Updated: May 30, 2018
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms: fatigue, headache, migraines, brain fog, depression, irritability, eczema, muscle ache, joint pain, constipation, PMS, hot flashes, food and chemical sensitivities including perfume, paints, air freshener and alcohol intolerance? Does drinking coffee by midday keep you awake at night? Are you having issues with gallbladder, digesting fats and weight gain around the belly?
Did you know you are toxic?
These signs could be indicative of liver toxicity. Your body may be overloaded with toxins. Where do these toxins come from? We live in a toxic world. Environmental toxins such as pesticides, insecticides (weed killers), heavy metals, antibiotics and hormones have been contaminated in our food supplies. Moreover, plastic food containers (e.g. phthalates, BPA), household cleaning, cosmetic and personal care products, polluted water and air are accumulated in our body daily. Internally, the body also creates by-products such as free radicals (active molecules that can cause damage to our body’s cells) from metabolic processes, toxins from bacterial infection, drugs and other wastes in the form of used hormones and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters).
Your liver is the crucial organ that processes and eliminates toxins from your body. It is also responsible for other metabolic functions including:
(1) bile production to aid in digestion of fat,
(2) storage of vitamin A and iron,
(3) storage of glucose and converting it to energy,
(4) fructose metabolism and
(5) conversion of ammonia (a toxic product of protein metabolism) into urea.
Too much burden put on the liver can have impact on its metabolic functions and reduce its capacity to clear toxins. Such burdens are high alcohol consumption, environmental toxin overload and poor diet (i.e. high sugar, junk foods loaded with unhealthy fats and carbs and low vegetable intake). Notably, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been shown to be caused by high consumption of sugary food and refined carbohydrates, particularly high fructose. Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks was shown to increase fat accumulation in the liver and were correlated with increased obesity and presence of NAFLD. Unfortunately, drinking diet soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners do not provide protection against NAFLD due to their potential impact on increased insulin resistance.
How to test whether or not your liver is healthy
Signs of a sluggish liver may include any of the symptoms mentioned above and in a more severe case, jaundice (yellowish skin and whites of eyes), abdominal pain and swelling. In that case, see your doctor who can order a liver function test, which is a blood test used to screen for liver disease and to monitor the disease progression. Certain markers include serum aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin and albumin which are released into the circulation as a result of liver cell damage. As you can see having a healthy liver is critical and poor liver function can lead to many health problems. Looking after your liver to maintain its optimal function is vitally important for overall health.
How to support the liver health?
It seems we live in a modern toxic world and is impossible to avoid toxins completely. However, what you could do instead is to support your liver health by reducing exposure to environmental toxins e.g. eat organic produce when possible, wash fruits and vegetables before eating, and choose fresh wild caught fish (avoid farmed fish as it may be contaminated with toxic metal i.e. mercury). Check out what produces you should buy organic and what conventional grown produce may be OK. The 2017 EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ reported that more than 98% of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide. A single sample of strawberries showed 20 different pesticides and spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop. The EWG's Clean Fifteen list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues included sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit. Although this report was based on the produce grown in the US, it can be used as a guideline to help you choose clean foods within your budget. In fact, some of theses produce may be imported from the US, so it is still good to know.
Importantly, your liver needs nutrients to efficiently process toxins. Ensure your diet is high in antioxidants (compounds that mop up free radicals). This is because when toxic substances are processed by the liver, they become more water soluble and more toxic, and create free radicals which can cause damage to the cells if your diet is low in antioxidants (found in colourful vegetables and berries). Eat also good quality proteins, vitamins and minerals (from green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, kale) which provide building blocks and cofactors for enzymes (biocatalysts) to work efficiently during the detoxification processes. Finally, ensure you have regular bowel movement daily to allow toxins to be eliminated from your body.
Now you know the importance of your liver and why your body needs to detox. Have you ever done a detox? If yes, what detox method do you use? Did you feel the difference after a detox? Please share your experience below.