For this fourth part of the detox series, we are going to look back into the body to talk about the miracle that is the liver. First, let’s learn a little about this amazing organ. The liver breaks down nutrients, stores vitamins and minerals, produces red blood and Kupffer cells, and flushes out all the toxins we take in or create.
So how does it do its magic? Toxins are mostly fat soluble which makes it really difficult for the body to excrete. So first, the liver must break down the toxins using a two-phase process to convert the toxins to a water soluble state so the toxins can be sent out through our bile or our kidneys. Goodbye, toxins! However, if we aren’t very nice to our liver, then it can’t do its job well and the toxins start to back up and accumulate in our bodies, harming our health. For example, when our bodies are done with the estrogen it has used, it sends it to the liver. In a healthy liver, the estrogen is converted and sent out of the body. In a gunked up liver, estrogen goes through the first stage of conversion but it can’t go to the next stage so the liver dumps the estrogen back into the blood supply to be recycled. This is not the kind of recycling we want because when this slightly changed estrogen goes back into our bodies we are more susceptible to reproductive cancers. Cleaning up your liver is vital.
But how, you ask, does the liver get all gunked up? In her book The Immune System Recovery Plan, Dr. Susan Blum explains that the chronic exposure to toxins causes our liver to become clogged up and unable to send toxins out of the body. And as we’ve learned, that applies to most of us. The air we breathe, the foods we eat, the products we use, and even the amount of stress we feel creates this heavy load of toxins our liver is supposed to deal with.
Tips for supporting and ungunking your liver:
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Of course, I would say this. But really, if you want to give the liver what it needs to do its job, you are going to need to give it the nutrients it needs. Stick to non-starchy vegetables, included lots of green leafy plants, and make sure they are organic. Remember, eating a bunch of pesticide-laden vegetables is just going to give the liver another job to do.
- DO eat protein. According to Dr. Blum, the liver needs amino acids to complete phase two of the conversion process. This means that those juice fast aren’t great for your liver because the toxins are just getting stuck between phase one and phase two and that’s actually a really dangerous place for toxins to be. This is not to say don’t juice, just make sure you are giving your body all the nutrients it needs and keep it organic!
- Reduce the sugar. Sugar (fructose) gets stored in our liver as fat. This is bad for our liver and our waistline. Reduce the amount of sugar you consume, which often means taking a good look at where you are getting your sugar from. Hint! It’s not often where you expect. Check out your jars, cans, and boxes. Even your organic, whole grain cereal bars are packing a heavy punch of sugar. Health Coach tip: Divide the amount of grams of sugar by 4 and you get a rough estimate of how many teaspoons of sugar are in each serving.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of Tylenol/Acetaminophen. According to Drug Watch “It (Tylenol) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.” That is big and crazy and really, really needs to be screamed from the mountain tops. When Tylenol loads up in the liver, it gunks up the processes and the liver sends it out to the body as a toxin. For frequent users, this is a big, dangerous deal. There are several ways to reduce pain that doesn’t require popping pills, like bodywork, yoga, meditation, and essential oils. For those of you in the Austin Area, we are very lucky to have Jesse James Retherford at the Art of Fitness to help with pain.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about our amazing detoxification processes and how you can do your part to ensure they keep you healthy and happy. Next week, detoxing your kitchen!