The Spring Equinox is in sight, marking the start of a new season and, for many people, symbolizing a time of growth, renewal, and cleansing. According to traditional Chinese medicine, spring is also the season of the liver. Imagine the spring as sort of an "awakening" for the liver, a time when it becomes more active, working harder to cleanse out a winters worth of congestion, and a good time to give it some extra support.
The liver is our largest internal organ, and quite possibly the hardest working. it has been described as "the general of an army" and some of its functions include metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and protein, along with aiding in the absorption and digestion of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, making cholesterol, converting vitamin D to its active form, storing iron, vitamins A,D,K, and B12, metabolizing and breaking down hormones once they have completed their work, converting thyroid hormone into its active form, and helping to metabolize and detoxify toxins from our bodies, including both OTC as well as prescription drugs, household chemicals, food preservatives, pesticides, and other environmental toxins, along with alcohol and cigarette smoke.
the liver also makes bile, stores glycogen for energy, helps regulate blood sugar, stores blood, and regulates how much blood circulates throughout the body at any one time-one of the livers primary functions is to provide for storage of up to 55 % of your total blood volume when the body is in a state of rest. if an organ could be an over-achiever, the liver would definitely come out on top!
And just as its functions are wide and varied, so are the symptoms that can indicate liver dysfunction and/or congestion. This may include-but certainly not be limited to- fat metabolism issues, blood sugar problems, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, and nervous system or immune dysfunction. Outward manifestations can include irritability and anger, a bitter taste in the mouth, rosacea, or jaundice. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have even discovered a connection between a stagnant liver and seasonal allergies-an unhealthy liver impairs the proper functioning of the lungs and respiratory tract, often causing them to become overly or hypersensitive to pollens and air-borne contaminants.
Because the liver carries such a heavy work-load, it is easy for it to become overburdened and eventually congested, which can lead to a multitude of health issues such as those mentioned above, among others. Too much processed food, unhealthy fats, excess carbohydrates, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, and other che3micals are just some of the many things that contribute daily to a congested liver. You can thus easily see how, in our modern world, it becomes quite easy to overburden ones liver.
Adding to this burden is the recent epidemic of obesity, insulin resistance, and type-2 diabetes. What was once a problem that occurred mostly in heavy drinkers, fatty liver disease is now becoming more and more common among American adults of all classes. Some estimates have concluded that fatty liver affects between 70 and 90 percent of obese people or those with type-2 diabetes. it occurs when excess fat accumulates in the liver, which then leads to inflammation and damaged tissues. In addition, there is also evidence that it can increase the risk of heart disease. While it typically goes hand in hand with insulin resistance (which is itself a precursor to type-2 diabetes), it appears that fatty liver independently increases the risk of type-2 diabetes. the good news is that losing weight and balancing blood sugars through a healthy diet can reverse fatty liver.
Whether you are dealing with fatty liver or just a congested, overburdened liver, in addition to a healthy diet (made up of healthy protein and fats, along with an abundance of vegetables), there are a number of supplements which are said to help support proper and healthy liver function, so that it may work at its best.
Silymarin, an extract of milk thistle, is well documented in treating liver dysfunction, including alcoholic and viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver. One of its actions is to block the entry of viral and other toxins into the liver, preventing additional damage to liver cells. It also improves liver cell regeneration, and has also been shown to shrink an enlarged liver.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
This is a powerful antioxidant that is said to help protect the liver from free radicals and the damage that they cause, helps to detoxify heavy metals from the liver, and has successfully been used to treat both acute as well as chronic liver damage, including Hepatitis C, alcohol-induced damage, or mushroom poisoning.
This herb has been said to help keep alcohol and other toxins from being converted to a harmful form in the liver and also accelerates the detoxification process. Its main chemical component is known as curcumin, and it works to inhibit the action of a liver enzyme that causes environmental toxins to be processed in ways that make them carcinogenic. It should be noted that turmeric is NOT recommended for those people who may have pre-existing or serious/severe liver disorders.
Other nutrients which have been shown to be especially important for supporting and maintaining liver function are n-acetyl cysteine, phosphatidylycholine, vitamin C, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Your liver works hard to keep metabolic processes running smoothly and your body free of harmful toxins....take a little extra time this spring to give it a little extra love and support!
The Denver Post