The liver is the body’s largest gland. It is the only internal organ that will regenerate itself if part of it is damaged. Up to 25 percent of the liver can be removed and within a short period of time, it will grow back to its original shape and size.
The liver is the body’s most important organ, functioning as a living filter to clean the system of toxins, metabolize proteins, control hormonal balance, and produce immune-boosting factors.
Bile is the fluid produced by the liver. Your body produces about a quart of bile per day. Bile is essential for digestion of fats. It aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, helps convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, helps with calcium assimilation and promotes peristalsis which is the action of the colon that helps prevent constipation.
Bile does not function properly when the liver is congested, if the bile ducts are clogged, or if there is a lack of the nutrients necessary to make bile. Without enough bile, the liver begins to store fat rather than break it down. A sign of this is a roll of fat around the waistline.
One of the liver’s most important jobs is to detoxify our bodies. Ordinary digestion of even the best food creates byproducts that the liver must process and help eliminate. Add to that the substances we consume by choice that make the liver work even harder. These include alcohol, caffeine, sugar, synthetic vitamins and prescription drugs. Then add to that the thousands of chemicals that we are exposed to in our everyday environment. These include pesticides, automobile exhaust, second-hand smoke, chemical food additives, and indoor pollutants from paints, carpet, and cleaners. It is no wonder that many of us have livers that are overworked.
Under ordinary circumstances, your body will handle these toxins by converting them into less toxic substances to be eliminated by the kidneys and colon. This means that for the liver to function properly, you must also have proper kidney and colon function.
When the liver becomes overwhelmed, it can no longer function optimally. Signs of liver imbalance include weight gain around the abdomen, cellulite, abdominal bloating, indigestion, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint stiffness, arthritis, knee problems, fatigue, hormonal imbalances including hypothyroidism, mood swings, depression, allergies and skin rashes such as eczema and dermatitis.
Certain nutritional supplements can help restore health to the liver. In general I recommend a good liver cleanse. However, it is essential to have good kidney and colon function first. Sometimes it is necessary to work in stages by using a general cleanse first that addresses all of the body’s channels of elimination before working specifically on the liver.
There are many products that are helpful for balancing the liver. These include red beet root, dandelion, n-acetyl Cysteine, Sam-e, lecithin, alpha lipoic acid. There are many good combinations available. Note that for actually cleaning the liver I recommend herbs and amino acids that tend to act more deeply than milk thistle.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.