Eating sugar, fruit juice, and refined carbs go straight to your liver and start churning out fat. That triggers insulin resistance (meaning your cells malfunction and can’t transport the glucose into your cells for energy), leading to chronic fatigue. Your fatigue tells your body to release more glucose and dumps even more insulin into your blood (that’s not working). Your liver has one recourse – store more fat in your belly, leading to obesity and heart disease. The glucose and insulin lead to diabetes and heart disease. Not a great outcome huh?
It ain’t sexy, like the heart or brain, but your liver works harder than your heart and lungs combined, maybe even your brain too. Most of us know little about the liver except that it detoxes. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What’s the Big Deal About Your Liver?1
Did you know that your liver is part of your digestive system, immune system and the largest gland in your body? It gets funkier… Your gut breaks down food into its component nutrients and it directly enters your bloodstream, making a beeline to your liver to be filtered. Experts say that it all passes through an extraordinarily fine filtering system, one molecule at a time! Your liver helps balance your blood nutrient levels, makes enzymes, vitamins, breaks down toxins, and about another 500 life-supporting functions around the clock!
DIRECTS ENERGY: During the filtering of blood after digesting your meal, your liver captures the glucose (your body’s fuel source) and decides how much to leave in your bloodstream for distribution at that time. The remaining glucose your liver stores as glycogen to release for energy when you’re fasting. So your liver is in charge of the cellular fuel for every cell in your body.
DETOXES: While capturing energy, it filters the blood from harmful substances, detoxing meds, drugs, bacteria, and viruses. It also cleans undigested food bits, toxins (pesticides, alcohol, preservatives, cigarette smoke agents, etc.), and ammonia as urea. That toxic waste is either returned to your bloodstream to be filtered and flushed by your kidneys through urine. Or the liver directs the waste into bile and sent to your gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile until you eat and it’s released into your small intestine to help breakdown fats and snatch other waste for elimination as feces. How hard is your liver working to rid you of harmful toxins?
REGULATES BLOOD & CELLULAR NUTRIENTS: This ultra-complex organ also produces your blood proteins, cholesterol, and lipoproteins that support cell health. It regulates blood levels of amino acids (building blocks of proteins) and processes hemoglobin (red blood cells) for iron. It regulates blood clotting and clears bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cells. Your liver dictates the nutrient level needed of each in your blood to “feed” the building block cogs to every cell in your biological machine 24-7. It detects which cells need more vitamins or amino acids. And which require glucose to create the cellular fuel ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that powers every cellular reaction of your metabolism. But there’s so much more…
REGULATES IMMUNE FACTORS: Your liver is a frontline defender of harmful pathogens that enter your gut and bloodstream. It’s an important barrier, keeping you safe from the “outside” world. It also detects and regulates blood immunity markers (phagocytes) that fight blood bacteria.2 3 While the liver filters each molecule of digested food and macromolecule, it also decides whether it’s a friend or foe (food antigen). This determines whether to flip from immune-tolerant to anti-inflammatory status and go on the warpath. It can mount a rapid and robust immune response if it perceives an invader, which in our world is more-often-than-not. Excessive inflammation without a ceasefire and rest period leads to liver tissue damage and scarring. This severely weakens your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to chronic infection, poor wound healing, and cancer. 4
Isn’t that an eye-opener?
So, let’s get smart and help your liver. One of the best ways to repair, rebuild, and regenerate your health is nutrition. And as bizarre as this first suggestion sounds, the scientific research behind all of these are solid.
COFFEE: Researchers found that coffee prevents the buildup of fat and collagen, a sign of liver disease.6 Studies show it lowers the risk of cirrhosis (late stage of scarring or fibrosis) and death in people with chronic liver disease. 7 8 9 10 11 Research also shows it reduces the risk of liver cancer, disease, and inflammation. 12 13 14 Coffee boosts the antioxidant glutathione neutralizing damaging free radicals, thereby lowering inflammation.15 All that in a cup of joe?
BLACK & GREEN TEA: Studies found that Green tea improved blood markers of liver health and reduced the likelihood of developing cancer.16 17 18 Green tea can help people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Studies show that the high antioxidants improved liver enzyme levels, reduced oxidative stress and fatty deposits.19 Animal studies of Black tea extract showed it reversed many of the negative effects of a high-fat diet on the liver and improved its blood markers.20
BEETROOT JUICE: This NEW superfood is rich in nitrates and antioxidants called betalains. Betalains reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and increase natural detoxifying enzymes.21 22 23 24
CRUCIFEROUS VEGGIES: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and mustard greens are loaded with fiber and beneficial compounds. Animal studies showed that Broccoli sprouts and Brussel sprouts extracts increase detoxing enzymes and liver-protecting properties even if the Brussels sprouts are cooked. 25 26 27 Broccoli sprouts showed improved liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress in men with fatty liver. The study also prevented liver failure in rats. 28
PRICKLY PEAR (Opuntia ficus-indica): This Mediterranean delicacy is a juicy cactus fruit also used for centuries by the Aztecs for wounds, fatigue, and liver disease. High in fiber, essential fatty acids, carotenoids, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and trace vitamins and minerals.29 30 A 2004 study of 55 people showed reduced symptoms of a hangover when consumed before alcohol. Researchers concluded it reduced the inflammation that would have flared in the liver during alcohol detoxification.31 Some pesticides can severely harm the liver, but amazingly, an animal study showed Prickly pear blocked this damage, helping normalize enzyme and cholesterol levels.32 33 Don’t forget to add this succulent fruit to your grocery list!
FATTY FISH: Does it feel like everywhere you look, you’re being hit on the head about fatty fish? Are you getting the hint? The only place in nature to get Omega 3s is fish and algae. Doesn’t fish sound like a more pleasant experience? It’s essential to life; every cell needs it. So if you can’t stomach fish, choose a high-quality, safely, and sustainably sourced supplement. Omega fatty acids help prevent liver fatty deposits, keep enzyme levels balanced, fight inflammation, and improve insulin resistance. 34 Omega-3s also fight for the same receptors as Omega-6s, which promotes liver disease. So the more Omega-3s, the better chances you get less of the harmful Omega-6s.35
THRIVE & Avoid Disease 36
EAT A BALANCED DIET: You know the drill. Avoid high calorie, saturated fats, starchy carbs, and sugars. Don’t eat raw or undercooked shellfish. Eat fiber from fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Limit red meat and dairy. The Foundation of Viral Hepatitis and new studies say YES to eggs (2-3x a week)!37 Hydrate.
Add:38 Fruit (not juice), Berries, Grapes, Olives, Avocados, Artichokes, Garlic, Ginger, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Turmeric, Sunflower seeds & Nuts, Almonds (just a few each day), Whole Grains, Legumes (Alfalfa)
Avoid Fatty Liver:39 Dark poultry meat, Full-fat cheese, Yogurt (Low-fat yogurt is okay!) Red meat, Baked goods & Fried foods made with palm or coconut oils, Sugar and any foods containing sugar or high-fructose corn syrup
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT: Carrying excess weight puts you in a direct line-of-fire for a fatty liver that can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
EXERCISE: Regular activity helps burn triglycerides and reduce fatty deposits in your liver.
AVOID TOXINS: Swap chemical-laced cleaning and other household and gardening products for safer plant-based, non-aerosol options. Ventilate, wear masks when needed, and don’t smoke.
RESPONSIBLE ALCOHOL USE: This is not news, but alcohol destroys liver cells and scars your liver. Avoid hard liquor and limit your wine or quit altogether, especially if you have liver issues.
MEDICATIONS & ILLICIT DRUGS: Most drugs and medicines are like poisons to your liver and must be broken down into friendlier components. Follow label instructions and never mix alcohol or drugs with your meds. If you’re taking meds, let your doctor know what supplements you’re taking. Too much of any or mixing can affect the way your liver functions, causing damage and serious health risks.40
Use some of the information you’ve learned here to revamp your grocery list and eating habits. Your liver will appreciate a much-needed rest from detoxing and get the chance to repair some existing damage. You’ll find that you’ll feel invigorated, your energy will skyrocket, your skin will look vibrant and radiant, all while your waist shrinks! Now, that’s a win-win!!