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Liver (general health)

General characteristics

General characteristics

The liver is a major organ of the body situated on the right side of the abdomen, just around the lower level of the ribcage. It is a unique organ in that it can lose up to 75% of its functioning cells whilst still continuing with its many functions and is even capable of regenerating (with care and attention) from such a large loss of function.

The liver has over 500 vital functions which include neutralising ingested toxins; neutralising harmful substances that arise from normal bodily functions; receives nutrients direct from the small intestine and releases them to the bloodstream as and when needed; metabolises fats, proteins and carbohydrates and converts them into usable energy and nutrition; producing cholesterol; the digestion of fats; converting sugars to glycogen for storage and later use; converting stored glycogen back into usable sugar when needed; destroys and processes dead red blood cells; produces bile; stores some vitamins and minerals; makes, regulates and breaks down many hormones; contributes to the immune response; creates proteins; creates bile from dead red blood cells and stores them in the gallbladder; generates body heat and has many more important functions, some of which are not fully understood as yet.

The liver is richly supplied with blood (it holds as much as 1 pint or approximately 15% of our blood at any one time) from both the portal vein and the hepatic artery. The hepatic artery brings fresh, oxygen rich blood to the liver from the heart and delivers about 25% of the livers blood supply. The portal vein (supplies roughly 75% of the livers blood) brings nutrient rich blood from the small intestine, stomach, pancreas and spleen in order for it to be processed and filtered in the liver. The liver then filters and processes many substances (eg foodstuffs, drugs, toxins etc) before passing the filtered blood into the 'true' veins to be circulated around the body.

The liver has an incredible workload and if its function or health is impaired, detrimental effects can occur in all the systems of the body. Signs that the livers functions may be compromised include tiredness and lethargy, low appetite, nausea, digestive distress, yellowish whites in the eyes, generalised itching, regular headaches, anger or other emotional outbursts and sharp pains around the shoulders.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat organic food wherever possible to avoid burdening the liver with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other things like antibiotics and hormones used in animal rearing.

Drink alcohol in moderation only. Alcohol is particularly damaging to the liver.

Avoid processed foods and those containing adulterated fats and oils (trans fats and hydrogenated). Fatty foods of all kinds (especially processed animal products) should be limited when the liver is in poor health. Fried foods, pastries and pies, cakes and biscuits and processed meat products all contain oils and fats that have been heated and most likely processed in some way. Limit your intake of these foods to help maintain a healthy liver and avoid completely if your liver is already unwell. Oils and fats may be safely consumed in their natural state such as whole seeds or sprouted seeds and grains.

Foods that are beneficial to the liver and its healthy functioning include globe artichokes, radishes, carrots, chicory, olives, seaweeds, grapes, citrus fruits, mango, broccoli, cabbage, dark green leaves, garlic and onions, seeds and sprouted seeds and herbs/spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary and peppermint. Raw foods are naturally high in anti-oxidants which help the liver retain its vigour, so include at least one salad a day in your diet. Include some of the foods listed in your salad to help the liver even more.

Eat plenty of the culinary/medicinal seeds such as fennel, caraway, coriander etc.

Olive oil has a positive and gentle cleansing action on the liver so use raw, cold pressed extra virgin oil on salads etc.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Herbs that help to keep the liver healthy and cleansed include the bitter tonics such as barberry root, agrimony, artichoke leaf, dandelion root, holy/blessed thistle, gentian, yellow dock root, rosemary, sage and blue flag root. Use equal parts of 4-5 of the tinctures and take a teaspoon in a little water after meals.

For more serious stagnation and detoxing add burdock root and a pinch of ginger root to the above formula.

Milk thistle seeds are used to regenerate the liver tissue after serious infection, toxicity or cirrhosis. Take a teaspoon of powdered seed 3 times daily.

Herbs such as rosemary, turmeric and lemon balm give a powerful anti-oxidant boost to the liver.

A pinch of goldenseal powder may be added to any herbal drinks to deliver an antibiotic action to the liver.

Plantain leaf tea is an all round tonic and cleanser of the whole body including the liver and helps expel toxins and poisons from the blood. Red clover flowers and violet leaves are also good for all round liver cleansing.

Daily cups of nettle tea will do nothing but good for the entire body, including aiding the liver in its many function.

Drinking chamomile tea daily can also help keep the liver and digestive tract in good shape.

Neem leaves are good at protecting the liver from certain toxins.

Echinacea root can help with chronic or acute infections of the liver.

Fenugreek seeds can help to keep the liver in good clean working order and will help with conditions such as fatty liver.

Schisandra berries have a protective effect on the liver (from hormone breakdown, medications, fatty accumulatons, infections) and encourage better liver function and health.

Natural healing

Natural healing

A gentle way to cleanse the liver is to drink the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a glass of water, in the morning on an empty stomach.
A really good deep belly laugh, for as long as you can maintain it, exercises the lungs, enlivens the liver and wakes up the digestive system.
Some people may benefit from sluggish liver conditions by following a two day fast, drinking only freshly squeezed apple juice mixed with water, or freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice in water.

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