This January is Love Your Liver month; to raise awareness about the importance of looking after the health of this vital organ. The average liver weighs between 3 to 4 lbs and performs more than 500 different functions every day. The liver acts as a cleanser to filter most of the poisons we consume or breathe in on a daily basis. The cells in the liver regenerate quickly to replace any that are lost. This is why the liver can heal itself up to a certain point.
However, like any other filter, the liver needs cleaning to stay in good working condition. An overworked liver will not filter toxins from the body effectively, which can cause toxins to accumulate in the liver. If the liver becomes severely damaged, it no longer has the ability to repair itself. A healthy diet, careful weight management and nutritional supplements for the liver can all help to support the health of this vital organ.
What the liver does
Of the hundreds of functions the liver does, some of the most important include:
- Bile production – bile is essential in breaking down food and fat. Once bile is produced in the liver, it is stored in the gall bladder until required.
- Stores and releases energy – the liver converts glucose to glycogens, and stores them until they are needed for energy. It is responsible for releasing quick bursts of energy and helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Extracts nutrients from food – a healthy liver is vital for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. If the liver is severely damaged the body will not be able to absorb any of these vitamins.
- Removes waste – the liver detoxifies the body by pumping toxins and waste out of the body before they can cause harm. These include incompletely digested proteins, excess hormones, drugs, additives, and alcohol.
- Weight loss – one of the most common symptoms of a sluggish liver is difficulty losing weight.
- Fights infection – the liver contains cells called macrophages that destroy toxins coming from the gut. The liver can also activate the immune system. When the liver is not healthy, the body’s immune system is compromised.
What overworks the liver?
Some common causes of liver problems include:
- Alcohol – alcohol causes fat to build up around the liver. Over time this can lead to alcoholic liver disease and cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Occasionally, this can also lead to inflammation, known as alcoholic hepatitis. Scarring on the liver prevents it from working as effectively.
- Diet – the liver can also become fatty in people who drink no, or limited, alcohol. This is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and is often the result of a diet high in trans fatty acids and processed fats. People carrying excess weight and those with diabetes are particularly at risk. In severe cases, this can also lead to inflammation and scarring, known as cirrhosis.
- Overeating – large meals can be tricky for the body to digest, causing the liver to become clogged. Try to have small regular meals, and eat slowly.
- Problems with other organs – if the kidneys, colon, or skin are not working properly, the liver has more work to do. As a result the liver can become overloaded.
Signs of a sluggish liver
If you experience regular headaches and unexplained tiredness, it may be that your liver is being overworked. Also, feeling overheated, struggling to lose weight, poor digestion, skin eruptions or rashes, loss of appetite, and weak hair and nails, can all be signs of a sluggish liver.
Supplements for the liver
Nutritional supplements for the liver can help to improve general health by supporting the removal of toxins from the body.
Omega 3 fish oils – the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA found in omega 3 fish oils may help to reduce inflammation caused by a fatty liver. They can also reduce elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As a result, omega 3 fish oils are often taken by people suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Milk Thistle – the relationship between Milk Thistle and liver health has been the subject of studies for many years. These studies suggest that Milk Thistle may help to improve liver function by supporting the removal of toxins from the body. Milk Thistle supplements are particularly popular with people suffering from alcoholic liver disease.
Multivitamins – vitamins A, B, C and E are all important for the health of the liver. A deficiency in any of these essential vitamins can compromise the health of the liver.
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