What is the One Organ You Should Love?

maxresdefaultThe body is an amazingly complex system, governed by a network of chemical highways.  The best part about this system is that we don’t ever have to consciously think or be aware of it in order to live.  For example, doing a “detox” or “cleanse” has become quite popular but many of us do not realize that our body is constantly detoxing as a normal part of life.  Detoxification is a natural process that is required in order to help your body eliminate substances.  If you didn’t detox, that cup of coffee you had this morning would remain in your blood stream indefinitely.  While coffee has great short-term effects, I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we lie awake at 2am, cursing ourselves for having that last cup of coffee too late in the day.

Luckily, none of us have to consciously think about breathing either.  Our brain works to ensure we are getting enough oxygen.  But anyone who’s taken a yoga class or practiced meditation will tell you how bringing awareness to your breathing can positively impact your health.

So what about bringing awareness to your other organs? I suggest we start with the organ that’s responsible for detoxifying your morning coffee so you can sleep at night.  This same organ is able to regenerate itself.  This organ contains 10% of the blood in your body and is the second largest organ (the largest organ is your skin, believe it or not).

1427936376289This magical organ is your sorely under-appreciated liver. This three-pound organ resides on the right side of your abdomen, mostly underneath your rib cage.  Any food, drink, or drugs that you ingest must pass through your liver in order to be processed for use or excretion.  In addition to the food and drink processing, your liver has hundreds of other functions such as controlling blood sugar, making cholesterol and proteins, and producing chemicals you need to clot your blood.  (For a great summary of all the liver’s functions, check out this TED-Ed video.) In other words, having a healthy liver is crucial for health and life.

Our nutrition and lifestyle choices can cause our liver to become overwhelmed and essentially create “traffic jams” or “detours” on the chemical highways. So how do we keep our liver happy, healthy, and traffic-free?

Nutrition

Like lots of chronic conditions, nutrition can play a huge role in liver health. In general, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and sugar gives your liver a much needed break from processing these non-essential food groups. All the duties your liver is responsible for requires different vitamins and minerals, which can become depleted by consuming excess caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.

One condition that can negatively affects the liver’s ability to do its job is fatty liver. Fatty liver, which is exactly like it sounds, a condition in which the liver accumulates fat.  Fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and is found in 70% of diabetics and 70-80% of obese patients. Some ways to prevent this is to maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and exercise, in particular, keeping blood sugar under control or resolving insulin resistance. 7572101152_e7e59d56f2_oOne study found that people who lost 5% or more of their body weight over a nine month period had improvement in both insulin resistance and fatty liver.

Beyond achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, incorporating more foods that contain sulforaphane, an antioxidant that can prevent cancer, can help your liver with detoxifying. Sulforaphane is found in foods like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, kale, and broccoli sprouts.  And if you really want to keep your liver happy, adding bitter foods to your plate, such as arugula, dandelion, endive, radicchio, and chicory, can help your liver increase bile production, ensuring all those toxins are being moved out of your system.  Bile is eventually transformed to stool, which is how those toxins are removed from your body for good.

Botanicals

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Milk thistle

While nutritional changes can have a large impact on liver health, there are some herbs that help provide extra support as well. Turmeric root (Curcuma longa), which has become quite popular in recent years for it’s many health benefits, acts as a liver protectant and anti-inflammatory.  It also helps your liver produce more bile, which promotes toxin removal.  Turmeric is also a great antioxidant, which is an important step in detoxification. As great as this herb is, people who have GI inflammation or are currently taking blood thinners should consult their naturopathic doctor before taking turmeric.

Milk thistle seed (Silybum marianum) is another wonderful herb for liver health.  It is also a strong antioxidant and helps support liver detoxification.  It even helps with liver cell regeneration so it’s an ideal herb to incorporate during a detox program.  There are no known safety issues with Milk thistle so it’s a relatively safe herb for anyone to use.   By just grinding up the seeds, they can be a healthy addition to smoothies or salads.

Detox Programs

Embarking on any kind of detox or cleanse program is a great way to give your body a reboot and allow healing (or un-traffic-jamming) to take place.  A comprehensive detox program will incorporate nutritional changes, like those mentioned above, to give your liver a rest from self-induced traffic jams, as well as supplements or herbs to help support your liver’s natural detoxification highways.  However, finding a program that focuses on your other organs of detoxification (skin, kidneys, and lungs), is important.  Toxins can be removed through sweat, urine, and respiration as well so incorporating exercise, hydration, and mindfulness/meditation are important.

Reducing Your Liver’s Load

While we can’t necessarily control many of the tasks our liver is responsible for, we can make its job a little easier.  Just like removing alcohol frees up your liver’s time, reducing the amount of toxins your liver has to process is important to maintain the effects of your detox program for longer than the program itself.  Becoming aware of the number of chemicals you’re exposed to in plastics (food storage and preparation), beauty products, water, and household cleaners is the first step to ultimately reducing your exposure in the future.  We’ll have a new article up soon about how to reduce your toxic load.

 

Now that you know how important your liver is, share below ONE step you’ll take to show it some love.  And don’t forget to check out our Spring Into Health Detox Program that is currently accepting registrations.  We’re giving away a free gift for everyone that signs up during April 2016!

Stay radiant,
Dr. Russell

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One Response to “What is the One Organ You Should Love?

  • I’m glad to find out about foods that support my liver in detoxifying.

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