Ok, so let’s talk about your liver. Wait, don’t go! You’ll be happy you stayed! Or maybe not. Only one way to find out for sure.
During my training at IIN, I heard a presentation from Dr. Libby Weaver, an Australian author, speaker and nutritional biochemist. I have heard her speak twice now and I just feel like I need to have lunch with her and geek out on all her scientific knowledge. She’s super smart but breaks things down into language that everyone can understand, and it’s clear how passionate she is for what she studies and teaches.
So anyway, in this lecture, she got real about the liver, and why it’s not okay to ignore that hardworking, underpaid little organ tucked away under the ribcage with the stomach and gallbladder. This beautiful little baby has an important job, but like anything working hard, it can become overloaded – in this case, by our lifestyles and choices – and it may require some extra love and detoxification.
It’s easy to focus on making healthy choices if they’re going to help you look better in a bikini, but we also need to be thinking of how the choices we make affect us inside, on a more micro-level (more important!). Because our livers are not always top of mind (or maybe yours is?! If so, congrats – I think?) it’s easy to forget about them and just trust they are doing their jobs! We drink caffeine and excessive alcohol, eat processed foods at every meal, slather ourselves with lotions, soaps, and products that contain all kinds of manmade chemicals, smoke cigarettes, and live sedentary lives, expecting the liver to clean up the mess and keep right on humming.
The truth is, the liver is subject to fatigue and even failure when not cared for properly. (Sometimes all the liver wants to do is take a little rest for the love of God is that too much to ask??!!) Dr. Libby simplified this organ and its function by describing it as a hand with 5 fingers. Get this image in your head. Even better if you hold your hand up and take a look at it. Got it? Okay. There is one way for substances to enter the liver (from the wrist into the palm of the hand, using her analogy), and 5 ways out (the fingers). Within the liver, there are 2 phases of enzyme processing, Phases I and II. Think of Phase I as happening in the palm of the hand, and Phase II as happening in one of the 5 fingers, before the altered substance is released back into the body.
The way things should work, is that substances are taken in and processed by the liver into less harmful versions before being released to be excreted by the body. However! Our livers are responsible for processing both external substances (i.e. caffeine, alcohol, sugar, etc.) as well as internal (estrogen, cholesterol). The liver will always process something external (i.e. wine) before it processes something the body made itself (i.e. cholesterol).
Ok, so what does this mean for us? The problems arise when the liver is working overtime processing external substances through Phase II, and becomes congested so that substances such as cholesterol can’t get through to the second phase of processing and are released back into the bloodstream after Phase I. Long story short, our bodies then start to recycle our cholesterol and blood levels of it begin to rise. So if you’re still along for the ride, you can see that taking care of your liver = keeping your blood cholesterol in check!
Need more?! Our liver being overloaded also affects the processing of estrogen. Estrogen produced by the body is taken into the liver and goes through Phase I, but then can’t get to Phase II of processing because the liver is so busy working its way through all the other junk we’ve consumed! In this case, the slightly changed estrogen is released back into the bloodstream before it has been fully processed by the liver. It is this slightly changed form of estrogen that is linked with many female reproductive cancers.
You feeling bad for your poor little liver yet?! If so, there’s good news! Our bodies are amazing biochemical machines that can heal themselves by themselves in many cases if given the chance. Your liver can and will be able to rally and do its best work if you focus on decreasing the below “liver loaders“. Please note: I am not a doctor so if you have actual liver issues, please see yours! This is for generally healthy individuals who may need a little kick in the butt to clean things up now and then!
- Alcohol: I love to have a glass of wine while I cook dinner or once the kids are down at night so this one gets hard for me when I want to buckle down, but a cup of tea is also a great little treat and one that allows the liver to keep doing what its doing with no interruption. David’s Tea has some great organic options, including one I like called Mother’s Little Helper (ha). I add some warm almond milk and call it a day.
- Caffeine: If you drink a lot of caffeine, can you scale back? Replace one caffeinated drink a day with water?
- Synthetic substances: This is where beauty and cleaning products, etc. come in to play. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website is a great resource for checking the safety of your beauty products, and this blog has some ideas for making your own non-toxic cleaning products.
- Trans fats: Check your labels! These sneak into foods in the form of “partially hydrogenated oils”.
- Refined sugars: This is referring to sucrose, or sugar, not the natural sugars found in fruit (fructose) and dairy (lactose), which come with added benefits such as fiber and protein, respectively.
- Infections/viruses: These of course will come even when we do our best to avoid, but making sure to take care of yourself, rest, and watch the other liver loaders when you’re sick will help.
AND it always helps to increase your nutrient density through eating real, unprocessed foods.
If you’d like to make some of these changes but need support along the way, contact me for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your specific needs and how I can help!