). Used bile and bilirubin are then, meant to be flushed out of the system. If this does not happen, then jaundice and gallstones can result. The proper and continuous flushing of the liver/gall bladder complex can only happen in a timely and efficient manner when the liver is well nourished and clear to function at full capacity. We rely on the liver to remove all toxins, old cellular debris (for instance, ammonia by forming other substances such as urea to be excreted), drug and alcohol debris, poisons, and all excess materials from the blood. The liver’s ability to detox itself is crucial to overall cleansing of the entire blood stream and therefore the body as a whole.
Clearly, if the liver becomes congested with fats and toxins that it can no longer process and break down, it’s function will be compromised. The best thing anyone can do to keep up the highest level of functionality in the liver/ gall bladder and pancreatic triad of interaction is to nourish and cleanse the organs.
The liver is associated with growth and development. It is critical that children and youth be guided toward a clean and sustaining diet and good sleep patterns so that their growth is not stunted and their mental / emotional clarity remain unconfused. The nails are a tell tale signature of many inner health conditions, particularly the liver condition. Everything from female cycles, vertigo, headaches and eye and vision health can be predicated on the health of the liver.
The liver loves magnesium as it assists it to clear the ducts and use calcium without it forming hard deposits. A diet incorporating magnesium rich foods will always help. However, oral tolerance of magnesium in supplemental form is low. The best way to get more magnesium into the cells is to use topical magnesium oil. This is actually a water-soluble plant based oily residue that is wrung from ancient plant beds deep in the earth. It is very absorbable through the skin (much like a medication patch is absorbed into the body). Magnesium oil can be used over the organ on the skin surface, any painful areas, and on the acupuncture meridians.
A person with persistent liver congestion will tend to be angry and easily frustrated. Cleaning up the liver can add a correction of the character toward greater kindness and compassion and a more generous attitude. A person’s creativity and ambition toward an abundant life are definitively impacted by the health of the liver. The emotional state of a person is directly influenced by the physical wellbeing and the physical state of wellbeing is naturally going to be impacted the state of mental and emotional fluidity.
One of the easiest things that can be incorporated into daily life is juicing. Hectic schedules, long work hours, endless household and family tasks, high levels of exercise and the stress of modern living all take a toll. Without stretching the pocketbook too far, a juicer and fresh organic vegetables can provide all the nutrients and enzymes that will rehabilitate the liver and gall bladder and support the pancreas. Celery, cucumber, carrots, and beets, as well as dandelion leaf and daikon radish, are vegetables that can be juiced to gain the maximum nutrients and enzymes and cleansing power in a gentle manner. Wheat grass and Barley grass juices are phenomenal at rehabilitating the liver/gall bladder. (These require a specific type of juicer, not the usual household variety.) Apple, pineapple, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon and lime (with the skin intact) are fruits that work well together and will clarify the organs and provide nutrients needed for the system to function optimally.
All forms of chlorophyll (the green color pigments of green vegetation), which are abundant in dark leafy greens, are very generating to the liver. Chlorophyll can be purchased as a supplement and added to water for it’s clarifying properties. Spirulina and Blue-Green Algae carry abundant chlorophyll and can be added to water, juice, or shakes. Chlorophyll rich vegetables such as the leafy green tops of turnip, beets, spinach, and kale, are best eaten when gently cooked in order to release the oxalic acid that they contain when raw. Oxalic acid can block absorption of some elements to the thyroid gland, therefore leafy greens should be wilted or cooked. (This only pertains to leafy tops, not herbs, grasses, sea vegetables, or lettuces.) Sea vegetation is also a source of myriad nutrients and the deep chlorophyll green. Nori, and Wakame are well recognized and can be flaked into sauces, soups and casseroles as well as eaten raw.
Berberines (the bitter esters of herbs such as Oregon Grape, Golden Seal, Tumeric (curcumin), Nettles and Barberry) will not only clarify the liver and gall bladder but will stimulate regulation and regeneration. The insulin producing cells of the pancreas, (beta cells) are also stimulated by these bitters so that blood sugar is better regulated. The gall bladder is stimulated to release the bile and clear it’s duct when bitters are presented to the system. Products containing these herbs have been available since medieval times and are often labeled as “Bitters” and more recently as Berberines.
Another plant famous for it’s ability to regenerate the liver particularly is Milk Thistle and it’s close cousin the artichoke. Milk thistle is processed and available as a supplement and artichokes are available in many areas of the globe to be prepared for meals.
And finally, sulfur is a most clarifying element for the liver and gall bladder. One of the reasons Mediterranean diets prevail and work so well is because they incorporate high levels of sulfur bearing vegetables. Garlic, leeks, onion and scallion are high in natural plant sulfurs. All of the cruciferous vegetable group (cabbage, bok choi, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower) are also high in sulfur (and sulforaphane), most especially broccoli sprouts. This food grouping should be eaten raw as often as possible and can also be gently cooked. All of these can also be juiced and added to the afore-mentioned vegetables for juicing.
Herbal tea can become another resource for your liver protective lifestyle. Chicory root has been used as a coffee substitute and today there are several companies that offer a Chicory coffee substitute that is as rich and satisfying as a cup of Java.
Borotutu Root from African traditions promotes by hydration, antioxidant defense and digestive rectification. This root is successfully used where jaundice is present. Chanca Piedra from the Rainforests of the Amazon is, as it’s name implies, excellent for diffusing stone-like calcium deposits and clearing them. Magnesium is the true key to this problem (see above). Green Tea has catechins (antioxidants) that the liver responds well to. Three to four cups a day is most beneficial. Yellow Dock and Burdock are both strong on berberines.
A strong peppermint tea breaks down fats and helps clear the gall bladder. As with all herbs, freshness and quality count. Taking time to find high caliber sources means that any element employed will work better and faster to resolve issues.
One of the gentlest and most clarifying as well as deeply nourishing teas available comes from Native American traditions. Slippery Elm (inner bark of the Elm tree) comes as strands and as a ground powder. The powder (preferred) serves many beneficial functions including clearing the blood, soothing the digestive tract and kidneys, providing nutrition and rectifying the system in general.
1 Tsp. of the powder mixed rigorously with wild raw honey/ organic blackstrap molasses/ or blue agave etc. to a paste. Add hot water to a mug (8oz.) gradually, continuing to stir until fully mixed. Add nut/seed milk if desired. Creamy, nutty, sweet and delicious healing!
The Acupuncture meridians for the liver and the gall bladder run from the middle toe, across the top of the foot, up the inner leg, to the hip and over to the genital area, back to the right up under the ribs where the organ lies, and up the ribcage to the chest. The gall bladder flows from that point up the side of the neck and around the head to the face, ending at the nasal area.
One may find sensitive or achy points that correspond to this meridian. Essential oils (peppermint, helichrysum, rosemary, holy basil, fennel, geranium, lavender, cypress)(be sure to dilute essential oils as needed with a carrier oil such as jojoba), can be effectively used to decongest this system. Magnesium oil, MSM (liquid) and message with the fingertips can be applied by tracing the meridian and to any “hot spots” along that trail, to loosen the natural tendency to contract when the liver/gall bladder are out of sorts. All of these are also recommended to rub into the area directly over the organs. The liver and gall bladder meridians are located on the right side of the body and therefore potassium, as a supplement, may help to calm any swelling and congestion that occurs along the meridian and in the organs.
Love your liver and it WILL love you back. It will repay you with health, vitality, good mood, great skin and hair, clear eyes and a long and bountiful life!