by Kimberly Allen, RN
The liver is the main organ in your body responsible for removing toxins from your blood and the digestion of certain foods, especially fats. It also regulates the amino acid levels in your blood, stores glucose as glycogen and assists with blood clotting as well as produces immune factors that help prevent infections. So if it’s not well neither are you. The liver is also one of the most resilient organs in your body and can regenerate itself when properly taken care of.
Whether or not you have a type of liver disease keeping your liver happy and healthy will keep your body healthy. So how can you take care of your liver? First, eating a well balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are crucial to maintaining the health of your liver. That said there are certain foods that you should eat and some you should avoid. When possible you should always choose organic foods that are chemical and pesticide free. Certain vegetables like broccoli and cabbage increase the liver enzymes to remove carcinogens. Carrots and beets are loaded with beta-carotene which increases liver function. Garlic and onions also activate the liver enzymes that flush the toxins out of your bloodstream. You can get the glutathione for cleansing toxins from avocados and walnuts while green leafy vegetables promote the flow of bile. While it’s true you should avoid “fatty” foods, healthy fats like coconut, flax seed and olive oils have health benefits including protecting against gallstones.
Just as there are foods that can help your liver function, there are also foods that can damage your liver and interfere with it’s ability to remove the toxins from your body. The top of that list of harmful foods are any genetically modified foods or GMO’s. Hydrogenated oils and trans fats, as well as high fructose corn syrup, can also impair your liver’s function, especially if you are already suffering from any type of liver disease. Processed foods, as well as fast foods that have little or no real nutrition and also contain additives like MSG, can significantly impair your liver function and cause further damage if you have any type of liver disease as well. The liver is also responsible for metabolizing certain medications including over the counter medicines like acetaminophen so always talk with your doctor about all medications before taking them especially if your liver is already stressed due to disease. And, of course, avoid alcohol, especially if your liver is already fighting disease.
In addition to diet, there are several herbs and supplements that not only help your liver stay healthy but also repair damage. Milk thistle which is a plant commonly found in the US has been used to treat liver disease since the Greco-Roman era. There have been multiple studies showing the benefits of using milk thistle to treat liver disease, especially when damaged from prolonged alcohol abuse. However, there have also been studies that show limited improvement in liver health when the damage is caused by hepatic C. There is also ongoing research into the use of milk thistle in cancer treatment and prevention. Green tea is high in catechins which promote liver function and dandelion is a natural detoxant. Tumeric is not only loaded with valuable antioxidants it has significant antiviral properties that have been found to be effective in preventing the viruses that cause Hepatitis B and C from multiplying as well as improve liver health. The Indian gooseberry has been used extensively in Ayurveda for treating lethargic liver and now laboratory studies are showing extracts of the gooseberry plant also have liver- protective abilities. Amirith which frequently grown in many kitchen gardens has the ability to remove toxins from the liver as well as strengthen liver function.
It’s also important to include lifestyle changes along with diet and supplements to help strengthen your liver function including regular exercise which helps with digestion. Avoid alcohol and smoking as well as second hand smoke. Using chemical free cleaning and personal care products can also limit you exposure to toxins lessening the burden on your liver.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.