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Liver & Gallbladder
The liver is situated under the lower right ribcage and is one of the most important organs for overall health. It has unique regenerative capabilities and under the right circumstances, can self-heal, deserving its name which means "life" or "live".
Your liver is the major organ of detoxification in the body. It is intimately involved in at least 500 functions of the body and the known implications of living with a damaged liver are expanding as we understand more about its work. In natural healing we place great emphasis on liver health. The main categories of work for the liver can be grouped as follows.
The manufacture of bile in the liver enables us to digest fat. It also processes digested food particles as they arrive in the blood from the intestines.
Detoxification: The liver breaks down chemicals in food, drugs, alcohol and other toxins, rendering them less dangerous.
All blood from the intestines (carrying what we absorb from food and drink) visits the liver for cleaning before it is released to the general circulation. Eating is a high-risk business because it can easily introduce harmful organisms into our bodies via contaminated food and water. The liver is a major storage unit of large white blood cells that destroy rogue cells and invaders. Liver damage can compromise the immune system and means infection is more likely.
Your liver stores large quantities of iron and vitamins and it holds a large reserve of glucose. This glucose is rapidly released for energy. The storage capacity can be lost when the liver is damaged, leading to low energy.
Your kidneys remove most chemical waste from your blood but the liver does this as well by combining certain waste and toxins with bile. This bile is moved along to the colon for removal in faeces.
The liver has a part in the manufacture of many hormones, including the sex hormones. The liver also breaks these hormones down and regulates levels in the body, which is why it is so active during the menopause.
High activity levels in the liver cells produce internal heat and contribute to the maintenance of body temperature.
Enzyme & protein production:
Its ability to produce enzymes means that the chemical activity of the body continues unimpaired. Proteins manufactured include those involved in blood clotting and tissue repair.
The liver makes and releases into the body an amazing amount of useful substances and sustains us in a myriad of vital ways. It also stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars. A lack of any of these substances can therefore be due to a congested, poorly working and under-par liver, and can contribute to a huge number of conditions, including low blood sugar levels, diabetes and menstrual and other hormonal problems. The raw material for these chemical processes comes from our food. This is why we need to eat the right foods to keep our liver healthy and functioning properly, for the health of the whole body.
The gallbladder is a small organ attached to the underside of the liver. The job of the gallbladder is to store bile made in the liver and concentrate it. Concentrated bile is ejected into the duodenum when fatty food passes from the stomach into the intestine. Bile contains cholesterol, bile salts, lecithin and other substances. Bile acts upon fats by splitting the globules into very tiny droplets, making them easy to absorb. Bile is a natural laxative because it acts as the liver's own personal eliminatory channel. It gives colour to the stool and the blood.
Liver disease is devastating. Cirrhosis of the liver and non alcoholic fatty livers are diseases that on the increase in the UK. You can link to our article to read recommendations for supporting your liver with these conditions, as well as problems with the gallbladder such as gallstones, at this link.
Emotionally, one can feel very depressed, sad or weepy, angry or, at worst, jealous, bitter and irritable if the liver is chronically overextended. People used to be described as "liverish" or "choleric" when their personality was adversely affected by stagnation of the liver. On the positive side, a functioning liver can help us feel cheerful, energised, alive and singing!
- When the liver is under par, it is typically stagnant and constricted. Avoid foods high in saturated fats and "trans" fats and fried foods, which are difficult for the liver to process. Virgin olive oil and cold-pressed seed oils such as flax seed and hemp seed oil can be beneficial, however.
- Olive leaves as a herbal extract will also help; I love that olive also has the word "live" in it!
- Increase your intake of antioxidants: raw foods like peppers, parsley, fresh vegetables and fruit juices, garlic, carrots, greens, citrus fruit, soaked or sprouted whole seeds and micro-algae such as spirulina and chlorella all bring vital antioxidant nutrients to your liver.
- Choline (a B vitamin) is vital for proper and balanced use of cholesterol in the body. Egg yolk is very high in choline; choose organic and free-range eggs.
- Vitamin C, lipoic acid and essential fatty acids (found in cold-pressed seed oils such as flax seed or hemp seed oil) are also vital for cholesterol balance.
- Keep your protein intake to an optimal 30-65g a day. Some meat-eaters can eat too much protein, which disrupts liver enzyme activity. Conversely, too little protein (commonly a problem for vegans and vegetarians) can also affect the liver, as it needs amino acids (the units that make up protein) to process toxins.
- Eat foods that contain sulphur, such as garlic, leeks, chives and spring onions, as they decongest the liver.
- Keep your intake of refined sugar to a minimum as its "empty" energy can further stress a depleted system.
- Make sure you include some "sour" foods, such as lemon juice which is thought to initiate the release of enzymes in the liver, to help with detoxification.
- Bitter foods such as watercress and the herb rosemary are also beneficial.
- Avoid cooked spices and test to see if raw ones are appropriate for you. You do this by eating small amounts; listen to your body and take note of its reactions.
- The liver likes things simple; steamed whole rice and vegetables and organic whole grains with light dressings are gentle on the liver.
- Coffee, tea, and alcohol are hard for the liver to process, especially when it is under par. Water is cooling and adding fresh lemon juice is perfect for a "hot" liver.
- Detoxifying herbal teas may be the perfect way to get started with liver support. Mullein & Star Anise Herbal Tea was created to provide this gentle detox.
- By keeping the gallbladder working properly, the liver's work is easier. Raw juices are great liver and gallbladder cleansers. Blend together 60 percent carrot juice, 30 percent beetroot juice and 10 percent cucumber or apple juice and drink a couple of times a week. A glass of tomato juice mixed with cayenne peppe can also be helpful for a sluggish liver.
- Fresh watercress, dandelion and chicory leaves and other spring greens are wonderful in salads. Also search out dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts (especially almonds), juicy fruits, raw and steamed vegetables and fruit.
- Marigold flowers are classically used as a light liver tea so buy a packet of seeds and plant these cheerful long-lasting summer plants to make your own tea.
- Grapes activate the liver to stimulate glycogen and bile secretions.
- Ripe mango is invigorating and stimulates appetite.
- Radishes and their green leaves can be beneficially taken daily for jaundice.
- Milk Thistle Seed is an important liver herb that is easy to use as a daily sprinkle on your food.
- Turmeric – fresh root or dried ground root added to food – is a prime Indian liver and gallbladder cleanser.
- Globe artichokes contain cynarin, which promotes the flow of bile and stimulates liver cell regeneration. If you cook artichokes in water, keep the cooking water to drink at the time or keep it in the fridge and use the next day. However, generally it is better to steam them wherever possible.
- Lemon & Artichoke Concentrate is based on the European bitter tradition to cool the liver. It is wonderful used as a flavoured vinegar on salads and steamed vegetables.
- Superfood Plus is our favourite all-round food for digestive support.
- Spring is a time when sap rises and trees and plants burst into new growth. Birds can also be heard joyfully singing their songs of love and wooing. In ancient medicine, the element "wood" ruled the liver and gallbladder, so a liver (or bowel) cleanse is often done in the spring. You can read Dr Richard Schulze's “5-Day Liver Detox” for more information.
- Additionally massage the liver area daily for 1 minute. Take the time to use castor oil packs over the liver if you have pain in this area, otherwise just massage with the oil.
- Take daily hot and cold showers over the liver area and abdomen.
- Release anger and worry constructively so that they do not get stuck in the liver; exercise will greatly help.
- Don't forget to drink plenty of water in order to flush out all extraneous toxins, hormones and other unwanted congestive elements. Any water therapy is liver-supportive. See our "Natural Healing" pages for further information.
- Remember to make sure that the blood and lymph systems keep moving, preferably with exercise, sauna and herbs.
- Equally the bowel needs to be clear otherwise toxins moved out of the liver will re-circulate and cause auto-intoxication.
Our herbal formulae are strong flavoured and effective. Our herbs enjoy a long history of use. A large proportion of them are grown in English soils, harvested using bio-chemistry analysis and many of them are processed fresh, which heightens their remedial properties. The majority are grown organically and are sustainable and wild-crafted. All manufacturing is carried out using licensed good manufacturing practice.