We've been on a fantastic journey to glowing skin and harmonious digestion through the process of eating whole, nutrient-dense foods. We've talked a lot about digestion, healthy poops, what they look like and what to take note of when it comes to the physical sensations of gas and bloating. BUT a key player in this whole process has only been touched on when really, this organ deserves to be center stage in the spotlight with a standing ovation from the audience.
That's right..I'm talking about the liver!
The liver is a lobed organ that resides under your rib cage and is one of the biggest all-stars of them all! We often sympathize with our livers when we overindulge in rich foods or alcohol, and although these are large burdens on the all-star organ, there is much more daily exposure that we often do not consider. From environmental toxins to pharmaceutical drugs to those days where we overindulge, your liver is working to detoxify what you put in, and continually striving to keep you at your optimal health.
If you've read previous Pooptalks, you'll have noticed that when sluggish digestion is mentioned, I usually suggest liver tonic herbs. A healthy liver breeds healthy digestion, and it's never too late to start giving it some extra love!
The alchemy of your liver - Turning lead into gold (or poop)
The numerous functions of the liver are what keeps your body in tip-top shape! Without it, every toxic substance we come into contact with would accumulate in our body and end in overall toxicity. Instead, the liver takes in the toxic compounds and transforms them into water-soluble compounds so they can be eliminated through our digestive and urinary systems. Not only is it one of the leading detoxifying organs (your kidneys do this as well), but the liver has the ability to regenerate itself, meaning the cells can reproduce over time. This is excellent news and means that if your liver is exceptionally burdened, it can heal itself if given the right environment and the toxic culprits are removed.
Functions of the liver and why it's impressive AF
- Metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates & fats
- Stores glycogen (a ready source of energy for when your body needs a boost)
- Creates up to 1L of bile/day for the metabolism and break down of fats
- Manufactures vital compounds that serve in the immune system
- Transforms toxins, drugs, and wastes into excretable substances that can be removed from the body through the stool and urine.
- Stores vitamins & minerals
- Creates hormones like testosterone and estrogen and eliminates excess hormones
The bottom line is, our livers do a lot for us on a daily basis. When we expose ourselves to toxins in the form of pesticides, exogenous hormones, drugs, alcohol and even fatty, rich foods - these can bog down the functionality of your liver and lead to what alternative practitioners call "liver congestion." But, the good news is that there are excellent ways to support your liver to do what it does best!
Hepatic herbs are plants that support or encourage the liver in the many processes it is in charge of. David Hoffman, an esteemed herbalist, writes that hepatic herbs have been shown to work in two different ways:
1) Alteration of the cell membrane so smaller amounts of toxins can penetrate the liver cells.
2) Accelerate the protein synthesis in the liver to stimulate cell regeneration.
So ultimately, letting in less toxic substances and speeding up liver recovery time. I think that's pretty flippin' rad!
Examples of liver-supporting herbs
- Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
- Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
- Schisandra (Schisandra
- Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Incorporating supportive liver herbs into your regimen is a big win in my books, but they can't solve everything if you are still exposing yourself to the toxic burdens. Although they are a quick fix for a bad hangover day, I don't recommend using them in lieu of omitting alcohol or fatty foods.
5 tips to help your liver right now
- Incorporate bitter greens into your diet - bitters helps stimulate the production and flow of bile from your liver/gallbladder to break down fats, ie. dandelion greens, spinach, kale, bok choy, asparagus
- Eat whole foods and limit your alcohol and pub food made with low quality, rancid oils.
- Buy organic when possible - this decreases the liver's toxic burden by eliminating pesticides and harmful chemicals
- Consider incorporating supportive liver herbs. Buy here!
- Look for alternative ways to treat common symptoms that
NSAIDSor pharmaceuticals may be used for. I say this with the understanding that some things, of course, need pain relieving meds, but using meds like aspirin, tylenol, and ibuprofen on a daily basis can lead to liver congestion and potentially other problems in the GI. If you do use these a lot, it would be highly beneficial to incorporate a herb like Milk Thistle or Dandelion Root.
Bilirubin is not my lover
A little fun fact to follow up last week's post!
Have you ever wondered why food goes in a bunch of
Well! This fun fact is brought to you by the breakdown of your red blood cells and the waste compound called bilirubin! Bilirubin is excreted in your stool and is a fantastic yellow
Sending happy vibes for healthy poops!
- David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism
- Deborah Roiger, M.Ed, Anatomy &
Phyisiology- Foundations for Health Professions
- Kerry Bone & Simon Mills, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy
- Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods
- Armando Hasudungan, Bilirubin Metabolism