Did you know the liver is the king of the glands? It's the largest gland in the body and is the largest and most complex organ, having over 500 functions.
It weighs just over 1 kilogram and is situated under the rib cage on the right. It contains about a quarter of all blood circulating in the body and is the only organ that can regenerate itself.
The liver produces about one quart of bile a day, emulsifying and digesting fatty foods and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It regulates carbohydrate metabolism and therefore helps balance blood sugar. The liver manufactures cholesterol, which is necessary for good health and hormone production; it converts thyroid hormone T4 to T3.
The liver acts like a washing machine, cleaning out external toxins and byproducts of our own metabolism. It also metabolizes alcohol and converts food into the chemicals the body needs to sustain life. Liver toxicity may lead to excess body fat as toxins lodge in the fat cells.
Signs of liver distress may be chronic fatigue, depression and/or irritability, abdominal pain and swelling, skin problems and/or itchy skin, chemical sensitivities, digestive complaints and poor tolerance to fatty foods. Hormonal imbalances, such as mood swings, PMS, hot flashes and difficulty losing weight may be signs of liver dysfunction. Liver spots, dark circles under the eyes, yellowish eyes, bad breath, nausea, loss of appetite and pale stools may also be signs of liver distress.
Toxins may also cause liver overload. There are thousands of toxins in cosmetics, body care products, chemicals used in farming, chemical food additives, pharmaceutical drugs, chlorinated and fluoridated water, car exhaust fumes, indoor pollutants from chemical cleansers, paint, carpets and furniture. Modern food is often processed, denatured and full of additives, which greatly contributes to toxin overload.
Alcohol consumption prevents the liver from manufacturing digestive enzymes, and hinders the body's ability to digest all nutrients. Your liver processes 95 percent of the alcohol you drink, at a rate of only one quarter to one half ounce per hour.
>Tips for a healthier liver
*Use a liver cleanse containing milk thistle and dandelion periodically to help your liver regenerate.
*Eat 30-38 grams of fiber per day, as fiber binds to bile and eliminates fat-soluble toxins from the body.
*Eat small meals frequently with good quality protein.
*Include lots of richly colored fruits and cruciferous vegetables in your diet. Beets are wonderful healing foods for the liver (see recipe below for beet salad). Cabbage family veggies include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards and cauliflower. Green veggies and beets are particularly good.
*Eat sulphur-containing foods, such as garlic, onions and eggs.
*Use herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, licorice root, curcumin and artichoke.
*Use supplements to enhance liver function, such as alpha lipoic acid, chlorophyll and spirulina, B vitamins, in particular choline and inositol, which help prevent fat accumulation and maintain cholesterol balance.
*Use digestive enzymes, acidophilus, wheat grass juice, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin E and a good quality multivitamin and mineral containing zinc and selenium.
*Avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol.
*Drink 2 liters of water daily or make herbal teas using dandelion, nettle leaves and other health-enhancing herbs.
*This raw beet and vegetable salad is from "Eat Away Illness" by Paulette Millis. It keeps well in the fridge.
2 cups of beets, shredded
1 cup of carrots, shredded
1 cup raw vegetable such as turnip, celery, parsnip, celeriac, kohlrabi, shredded
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons hemp seed oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Dash of Celtic sea salt
Mix salad ingredients well.
Mix dressing ingredients, combine with salad and store in fridge. Serves 4.