The liver does not get nearly enough credit for all the hard work it does. The liver is one of your body’s hardest working organs. It is also the largest internal organ. This incredible organ is responsible for over 500 different functions in the body!
As you can imagine, the liver is vital to our health and well-being. Unfortunately, many people today are suffering from poor liver health, and as a result, poor liver function. When the liver is unable to perform its many tasks, our health suffers. One of the most essential ways to getting your health back on track, along with healing the gut, is to restore the health of your liver.
In this article, we’re going to explore this fascinating organ in depth, as well as how you can tell if you have a liver imbalance, and of course, how you can take natural steps to getting your liver back into balance.
What is the Liver?
The liver is a cone-shaped, dark reddish-brown organ that sits mostly in the upper right portion of the abdomen, underneath the ribs and below the diaphragm. It is about the size of a football, and on average, weighs around 3 pounds. It holds up to 13 percent of a person’s blood supply and plays an essential role in the digestive system. More impressive than the size of the liver, however, are the many incredible functions that the liver performs.
What Does the Liver Do?
As mentioned, the liver performs an astounding number of different tasks for the body (over 500). One of the primary functions of the liver is the detoxification and neutralization of harmful toxins that we ingest from our food and environment. The liver helps filter and detoxify the materials that are not meant to be in our body, and helps to safely neutralize them and remove them from the blood.
The process of converting food into nutrients is one of the body’s most important tasks, and the liver plays a key role in this as well. When food exits the stomach, and enters the small intestine, the liver secretes bile into the duodenum to help further break down digested food. Bile, also called gall, is a greenish yellow secretion that contains bile acids, which are critical for digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. So, anytime you eat a food with fat in it, you can thank your liver for breaking it down and making it absorbable for the body.
Anything that is eaten or consumed, whether it’s food, alcohol, medicine or toxins, gets filtered by the liver. After food is digested and absorbed in the small intestine, it then gets absorbed into the blood and goes directly to the liver.
Once in the liver, the liver does an incredible task of sorting out the substances consumed, distinguishing between important nutrients and harmful toxins. The liver is like the body's chemical factory. It takes the raw materials absorbed by the intestine and makes all the various chemicals that the body needs to function. The liver also detoxifies potentially harmful chemicals, breaking down and neutralizing many substances that can be toxic to the body.
The intelligence of the liver knows when to detoxify, when to usher the toxins out of the body through urine or stool, when to store the nutrients and when to release them back into the blood. It is truly an incredible organ.
The liver does much more for us of course, as we only touched on a few of its functions, but hopefully these are enough to drive home the importance of this impressive organ.
Poor Liver Health: A Modern Epidemic
The liver carries a heavy burden. It has many jobs to perform and it is working day and night. While the liver can handle a lot, it too has its limits. For example, if the liver is exposed to too many toxins, especially for a sustained amount of time, it can become stressed and overworked, leading to impaired liver function.
As we are constantly exposed to toxins in our modern world, especially for those of us living in the cities, the amount of people with poor functioning livers has continued to rise. Almost everyone suffering from this is also completely unaware of it.
When the liver is overworked, it needs to prioritize its tasks. One of the first jobs that the liver stops performing optimally is lipid metabolism which leads to cholesterol problems and cardiovascular issues, this is why our team often says that when people say they have cholesterol problems, it is also highly likely they have a liver problem. For this reason, flushing toxins from the liver is a great health habit to improve liver environment and liver health.
Signs of Liver Imbalance
The average American living today is walking around with only 50-60% of their optimal liver function, and as a result, is suffering from various side effects. The side effects of poor liver function are endless and can include:
- High blood pressure/high cholesterol
- Low energy
- Brain fog
- Poor metabolism
- Digestive issues
- Skin issues
- Excess weight gain
And much more. Virtually everything your body digests has to be filtered and passed through the liver, so supporting the detoxification and health of your liver is crucial to vitality and long-term health.
Signs of Liver Imbalance in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest medical systems in the world, and they have always put great importance on the liver. It is a long-held belief in TCM that if you can restore health to your liver and kidneys, your body can heal itself. This has been taught for thousands of years, and interestingly enough, the liver and kidneys are two of our most important detoxification organs. When they are functioning properly, they play a significant role in maintaining homeostasis in the body.
TCM has been around for a long time, and being the ancient medical system that it is, has developed many theories around the human body that have been tested over millennia. Throughout this time, they have created a list of symptoms that they associate with liver imbalance. While some of these symptoms mirror Western Medicine’s perspective on liver imbalance, some of them stand out on their own.
Symptoms of liver imbalance according to TCM:
- Migraines/headaches especially in the temples, behind one eye or of throbbing nature
- Poor vision, floaters in vision, blurred vision
- Red or itchy eyes, night blindness
- Jaw clenching/teeth grinding
- Rib tenderness/tightness along sides of body
- Belching, acid reflux, vomiting/nausea
- Sensitivity or aversion to windy weather
- Cold sores, shingles, genital herpes, yeast infections, oozing rashes
- Tendonitis, tight ligaments
- Feeling of something stuck in the throat
- Mood swings, frustration or irritability, or a sensation of being disconnected
- Difficulty making decisions, inability to make plans
- Craving for sour foods or alcohol
- Sour or bitter taste in mouth
- Irregular or incomplete feeling bowel movements (soft to hard)
- Constipation, small broken stools
- Painful cramping or irregular menstrual cycles
- Nail fungus, brittle or ridged nails
- Waking during the night between 1 and 3 am
- Stressful or anxious dreams
- High-pitched ringing in the ears
As you can see, they’ve developed quite an extensive list of symptoms over the years.
What Causes Liver Imbalance?
The liver becomes imbalanced when it is overworked and has too high of a toxic load. Some of the primary causes of poor liver health include:
- Saturated fats
- Organophosphorus pesticides
- Paint fumes
- Exhaust fumes
- Lack of exercise
- Excess anger (according to TCM)
The substances mentioned above can disrupt the enzyme system (known as the “P-450” system) responsible for converting toxic chemicals into less harmful chemicals by causing over activity, which results in high levels of damaging free radicals being produced in the liver.
It is important to avoid these substances, especially in high amounts. Obviously, caffeine and saturated fats are far less toxic than paint fumes or organophosphorus pesticides, but in excess, they can still be quite toxic to the body.
How Do You Restore Balance to The Liver?
Restoring balance to the liver may take some time, but it is entirely possible to do so. Thankfully, the liver can be regenerated. In fact, the liver is the only visceral organ that possesses the capacity to regenerate—another amazing feat of this fascinating organ. It is known that as little as 51% of the original liver mass can regenerate back to its full size.
When talking about the liver’s ability to heal itself, most people are always in a rush to know how long it will take. This is an understandable question, but one that is difficult, if not impossible, to answer. Everybody’s body is different, and the progression and type of liver disease, a person’s age, weight, and overall health are all contributing factors when it comes to how long it takes the liver to repair itself from a liver imbalance or disease.
The liver is actually constantly in a state of regeneration. The moment it stops processing alcohol and other toxins, it begins the process of healing itself. This process could take as few as four weeks or as long as several years—it really all depends on the health of the individual person.
One thing is certain, you cannot heal your liver overnight. Healing the liver requires that you implement new health practices and maintain them over time, and may also require you to work with your doctor to measure your liver enzymes to measure the upward progression of your liver’s health.
Maintaining & Improving Liver Health
Healing the liver requires you to heal your physical body from the damage caused by alcoholism or prolonged toxic build up. Some of the key ways to heal the liver, and the physical body, are to:
- Drink a lot of high quality water. One of the best things you can do for your liver is flush it with pure, clean, unadulterated water. This does not mean using other liquids like tea, or juice, but water. Good quality water has healing properties and is capable of flushing toxins from the liver.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise improves circulation and metabolism, and lowers inflammation, all of which assist with liver health and function.
- Eat lots of vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and green leafy vegetables especially).
- Eat acidic fruits like grapefruit, berries, grapes, lemons, and oranges.
- Eat foods high in Omega-3, like fish, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil.
- Eat plenty of garlic.
- Eat foods high in fiber like oatmeal.
- Maintain a plant-based diet as much as possible, and focus on whole foods that are organically grown (no GMOs or toxic pesticides).
- Supplement with liver-healing herbs
It is also essential that you cut toxins out of your life as much as possible, including alcohol. Simply by reducing your toxic load, you will allow the liver to focus on healing itself, rather than just working hard to neutralize toxins.
It is also recommended to avoid:
- Eating foods high in fat or loaded with grease.
- Eating starchy foods like breads, pasta, or cakes and baked goods.
- Eating a lot of processed sugar or salt.
- Drinking soda.
Healing the liver requires you to heal your whole body, and to change the habits and lifestyle behaviors that damaged the liver in the first place. It can be a long process at times, and it really depends on how damaged the liver is already, but it is worth the effort, as a healthy liver is essential for a healthy body.
Herbal Support for Your Liver
Both in modern Western Medicine and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, certain herbs are utilized for their powerful liver-healing properties. Herbs contain bioactive compounds that can trigger certain healing processes in the body.
We at Zuma Nutrition have created a unique formula that is specifically designed to detox and support your liver, helping to regenerate it and bring it back into balance. It includes therapeutic dose extracts of seven different herbs that assist the liver in replicating quickly and effectively.
The key herbs in this formula include:
- Olive Leaf: Powerful for cardiovascular and immune system support, promotes healthy blood pressure.
- Agrimony: Contributes to detoxifying the body and promoting overall metabolic efficiency.
- Milk Thistle: A natural liver supporter and detoxifier that contains the compound silymarin, which helps regenerate Kupfer cells (liver cells) and has been extensively studied for its liver health benefits.
- Chamomile: Specific anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, muscle relaxant, antispasmodic, anti-allergenic and sedative properties.
- Red Rooibos: Acts as a scavenger to free radicals throughout the body, which are detrimental byproducts of cell metabolism.
- Burdock Root: Prevents cellular mutation by blocking dangerous chemicals from causing damage to cells.
- Pau d’Arco: Natural pain alleviator and anti-inflammatory remedy.
This formula is gentle, but highly effective at enhancing liver health and function. These nutrients support liver regeneration, liver detoxification, and are safe to take every day. Due to our team's potent extraction method, the tincture is also extremely concentrated (this is crucial in order to get therapeutic benefits).
Keep Your Liver Healthy, So It Can Keep You Healthy
The liver is truly an incredible organ that is constantly working to maintain our health. It is one of the most important and underappreciated organs in the human body, and without it, we simply could not survive.
When overburdened by biological and environmental toxins, the liver begins to function less efficiently, and this may lead to liver diseases, as well as other diseases in the body due to poor liver function.
The liver is the only visceral organ that possesses the capacity to regenerate, and liver health can be improved and maintained through proper dietary lifestyle and dietary habits, as well as from the assistance of herbal medicines that act on the liver.
As important as this organ is for overall health, it’s shocking how little most know about it. Show your liver some love making your health a priority. Use the information in this article to empower yourself on your wellness journey. The better we care for our body, the better the body can care for us and help us to lead happy, healthy lives well into our later years.