The importance of liver health cannot be overstated. Weighing approximately three pounds, it is a fairly large organ whose primary function is to “filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body,” says WebMD.
Additionally, the liver removes toxins such as bilirubin and ammonia from the blood, and also converts the nutrients from digestion into forms that the body can use. And these are just a few of the functions the liver performs, making it essential to your overall health and well being. As such, it’s important to keep it in tiptop shape, and the following six tips will help you do just that!
The first thing you can do to help improve your liver function is to remove, or limit intake of, certain foods from your diet. Care2.com says to “avoid eating heavy, fatty foods since they just create more work for the liver.” This includes things like margarine, shortening and commercial oils.
Additionally, you should significantly reduce your consumption of any refined sugars, such as sucrose and fructose—which are often found in soda and fruit juices—as LiveInTheNow.com indicates they can “induce fatty liver disease, and cause liver inflammation.” The American Liver Foundation adds that you should also avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice and regular pasta.
Removing certain foods from your diet isn’t enough, however. You must then incorporate healthier choices in order to boost the liver’s function and maintain it over time. Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, preferably fresh, which contain valuable vitamins and minerals that the liver needs to perform its functions.
Fruits and vegetables—along with whole grains, rice, and cereals—are also high in fiber, which Livestrong.com says help the body “efficiently eliminate toxins” by increasing “the frequency and quality of bowel movements.” Dr. Axe adds that it’s important to choose organic whenever possible, as these foods are free from the harmful pesticides and toxins that are present in traditional crops and meats, which the liver has to work hard to remove from the body.
Stress can be tremendously hard on the body, the liver included. Along with affecting the endocrine, reproductive, digestive, and immune systems, it can cause changes to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. When this happens, it “promotes inflammatory response and worsens liver damage, even contributing to liver diseases,” says Dr. Axe.
A damaged liver can also impact emotional health, and may lead to physical ailments such as rib pain, cramping and blurry vision. As such, the source says “it’s important to let go of built-up anger and keep positive energy moving by avoiding conflict and stressing over the small things.”
Exercise offers innumerable benefits to the body, including the improvement of liver function. Bel Marra Health says, “getting your heart pumping and increasing circulation can help your liver better process and detoxify blood, which it then releases to your brain, organs, tendons, and joints.”
Dr. Axe adds that exercise “helps blood and nutrients reach reproductive or digestive organs,” which can improve menstrual cycles and promote more regular bowel movements.
Certain herbs can also be used to boost liver function, including milk thistle, artichoke, rosemary and boldo. In speaking with Livestrong.com, William A. Mitchell, Jr., a naturopathic physician says, “these botanicals increase the production of bile, improve enzymatic activity of the liver or increase blood flow and nervous activity of the liver.”
It’s important to be cautious when using herbal remedies, however, as some can be harmful to the liver. WebMD points out that cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava, and ephedra have been known to cause problems.
Water is needed for the detoxification processes of the liver, and without a sufficient amount Livestrong.com says “the processes may be stilted.” As such, the source recommends drinking eight to 10 glasses of filtered water per day.
Adding fresh lemon juice to your water in the morning may further assist with this detoxification process as it stimulates gallbladder contractions, which Livestrong.com says “allow bile from the liver, which accumulated toxins overnight, to flow to the duodenum, in the small intestine, and from there out of the body.”