Practicing a healthy lifestyle and regular intake of liver healthy foods are your primary handles to make your liver healthy again. And for a good reason! Whatever you put inside your mouth is processed by your liver.
You may already know that liver performs more than 500 functions in the body. It is the most important organ, when it comes to your metabolism, your weight, quality of your skin, hormone balance, and your energy levels.
But did you know that you can actually reverse liver health conditions by improving your diet and lifestyle?
In this post, we will dig deeper into liver function, liver healthy foods, herbs, and lifestyle measures you can take to improve your liver function naturally. So, let’s get going!
A Healthy Liver – Secret to Metabolism, Immunity, and Gorgeous Skin!
The brain is important, the heart is vital, the lungs are imperative. Well, what about the liver? It seems to get little credit, despite the tremendous work it does.
The liver is the largest cleansing organ of our body. The liver is probably the most advanced detoxification centre in the universe. Located at the upper right part of the abdomen just below the diaphragm, the liver serves to perform major, important functions, and they are:
- It helps our body flush the toxins out and hence supplies purified blood to the other organs.
- It also generates certain growth proteins and produces bile juice to help assimilate fats and fat-soluble nutrients.
- In normal functioning, liver along with the muscles store the fat in the body. This fat is to be used during an energy crisis or food shortages.
- Liver acts a storage for minerals and blood, which can be released in case of emergency.
- It is a major organ belonging to the digestive system. It participates in carbohydrate metabolism, protein metabolism, and fat metabolism. Basically, it controls the way our body produces energy.
- Liver also acts as a heat generating organ, which helps to maintain required temperature of our body.
Signs and Symptoms that Liver is Not Functioning Well (Not Healthy)
If the liver is not well taken care of, it could affect the whole assemblage of organ systems in the body. These are just a few of the effects that occur when the liver is unable to carry out its detoxification function:
- The brain suffers because there is a build up of toxins that adversely effect its functions;
- The eyes take on a yellow pigmentation because a substance called bile, that is to be regulated by the liver, could go haywire.
- The thyroid gland becomes enlarged and there is an imbalance in thyroxine levels.
- There’s risk of the kidneys developing inflammation and stones
- The bones become brittle;
- Persistent fatigue;
- Abdominal pain;
- Sleep disturbances;
- Unusual change of weight;
- Mental confusion.
- Skin eruptions, acne and rashes
- Water retention and swelling of the extremities such as hands and feet
- Weight gain or weight loss in excess
- Poor fat metabolism leading to high cholesterol
- Hormone Imbalances specifically related to high estrogen
- Poor digestive system health
That’s a long list, but it is not exhaustive.
What are the Primary Causes of Liver Problems?
Over the past few decades, there has been an increase in the incidence of liver conditions, particularly the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is the accumulation of fat deposits (particularly triglycerides) in liver tissues.
The incidence is higher in people who are in their 40s and 50s. It usually remains unnoticed till it advances and becomes Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). This is to say that, it’s not only people who indulge in alcohol or other hard drugs that have to worry about getting liver diseases.
Our choices of Diet and Lifestyle is killing our Liver!
It comes as no surprise because over time, we have all evolved collectively to adopt a liver-damaging lifestyle.
- We get too many calories from (the wrong) food.
- We exercise less and less, so that there is an accumulation of calories that turn into fat. This pushes excess fats onto liver.
- We take too many chemicals by way of food preservatives, additives, fertilizers, pesticides, and through environmental pollutants.
- We eat food packaged in containers that have drained toxins into the food before they reach our hands.
- Overuse of medications such as pain killers, antibiotics, digestive supplements and other instant relievers.
- Personal care and household products contain excess chemicals that disrupt liver function and provide excess toxins in the body.
- Hormone based contraceptives, artificial hormones, concentrated doses of vitamins and minerals etc.
All these actions over burden the liver. Eventually, it gets burnt out!
The sad thing is that, symptoms of liver problems usually won’t show up, or they go unnoticed, or if noticed, ignored, till these symptoms go beyond redeemable.
Ayurvedic View on Liver Health
The health of our liver, being important as it is can affect all three doshas. However, if it is unwell, the most affected is the Pitta dosha, since the liver is a pitta organ.
Like the pitta dosha, the liver does the work of transformation. It transforms toxins to harmless wastes, converts food into energy.
Ayurveda classified liver diseases since centuries ago, and these classes match up with findings in modern medicine. Liver diseases are either classified as Pratyaksa (Direct) or Apratyaksa (Indirect).
Direct Disease of an ailing liver
The Pratyaksa include Yakrt (hepatomegaly), Yakrddalyudara (liver cirrhosis), yatrkgata dosa (chronic hepatitis).
Indirect Disease of an ailing liver
On the other hand, the Apratyaksa are diseases like the Kamala (jaundice), halimaka (jaundice complicated with fever), panaki (jaundice complicated with diarrhoea), kumbha kamala (jaundice complicated with ascited and oedema), alasa (chronic hepatitis), lagharaka (chronic hepatitis), and lodhara (chlorosis).
Liver Healthy Foods, Lifestyle and Ayurvedic Herbs to Improve Liver Function Naturally
Liver is the only organ, which can regenerate itself even if is damaged till 75%. And you need to take note of this fact and act on it wisely, should you want to enjoy the benefits of a healthy liver.
Over the past few years, the word ‘detox’ has become synonymous with extreme steps involving expensive foods, or no food at all, and extreme workouts. These often create severe imbalances and deficiencies in the body.
Dietary Habits and Liver Healthy Foods to Make your Liver Healthy Again
You can naturally improve the health of your liver by taking in foods and adopting dietary habits that support the normal functioning of your liver. Let’s check them out.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables and Bitters
Bitters and green leafy vegetables are termed as Pitta pacifying foods that naturally support liver function. They help to reduce inflammation, provide with required antioxidants, and have a cooling effect on the body.
Regular intake of bitters and greens will cleanse your liver and boost its function. Some of the greens and bitters that you should include are: spinach, moringa oliefera, amaranth, bitter gourd, kai lan, mustard greens, beet greens, argula, spinach, and sprout greens.
These are excellent sources of potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also contain chlorophyll which assists the liver by neutralizing heavy metals and toxic chemicals
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, kai lan, kale, and brussles sprouts. They are a rich source of antioxidants that support liver function and its natural cleansing action.
Cruciferous vegetables also provide glucosinolates that help to detoxify carcinogens and heavy metals from the blood. they provide with ample fibre, vitamins and prebiotics that help to bind and remove the toxins flushed out of the liver.
Beets are a rich source of antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, pectin, betalains, and betaine. Regular consumption of beetroot helps to improve the enzymatic activity and stimulate bile flow from the liver.
Beets provide with fiber, manganese, potassium, vitamins A and vitamin C. They enhance liver function, break down toxic wastes, and help to flush them out of the body faster.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that enhance liver function in multiple ways. They participate in detoxification pathways of the liver, promote circulation throughout, and flush the toxins out.
Some of the citrus fruits are grapefruit, green lime, lemon, orange, and clementines. These fruits contain nutrients and antioxidants such as citric acid, potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, phenolic acid, potassium, calcium, and iron.
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5. Sulphur Vegetables
Sulphur vegetables include garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots are some of the best liver healthy foods for regular intake. They activate liver enzymes that help to flush the toxins out and also boost the natural cleansing action of the liver.
They also contain high amounts of mineral Selenium, which is a natural antioxidant and participates in vital body functions such as immune response and hormone generation.
For the liver, Sulphur and Selenium act to boost its cleansing function. This supports the generation of required quantity of necessary enzymes and bile.
6. Pure Oils and Healthy Fats
Pure oils such as sesame, ghee, olive, coconut, and flax seed provide our body with the healthy Omega 3 fats that support liver function. They bind up with the fat soluble toxins and help to safely flush them out of our body.
It helps to promote fat metabolism, and reduces deposition of fats and toxins in the liver and our body.
7. Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices such as Turmeric, Rosemary, Dill, Cumin, Coriander, cardamom, licorice, cinnamon, and Fennel are some of the best liver healthy foods. These herbs and spices promote multiple functions in the digestive tract and participate in the detoxification pathways of the liver.
They help to flush out the excess toxins and promote liver function. Regular intake of herbs and spices in your meals or as herbal teas provides one with the required micro nutrients and antioxidants.
8. Eggs and Fatty Fish
Eggs and fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel contain antioxidants, Omega 3, and minerals that support multiple liver functions. However, the key is moderation but regular intake.
The nutrients present in eggs and fatty fish support detoxification pathways of the liver, reduce inflammation, and protect liver cells from free radical damage. Make sure you get organic and free of chemicals version, otherwise you will end with pile of toxins that often stay in excess in both eggs and fish.
9. Whole Grains, Beans, and Lentils
This category of foods provides you with the complex carbs and form an essential part of a pitta pacifying diet.
About 50-60% of your meal calories should come from complex carbs. As it forms the core of your meal, it is also the most important liver healthy foods group that you should focus on!
Whole grains, beans, and lentils are all astringent foods. They contain B Vitamins, complex carbs and prebiotics, and necessary minerals and antioxidants.
These nutrients stimulate bile production, support detoxification pathways of the liver, bind with excess toxins, and flush them out of the body. Basically, they participate in liver function from one end to the other.
Whole grains, beans, and lentils are also essential source of Inositols, which promote hormone balance, stimulate ovulation, and flush out excess hormones from your body.
Watercress helps to cleanse the liver and protects it from free radical damage. It contains 50 vital vitamins and minerals. It is a rich source of glucosinolates, which are water soluble phytochemicals that contain sulfur.
When you compare it with other foods in terms of nutrients, watercress contains more calcium than milk, more folate than bananas, more Vitamin C than oranges and more Vitamin E than broccoli.
The nutrients present in watercress support digestive system health and in flushing the toxins out of our body.
Apart from taking in liver healthy foods, you should also improve your dietary habits and lifestyle. Here are the best Ayurvedic tips to make your liver healthy again with diet, herbs, and lifestyle adaptations.
11. Do not Eat Late in the Night
Eating late in the night really taxes the liver. If you were to follow discipline on one dietary habit to make your liver healthy, then this would be the one to begin with. Do not eat beyond 7 PM. Give your digestive system sufficient time to assimilate all the food you have taken in.
This is because, 8 PM till 2 AM in the morning is the time when our liver is really active in detoxification function. And if you load it with food, it wouldn’t be able to cleanse itself and rest of your body. So, pick it up and see the difference in a matter of days.
12. Warm Water
Warm water supports the digestive fire and acts as a natural detoxifying agent. Regular intake of warm water through out the day helps to promote circulation through out the body. It hydrates and acts as a carrier to flush the water soluble toxins out of the body.
Apart from this, here are Ayurvedic herbs and lifestyle tips for a healthy liver.
13. Remove Processed Foods
As important as it is to take in liver healthy foods, so is to avoid anything that hampers the health of your liver!
Processed foods contain all the unnecessary stuff that you do not want to feed your liver, if you want it to function well.
Food coloring, preservatives, taste enhances, poor fats, refined grains, excess sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings; the list doesn’t end here. Your liver is not able to process them into any useful thing that your body can use.
So, what it does? These chemicals either sit inside the fatty tissues and really hamper your fat metabolism. Or they simply go everywhere inside your body, causing inflammation and eventually disease.
Ayurvedic Herbs to Cleanse your Liver
Ayurvedic herbs abound in abundance to help cleanse the liver and optimize liver function. Our aim at Medhya Herbals, with the use of Ayurveda, is to enhance the liver detoxification processes and prevent further liver damage, while simultaneously restoring whatever damage might have been done prior.
The Ayurvedic herbs listed below are proven to work on several biochemical pathways to enhance the function of several organs of the body, not even only the liver.
- Andrographis Leaves: This herb helps to reduce the risk of oxidative damage to liver tissue. It also protects against hepatotoxicity.
- Ginger Root: It is used to promote digestion, and it also enhances the effectiveness of other Ayurvedic herbs.
- Bhringraj It is used as a cholagogue (in that it aids bile secretion) and as a deobstruent (that is, it removes obstructions in pathways in the body), and is sued to treat hepatic enlargement, jaundice, gall bladder/bile duct obstruction, etc.
- Embella Fruit (Vidanga): Embella has a tremendous effect in rejuvenating the liver.
- Giloy: It protects against alcohol induced hepatotoxicity, cleanses the liver, and is efficient for treating hepatitis, biliousness, fevers and poisoning.
- Amla Fruit: Used for treating enlarged liver and for revitalization of the liver.
Other useful herbs for the liver include long pepper fruit, bhui amla, bhringraj, neem, curry leaves, and black pepper.
Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Liver
1. Avoid Alcohol
If you have healthy liver, then either you wouldn’t be reading this article or you wouldn’t be having alcohol in the first place! When it comes to protecting your liver, NO amount of alcohol is helpful. Alcohol degenerates liver cells, it exerts unnecessary pressure on the liver, which has to break down and assimilate the drink that you just poured down.
2. Stop Popping Pills all the time
Avoid popping in pain relieving drugs and fever subsiding drugs at the slightest hint of pain or rising temperature. These medications are addictive, and they contribute more toxin load for the liver to detoxify.
In fact, if you have any pain or fever, it is an indication by the body that something inside is wrong. Try to fix the health issue, not your body’s signalling system.
3. Go low on Pharma Drugs
Take less pharmaceutical drugs, concentrated form of health supplements, and any unnatural substance that may be promoted as healthful. Eventually your liver will be the one, who will get busy breaking these pills/drugs down.
So, if you do not want to load or hurt your liver, then prefer natural and wholesome form of supplements and least amount of medications.
4. Get Sufficient Sleep
Make sure you get 6-7 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is the time when your liver detoxifies and naturally rejuvenates, so make best use of this time.
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5. Be Active
Regular exercise helps to burn calories and prevent storage of excess fat to burden the liver with. In fact, sweating is one of the best ways to get rid of water soluble toxins out of your body.
And when you flush toxins out, it reduces the waste material inside the body. This paves the way for a healthy liver naturally.
6. Reduce Chemicals in your Food and Environment
Take less packaged food, particularly those packaged in plastic. Plastic contains bisphenol A, which is toxic when ingested.
Be careful with even common household chemicals from fibers, adhesives, insecticides, gas cookers, etc, that you inhale. They get into the blood stream and gives your liver more strain of detoxification.
Now we would like to hear from you. Have you tried any of the above liver healthy foods or Ayurvedic tips to relieve liver health issues? What worked for you and what was your experience? Do let us in the comments below.
Or if you have any queries. Ping us here and we’ll get back the soonest. Wishing you vibrant health!
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