Your liver performs over 500 essential functions relating to digestion, nutrient production and storage, metabolism, immunity, hormone regulation and detoxification. The filtration super-organ constantly works away at breaking down substances to allow the body to excrete them efficiently. Liver cells also regenerate, a cycle that takes three months, after which your liver completely renews itself.
Our world constantly challenges us with chemicals. The pollutants in the air we breathe, contaminants in the water we drink and the food we eat, biohazards in the workplace and synthetic compounds in the things we wear (clothing, cosmetics and personal hygiene products) expose us to a vast concoction of chemicals 24/7. Industrial chemicals and naturally-derived ones can cause toxic injury to our cells, such as carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds from wood smoke, mycotoxins from moulds and acrylamide from potato chips.
Fortunately, our bodies were designed with self-managing cleaning and detoxification systems and your liver is the key player. It breaks down toxic organic and inorganic chemicals in your blood, makes them water-soluble, and sends these metabolites to your kidneys for removal in urine. Our diet needs to be optimal to supply the necessary nutrients to these organs to help process and excrete metabolic waste from the body.
When our detoxification pathways and liver become overloaded, this impacts hormonal balance and immune function. Liver detoxification is critical for clearing out these toxins and supporting your general health.
Unlike many other organs and human body parts, the liver can regenerate itself and repair from severe damage. The liver can regrow itself back to normal size after 90% of it has been removed; impressive stuff! However, the liver is not indestructible (unfortunately) and looking after it can limit the risk of irreparable damage.
As liver function becomes sluggish and inefficient due to having inadequate time (rest and sleep) and nutritional resources (poor nutrient intake) to perform its detoxification functions, various health conditions start to arise, depending upon the individual's past toxic exposure, genetic profile and medical/surgical history.
Common symptoms of liver toxicity include fatigue, yellowing of the sclera (white part) of the eyes, headaches, brain fog, halitosis (bad breath) and muscle aches. Other complications that may arise from liver impairment also include:
An unhealthy liver can aggravate allergies and conditions such as eczema and asthma worsen as the liver becomes more impaired, affecting its capacity to metabolise histamine, which then persists and causes more allergy symptoms, such as itchiness and wheezing. Migraines, which can often be related to allergies in many sufferers, can be relieved by undertaking a liver detoxification program.
Sensitivity to chemicals can develop if the body retains an excessive toxin load due to impaired liver detoxification. This may cause foggy thinking, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
The liver regulates and detoxifies hormones such as cortisol and oestrogens and assists in thyroid hormone balance, so mood changes (e.g. PMS), stress tolerance and weight regulation can be impacted by poor liver function.
Deep sleep can conversely be disrupted by an overworked liver, affecting your metabolism and serum leptin levels, thus increasing appetite with weight gain. Blood glucose levels can also drop if the liver does not supply adequate glycogen from storage between meals to use as fuel and maintain energy levels, which can lead to sugar cravings, increased calorie intake and weight gain.
Fatty liver disease is a complication of prolonged liver toxicity, producing fat deposits that marble liver tissue. Causes are alcohol overuse or solvent chemical exposure, obesity and chronic stress (referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD).
There are many benefits to improving your body's ability to detoxify healthily and efficiently.
• Relief from headaches
• Reduced brain fog
• Improved mental clarity
• Mood improvement, significantly fewer anger outbursts and irritability
• Relief from constipation
• Relief from haemorrhoids
• Relief from bloating
• Reduced flatulence
• Reduced acne
• Reduced eczema
• Dermatitis rashes clear
• Allergic status improves, especially in children with anaphylaxis and urticaria
• Hormonal regulation
• Premenstrual syndrome alleviated
• Thyroid balances
• Sleep quality improves, and melatonin and leptin levels restore
• Weight optimisation with an improved muscle-to-fat ratio
Now that we’ve covered the importance of liver detoxification and symptoms that can indicate poor liver function let’s find out how to detox your liver!
Along with limiting your intake of alcohol and eating a clean whole food diet, some simple ways to detox and maintain liver health include:
To encourage natural detoxification, getting plenty of good quality sleep is important to allow your liver time to process your daily toxin load, diverting blood flow from other organs to prioritise its operation.
Inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to sluggish bowel/liver activity, slowing essential daily detoxification. Constipation, particularly of a chronic nature, impairs liver detoxification capacity, as the circulation which returns blood from the colon to the liver recycles intestinal metabolic waste back to the liver for reprocessing, giving the liver an additional detox load.
Stress is a major saboteur of detox efficiency. Your liver function requires parasympathetic ("rest and digest") nervous system dominance during certain less active hours of the day so that it can do the body's housework, but when we are anxious or under pressure, we flip into sympathetic ("fight and flight") nervous system dominance, which reduces blood circulation in the liver and thus slows up detox processes.
A clean diet with plenty of colour and bitter flavours, supported by a high intake of cleansing fluids, is the ideal liver detox diet. Phytonutrients and polyphenols support the metabolism of hormones, especially oestrogen, and regulate gene expression for many liver and cellular functions.
• Brussels sprouts
• Cabbage Cauliflower
• Bok Choy
• Liver and other organ meats
• Egg yolk
• Split peas
• Rainbow chard
• Dairy yogurt
• Chicken breast
• Whey protein
• Sunflower seeds
• Sprouted lentils
• Dandelion root
• Globe artichoke
• St John's wort
If you are unable to get your recommended dietary intake through food, vitamins are a great option.
Vitable offers subscription vitamins where you can mix and match nutrients to address your health needs and goals. Another great thing about Vitable is its vitamin delivery service that ensures you receive your personalised vitamins on time every month!
Take our quiz today to discover the perfect vitamins and supplements to support and help you achieve your health and lifestyle goals.
*Always read the label and follow directions for use. If you experience any symptoms or if symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.