Do you suffer from an angry liver?
It won’t tell you it’s mad until it’s almost too late
The physician who knows how to harmonize the liver knows how to treat the hundred diseases.
~ Zhou Xuehai, Reflections Upon Reading the Medical Classics (Du Yi Suibi), ca. 1895
Both the Chinese and Ayurvedic medical traditions relate chronic anger to poor liver function. If you ‘fly off the handle’ at things, you’re said to have an angry liver. We can learn a thing or two from these Asian traditions. . .
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Similar to the Asian healing traditions, in English-speaking countries we sometimes say angry, hostile people have a lot of “bile”. Bile is a liver secretion. In the Asian healing traditions such a person would be prescribed liver therapy to open, cleanse, and cool the liver and bile.
In some countries, the liver is considered vital to good health, and natural liver therapy is encouraged. In fact, there are exotic lands where the liver is considered so important to health that the groom promises his liver to his bride, instead of his heart.
Sounds strange to us, but they’re onto something. . .
We should worry about our livers
the way we worry about our hearts and brains
Your liver is a five-pound football sized organ that sits in the upper right part of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach. It’s an amazing, complex and intricate organ — second in complexity only to your brain.
To a very large extent, your liver determines your overall health and vitality. You shouldn’t ignore it — and you should take care to improve and enhance its proper function.
Your liver is the hardest working organ in your body and is connected in some manner to every bodily function.
One of its major roles is to remove dangerous toxins from your body. Like any filter, sometimes it needs cleaning. Think about the last time you changed the air filter on your car — or your furnace. It’s full of crud, grime, dust. If you’ve been reading this newsletter for long, you know that toxins are a major cause of cancer.
Toxins enter your body three ways: through digestion, breathing, and your skin. If your liver fails to work properly, those dangerous toxins take up residence, circulate throughout your system, and poison you to the point of death.
Here’s how your liver filters out the toxins…
1) Blood cleansing. Your blood can contain various toxins — viruses, bacteria, toxic chemicals from herbicides and pesticides… Your liver has to detoxify all these and more.
Amazingly, your liver filters over a liter (slightly more than a quart) of blood each and every minute, to remove toxins from circulation.
2) Secretions. Your liver synthesizes and secretes bile — about one liter per day. Your gallbladder stores the bile once it’s made by your liver. Bile aids digestion and is required for absorption of fat soluble substances — including many vitamins. Also, bile removes many toxins from your body.
Your liver also makes certain clotting factors needed to stop bleeding from a cut or injury.
3) Metabolism. Your liver is without question your most important organ for metabolism and is thereby also involved with the:
a) metabolism of carbs, fat and protein
b) storing vitamins and minerals
c) changing nutrients into energy
d) maintaining proper sugar levels in your body
e) forming physiological factors
f) excretion of chemical compounds like cortisol, estrogen, aldosterone, histamine, drugs and pesticides into your bile.
One of your liver’s hundreds of jobs is to filter toxins from your body, and release them via your bowels or kidneys. If your liver becomes overloaded, it cannot keep your body toxin-free… So you end up absorbing, reabsorbing, and having these toxic chemicals circulate around in your blood or lodge permanently in tissues.
The effects of this can be so slow and cumulative that you don’t realize your liver isn’t working right.
The most remarkable thing about this is that you start suffering from ‘diseases’ that really aren’t diseases at all — but are auto-intoxication or self-poisoning from a toxic and congested liver.
Adding drugs to the mix (in the name of ‘curing your diseases’) only makes the situation worse by adding more toxins for your liver to deal with. If the drugs can’t be released from your body, they too circulate in your bloodstream and settle into vital organs.
Can you tell how well your liver is functioning?
Unfortunately, liver dysfunction or injury doesn’t always show up on the liver function tests most doctors use. This is especially true as it relates to use of oral contraceptives or exposure to various drugs and chemicals.1, 2
Lacking a good test, a patient’s medical history often becomes the most important diagnostic tool for “sluggish liver”.
Symptoms of so-called “sluggish liver” may include the following.3, 4:
2. General malaise
3. Digestive disturbances, indigestion when eating fatty foods, queasiness
4. Allergies and chemical sensitivities
5. PMS and menstrual irregularities
7. Arthritis, joint pain
8. Tendon problems
9. Weak, brittle nails
10. Persistent skin problems and rashes
11. Ongoing bitter taste in your mouth
12. Constant dry eyes (which are not caused by prescription drugs)
13. Burning feet
14. Perpetually light-colored stools
15. History of gallbladder attacks or gallstones
If several of these represent you, it’s time to take stock of your liver health, and consider a rehabilitation plan.
What causes liver disease
As I said, a health condition you call a ‘disease’ is likely not a disease — but a toxic build-up that your body is struggling to cope with.
So the following two-fold strategy might be useful…
1) Reduce as much as possible the number of toxins you allow into your body.
2) Actively protect and enhance your liver’s ability to get rid of toxins that are already present, or that are impossible to prevent.
Read on for some important strategies you can try for both…
Shut the door on bad stuff entering your body
You have to take responsibility for this yourself. It’s too important an issue to entrust to others, with very few exceptions.
Since the three routes for toxins to enter your body are via your mouth, inhaling, and your skin, we’ll touch on controlling these entry points. None of us can do ALL the things on the following list, but all of us can do some of them.
Your mouth as a toxic entry point:
1. Make the switch to drinking pure, unadulterated water. Eliminate soda from your diet.
Most fats are formed in your liver. When sugar enters your liver, your liver decides whether to store it, burn it, or turn it into fat. Researchers have discovered that fructose bypasses this process and turns directly into fat. As you probably know, the typical American consumes huge amounts of high fructose corn syrup, the sweetener found in most processed, ready-made foods.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and lead author of a recent study on fructose in the Journal of Nutrition:
“Our study shows for the first time the surprising speed with which humans make body fat from fructose. Once you start the process of fat synthesis from fructose, it’s hard to slow it down. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.”5
35 years of hard empirical evidence prove that refined man-made fructose like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) metabolizes to triglycerides and adipose (fat) tissue, not blood glucose (i.e. blood sugar).
This also contributes to higher triglycerides and higher uric acid — linked to an increased risk for heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, obesity, fatty liver and liver disease, and more.
Your liver processes HFCS in much the same way it processes alcohol, so if you drink soda, you are a serious candidate for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Please be aware that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is in virtually every processed food on the grocery shelves, from soda to cookies to catsup.
Plus, the corn industry is seeking a name change for this product due to its increasingly poor public image. Don’t be suckered in by that.
2. Your best bet is to eat a diet of mostly raw, whole unprocessed foods — organic as much as possible…
When you cook, use these same fresh organic fruits, vegetables, free range eggs, organic grass fed meats, and pastured poultry, and cook them from scratch.
Organic fruits and vegetables have been shown to contain higher levels of nutrients.6, 7
Very importantly — as far as your liver is concerned — you’re limiting the amounts of herbicides and pesticides entering your system through the foods you eat when you choose organic.
3. Avoid trans-fats. Your liver sees them as toxins, not as food. Trans fats are artificial fats made in factories. The process involves taking a liquid oil, usually some kind of vegetable oil, and turning it into a solid (at room temperature) by hydrogenating it (i.e. loading up the fat molecules with extra hydrogen atoms). Margarine is probably the most familiar example. Trans fats, like HCFS, are a favorite ingredient of processed, manufactured foods. Both are faux foods, not found in nature.
4. Increase your fiber intake. It helps expedite the exit of toxins from your body.
5. Avoid excessive alcohol. It destroys your liver. Alcohol is a concentrated sugar which causes fat to be deposited in your liver. For a few people, as little as 1 ounce of alcohol can produce alcohol-induced fatty liver — and decreased liver function and higher risk of more damage.8
6. Say ‘no’ to all drugs — whether over-the-counter, prescription, or recreational. Things as innocent-sounding and commonplace as Tylenol are proven liver toxins. Many other drugs have caused liver damage and failure. Every drug you take introduces new toxins for your liver to process and increases its toxic burden.
An added word of warning… Some herbs that have long been used in folk medicine are now suspected of causing liver damage — just one more reason to choose foods to promote health and healing as your foremost strategy for great health.
7. Use toxin-free cooking and eating containers, such as BPA-free bottles and Teflon-free cookware. It’s the only way to ensure dangerous toxins don’t leach into the food you eat.
Inhalation as the entry point for toxins:
1. Quit smoking if you smoke. You’re forcing your liver to do a lot of extra work to break down and eliminate those nicotine poisons.
2. Reconsider your use of herbicides and pesticides in and around your home and garden. U.S. production of synthetic organic pesticides alone exceeds 600,000 tons per year.9 Heaven only knows the health effects of these toxins on your liver.
3. Get rid of toxic home cleaning products and choose non-toxic environmentally-friendly (and I might add, people-friendly) products instead.
4. As far as possible, live and work in a community free of industrial air pollution.
Your skin as a toxic entry point:
Your skin is your largest organ and is an extremely thin barrier to environmental toxins applied to or coming into contact with it. Most people don’t know it, but all kinds of things can be absorbed through the skin. ANYTHING that’s in your sunscreen or moisturizer may well pass through your skin and circulate in your whole body.
1. All points above about inhaling toxins are also pertinent to your skin, as many can also contact your skin during application.
2. Read labels on your personal care products and switch to non-toxic brands. The average person uses up to twenty-four products per day — think hand soaps, shampoo, conditioner, hair spray and other hair products, body and hand lotion, make-up, nail polish… Think how that puts you into toxic overload.
3. Wear gloves to protect your skin from absorbing toxins when cleaning, doing dishes, and working with pesticides and herbicides.
Help your liver work more efficiently
Besides avoiding dangerous toxins from entering, be proactive in making your liver happy — instead of angry.
Although your best strategy is to eat a sound diet of high quality real foods and avoid toxins, certain supplements and herbs are known to support liver function.
Foods that are known to help include:
3. Green tea
5. Omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutritional supplements that support liver function:
a) The antioxidant vitamins C and E, zinc and selenium
b) Choline (Note: choline has not been shown to be of value for treating alcohol-induced liver disease.10)
c) S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) — A major factor in boosting glutathione levels, which play a critical defensive role from toxins, and help convert them to water soluble ones for elimination.
d) Carnitine — Needed to handle the increased fatty acid load from alcohol consumption.
I would only add with regard to SAM and carnitine that they can have a caffeine-like stimulative effect on certain sensitive people. I don’t think it’s essential to take these supplements. If you do and you find your sleep patterns are disturbed (you have insomnia) it’s probably a tip that you should stop taking them.
Herbs that improve liver function include:
a) Dandelion root — You might consider it a weed, but herbalists the world over value this herb, and have for centuries. It’s often recommended as a potent liver remedy. Plus it has more nutritional value than many vegetables and enhances the production of bile. As a child I remember an old guy in my neighborhood gathering dandelion leaves in the local park. He was on to something.
b) Milk thistle (Silybum marianum, the extract is called silymarin) — Many times more potent an antioxidant than vitamin E. Prevents depletion and replenishes levels of glutathione. Effective in treating liver diseases of various kinds, confirmed by biopsy and clinical and laboratory data.
c) Artichoke leaves (Cynara scolymus, the extract is called cynarin) — A long folk history as a remedy for liver disease, supported by recent scientific evidence. (Diabetics should use with caution, due to its hypoglycemic effect.)
d) Turmeric (Curcuma longa, the extract is called curcumin) — Has demonstrated liver protective benefits similar to silymarin and cynarin. Shown to improve liver function in rats. Turmeric is an all-around good food — it also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
In general, the extracts mentioned above are available in food supplements, if you don’t want to eat the whole foods. Sometimes it’s impractical to eat the amount of turmeric (for example) that you’d need to have a medicinal effect, so a curcumin supplement is a good choice.
Treat your “silent partner” with tender loving care
Your liver won’t be able to take care of you if you don’t take care of it. It’s a silent partner. It won’t complain loudly until damage is just about beyond repair.
It’s your body’s engine, pantry, refinery, food processor, garbage disposal, and “guardian angel.”
It’s capable of regeneration if you help it along, and don’t put a heavy toxic burden on it. However, once your body becomes toxic, you won’t be alive for long.
So treat your liver like a V.I.P. (Very Important Partner) and live long — healthy and energetic and fulfilling all your dreams.