It may not be the most glamourous organ, and it doesn’t get the attention in songs and poetry that the heart does, but did you know that the liver is in charge of over 500 functions? Known as the powerhouse of the body, the liver is one of our biggest multitaskers.
To put it in perspective, virtually everything we eat or drink, rub on our skin, or breathe in must be broken down into different chemicals by the liver before they can help (or harm) the body. It then filters toxins (either produced by the body in the breakdown of proteins or consumed in what we eat or drink) out of your blood. And this is just one of the liver’s many jobs. It also regulates your body’s fuel by producing, storing, and supplying glucose to keep the mind alert and the body active and producing, storing, and exporting fat. It makes many essential proteins which help transport substances in the blood, increase the ability of blood to clot, and provide resistance to infection. It makes bile, which aids in digestion, and helps eliminate toxic substances from the body. And it also regulates hormones, cholesterol, and essential vitamins and minerals in the body. Basically, it has a hand (um, lobe?) in almost every system in your body.
Having said all that, it’s no surprise that many of our illnesses are due to an overburdened liver. But most of the time we don’t even realize that our livers are not functioning at full capacity. The symptoms of a struggling liver include chronic fatigue, lethargy, anxiety and depression, poor digestion, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, joint and muscle aches, and acne or other skin conditions – all fairly common complaints that can be attributed to many causes. By the time more obvious symptoms (like jaundice of the skin and eyes, dark urine, and abdominal pain and swelling) occur, the damage can be fairly extreme.
The good news is that it is one of the most resilient organs–in fact, it can regenerate from only 25% of its tissue mass! However, given the importance of the liver to so many bodily functions, we obviously don’t want to let the situation get anywhere near that dire. We need to support our multitasking organ every day. This is why it is very important to ensure that we include liver-friendly foods in our regular diets–and don’t worry, liver is not one of them. Of course, if you think your liver may be in trouble, go see your doctor to get it checked out!
- Leafy greens – especially spinach
- Cruciferous veggies – broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage etc
- Green Tea
- Cold-pressed organic oils – olive, hemp, flaxseed oils are all good
- Alternative grains – quinoa, millet, buckwheat
OTHER HEALTHY LIVER TIPS
- Decrease intake of fried, processed foods
- Minimize your intake of alcohol–the liver postpones every other function when metabolizing alcohol
- Increase fibre intake with foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies
- Make sure to drink enough water and stay hydrated
- Manage stress. Exercising regularly, yoga, and meditation are goods ways to relieve stress
- Lemon water–squeeze the juice of half a lemon into water and drink daily as your first drink of the day to cleanse and help digestion
- Milk thistle & dandelion help regenerate the liver. Both are commonly available as teas and supplements
Of course, before making major changes to your diet, consult with your doctor.