Enliven Your Liver!
- What Does Our Liver Do For Us?
- How Can We Support It?
- What About Liver Cleansing?
It’s not surprising to learn that the word liver is derived from the Old English word for life.
Considering its importance, the liver may be the most underrated and least appreciated organ in our bodies.
Our health is directly related to how well our livers are functioning. Located on the right side of the upper abdominal area, the liver weighs about four pounds, is our second largest organ (the skin is the largest), and delivers a multitude of essential functions.
Among its contributions, the liver metabolizes food, stores vitamins and minerals, makes and breaks down hormones, controls blood sugar levels, synthesizes and regulates cholesterol, contributes to the immune system, generates bile, and detoxifies our blood.
In this edition of Nutrition News, we are concerned with the detoxification process. We discuss how we can support and optimize liver function while forwarding the quality of our own health – and lives.
Liver disease is on the rise. Look inside and find out why . . .
TOPIC: LIVER HEALTH
EGGS ARE WONDERFUL FOR THE LIVER. Not only do they have the highest content of lecithin (a fat emulsifier and brain food) of any food, they are high in the sulfur-bearing amino acids taurine, cysteine, and methionine. These amino acids are required for the liver to produce bile and generate glutathione, the most important liver enzyme detoxifier.
• What Does Our Liver Do For Us?
• How Can We Support It?
• What About Liver Cleansing?
• Which Supplements Should We Use?
Liver Disease Is On The Rise.
Look Inside And Find Out Why….
Enliven Your Liver!
It’s not surprising to learn that the word liver is derived from the Old English word for life. Considering its importance, the liver may be the most underrated and least appreciated organ in our bodies. Our health is directly related to how well our livers are functioning. Located on the right side of the upper abdominal area, the liver weighs about four pounds, is our second largest organ (the skin is the largest), and delivers a multitude of essential functions.
Among its contributions, the liver metabolizes food, stores vitamins and minerals, makes and breaks down hormones, controls blood sugar levels, synthesizes and regulates cholesterol, contributes to the immune system, generates bile, and detoxifies our blood. In this edition of Nutrition News, we are concerned with the detoxification process. We discuss how we can support and optimize liver function while forwarding the quality of our own health – and lives.
pecifically, the liver • Manufactures 13,000 different chemicals • Manages 2000 internal enzyme systems • Filters 100 gallons of blood daily, and • Produces 1 quart of bile every day.
Liver function testing reveals that even “healthy” people are well advised to undertake an annual or biannual liver cleansing program. Healthy or not, few of us give any thought to whether or not our livers are functioning well. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for the liver to lose as much as 70 percent of its capability before liver disease is diagnosed.
With a healthy liver, detoxification protects us from the damaging effects of the many toxic compounds we are exposed to each day. Some of these compounds are the natural by-products of metabolic processes. However, these are not the only internal toxins. Both poor eating habits and nutritional deficiencies add to the load. Further, dysfunctional systems (such as irritable bowel and leaky gut), infections (including gum disease), and drugs (prescription as well as alcohol and caffeine) result in toxins that must be managed by the liver.
Simultaneously, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 6 trillion pounds of chemicals are emitted into the environment every year. Right in our own homes, we are exposed to herbicides, pesticides, household chemicals, food additives, etc. There is sufficient evidence to show a connection between these kinds of chemical exposure and chronic health problems, such as allergies and food sensitivities. Even simple trips to a gas station or dry cleaner result in elevated levels of toxins in our bodies. Also, let’s not forget people who spend hours each day sitting in traffic breathing fumes. Amazing as it is, the liver was not designed to take on such huge challenges.
properly functioning liver detoxifies in three ways: 1) It filters the blood to remove large toxins; 2) It uses enzymes to breakdown unwanted chemicals; 3) It manufactures and secretes bile to emulsify fat soluble toxins and cholesterol.
Step 1: Blood is normally routed through the liver by the circulatory system. It is carried from the stomach and the intestines to the liver via the portal vein. This toxin-loaded blood
is cleansed by our livers several times each day. At any moment,
about a pint is being detoxified. A healthy liver cleans nearly 100 percent of bacteria and toxins from the blood before returning it to circulation.
Step 2: The second detox function, using enzymes to breakdown toxic chemicals involves a two step process. The steps are named Phase I and Phase II. These phases neutralize chemical compounds such as drugs and heavy metals as well as normal body compounds such as hormones. The enzymes in Phase I neutralize some of the chemicals and send them on to be eliminated by the kidneys or by the intestines after being treated by bile. Others are managed in Phase II. The forms shuffled to Phase II are frequently far more dangerous than the original toxins. Thus, the importance of Phase II cannot be overemphasized.
The 50-100 enzymes involved in Phase I require the presence of copper, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C. Foods such as cabbage, broccoli, whole grains, peppers, and citrus supply these nutrients.1 If detox is incomplete here, some chemical toxins are then stored in the liver. The Phase I process generates very large amounts of free radicals. These are neutralized by antioxidants, particularly glutathione, one of the body’s most powerful self-generated antioxidants. Glutathione is likewise important to some Phase II reactions.
Normal functioning in Phase II involves the binding of a protective compound to a toxin. (One of the binding substances is glutathione.) Again, these enzyme systems call for nutrients and metabolic energy to function. When any these are not available in adequate amounts, those particular enzyme pathways shut down. This causes Phase II processes to occur more slowly than Phase I. As a result, reactive chemicals accumulate in the liver, increasing overall toxicity. It follows that people whose Phase II processing fails to keep apace with their Phase I are most prone to chronic illness.
Step 3: The third and final component of the detoxification process is the manufacture and secretion of bile. Bile production is one of the liver’s most important functions. Bile is an emulsifier produced from cholesterol. It effectively eliminates toxic substances from the liver and makes them less toxic. Once secreted, bile is stored in the gall bladder. Its release from both the gall bladder and the liver is stimulated by the presence of fat in the intestines.
Bile supports the digestion and absorption of fat and fat soluble vitamins. It converts beta-carotene into vitamin A and supports the assimilation of calcium. It helps to lubricate the intestines, promoting peristalsis and helping to prevent constipation.
Fiber (which also helps to keep us regular) is indispensable to this process. Once the bile enters the intestines, the toxins are absorbed by available dietary fiber and then eliminated in the feces. Problems arise when there is not enough fiber and/or not enough water. Slow transit time of intestinal contents allows the toxin-laden bile to be reabsorbed, eventually returning to the liver. This can cause the liver to become overburdened, compromising its efficiency and decreasing bile flow. One consequence is a constipated liver. There are others.
Gall bladder problems develop when the overwhelmed liver sends toxins on to it before they are fully neutralized. This toxic bile irritates the gall bladder, causing it to malfunction. Further, it can even burn the gall bladder, the bile ducts, and the intestines. Inflammation of the liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and duodenum is the result.
A more familiar problem is the formation of gallstones. Gallstones are thought to be due to an imbalance of bile salts and minerals, combined with toxins, excess cholesterol in the bile, and dehydration. Both a high fat/low fiber diet and pregnancy have been associated with gallstones. Gallstones block the excretion of bile from the liver. Once again, this leads to a liver overwhelmed by toxins.
Good quality bile causes a walnut brown stool. Insufficient bile results in light colored stool.
iver cleansing is a good idea for everybody. Liver function tests show that only half the “healthy” subjects actually had healthy livers. On the other hand, an annual or biannual cleanse is an important preventive measure.
The first remedy for compromised liver function is to reduce the toxic overload. With this, the balance of Phase I and Phase II begins to be restored. The second step is to insure sufficient nutrients are present to support the enzyme systems. Both of these objectives can be accomplished by eating a
healthy diet and adding the recommended supplements.
The term “healthy diet” means fresh whole foods. During your detox diet, eliminate processed foods like white flour and white flour products, sugar and foods containing sugar, dairy products, and condiments (catsup, mustard, prepared salad dressings, relishes, peanut butter, etc.). This is a diet of pure foods, free from additives, hormones, unwanted chemicals, and pesticides. No caffeine, no sodas, and no artificial sweeteners. Daily food intake includes:
• Nutritious whole foods: Deep water fish, organic poultry and eggs, plenty of organic
vegetables, fruits, and whole grains • Digestive enzymes • Supplements and herbs
• Green drinks or fresh-squeezed juices2 • 7 – 10 glasses of water • Fiber supplement
Beyond the high fiber content of a whole foods diet, supplementary fiber is added to the diet during any liver cleanse. This supports the elimination of extra toxins carried by bile. Remember, bile is dumped into the intestines where the toxins it carries bind with fiber and are then eliminated from the body.
Clean It Up
upplementation with vitamins and minerals (particularly B complex), antioxidants, branched-chain amino acids, and certain herbs has been shown to support cleansing, to have protective qualities, and to be beneficial for the liver. Along with a healthy diet, the supplements we discuss can deliver the following benefits:
• Maintain healthy metabolism
• Neutralize free radicals
• Increase glutathione levels
• Detoxify the liver.
Support The System
A multivitamin-mineral formula brings general support to the body. In particular, the B vitamins (always present in any good multi) are essential to healthy metabolism. Here is a typical formula:
• B1 (thiamine) 500 mg
• B2 (riboflavin) 75 mg
• B5 (pantothenic acid) 1500 mg
• B6 (pyridoxine) 200 mg
• B12 (cobalamin) 5 mg
• Folic acid 800 mcg
Note the large amount of B12 and the missing B3 (niacin). B12 is recommended in its sublingual form 1-5 times daily. This form of the vitamin is transported directly to the bloodstream (Capsules or tablets are commonly not well absorbed.) The large amounts protect the liver while supporting energy metabolism and red blood cell production. Additional niacin — beyond that occurring in the diet — is to be avoided by people with liver conditions.
Choline, another B complex vitamin, is one of the most important substances for liver protection. Best known for its part in the formation of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter), it is also a primary part of the cell membrane so it is used everywhere in the body. Essential for the use of fats, it stops fat from being deposited in the liver and helps move it into the cells. A useful and inexpensive form of choline is phosphatidyl choline. PC is specific to liver health, and helps to deliver herbal nutrients. Take 1 gram 3x/d with each meal.
Bring On The Antioxidants
A great deal of the damage done to the liver is the result of oxidation. It follows that much of the support we can bring to our livers is by supplementing with powerful antioxidants.
Vitamin C is the best known of the antioxidants. (Its essential use in the body is in the formation of collagen, a protein that literally holds our bodies together.) Found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, vitamin C is protective against liver damage, especially when used with vitamin E. The minimum recommendation is 2500 mg/d (in divided doses).
Vitamin E protects the fatty acids in cell walls from oxidation. In addition, it protects LDL and VLDL cholesterol (the type that can coat the artery walls) from being oxidized. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin and one of the functions of the liver is to carry fat soluble vites to the cells. The heart and liver protective amount is 400 IU vitamin E as d-alpha-tocopherol plus 200 mg of gamma tocopherol are suggested. Or use a vitamin E with full-spectrum tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is important to healthy metabolism and studies have shown that it has value for the liver. It is protective against liver damage incurred from reduced blood flow in the liver, and against oxidative damage to the mitochondria. Take 100-300 mg daily.
N-acetyl-cysteine is an amino acid that has antioxidant action. It has been used successfully to treat the liver for toxic effects from acetaminophen (Tylenol) and poisonous mushrooms. Most importantly, it enhances the production of glutathione, the liver’s favorite antioxidant. Take 500 mg daily.
Alpha-lipoic acid works synergistically with other antioxidants. Because of this, it greatly increases glutathione levels within the cells. It is both fat and water soluble and is known to bring antioxidant action to the cell membrane. It has been shown to chelate heavy metals so they can be eliminated, and it helps prevent gene damage. The recommended dose is 250 mg 3x/d.
Selenium, the trace mineral, detoxifies liver enzymes, exerting anti-inflammatory effects, and acts as an antioxidant. Selenium is a direct support for the glutathione antioxidant system. Take 200 mcg daily.
Zinc is famous for its part in hundreds of the body’s enzyme systems. Regarding the liver, it acts to chelate copper. Take 30-85 mg daily.
Enliven Your Liver!
In addition to PC, there are other supplements specific to liver function. Taking them on a daily basis completes the liver health regimen and supports any liver cleansing program.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine, a natural antidepressant) is used here by the body to help synthesize glutathione. SAMe also has antioxidant effects on the liver, and can restore liver cell function destroyed by hepatitis C. It discourages the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver. TMG, a SAMe precursor can be used effectively and is less costly. The SAMe recommendation is 400 mg 3x/d with food. TMG? 750 mg 3x/d.
Silymarin is the active component of milk thistle. Milk thistle is widely recognized for its salutary effects on liver health. It prevents free radical damage, stabilizes plasma membranes, and stimulates new liver cell production. In addition, it has antioxidant effects, spares glutathione (raising levels), and protects against toxic chemicals. The recommendation for healthy people is 325 mg while those with liver disease may take up to 6x this amount.
Siri Says: Glutathione is bolded throughout the newsletter because of its importance to liver health. Glutathione is one of three antioxidants that are produced by the body. Until now, it hasn’t been easy to persuade the body to increase its glutathione production. However, a newly discovered, patented probiotic is proven to boost glutathione levels. We will be naming and discussing this unique multi-function probiotic and its powerful antioxidant activity in an upcoming Nutrition News.
1 In Renew Your Life, author and health therapist Brenda Watson shares that grapefruit inhibits Phase I enzymes and should not be eaten if toxic exposure is high or prescription meds are being taken.
2 Fresh greens are easily added to smoothies. Simply toss a couple of handfuls of power greens into your smoothie ingredients and whiz.
Some Signals of
• High blood pressure
• Elevated cholesterol
• Abdominal bloating
• Pot belly
• Liver spots on skin
• Weight gain
• Eczema, skin problems
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Hot flashes
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Compromised pancreas
Commonly, the liver has lost
as much as 70% of its capacity
before liver disease is diagnosed.
• Pale stools
• Pain in the right side
• Depressed appetite
• Metallic taste in mouth
• Loss of energy
• Frontal headaches
• Emotional excess
• Weak tendons, ligaments, muscles
• Chemical sensitivities
• Discolored whites of the eyes
• Pain under the right shoulder blade
• Poor tolerance to fatty foods
• Drowsiness after eating
• Skin problems
48% Of Obese Teen Boys May Have Fatty Liver Disease
…according to the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics. Although people associate liver disease with alcoholism and hepatitis, today the leading cause of liver disease is excess weight. Along with high blood sugar, obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. With between 30 and 50% of adults in developed countries having NAFLD, it is no surprise that physicians are
seeing record numbers of people with NAFLD.
Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, NAFLD has become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in America. Statistics show that between 1988 and 1994, the prevalence of NAFLD in children 12-19 was 3.9%. That figure zoomed to 10.7% by 2010. There is no reason to believe that trend has reversed in the past 5 years.
There are no approved pharmacological treatments for fatty liver disease. The good news is that lifestyle and dietary changes can prevent and reverse this life-threatening disease. A highly documented article in Life Extension (April 2015) discusses the ability of compounds like silymarin (milk thistle plant) to protect against damage inflicted by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and even to reverse its progression (see dosage above.)