How did we get here?
After a planned visit to the doctor for a check up I discovered that I had very high cholesterol, high resting blood glucose as well as elevated GGT (Gamma glutamyl transpeptidase). There was no avoiding it, I had to take the results seriously and take action so I feverishly started researching all about the liver.
One of the most underrated human organs
Aside from the heart the liver is one of the hardest working human organs. It is also multi-talented, as it is one of the primary detoxification organs as well as a digestive organ. Essentially the liver is a like a sorting machine, distinguishing between nutrients the body needs, storing and administering them when necessary, and protecting the body from toxins, identifying them, making them less harmful and eventually discarding them.
Here are some fun facts about the liver:
- an adult liver weighs about 1.4 kgs or 3.1 lbs - it is one of the largest organs in the body
- it resides in the upper right of the abdomen and sits below the diaphragm, it takes most of the space under the rib cage
- it produces around 1000 ml of bile per day (nice), which is important for the breakdown and absorption of fats, bile is stored in the gallbladder which is found on the underside of the liver
- the liver metabolises fats, proteins and carbohydrates
- breaks down old and/or damaged red blood cells
- produces proteins which are important for blood clotting
- stores vitamins and minerals and releases them into the blood stream as required
- it converts toxic substances into more harmless ones, like urea, which can be more easily passed from the body
So the liver is integral to a number of metabolic processes, it supports the digestive system, controls blood sugar, creates and manages cholesterol and regulates fat storage. It controls blood flow, stores and releases nutrients and energy, and produces more proteins than any other bodily organ - in short it is really important!
It is little wonder then, that the more toxic the body becomes and over extended periods, the harder the liver has to work. Naturally it starts to become less effective and the body will become more and more toxic. This has significant implications for weight management and particularly for those who are tying to lose weight.
20 symptoms of liver problems
- abdominal bloating
- pain or discomfort over the liver / under the rib cage on your right side
- excessive abdominal fat; pot belly
- unexplained weight gain and difficulty losing weight
- history of alcohol/drug use/hepatitis
- long term use of prescription medication
- stomach upset by greasy foods
- greasy or shiny, light or pale colored stools / constipation
- history of nausea, motion sickness, or morning sickness
- headache over the eyes
- gallbladder attacks or had your gallbladder removed
- Hemorrhoids or varicose veins
- acid reflux/heartburn
- overheating of the body & excessive perspiration
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol and triglycerides
- mood swings and depression
- sleep apnea or snoring
- fatty yellowish lumps under the eyes or dark spots on the skin commonly referred to liver spots
Now hopefully you don't have all 20 of these symptoms! For me, once I started researching, I realised that I had a number of these symptoms. Individually I never thought too much of them and I certainly didn't think that they were related; abdominal bloating, pain in the area around the liver (under right rib cage), head aches over the eyes, motion sickness, and that I had trouble digesting greasy foods and sometimes alcohol. Obviously the trigger for me was discovering I had high cholesterol.
So what do we do about it?
This is both the easy bit and the hard bit at the same time. Fortunately the liver is one of the few organs which can repair itself. The time this takes will vary from person to person and also depend on the amount and duration of damage the person has done to their liver, but the doctor told me that she would expect my liver to be back to optimum health by the end of six weeks. We don't want to just sit around and wait though right? So detox we must!
6 actionable steps to detox the liver
- Drink more water
- Get more sleep
- Cut out: sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, soda, processed and fatty foods, refined carbohydrates and dairy.
- Eat foods which promote healthy liver function: garlic, grapefruit, beets and carrots, green tea, leafy green vegetables and herbs, avocados, apples, olive oil, alternative grains, lemons and limes, walnuts, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Drink a natural detox drink daily
- Increase dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble fiber)
Stay tuned for some special recipes for liver detox drinks and my very own (almost) paleo chia porridge!