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we ingest, absorb through the skin or breathe must be detoxified and
refined by the liver.
Roughly 1,7 litres of blood are 'cleaned up' by the liver daily. It stores iron, and other important nutrients, creates chemicals your body needs for good health and makes bile. It is easy to see just how crucial a healthy liver is to your health.
It also removes waste from the blood and is the major detoxifying organ. It must deal not only with excess accumulations of fats, proteins, etc, but all the environmental as well as the unnatural chemicals found in modern (commercialized) foods. Soft drinks, flavour enhancers, preservatives, artificial agents, colour, emulsifiers, pesticides on foods, hormones in meat, chemicals in the water supply and cosmetics such as hairspray, creams and more all contribute to toxic buildup. Toxins, by the way, are stored in your body fat if your liver cannot get rid of it.
Combine dietary excess, a fat-food/fast-food and commercial food based diet with drinking excessively (alcohol is a major toxin) and one can understand the stress the liver is subjected to. Multiply this by years of abuse and the resulting health problems are not surprising.
But what are the more subtle signs of a sluggish, clogged liver? Metabolic problems such as difficulty in loosing or keeping weight off as well as:
The Gall Bladder - the liver's partner
Attached to the liver and lying just below it, the gall bladder's job is to store and concentrate the bile produced by the liver and release bile by way of ducts into the duodenum where it is essential for lipid (normal fats) digestion. Approximately half a litre of bile is produced by the liver daily on average - by a healthy liver. When a stressed liver cannot function properly, it may not produce enough bile leading to digestive problems (and poor nutrient conversion) because the gall bladder does not have enough bile to release. Too concentrated bile can lead to gall stones.
Bile serves four functions: emulsifies fats (bile acids and lecithin), stimulates the release of lipases from the pancreas (enzymes to break down lipids), combines with lipids to form water soluble complexes so that it can be absorbed in the small intestine and lastly, stimulates peristalic action (wavelike muscular action of the digestive tract-large intestine).
The Digestive System - an intimate co-operation
Digestion starts in your mouth (mastication and saliva) and continues in the stomach, the pancreas - which secretes digestive enzymes, the liver, the gall bladder, and the small and large intestines.
Eating/nourishing involves three steps:
Absorption happens through the small intestine. Minute particles of food and nutrients are absorbed through the small intestine's membrane into the blood which is then filtered by the liver and eventually metabolized by the body through various cellular processes and body fluids. Absorption continues even in the large intestine, the terminal phase of digestion, until feces is passed out.
As you can see, the liver is important in both the digestion (producing bile) and absorption (filters) phases.
Optimally, the following mini-plan should be started at a time when you are free from work or stress.
First day: at least 1 liter of water with a little lemon juice and a liter of carrot or beet juice with a little aloe vera juice for the first 24 hours. Drink it warm or hot as a tea and sip throughout the day - never cold. Do not take any vitamins or medications during this period if you can. Add a pinch of natural sea salt to each glass you drink. On this day you are giving your liver and digestive system a much needed rest. If using carrot juice, just a few drops of olive oil is all that is necessary for proper vitamin absorption.
On the second day, eat brown rice without any addition of fats or oils, continue the water and the salt (3 to 4 small meals a day). Drink the vegetable juices from day one separate from the brown rice meals.
By the third day, continue as the first two days but add fruits, steamed vegetables and yoghurt, either thinned with a little water and a pinch of salt or pure with your fruit if you like. Eat as much celery as you like. It is a natural diuretic and excellent fibre source. Drink a small glass of fresh orange juice twice daily - never a large glass at one time. Try to eat 4 small meals (breakfast and dinner with two smaller meals between) and your main meal at midday rather than in the evening if you can (making a total of 5 meals). A meal may consist of a piece of fruit or yoghurt. Use no spices such as cayenne or paprika.
After the third day, you may gradually add more foods, but avoid sugars, excess bread products and especially fats and oils - use those in small amounts but be sure to use a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil daily after a week. Your body needs healthy fats, but not excessively. Wait several weeks before drinking wine or beer and take a serious look at what you habitually eat. Cut out commercial foods - they are loaded with chemicals, hydrogenated fats (margarines, etc.) artificial fats and sugars. Eat lots of artichokes - besides being tasty and versatile to prepare, they are especially good for the liver (see list below for liver supporting foods)!
If you have the discipline, repeat the first day for three days before continuing. And once a month or 6 weeks, repeat the first day.
Additional helps at anytime
There are numerous herbal teas, infusions and bitters that are liver supportive as well.
Herbs for infusions and teas: health food shop or herbal shops
balmony, barberry, dandelion (taraxacum officinale), fumitory, milk thistle
Under no circumstances take herbs in capsule form.
Bitters: bitters stimulate the liver to work more efficiently in all areas with a positive side effect of more efficient fat burn resulting in natural weight loss if you are overweight
Swedish Bitters (aka: Swedish Herbs, Schwedenkräuter) An excellent tonic not only for the liver but as an adaptogen.
Here an interesting link on bitters: http://www.evenstaronline.com/articles/bitters.html
Foods for your liver health: vegetables - artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, broccoli, , cabbage, dandelion, fennel, onions and garlic, parsley, radish, turnips
Fruits - apple and pears, avocado, banana, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, papaya, pineapple, watermelon and fibre in any vegetable/fruit form. Other - whole grains, lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, linseed
The liver is very forgiving. Help it and it can heal itself. Respect it and you will find a general boost and improvement in every aspect of your health and well being. Eat for health!
"Moderation is medicine"
Highly suggested reading: The Liver Detox Plan by Dr. Xandria Williams
Obligatory Disclaimer: information here is not meant to replace your doctor's advice and is intended for educational purposes. You alone are responsible for your food, health and treatment decisions.
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Patricia Conant, columnist and food writer
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