Whether you know it or not, your liver is kicking ass and taking names each and every day on your behalf. Being your largest internal organ (about the size of a football), the liver sits to the right of your stomach, just under your diaphragm, and is protected by your right rib cage.
In the simplest of terms, the main responsibilities of your liver are to clean your blood, produce bile for digestion, and store glycogen your body can call on when you need some quick energy. Taking its job very seriously, your liver also handles the following:
- Helps clot your blood just when you need it
- Keeps the amount of sugar in the bloodstream constant
- Produces the amount of triglycerides and cholesterol that your body needs
In fact, the liver takes on so many crucial roles within the healthy functions of your body that it’s considered both an organ and a gland. The latter classification relates to the liver’s task of secreting chemicals that other parts of your body needs to do its job—think bile and the digestive process.
I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but you need a functioning liver to survive. Period.
Are you ready to find out the simple dos and don’ts of taking care of yours? I thought so.
Let’s start by getting the bad news out of the way. Pay attention to the following liver don’ts to help keep it in tip-top shape:
Don’t consume an excessive amount of any substance lacking in nutritional value. This includes medications, drugs, alcohol, and even sugar. Otherwise you run the risk of putting your liver to work overtime and eventually making it less efficient. You need your liver to efficiently break down almost everything you ingest by moving the good stuff through your bloodstream to where it needs to go and disposing of the toxic stuff that’s poison to your body.
Don’t carry around extra pounds. The obesity problem we face as a society affects more than our waistlines. It also contributes to fatty liver disease. This occurs as fat builds up in the liver, and it causes serious woes for this vital organ.
Don’t ignore your feelings of anger. If you’re at all familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine, you know a huge focus of TCM is on your “Qi” (your life/energy force). It’s believed that when your Qi flows with ease throughout your body, it leads to optimal health. If you dig a little deeper through resources such as Chinese Medicine: Clinical Reference Guide by Siamak F. Shirazi and Julie A. Shivley, you’ll learn that one tenet of this philosophy is that different emotions are associated with different organs in the body. The emotion tied to the liver is anger. So repressing rather than dealing with your anger can cause an imbalance with the flow of Qi in your liver. Optimal health requires Qi to flow without interruption.
Here’s what you can do each day to ensure your liver will give you high fives consistently:
Do drink beet kvaas. This fermented beverage, revered for its liver-cleansing properties, originated in Russia and is a staple in most households in that part of the world. If you’ve been feeling a little sluggish, consider giving it a try. You can find recipes online and in resources such as Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Cook Your Way to Wellness by Maria Atwood. Fermented food does the body good in so many ways.
Do eat a nutrient dense diet. For starters, load your plate with vibrant leafy greens, pungent garlic, rich eggs, and colorful berries (which are abundant with phytochemicals). All of these nutrient rich foods support the regular detoxification of the liver and help prevent oxidation. Oh, and don’t forget there are two more things you can do to support liver function: drink water to stay hydrated and flush your system, and eat beef, duck, and chicken liver (cooked or raw) to prevent anemia, improve detoxification, and prevent vitamin B deficiency.
Do exercise. This one activity makes everything better, including liver function. When we sweat, our pores open up and detoxification happens, lessening the liver’s burden of detoxifying your whole body all on its own. Besides that, exercise can help you shed those extra pounds. Your liver will be giving you the thumbs up for sure with this one.
Since your body is incredible, your liver isn’t going to just conk out on you one day. Before that happens, it will send out signals that you’ve been indulging in the don’t list too much. Some of the signs that could mean your liver isn’t functioning properly include fatigue, loss of appetite or often feeling full, bruising easily, and/or swelling of the legs and ankles.
As Dr. Michael Gaeta explains in “The Benefits of Effective Liver Detoxification,” this is the perfect time of year to detoxify your liver. Gaeta points to wheatgrass juice as one of the most powerful liver cleansers out there. He also suggests meditation and a focus on gratitude to keep the emotional side of things in check.
How kind have you been to your liver lately? There’s no time like the present to adopt more of the do list than the don’t list, for your liver’s sake.
Image from iStock/eskymaks.