Practices for a Healthy Liver
As we transition into Spring, supporting the liver and it’s various vital processes can be helpful for many reasons; allergy reduction, detoxification, elimination, hormone balance and supporting a mental and emotional state of well being. Winter is a season of hibernation, reflection, rest and consumption of heavier carbohydrate rich foods. Stagnation can occur if we avoid transitioning to lighter, more chlorophyll rich foods and adopt supportive practices in the spring. Our bodies do an amazing job of detoxifying through the liver, kidneys, bowels, and skin on their own. It’s important to remember that while our bodies naturally detoxify, there are many external and internal factors that can cause liver harm and impair detoxification pathways. Environmental toxins and pollution, chemicals in foods, plastics, body products, excess alcohol and drug intake are all taxing on the liver. Listed below are some practices we recommend to clients to best support liver function and vitality.
Focus on whole foods, local vegetables and fruits as much as possible. Sulfur is necessary for the second phase of liver detoxification. Sulfur can be found in vegetables from the brassicas & allium families. The brassica family includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, and brussel sprouts. Allium vegetables include onions, garlic, chives, leeks, scallions and shallots. Getting an abundance of antioxidant rich foods throughout the day is vital. Ensure to include berries, leafy green, citrus, nuts and seeds, root vegetables and avocados. On top of supporting detoxification through the liver, it is important to assist the bowels and kidneys. Ensure you are keeping hydrated with filtered water and herbal teas throughout the day. Increase your fiber intake and move the body - we naturally detoxify heavy metals by sweating! Avoid or minimize consuming processed, chemical laden, preservative rich foods. Try to eat as local as possible; switch to organic produce if local is not a viable option. Utilize the Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen trick to help you remember which produce is recommended to be purchased as organic. This will help reduce the cost, as organic food is highly expensive. Whenever possible, choose local produce, even over organic!
Environmental toxins and alcohol
Reflect on what you are putting on your body topically, including body lotion, soaps, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and make up. We absorb so much through the skin, the good and the bad. Switching to all-natural products and using an app such as Healthy Living to assess what products you are using can be helpful tool. Avoid using plastics as much as possible by switching to glass & metal containers, use beeswax wraps in place of plastic wrap. If you are using plastic containers, avoid heating your food in the microwave or toaster oven. Avoid or minimize alcohol and drugs, these place an extra stress on our livers. Our livers are already working hard to get rid of the daily exposure to environmental toxins and pollution, chemicals and preservatives in food and beverages, herbicides and pesticides on produce, as well as what interacts with the body topically.
For additional liver support, supplements can provide amazing benefits. In a perfect world, we would be able to get everything we need from our food, but sadly the reality today is that our soil is heavily depleted. It is sprayed with chemicals and toxins that end up on the food we eat. Supplementing doesn’t have to be permanent, but temporarily it can be incredibly helpful to support the liver.
Glutathione: Glutathione is involved in detoxification and antioxidant systems of cells and has been used to treat acute poisoning and chronic liver disease, including non-alcohol related fatty liver disease administered by intravenous injection. This potent antioxidant can be reduced in the body due to environmental toxins, poor nutrition, and stress, so it is highly recommended to get an injection once in a while, especially if you have a history of chronic liver disease or trauma to the liver.
Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in so many important processes within the body. These include but are not limited to cellular processes, DNA replication and repair, intermediary metabolism, ion transportation, cell proliferation, and signal transduction. Supplementing has been found to help prevent liver disease, and in studied cases of liver disease, many patients have been found to be magnesium deficient. We recommend supplementing with Magnesium bisglycinate for best bioavailability.
Methylated B-Vitamins: B-Vitamins are needed to support phase I of liver detoxification, they support hormone balance and the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins! For best bioavailability, ask for a methylated form your local health food store.
Antioxidants: Getting on a good antioxidant blend will further benefit the liver, as high antioxidants are needed to neutralize free radicals that are produced in the liver detox phases. If you’d prefer to not supplement, make sure to ingest plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout the day!
NAC: An amino acid that is helpful for the liver and lungs, NAC plays an important role in phase II of detoxification, helping to neutralize and package up toxins for excretion that were created in phase I of detoxification. It has been used clinically as an antidote to liver toxicity, either from medications, drugs or chemicals.
Curcumin: Derived from turmeric, curcumin is a potent inducer of phase II liver detoxification, highly anti-inflammatory, and liver protective. We usually recommend getting on a potent supplement where curcumin has been isolated, as this is the most active compound in turmeric. Any health food store is bound to carry a curcumin supplement!
Herbal medicine can support liver function and detoxification, overall health, and encourage regular elimination! Talk with an herbalist to get a custom liver tincture, tea or capsule to support you best in your journey.
Milk thistle: Protective for the liver, Milk thistle restores and rejuvenates the cells of the liver and is used after any injury, illness or long-term alcoholism and or drug usage to help heal the liver.
Dandelion root: A bitter hepatic that helps to support both bile production and release. Dandelion root is helpful to support digestion and regular elimination. It reduces gas, bloating and indigestion, as well as constipation.
Schisandra: A powerful inducer of phase I and II of liver detoxification, Schisandra is often combined with Rosemary to support hormone balance and premenstrual irritability and frustration.. It is highly antioxidant, helps the body adapt to stress, and reduces anxiety.
Reishi: A liver protective, adaptogenic mushroom that supports bile production and release from the liver and gallbladder by its bitterness. Reishi helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Rosemary: Highly antioxidant, Rosemary helps to induce phase I and II enzyme activity in liver detoxification. It supports digestion and regular elimination.
Sleep deprivation can alter liver metabolism, fat content, and contribute to liver disease, including non-alcohol related fatty liver and cirrhosis. Although sleep deprivation is sometimes unavoidable - particularly in new parents, shift work and time zone travel; supporting consistent and good quality sleep is integral not only to our liver health but our overall well being.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol affects REM sleep, reducing overall quality of sleep and impairing cognition, memory and focus the next day. Caffeine, in the form of coffee, black tea, or chocolate, can be circulating in our systems even if we drink our last cup of coffee in the early afternoon. Switch to decaf if you require a second cup of caffeine to get through the afternoon. If you’d like to have a glass of wine or beer at night, have it with dinner! Try to avoid consuming alcohol right before going to bed.
Blood sugar regulation: Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, startled, maybe anxious, sweaty and with heart palpitations? This could be dysregulated blood sugar. Make sure to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day and night. Include a protein and healthy fat-rich breakfast. Avoid skipping meals and consuming processed sugar in drinks and foods; bring snacks with you on the go! If you’re prone to energy crashes during the day, eat a small, protein rich snack before bed. This can be an egg, nuts or seeds, or an apple with peanut butter.
Minimize stress: Finding ways to manage your stress will have a domino effect in supporting restorative sleep. Even if the external stressor hasn’t gone away, we can complete the stress response cycle in our bodies. This can include regular exercise, nature therapy, creative outlets, finding time to play, intimacy and positive social interactions. Herbal adaptogens, nerve tonics and adrenal tonics are all extra helpful in periods of stress.
Sleep hygiene: Creating a night time ritual before bed is such a great way to prepare for a restful night’s sleep. There are some common methods to help kick start melatonin production, including dimming the lights, avoiding technology/ screens and doing something to help calm your nervous system down. This can be yin yoga, journaling, reading, having a bath, lighting candles, or spending time with your partner. Whatever helps you relax to prepare for the evening. Try to avoid late night studying or work, as this all will impact your ability to fall asleep quickly.
As we move into spring, we naturally feel much better if we take steps to maximize liver function and health. We can do this by including more nutrient dense foods, reducing the load on our livers, supplementing with vitamins, minerals and herbs and getting consistent sleep. All of these practices will raise energy, support mental and emotional wellbeing as well as prevent chronic illness. If you’d like some additional liver support, reach out to one of the staff members at Apotheka or book a full consultation!
Riley Craven – Clinical Herbalist and Holistic Nutritionist
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