Your liver is your body’s largest gland, and critical to maintaining your good health. Today we’re going to discuss the functions of your liver, and how to support your liver function to keep it healthy and performing well.
We all live in a somewhat toxic environment, especially those of us in large city such as Hong Kong. Our food may contain pesticides, our air contains pollution, and even our water can contain toxins. We are exposed to environmental toxins such as chemicals used to produce flooring, carpeting, furniture, etc., as well as those found in regular household cleaners such as bleach.
Alcohol and obesity (fatty liver) can also drastically impact your liver function and health.
To stay healthy, it’s important to do what you can to avoid toxins in your environment, and to support the health of your liver.
Functions Of Your Liver
Your liver weighs just over 1 kg, and performs over 500 different functions essential to life. Your liver is your body’s second largest organ, after your skin. Here are some of the main functions your liver performs in the areas of detoxification, metabolism, digestion, storage and immunity.
- Filtering and cleansing blood to remove harmful substances such as toxins, drugs, alcohol, bacteria, fungi, parasites and more.
- Producing bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and later used to help digest fats
- Storing vitamins and minerals, especially iron
- Converting stores of sugar to usable forms when the body’s blood sugar gets low
- Destroying old, worn out red blood cells
- Producing special proteins and cholesterol to help carry fats through the body
- Producing proteins used in blood plasma
- Regulating blood clotting
- Helping resistant infections by producing immune factors
- Regulating hormones
Foods To Support Your Liver Function
Some of the best foods to support your liver are those high in glutathione (or which helps the body produce it), which helps detoxify the liver. Examples include:
Citrus fruits such as lemons and limes contain high amounts of vitamin C, which helps stimulate the liver.
Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts offer glucosinolates, which produce isothiocyanates (ITCs) that provide liver detoxifying enzymes.
Turmeric helps boost liver detoxifying enzymes. So does garlic.
Leafy green vegetables offer plant chlorophylls which absorb toxins, help increase bile production and generally lower the burden on the liver. One of the best examples is dandelion greens, but the more commonly available spinach, chard, lettuces and beet greens are all excellent choices too. Dandelion root tea is also supportive of liver function.
Apples offer pectin and other chemicals that help release toxins from the digestive tract.
Asparagus is also effective at supporting this type of cleansing.
Green tea contains catechins, which assist liver function.
Quality cold-pressed organic oils such as olive, hemp, and flaxseed oil also offer support for the liver.
As you can see, the traditional advice to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to healthy fruits and vegetables is also good advice when it comes to supporting your liver function.
Supplements To Support Your Liver
Milk thistle, or silymarin, is the most widely recommended herb for liver health. It is used clinically for a variety of liver ailments in many parts of the world. Its liver protective and regenerative properties, and antioxidant effects have also been studied widely.
Of course, you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements, particularly if you are taking any prescription medications, since some herbal supplements can interact negatively with medications. If you’re in Hong Kong, we’d be happy to discuss optimizing your diet and supplements to keep you as healthy as possible in our city.