How often do you spare a thought for your liver? Sometimes? Not that often? Possibly hardly ever if my own liver thoughts are anything to go by...
Your liver is the second largest organ in your body (after your skin) and it’s much more important to your health and overall wellbeing than you may ever have consciously considered. Yet the majority of us, if asked what a liver does, may struggle to answer. Something to do with alcohol perhaps?
And where exactly in your body is it? Any idea? (The answer to this one is just below and behind your right-hand ribs). Your liver is big - and at 3.5 lbs, also heavy - because it needs to be. Think of it as your toxin cleaning factory, removing harmful stuff and cleaning up and filtering your blood. It helps keep your weight in check and when it’s working properly it speeds up your metabolism, helping to burn fat faster.
Yet drown it in drink, puff it full of cigarette smoke or clog it up with processed food, fats and sugars and you overload it to a point where it can hardly function. And when your liver is struggling, it doesn’t work efficiently and problems begin to rear their ugly heads. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels may rise, hormones go out of balance and your metabolism slows. If you love your daily tipple - that glass or two - or bottle - of red wine, or a few pints of beer, but suffer far more the next morning than you ever remember in the hazy days of your youth, think liver. Spare it a few moments; take some simple actions. Clean it up and the pangs of that residual hangover that clouds the start of each and every day may well disappear in the process.
Three simple steps to look after your liver
The good news is that the liver can repair itself - especially if you give it a helping hand.
Step one: Stop the daily diet overload
Try cutting out fatty, processed foods for a month. No salt, no crisps or popcorn. Cut down on meat and dairy. Bin the alcohol, sweets, biscuits, cakes, fried foods. No ice cream; no supermarket packaged fruit juices; no Starbucks run each morning or McDonalds pitstop during the day. Add in a daily salad and as many vegetables as you can muster. And drink a lot - but only pure, still, preferably filtered, water. If your doctor were to give you a blood test at the beginning of the month, and repeated it at the end, you would be amazed at the difference even such simple actions can make to your liver readings.
Step two: Remove as many toxins as you can
The environment today is more toxic than ever before in history. We breathe polluted air, eat foods full of transfats, pesticides and hormones, drink chemical filled water and live in homes that are equally polluted. And through it all, your liver is working away, removing the toxins as rapidly as it can; like a hamster on a never ending revolving wheel. Give it a boost. And help yourself stay healthy in the process.
Unload your liver
1. Pop down to your nearest gym or health centre. Try a steam room or a sauna and sweat out any toxins.
2. Ever try a colonic? If an entire hour of lying on a therapy couch washing out your colon is not for you then reach for an enema kit instead. Inexpensive and easy, these can be bought from the local pharmacy and done in the comfort of your own bathroom in a matter of minutes. Commit to a week of daily enemas and your liver will love you. A coffee enema is a particularly powerful liver detox. The hepatic portal vein just inside your rectum goes straight to your liver and will carry the caffeine directly to it, stimulating the release of bile and speeding up detoxification.
3. Buy a bottle of castor oil: ‘Castor oil packing’ is a traditional remedy that is believed to help detox your liver, as well as clear your skin and any digestive issues. Simple to do at home. Google for exact instructions, which include a warm and toasty hot water bottle!
4. Liver flush: The Andreas Moritz liver flush, which uses apple juice, Epsom salts and castor oil, is one of the fastest routes to clear out toxins in your liver, but it’s not for everyone, so read up about it before you decide. For a gentler, slower liver cleanse, most natural health stores offer a variety of natural remedy solutions which come in do-at-home packs.
5 Invest in an air purifier: Whether you live in the city, where air pollution is rife, or the countryside, which is often full of pesticides sprayed on the fields, your liver struggles to deal with chemicals and pollution. Reduce the toxic load on your liver by choosing your household products carefully and maximising the quality of the air that you breathe.
6 Reduce your stress levels: Research indicates that stress and fatigue can increase levels of the liver enzyme aspartate transaminase. Work out ways to reduce your problems instead of trying to simply endure them. Your liver will love you.
Step three: Invest in liver strengthening boosters
1 Add in nutritional supplements: Milk thistle is a powerful liver support. As are folic acid, vitamins B3, B6, C and E, as well as glycine and taurine, alongside calcium. Add them to your standard daily nutrients.
2 Up your potassium levels: Add more sweet potatoes, spinach and bananas to your diet, or supplement with around 4,700mg potassium daily. Potassium lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels at the same time as strengthening the liver.
3 Eat more raw foods and get juicing: Beetroot, dark green leafy vegetables, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower all strengthen the liver. Drink juices made with beetroot, carrots, celery and lemon to support bile secretion and to help digest fats.
4 Black seed oil: This has been shown to reduce liver stress markers and improve recovery caused by chemical damage from processed foods.
5 Natural liver medicine: Visit a herbalist for a liver cleansing, repairing and boosting tonic. Best boosts include
~ Borututu bark
~ Milk thistle
~ Chanca piedra
~ Chicory root
~ Dandelion root
~ Yellow dock root
6 Go to bed earlier: Get seven to eight hours sleep each night and go to bed by 11pm because the liver repairs itself when you are deeply asleep, between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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