The human liver is an amazing organ – able to fully regenerate itself even when as much as 75 percent of the organ has been removed. It’s a particularly important organ, responsible for detoxification and energy production. As resilient as the liver is, it can be compromised by abuse and neglect.
The liver manages the body’s metabolic processes whether that may be breaking down and converting elements like fats and proteins, removing toxins from the bloodstream or extracting vitamins and minerals. It also removes waste. We all know that the liver produces bile. But what is bile? It is a substance that helps to break down fats into digestible fatty acids. If you cannot avoid using tobacco, alcohol, coffee, processed foods and refined sugars, using them in moderation will go a long way towards keeping the liver healthy. Drinking plenty of pure, filtered water also helps to reduce potential liver issues.
Creating a Healthy Liver Diet
The best way to keep your liver healthy is to maintain a liver-healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a high-fiber diet that is low in saturated fats. A diet that supports liver health needs to include foods rich in sulfur compounds, flavonoids and chlorophyll such as garlic, beetroot, green leafy vegetables, avocadoes and health promoting spices such as turmeric. Garlic is a good tonic for the liver as it contains allicin and selenium which helps activate enzymes that support the flushing of toxins and promotes liver cleansing. Beetroot, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts) and chlorophyll-rich leafy greens like spinach and lettuce, contain important antioxidant compounds. These important nutrients stimulate the detoxification process and helps to reduce inflammation. Chlorophyll is also tremendously helpful for ridding the body of environmental toxins such as heavy metals, herbicides, and pesticides.
When Liver Health Goes Bad
Fatty Liver Disease is a condition historically associated with alcoholism but in today’s sugar consuming world a lesser known condition referred to as ‘Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease’, is on the rise with an estimated 100 million Americans currently living with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease can cause discomfort due to enlargement of the liver. It can lead to health complications including cirrhosis, liver failure, and metabolic syndrome. Culprits include high fructose corn syrup which is most often associated with sweet drinks and low-fat, highly refined foods. Fructose has the effect of switching on a fat-production factory in the liver, which can lead to obesity and create other health problems. Fatty liver disease is more prevalent in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes, but it can affect anyone at any age.
There are different types of hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E) with varying levels of severity. Every type of hepatitis is viral and affects the liver through inflammation and infection, complications that can result in liver damage and/or failure. Hepatitis A is most commonly caused by contaminated drinking water, while hepatitis B and C are predominantly spread through blood and body fluids. Hepatitis D and E may occur as co-infections with the other forms of hepatitis.
Cirrhosis of the liver occurs is another condition that happens when otherwise healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue which damages the organ’s normal function leading to chronic liver failure. Cirrhosis most commonly occurs as a result of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, fatty liver disease, and excessive alcohol consumption.
A healthy liver is obviously a key component to living a healthy life. When the liver gets sick the whole body is affected. Sadly, liver disease accounts for around 2 million deaths per year worldwide, half of those due to complications of cirrhosis and the rest due to viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). The key to whole-body health is taking measures to maintain optimal liver function because liver function sets the tempo for every other organ in the body.
If you are interested in keeping your liver healthy, or if you have concerns about your liver health, your naturopathic doctor can work with you to develop a diet and lifestyle plan based on individual needs and risk factors. Call 541-330-0334 to learn more and to make an appointment, or feel free to use our online appointment request form below.