You can’t live without it — not even when hooked up to the most amazing machines doctors and scientists have ever created. If your liver fails and you don’t receive a transplant, you die.
Among its most important jobs, the liver works in conjunction with your digestive system to help properly digest all three primary macro-nutrients: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It also works diligently to detox your body and keep you in homeostasis by cleansing and detoxifying almost two quarts of blood every minute.
Understanding how your liver works is one of the primary keys to unlocking vibrant health.
Crazy Important Jobs
Your liver is a wildly busy organ and has many functions. Here’s a list of its most important ones:
- Helps synthesize (create) amino acids — the key building blocks of proteins
- Regulates blood glucose levels to maintain homeostasis
- Synthesizes cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) — the key building blocks of cell membranes and absolutely vital to brain & neurological functioning
- Creates bile — necessary for the proper absorption of fats & essential vitamins
- Breaks down hormones, toxic substances, & medicines so they can be safely removed from the body
- Synthesizes the hormone required to regulate blood pressure
- Stores glucose, Vitamins A, D, & B-12, iron, and copper — all necessary for keeping your body in homeostasis.
When It Goes Awry
If your liver is overly taxed, any or all of these important functions can be thrown out of balance. In other words, an inefficient liver can cause a myriad of problems in just about every major body system.
Symptoms of an inefficient liver include, but are not limited to:
- acid reflux
- gall stones
- alcohol intolerance
- nausea or vomiting attacks
- mood disorders
- poor concentration
- overheating of the body
- recurrent headaches (migraines)
- sugar cravings
- onset of type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- clogged arteries
- high blood cholesterol levels
- high blood pressure
- fatty organs, including fatty liver
- fatty tumors
- weight gain
- inability to lose weight
- slow metabolism
- pot belly
- weakened bones
- sensitivity to chemicals and food additives
These, mind you, aren’t necessarily the result of total liver failure. It’s just what happens when your liver is overly taxed and unable to keep up with job of detoxing your body and maintaining homeostasis.
A failing or diseased liver presents other symptoms like jaundice, bad breath, rashes, itchy skin, brown spots on the skin, flushed skin, pale stool, and dark urine. If you experience these symptoms, you need to seek out medical treatment immediately.
What Taxes Your Liver
Sadly, our modern lifestyle compromises your liver’s ability to keep you well. The biggest dietary culprits include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, food additives, and excessive intake of Omega 6 essential fatty acids. But, there are environmental culprits too: pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemical fertilizers, and even doctor-prescribed medicines.
How To Keep Your Liver Healthy
While exposure to certain environmental toxins may be out of your control, you can control what you eat and drink. Here are a few key tips to keeping your liver in good shape:
Avoid Toxic Foods Like Caffeine, Alcohol, Food Additives, & Sugar
These place a huge burden on your liver, particularly in the quantities that most Westerners consume them. By sugar, I’m talking about all refined grains & sweeteners. So, you should avoid all processed white flours, all table sugar, and even so-called “natural” sweeteners like agave nectar. And, if you struggle with weight or insulin resistance, you should even avoid grains and starchy vegetables & fruits like potatoes and bananas. If you have an imbalanced, inefficient liver (of which weight gain and insulin issues are a symptom), even these normally healthful foods put extra strains on the liver’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels.
Avoid Excessive Omega 6 Intake
Yellow cooking oils which remain liquid at room temperatures are usually high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These seed based oils go by many names, including: corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and others. Do not cook with these oils, and don’t eat food prepared in them when you go out to eat. And lastly, don’t eat any processed and pre-packaged foods which contain them in their various forms. Instead, try replacing these oils with more traditional fats like coconut oil, ghee, or real olive oil. For the best online sources of these nourishing fats, click here.
Conventionally raised livestock eat a diet unnaturally high in corn and soy — whether it be cows, chickens, pigs, turkey, or even some farmed fish. Because of this, the foods these animals produce is unnaturally high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and — in some cases — devoid of any Omega 3 fats with which to balance them out. Avoid any animal products from animals fed these unnatural diets. If you eat fish, meat, eggs, and dairy (which you should!), you’ll want to stick to grass-fed, pastured, or wild animals. You can generally find these from local farmers and ranchers, but even they’re available online.
Eat More Vitamin A & D
The standard Western diet is strangely deficient in naturally occurring Vitamins A & D, for a number of reasons. We’ve removed most of these essential vitamins from our food supply with our conventional animal feeding operations. Chicken eggs are no longer a rich source of Vitamin D, and we generally don’t prize eating the livers of other animals (which are naturally high in Vitamins A & D). We also don’t eat enough lard or animal fats (another great source for these highly-necessary fat-soluble vitamins). And, we don’t get enough exposure to the sun to make up the difference. Traditional peoples have diets ten times higher in Vitamins A & D than ours.
You can attempt to make up for this by eating egg yolks from pastured hens, consuming raw dairy from pastured & grass-fed animals, eating fatty fish, using traditional animal fats from wild/pastured/grass-fed animals (including butter, ghee, tallow, schmaltz, and lard), and getting out into the sun when it’s directly overhead. Again, you can find out which online sources I recommend by visiting my Real Food Resources page.
Whatever you do, do not consume synthetic Vitamins A & D, as many studies have shown these to be toxic to the liver.
When In Doubt, Eat Superfoods
If you’re at all concerned that you’re not eating the right balance of fats from good enough sources to support your liver, supplement your diet with fermented cod liver oil and freeze-dried liver tablets. These superfoods are rich in Vitamins A & D. When taken in combination with high vitamin butter oil, they are even more effective. And, you really can’t get a better deal than a bottle of fermented cod liver oil. One bottle contains 270 single doses! That’s enough to last one person almost 9 months. For the best online sources of fermented cod liver oil, high vitamin butter oil, & freeze-dried liver, click here.
As I reported earlier, kombucha is fabulous at supporting your liver in detoxing your body. You can even brew it at home. If you choose not to grow your own SCOBY (kombucha starter culture), the most affordable & reliable online sources can be found here.
Eat Generous Amounts of Liver-Supporting Vegetables, Herbs & Spices
A number of vegetables, herbs, and spices are known to support liver function. Eat generous amounts of garlic, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale & brussel sprouts. And when you eat them, be sure to slather them in traditional fats to make their nutrients even more accessible. Also, feel free to drink tinctures or teas with milk thistle, or cook with tumeric and cinnamon.
Stick to Organics
In as much as you are able, stick to eating organic foods since pesticides and other synthetic chemicals place a heavy burden on your liver.