Healthy Liver Diet


| July/August 2002



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Exercise complements any healthy liver diet.


Recipes:

When you consider all of the incredible functions the liver performs in the body, you can begin to understand why taking good care of this important organ can have a positive effect on overall health and vitality. A healthy liver clears much of the bacteria and toxins from the body. It plays a vital role in digestion and fat regulation, hormonal balance, detoxification, and circulation. Below is a breakdown of some of its many duties. (And you thought you were busy!)

  • Metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, thus providing nutrients and energy
  • Creates bile, which breaks down fats
  • Stores fuel for the body in the form of glycogen, which readily converts to glucose (quick energy)
  • Metabolizes drugs and breaks down alcohol
  • Stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars
  • Filters the blood and helps remove harmful chemicals and bacteria (more than 2 quarts of blood are filtered by the liver each minute)
  • Regulates the body’s ability to clot
  • Governs the transport of fat stores
  • Helps assimilate and store fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, D, and K (it can store enough vitamin A to supply an adult’s needs for up to four years and enough vitamin D and vitamin B12 to last for four months!); stores copper and iron
  • Stores extra blood, which can be quickly released when needed
  • Creates serum proteins, which maintain fluid balance and act as carriers for hormones such as estrogen and other substances
  • Helps maintain electrolyte and water balance
  • Creates immune substances, such as gamma globulin
  • Regulates levels of sexual hormones; manufactures estrogen and testosterone; breaks down and eliminates excess sexual hormones

The liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the liver’s primary jobs, besides regulating bile flow (also a primary job in Western medicine’s view), are considered to be regulating digestion and the flow of qi (vital essence). Additionally, it is thought to harmonize the emotions and hold the responsibility for maintaining a relaxed inner environment and an even-tempered disposition. In Chinese medicine theory, the liver regulates the blood, which is not surprising, since the blood and qi work together in the body. TCM texts state that the liver also “rules” the tendons and is manifested in the nails. This can provide helpful diagnostic information. For example, if the tendons are stiff, hard, and painful; or if they’re weak, with increased susceptibility to injury; or if the nails are pale and brittle, then it could mean that the liver is failing to nourish the tendons and nails properly.

Unfortunately, the liver’s important work is thwarted by a number of factors in our modern, often stressful society. Besides having to contend with the digestion of too many oily, processed foods, the liver also has to deal with chemicals such as lead from gasoline, food additives and preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, and more. Other liver stressors include alcohol and recreational drugs, which are prevalent in the United States. Additionally, our livers must contend with excess hormones, such as adrenaline, which are constantly being created in our bodies in response to our fast-paced modern lifestyles. Under some circumstances, hormones can be stored by the liver for up to a year, adding fuel to emotional imbalances such as depression and anger, as well as to stress-related imbalances such as immune-system depression.

All of these factors can cause the liver to malfunction and become overburdened, contributing to various health problems. An overworked and undernourished liver is known to be the root cause of many diseases. Liver disease is currently the third most common cause of death for people between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-nine. Each year, more than 27,000 people in the United States die of cirrhosis of the liver, and it is estimated that almost 5 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus. With improved dietary habits and natural therapies for the liver, this unfortunate situation could be prevented.

The following lists signs and symptoms of potential liver system stress or dysfunction.





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