There’s a reason it is called the body's powerhouse organ. Not only is your liver the largest solid organ in the body, but its chief function is the tedious job of filtering all the toxins in your body. Unless you are a super health nut, there’s a good chance you’ve had your fair share of red meat, takeout filled with sodium, sugary drinks and treats and, of course, afternoons and evenings spent enjoying afternoon Chardonnays and G&Ts. While none of this is wrong, it also means that your liver needs a break.
Your liver is that best friend that had everything together in college. They were always taking care of you after a night out, cleaning up and then making you breakfast the next day. But it works 24 hours a day, seven days a week including holidays (when it probably works even harder – right?).
That’s because one of the main functions of the liver is to filter the blood it receives from the heart and the intestines. It takes the nutrients from that blood, sorts, processes and stores them. The thing is, that blood often also contains toxins and other by-products that your body isn’t able to use. Your liver either converts it into a product it can use, or it gets rid of it. On top of all the other functions it’s responsible for, the liver also creates bile which is then stored in the gallbladder – bile is critical for digestion, absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine and helps remove toxins.
Here’s what happens when you work it too hard and how you can give it the break it deserves.
What happens when your liver is under strain?
For the most part, your liver can process and get rid of harmful toxins, but constant strain can lead to your liver and kidneys becoming slow and not working as well as they once did. This means toxins can slip through the cracks leading them to make their way to the bloodstream, fatty tissue and the nervous system impacting your body’s ability to burn fat and can even result in fatty liver disease. Various factors can put added strain on your body including:
- Heavy drinking
- Poor diet
- High salt and refined sugar intake
- Chronic viral infections
- As well as environmental factors like pollution in the air and even the water we drink
The importance of your liver as you age
Alcohol-related liver disease and fatty liver disease can result in cirrhosis in men and women of any age, but for the most part, women are more susceptible to developing cirrhosis (even if they don’t drink). Issues like underlying liver and autoimmune diseases, as well as certain medicines, tend to affect women more than men. On top of that, after menopause, the lack of oestrogen in the body can also affect your liver negatively leading to a fatty liver which leads to fibrosis, then cirrhosis and eventually cancer.
How to detox your liver – No juice cleanses required
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is that your liver is also the only organ that can regenerate itself, and there is a lot you can do to help it out. Watch your alcohol intake, stay hydrated, adopt a healthy diet, watch your sugar and salt intake, and of course, exercise can go a long way in supporting your liver. Your liver and kidneys work as your own personal detoxification system, so no juice cleanses needed. Instead incorporate these naturally detoxifying foods to give your liver the nudge it needs.
1. Green tea
Swap out that second morning coffee for a cup of green tea instead. It contains catechins, powerful antioxidants that promote liver function and prevent the accumulation of fats in the liver.
Great for curries but also your liver. The active ingredient in it, curcumin gives it its bright yellow colour AND also prevents liver damage and boosts the production of liver cells. It also increases the production of bile in the liver.
This amazing purple vegetable contains betaine which stimulates the productions of bile as well and is a good source of fibre that can help protect your liver from inflammation. (Read here for more beetroot benefits)
Filled with good fats, avocados also have glutathione, a liver-boosting antioxidant that protects the liver and aids in detoxification.
Start your day with a cup of hot water and lemon – the lemon supports your liver tissue, and is full of enzymes and vitamin C, while the hot water relaxes your gut to promote a more complete cleansing.
Your liver works hard to keep you going, so give it some love and make its job a little easier wherever you can!