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With the first signs of spring comes the natural desire to do some spring cleaning – both inside and out. People talk of doing a “cleanse” or a detox, perhaps not realizing that the body is detoxifying all of the time If it didn’t, all bodily functions would cease.
Detoxification is the primary function of your body’s liver, which is the largest organ of the body. Though the liver is a multi-talented organ, not to be taken for granted. Located just under the right end of your rib cage, the liver performs over 200 vital functions, including fat and cholesterol metabolism, hormone excretion, and bile production (for digestion).
Think of the liver like a filter. Any filter, over a period of time, can get congested. For example, in the case of premenstrual symptoms, a truly healthy woman would have no symptoms at all. As the liver becomes compromised, symptoms may be mild and start the day before, or just before the onset of flow. With time, symptoms will come on earlier and last longer – why? Because the liver is having a progressively more difficult time properly eliminating the elevated levels of hormones in the bloodstream. Therefore, the hormones circulate in the bloodstream longer, causing the discomfort associated with PMS. This holds true for all hormones (and neurotransmitters), not just those associated with a woman’s monthly cycle.
Another analogy to help picture it is to think of your liver like your own personal dumpster. Your genetic background will dictate how big your dumpster is. Some very sensitive people have a very small capacity to handle toxins, and there are others who seem like Toxin Superheroes. Most of us, fortunately, fall somewhere in between. As the dumpster gets progressively fuller (with time), there is less space and things start to seep back into general circulation. The result? You start to feel like a walking, talking dumpster (and smell like one too.)
Here are some signs that your liver may be struggling – how many of these apply to you?
- Cholesterol metabolism.
Most people do not realize that about 80% of cholesterol is actually made by the liver. If your liver is not working efficiently, it may show up as:
- Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”
- Lowered high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good cholesterol” which is the precursor for your hormone production
- High triglycerides
- Elevated ALT and AST liver enzymes
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- Altered Digestion.
One of the primary functions of the liver is to produce bile, which helps to break down dietary fats. Without adequate bile production, you may experience:
- Abdominal bloating
- Inability to digest fatty foods
- Loss of appetite
- Skin issues/allergies
The skin is one of your body’s four exits from the body (the other three are the bowels, the bladder and the lungs). Your liver filters the blood, and prepare waste products for elimination. If the liver or any of the exits are compromised, you may experience:
- Unexplained rashes
- Boils, acne, or moles
- Changes in blood sugar levels
Your liver plays an important role in blood sugar regulation. Blood sugar imbalances symptomatically may manifest as:
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness or dizziness, better after eating
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hormonal imbalance
Any symptom related to hormone imbalance definitely implicates poor liver function. The liver is responsible for filtering out hormones and neurotransmitters from the blood. An inability to do so might manifest as:
- Poor sleep quality
- Mental disturbance/confusion and/or depression
- Sensitivity to chemicals, fragrance, pharmaceuticals
- Heavy/clotted or irregular periods
- Cystic breasts, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids
- Hot flashes, mood swings or any menopausal symptoms
- Other symptoms
Someone with impaired liver function may also exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Intolerance to alcohol or coffee
- Swollen feet or abdomen
- Easy bruising
- Yellowing of the eyes
- Dark urine and stool
- Bad breath, body odor
The good news is – the liver is capable of regeneration, given the right support.
Here are three easy steps to get improve your liver function and stimulate your metabolism:
- Improve your digestion. Increase your hydrochloric acid (helps your stomach break down protein) production by taking 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar or 1/2 lemon in a glass (8 oz) of water consistently upon rising; wait 30 minutes before eating. Ideally, replace processed foods with a whole, plant-based diet which are easier to break down and place minimal burden on the liver and digestive tract. At minimum, take periodic breaks from eating highly processed foods (I like to recommend a minimum of a one week commitment as the weather changes from winter to spring, and again from summer to fall). Supplement with digestive enzymes, or carminative herbs (like peppermint, clove, star anise, papaya, ginger, pineapple) at meals.
- Facilitate efficient elimination. Include a minimum of 2-3 Tbsp of insoluble fibre in your diet daily – preferably in the form of freshly ground flaxseed (helps to excrete environmental estrogens out of the body and heal the GI tract). If you cannot tolerate flax, you may also use chia seeds or psyllium husk as an alternative. Be sure to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of quality water daily.
- Ensure you have good co-factors! A good quality Vitamin B complex (remember, you get what you pay for) is key to opening up and facilitating phase two of the detoxification process (added benefits include nervous system support during times of stress, and improved carbohydrate metabolism). Be sure to choose the methylated forms of folate and B12, to ensure maximum efficacy. If you have any questions, let me know and I would be happy to make an appropriate recommendation for you.