We have all heard about using hormones or herbs to address our hormonal imbalances. But there is not much talk about the liver.
Let’s understand the organ that does more than just detoxing. The liver is the largest organ of the body. Do you know where is it found? Put your right hand over the end of your right rib cage, just below the diaphragm – your hand is now over your liver.
Your liver performs about 200 vital functions, most of which are vital for good health. Detoxification of the blood, protein synthesis, excretion of bilirubin, hormones, cholesterol, drugs, and production of bile, (an alkaline compound which helps in digestion through the emulsification of lipids), are just some of the important functions that the liver performs.
How do you know if your liver is sluggish?
Many people tell me that their doctor has told them that their liver “is fine” based on their blood work. The reality is liver abnormalities in your lab work often do not appear at the onset of the problems but after years of suffering from a sluggish liver.
Here are some early signals that your liver might not be in the best shape:
1. Cholesterol and level of fat.
One of the main functions of the liver is to maintain a healthy level of fats in the bloodstream. For an average person, approximately 80% of the cholesterol is generated by the liver. A sluggish liver will show up as:
- Elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”
- Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good cholesterol” which is the precursor for your hormone production
- Elevation triglycerides
- Elevated ALT and AST liver enzymes
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
2. Digestive Problems
Out of the many functions that the liver performs, the most important is to produce bile, which helps in digestion through the process of emulsification of lipids. A sluggish liver produces less bile, causing many digestion problems for the affected individual, including:
- Bloating of the abdomen
- Inability to digest fatty foods
- Loss of appetite
3. Skin-related allergies
The liver plays an important role in eliminating toxins from the body and maintaining the efficiency of the body’s immune system.
If the process of eliminating toxins is hampered, as is in the case of a sluggish liver, skin irritation or skin allergies occur, which are considered the first sign of liver damage. A person in such a case would develop:
- Boils, acne, or moles
4. Fluctuation in blood sugar level
One of the main functions of the liver is to maintain the sugar level in the blood. A sluggish liver fails to do so, and would fluctuate the sugar levels to a great extent. In such a condition, a person would show symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness or dizziness
- Low energy level
- Abdominal pain
5. Hormonal imbalance
The liver is responsible for filtering out mutated hormones. A person with a sluggish liver would be quite affected by the hormonal (and neurotransmitter) imbalance and would exhibit symptoms such as:
- Sleep and mental disturbance
- Mental confusion
- Sensitivity to medicines
- Heavy or clotted menstruation in women
- Irregular periods
- Fibroids in breast or uterus
- Hot flashes
- Cysts on ovaries
- Mood swings or any menopausal problems
6. Other symptoms
Apart from the sluggish liver symptoms mentioned above, individuals suffering from this condition may also show other symptoms, such as:
- Intolerance to alcohol (this is a big sign!)
- Intolerance to coffee (this is a big sign, too!)
- Swollen feet or abdomen
- Easy bruising
- Yellowing of the eyes
- Dark urine and stool
- Bad breath
- Sensitivity to chemicals in paints, petrol, bleaches, etc.
- Body odor
Here is the good news: the liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself. Provided you give it the right support.
What does the liver do for us?
Your liver does so much more than you imagined.
The liver is responsible for over 200 functions in the body and is the largest internal organ, weighing in at about 55oz (or 1.5 kg). It is central to so many of the body’s functions and most people are unaware of how vital it is to good health. Some of the major functions of the liver are:
- purifying our blood (50 oz or 1.4 liters a minute)
- regulating the metabolism (through bile production)
- storing minerals and fat soluble vitamins, protein synthesis, glycogen storage and conversion (energy production)
- cholesterol production (contrary to Western medicine’s believers, cholesterol is necessary as it is the precursor for our steroid hormones; it manages our brain function, nerve function, and hormone transportation)
- parasite protection (by filtering protozoa) and…
- more famously… detoxification!
Although the liver is wonderful at healing and amazing at self-recovery, it does take a great deal of abuse in our Western lifestyles. Some of the choices can be fairly obvious (like eating non-organic food, living in a polluted area, drinking contaminated water) but many other choices (like skin care products, house cleaning products, drinking tap water or prescription medication) can create further load which we might not even be aware of.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), studies show that an average American is daily exposed to 200 chemical toxins and carries as many as 91 of them.
Where is all the toxicity coming from?
There are a lot of factors which affect whether the liver performs its critical functions effectively. Poor lifestyle choices can put too much pressure on this delicate organ. Here is what contributes to our toxic load:
- non-organic food (think: mercury, lead, PCBs and over 130 pesticides)
- air pollution (a long list)
- tap water (think: fluoride, chlorine, PCBs, mercury, lead, parasites)
- skin care products (think: phthalates, BPA, triclosan, parabens)
- household cleaning products (think: triclosan, phthalates, parabens)
- medications; both recreational and prescription, including commonly-used ones like corticosteroids, tetracycline and aspirin
- plastics (think: BPA, PFOA)
- cookware like non-stick pans (think: PFOA)
Our body is designed to excrete these toxins. We have a few detoxification organs, namely: skin, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract and, of course, the liver. They are all capable of performing the beautiful job of freeing us from these toxins – the challenge is when the load is higher than what they can handle; this is when toxicity takes a toll on us.