The liver is an organ that can be underestimated in its importance. It is possible that you associate the liver getting in trouble in cases of alcohol abuse, or maybe you have fatty liver? It generally does not seem to attract as much interest and attention as other organs. However, the liver is the power house of our bodies. The liver has hundreds of functions that are vital to our health and wellbeing. Almost every system or part of the body depends on the liver in one way or another. In previous articles we have seen how important gut health is for the maximum absorption of nutrients. Now we need to ensure that we complement intestinal health with liver health. We need to not only minimise the amount of toxins we load our livers with, but we need to also consider liver detoxing and fasting as part of our healthier routine and lifestyle.
It is true that juicing and liver detoxing is fashionable, and that once again we wonder how necessary all this really is. I mean, if our grandparents lived to ripe old ages without these worries, why should we change anything? – Firstly, fasting in general has always been part of many cultures and religions, seen as a tradition or technique that brings about physical and spiritual strength and renewal. ´In primitive cultures, a fast was often demanded before going to war, or as part of a coming-of-age ritual. It was used to assuage an angry deity and by native north Americans, as a rite to avoid catastrophes such as famine.´ (Reference https://www.tele-graph.co.uk/lifestyle/11524808/The-history-of-fasting.html) Catholics prac-ticed lent where there are six weeks where only one small meal was originally allowed, Islam practices Ramadan, that is one month long, and food is only taken after sun set. Many other religions practice one form or another of abstinence and reduction of food intake over a period of time. Secondly, we are now over-whelmed with toxins, chemicals and harmful sub-stances that have been created by man only recently (the last 150 years or so). These include toxins that we breathe, ingest, touch and have daily contact with.
What does the liver do? The liver is a vital part of the digestive system. It produces bile that breaks down foods as part of the digestive process. It also creates energy, builds proteins, releases glucose to regulate blood sugar levels, releases vitamin, rearranges amino acids, delivers cholesterol to nerve and brain cells. The liver purifies the blood from the stomach and intestines by removing bacteria, chemicals, toxins, alcohol and other wastes. It is vital for detoxification as it can store and destroy very harmful substances that would otherwise lead to us being poisoned. Everything we ingest, breath in or absorb through our skin is processed by our livers. Storage of certain vitamins, iron, glycogen and minerals is yet another essential role the liver has.
What are the signs of an unhealthy liver? You may feel constantly tired or have very low energy levels. This can be related to low iron, and therefore less oxygen being carried around; or it can be related to depleted levels of B vitamins in the liver, or glucose, both vital for energy. You may have bad breath, dark circles under your eyes, pain behind your eyes, headaches, migraines, food allergies, brain fog, anxiety, cancer and many other diseases related to a dysfunction in the liver and its array of activities such as indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation, gall bladder problems and gall stones. Major liver diseases include cirrhosis, fatty liver, hepatitis, jaundice and liver cancer.
Why would a detox be of benefit? The liver cells are incredible as they can regenerate themselves. They can also store and deal with toxins, preventing them getting to other parts of the body where major and lasting damage could be caused. Therefore providing optimum nutrition and a time for them to cleanse and not get overwhelmed is a good way to help generate and maintain your own health! Ideally, you will be good to your liver every day by eating lots of fresh veggies, fruits, grains and ensuring you avoid ready-meals, processed foods and alcohol. You should also ensure that you drink plenty of water. A liver detox is a way of becoming more aware of what is going into your system, and maybe supplementing with herbs, plants and spices to aid cleansing, reducing inflammation and aiding liver function.
What does a liver detox diet consist of? It is important to ditch all those foods, drinks and substances that are damaging to your liver – so be prepared to say goodbye to sugar, fats, chocolate, tea, coffee, alcohol, processed foods, smoking to name but a few. Detoxing can be 3 days of juicing (take care to get medical advice first here) or more gentle elimination diets that last over six weeks. In the first week of elimination diets, you can expect to remove all dairy, gluten, and the nightshade family (auber-gines, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes). Say hello to delicious vegetables such as artichokes, sprouts, beetroot, cabbage, dandelion, garlic, parsley, leeks, radishes, watercress…that are all particularly great for the liver. You can also add some fruits (not too many, as they are full of fructose) such as berries, apricots, grapefruit, papaya and pineapple. You need to include fibre from veggies, grains and legumes. Fish and brown rice can also be included. Lemon water, green juices and herbal teas are all great for cleansing.
There are several supple-ments, digestive enzymes, multivitamins, antioxidants, herbs and spices that can be added to aid the process. The list of these are extensive, and include everything from dandelion to milk thistle; turmeric to slippery elm. It is necessary to consult a naturo-path or other complimentary therapist to be able to best advise which of these would best work for you, as it will depend on other health con-ditions, goals and type of detox you go for.
Last words…Detoxing is just one part of a healthy lifestyle, or achieving better health. For long term health, we need to be consistent with our eating habits, as well as making sure we have lots of exercise, drink lots of water, and that we are happy with stress reducing exercises and weapons up our sleeves.
Good luck on your path!
For more information on my cooking and nutrition workshops or consultations you can go to Kaos Factory Project in facebook, or email me at KaosFactoryProject@gmail.com
Author: Gemma Ortiz Genovese, BSc (Hons), MSc, Kaos Factory Project