The liver is the largest and one of the most important organs in the body. A few of its main functions are (a) Metabolic — glucose homeostasis, (b) Synthetic — interconversion of nutrients, binding protein for iron, copper and vitamin A, (c) Storage — of vitamins and minerals, glycogen, and lipids, (d) Catabolic —detoxification, phagocytosis [bacterial metabolism], hormones, synthesis of blood components, (e) Excretory — bile production (Regan, J., et al. 2011) (Marieb, E.N. 2012).
Role of the liver in detox
One of the roles of the liver is detoxification. Substances ingested or produced by the body (a by-product of metabolism) will eventually get filtered through the liver. There are two phases of detoxification; Phase I and Phase II.
In Phase I the body draws in stored fat-soluble toxins from the body’s tissues. These toxins enter the body (via food – mouth – the nose or the skin) and if allowed to pass the barrier of the intestine make their way into our bloodstream. They are the last thing you would ever want to be floating around in the cardiovascular system, therefore they have stocked away in fat, nerves, brain and kidney tissues etc. until they can be properly and safely disposed of.
Phase II takes these toxins and prepares them for their exit from the body; a water molecule is added to each fat-soluble chemical allowing them to depart the body safely.
Detoxifies drugs such as; codeine, warfarin, prednisone, steroids and alcohol. In order for these toxins to be cleared out the following nutrients are required; copper, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, molybdenum, antioxidants & bioflavonoids.
Foods and other things that turn on Phase 1 (Activators)
Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, caraway, dill seeds, oranges, tangerines, vitamin B1, niacin, vitamin C, charbroiled meats, alcohol, nicotine, some drugs, chemicals, dioxin, pesticides.
Foods and other things that turn off Phase 1 (Inhibitors)
Drugs including antihistamines, stomach acid blockers, ketoconazole, naringenin (from grapefruit juice), turmeric, green tea, red chilli pepper, clove oil, onions (quercetin), calendula, milk thistle, ageing, hypothyroid, toxins from inappropriate intestinal bacteria.
The liver must function in a balance if Phase 1 is functioning either to quickly or too slowly its detox potential will not be there and instead of filtering chemicals out of the body they will be re-imbed into the body’s cells. To assess is Phase 1 is functioning optimally try a caffeine clearance test.
Phase II is the second part of Liver detoxification. Detoxifies drugs such as; acetaminophen, nicotine, caffeine, pesticides, epoxides, aspirin and benzoates. In order for these toxins to be cleared out the following nutrients are required; glutathione, vitamin B6, glycine, SAMe, methyl groups, molybdenum, cysteine, acetyl CoA and others.
Foods and other things that turn on Phase 2 (Activators)
Brassica family foods, limonene (found in the peel of citrus fruits, as well as herbs dill and caraway), glycine, methyl donators, taurine and fish oils, birth control pill and some drugs.
Foods and other things that turn off Phase 2 (Inhibitorsos)
A deficiency of glutathione, folic acid, Vitamin B1. B2, B5 and B12, selenium or zinc. A diet low in protein, aspirin,
The liver will do its best to break down toxic substances into less toxic forms that can be easily eliminated from the body, however for those that cannot be they are stored in the liver and in other tissues throughout the body. If one of the phases of detoxification is working either too quickly or too slowly due to deficiencies in nutrients, an imbalanced diet or a high intake of medication many of the toxins that enter the body will not be cleaned out properly.
If Phase I is moving too quickly and Phase II is working too slowly or as it should, it will not be able to keep up with the demand of Phase I and some toxins may be let into the body, the same can occur if Phase II is working faster than Phase I, as it may not process chemicals as effectively. To learn how to tell if one of your liver detox Phases is out of balance, to a Caffeine Clearance Test.
How to Improve Liver Function
It is said that life depends upon the liver! Your liver does many functions like storing nutrients, cleansing the blood and managing the cholesterol. This makes it very important for the overall health of the body. Fortunately, there are some foods for healthy liver which will help you keep it fit. These foods should help the liver in the detoxification process and should be rich in antioxidants.
Include foods which have ample amount of magnesium, folate, iron, flavonoids, vitamins etc. These will help the liver in detoxification. Any deficiency in the nutrients will slow down the process. Some foods that promote a healthy liver are dark leafy greens and bitters. Antioxidants will help in stopping tissue damage and will assist the liver in detoxification. Some recommended sources of antioxidants are cabbage, black raspberries, turmeric and spirulina.
Things to keep in mind while consuming foods for a healthy liver
- Chew your food properly and don’t just swallow it.
- Do not have any food that does not go well with your liver.
- Cut down on coffee and tea intake.
- Try to have adequate water.
- Take a daily dose of milk thistle, Echinacea or dandelion root, under professional supervision. All these supplements are said to clean the blood.
- Avoid using antibiotics and antacids as far as possible.
- Cut down on the sugar and salt intake to keep your body healthy.
- Go slow on alcohol.
- Quit smoking.
- Take up some form of exercise like yoga.
- Take adequate good quality sleep
- Reduces Stress and cortisol levels
An unhealthy liver can lead to fatigue, headaches, allergies, bad breath, skin problems and weight gain. Therefore, take care of it by having foods for healthy liver and following a healthy lifestyle. Below is a list of foods that aid in improving liver health and function.
Some common cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage etc. They are strong detoxifiers of our liver. These vegetables contain certain chemicals which neutralize toxins. They also help in the production of enzymes needed for detoxification.
Beetroot should be included in the diet for a healthy liver. It has blood-purifying properties to clean the blood. Beets can also absorb heavy metals from the blood.
Onions and garlic
Garlic has allicin which is needed for detoxification by the liver. It helps the liver to get rid of the mercury, estrogen and food additives.
Apple has pectin which binds itself to the heavy metal and helps in their excretion. This reduces the burden on the liver.
Lemon juice in hot water
Lemon juice provides a large quantity of vitamin C and vitamin C is a very important nutrient which strengthens the liver. Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant property which deals with a variety of effects. Lemon juice or vitamin C helps the liver filter out the free radicals which flow in your bloodstream. Apart from improving the immune system, lemon juice also helps your digestive system to digest the nutrients your body receives. Being from the citrus family, Lemons are very effective when it comes to stabilizing the digestive system and also the blood flow. It does not allow indigestible particles to enter the bloodstream. It acts as a filtration system in our body and removes all the toxins which will give your liver some time from the process of filtration function. This will give liver time to rebuild itself and become more efficient. Another major function of the liver is producing bile flow. By increasing the bile flow, the cleansing of the liver is more effective. The bile juice removes unwanted substances from the body and takes them out. When the filtration is taken care of by the lemon juice, the liver gets more time to produce more bile flow. This, in turn, improves the cleansing system of the liver.
Artichoke increases the bile production. Bile removes the toxins and harmful micro-organisms from the body through healthy bowel movement.
Fruits with high anti-oxidants:
Anti-oxidants protect the liver from the free radicals which are produced during the detoxification. These free radicals are harmful to the body. Some suggested fruits are prunes, blueberries, plums, oranges, pears, cantaloupes etc.
Bitter salad greens:
The bitterness present in the leafy greens helps in the stimulation of bile in the liver. Some bitter salad greens are chicory, dandelion, endive etc. All the above-given foods should be a part of a diet for a healthy liver.
Effects of Tobacco on the Liver
Most of us are aware of the adverse effects of tobacco on the liver. It has been discovered that tobacco can induce specific cytochrome P450 enzymes in the human liver, and enhance the chances of smokers to the harmful hepatotoxic effects of some medications, including acetaminophen. Also, smoking tobacco can lower the liver’s ability and function to detoxify dangerous compounds. It has been also discovered that smoking can affect the drug dose required to treat a specific liver disease. To make the matter worse, smoking can worsen the condition of alcoholic liver disease. Read on to know more about the adverse effects of tobacco on the liver.
Smoking Tobacco and Liver
Smoking tobacco can severely affect the function of your liver. The various toxins and harmful chemicals found in the tobacco cause scarring and chronic inflammation in the liver. These conditions, in turn, enhance your chances of suffering liver damage including ailments like liver fibroids, liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. To make the condition worse, smoking cigarettes severally affects the way the liver processes and metabolizes medications as well as alcohol. This can increase the risk of alcoholism. Also, it can increase one’s overall alcohol and drug tolerance levels.
Smoking Cigarettes Affects Your Liver
Your liver actually functions as a natural filter. The sole purpose of the liver is to prevent any toxic substance from entering the bloodstream. Additionally, the liver aids in metabolizing carbohydrates and sugars. Also, it regulates the bile flow. Bile helps in the process of digestion. So, you must know the importance of liver as one can’t survive without it. Once the liver is agitated, then your immune system automatically weakens and you become more susceptible to infections and diseases. One of the harmful toxins found in tobacco, N-Nitrosodiethylamine, can lead to the development of liver tumours. One more toxin, N-Nitrosopyrrolidine, can lead to liver cancer. Hence, it is very important to know about the effects of tobacco on the liver to help you to quit smoking for a good health. Just stay away from the habit to ensure longevity and good health
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