What is the organ responsible for breaking down and expelling toxins that enter the body, and that each system of the body, including the reproductive system, depends on to properly function?
- the kidneys
- the colon
- the liver
I hope you got it right! If not, the answer is, C – the liver.
The liver, the master detoxifier, is indeed responsible for a large part of our overall health and particularly instrumental in fertility health.
The liver has two main jobs:
- To convert food, fluid, and the air we breathe (including that which the body absorbs through the air we breathe) into the life-sustaining vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and nutrients that fuel and protect the body.
- To break down and expel toxins and excess hormones.
It does these jobs by…
- filtering toxins from the blood at a rate of over one quart per minute
- making bile, the fluid that helps the body break down fats and prevents constipation
- metabolizing excess hormones
- participating in healthy immune system function
- producing interferon, a protein that acts as the body’s natural defense system against pathogens (viruses, bacteria, germs, parasites, etc.)
- storing vitamins, minerals and enzymes for use when the body needs them
- converting amino acids into glucose for energy production
A liver that is tired, congested and overworked can produce a multitude of symptoms that are often thought to be caused by hormones and particularly hormone imbalance. Common symptoms of a sluggish liver are crashes of energy, poor digestion, skin issues (more below), weight gain and many more…
- anger or irritability
- bouts of general depression, headaches or body aches without an identifiable cause
- inability to properly balance hormones in the absence of other contributing fertility health issues
- poor digestion, nausea after meals (especially after eating fatty/oily foods) and constipation
- skin issues – irritation, some liver spots, itching, swelling with bags under the eyes, slight yellow hue, acne
- tiredness/fatigue without having overexerted oneself
Main contributors to liver sluggishness are eating a diet low in fiber that lacks fresh whole vegetables and overeating dairy, fatty meat, oils, alcohol and refined sugars. Repeated use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and tranquilizers, and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals also contribute to poor liver health.
How to Improve Liver HealthThe liver is an amazing organ! Thankfully it is able to renew and regenerate itself. This can take some time depending on the degree to which it is damaged – in general anywhere from three months to a year.
“Optimum nutrition is the best liver protection and the key to liver healing…” ~ Dr. Linda Page
A liver health program designed to help revitalize the liver should first and foremost focus on diet and exercise. Without the foundation of a whole food, clean diet and regular, moderate exercise, natural therapies supportive of liver health will not be as effective.
Dietary Choices for Optimal Liver FunctionA liver health program should include a whole food Fertility Diet including Fertility Smoothies. This way of eating is high in the following which are particularly healthy for the liver:
- Fresh vegetables, specifically dark green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables, chlorophyll-rich foods that boost liver health and function. FertiliGreens is a great way to get one complete serving of greens each day.
- Fiber which absorbs excess bile, promotes regular elimination including elimination of excess hormones – whole grains, beans, and legumes.
- Lean protein (mostly vegetable)- sprouts, whole grains, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Potassium-rich foods – dried fruits, some seafood
- Sulphur-rich foods – garlic, onion, cage-free eggs, cruciferous vegetables
- Enzyme/probiotic-rich foods – fermented foods or kefir
- Clean, filtered water – 6-8 glasses a day (add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice too)
- Bitters that stimulate digestion – artichokes, beets and radishes and their greens, endive and arugula
Foods to avoid:
- refined sugar
- refined grains
- fried foods high in saturated/trans fats
Dairy products that are organic, grass-fed and whole fat should be limited (avoid low-fat and nonfat dairy options).
In regards to lifestyle, the liver and reproductive organs depend on proper, healthy blood flow (circulation) and fresh oxygen to perform at their best.
Exercise – get moving! Be sure to exercise outside in nature where plenty of clean air is available to you as well. The liver depends on the oxygen coming into the lungs to properly function. Make sure you sweat when exercising to naturally detoxify (take a sauna or steam in a hot bath).
Breathe Clean Air – Buy an air purifier for the home or office and change or clean your furnace filter as suggested.
Stress ManagementHerbalist Matthew Wood says, “Whenever we have a mental state where there is anger, frustration and fighting against the flow or a lack of confidence in the natural progression of events, the liver will usually be involved. These mental conditions correspond with the old idea of a ‘choleric’ or liver personality, in Greek and Chinese medicine…” Those with these mental conditions also tend to “suffer from problems because of tension in other parts of the organism… One of the areas most strongly affected is the sexual-urinary tract.”
Healthy levels of stress hormones are necessary for liver function and the body’s ability to produce sex hormones. When being properly produced at normal levels, the stress hormone cortisol, for example, enhances the body’s natural resistance to emotional stress, but also enhances endurance and energy production by stimulating the liver to convert amino acids into glucose.
Herbs, Nutritional Supplements and Natural TherapiesModern society is a sad state that produces many over-processed livers. When we overeat or eat processed or fried foods, and, anytime we are exposed to environmental pollutants or stress, the liver becomes overworked and overloaded. When the liver is taxed, it can’t process toxins and fat in an efficient way.
Herbs and nutritional supplements can give your body the boost it needs to achieve optimal liver health.
A variety of herbs traditionally used to support liver detoxification, regeneration and health are:
There are many foods that can help cleanse the liver naturally by stimulating its natural ability to clean toxic waste from the body.
In the past, I have discussed my favorite cleansing foods. This list is a little more specific and focuses mainly on foods that can help cleanse your liver. In addition to taking a liver-cleansing supplement, and performing at least two liver and gallbladder cleanses per year, eating the following foods is the best way to keep your liver healthy and functioning the way you need it to. I would encourage you to incorporate these liver cleanse foods into your weekly diet.
1. GarlicJust a small amount of this pungent white bulb has the ability to activate liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins. Garlic also holds high amounts of allicin and selenium, two natural compounds that aid in liver cleansing.
2. GrapefruitHigh in both vitamin C and antioxidants, grapefruit increases the natural cleansing processes of the liver. A small glass of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice will help boost production of the liver detoxification enzymes that help flush out carcinogens and other toxins.
3. Beets and CarrotsBoth are extremely high in plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene; eating beets and carrots can help stimulate and improve overall liver function.
4. Green TeaThis liver-loving beverage is full of plant antioxidants known as catechins, a compound known to assist liver function.Green tea is not only delicious, it’s also a great way to improve your overall diet. Learn more about the benefits of green tea.
5. Leafy Green VegetablesOne of our most powerful allies in cleansing the liver, leafy greens can be eaten raw, cooked, or juiced. Extremely high in plant chlorophylls, greens suck up environmental toxins from the blood stream. With their distinct ability to neutralize heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, these cleansing foods offer a powerful protective mechanism for the liver.
Try incorporating leafy greens such as bitter gourd, arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens, and chicory into your diet. This will help increase the creation and flow of bile, the substance that removes waste from the organs and blood.
This nutrient-dense super-food helps the body produce glutathione, a compound that is necessary for the liver to cleanse harmful toxins.
7. ApplesHigh in pectin, apples hold the chemical constituents necessary for the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract. This, in turn, makes it easier for the liver to handle the toxic load during the cleansing process.
8. Olive OilCold-pressed organic oils such as olive, hemp and flax-seed are great for the liver, when used in moderation. They help the body by providing a lipid base that can suck up harmful toxins in the body. In this way, it takes some of the burden off the liver in terms of the toxic overload many of us suffer from.
9. Alternative GrainsIt’s not only that you need alternative grains like quinoa, millet, and buckwheat in your diet, it’s that if you’ve got wheat, flour, or other whole grains in your diet, it’s time to make changes. Your liver is your body’s filter for toxins, and grains that contain gluten are full of them. A study last year found that persons who experienced gluten sensitivities also had abnormal liver enzyme test results, and that’s just one of many.
10. Cruciferous VegetablesEating broccoli and cauliflower will increase the amount of glucosinolate in your system, adding to enzyme production in the liver. These natural enzymes help flush out carcinogens, and other toxins, out of our body which may significantly lower risks associated with cancer.
11. Lemons & LimesThese citrus fruits contain very high amounts of vitamin C, which aids the body in synthesizing toxic materials into substances that can be absorbed by water. Drinking freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice in the morning helps stimulate the liver.
12. WalnutsHolding high amounts of the amino acid arginine, walnuts aid the liver in detoxifying ammonia.Walnuts are also high in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which support normal liver cleansing actions. Make sure you chew the nuts well (until they are liquefied) before swallowing.
13. CabbageMuch like broccoli and cauliflower, eating cabbage helps stimulate the activation of two crucial liver detoxifying enzymes that help flush out toxins. Try eating more kimchi, coleslaw, cabbage soup and sauerkraut.
Nutritional SupplementsImmune system enhancing supplements are known to help support liver regeneration.
- Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system
- Probiotics – supportive of healthy gut flora to fight pathogens
- CoQ10 – another powerful antioxidant for fighting free radicals
- Immublend Therapy – promotes a healthy immune system response
- Forever Daily – a complete whole food multivitamin formulated specifically for women that includes Reishi and Maitake mushrooms that are known to enhance liver vitality
- Choline – a micronutrient, B vitamin, known to support the liver’s natural ability to detoxify and prevent fat build-up within itself. Suggested daily use is 425 mg. Foods rich in choline are eggs, don’t skip the yolks, Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, wild Alaskan Salmon, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, lentils and peanuts
Castor Oil Therapy – Applied over liver area three times a week aids in liver detoxification and increases liver circulation.
Fertility Yoga – Increases circulation throughout the body, stretches muscles and ligaments, promotes calm, relaxation and stress reduction, enhances breathing and the flow of oxygen into the lungs.
Every Nigerian “has some degree of liver malfunction” as a result of the standard Nigerian diet which is often high in empty calories, processed foods, fat, refined sugar, grains and alcohol. Other contributing factors to poor liver function are the unknown amounts of toxins from lifestyle choices, environmental toxins and body care products. This may be true of many cultures in this age of convenience.
It may not be completely realistic for some to avoid all that has been discussed that is known to task the liver. This being said, knowledge is power and knowing the standard way of life may not promote liver health (and as a result the body’s ability to achieve and maintain hormone balance), it may be time to commit to making dietary and lifestyle changes to show your liver some love. If you already lead a clean, healthy lifestyle and eat a whole food diet plus avoid toxins to the best of your ability, send your liver a thought of thanks.