February marks the beginning of the liver cleansing season! Even if it doesn’t feel like spring yet, nature has a lot going on that signals us to prepare our bodies to cleans for the warmer months.
It is a common misconception that cleansing means we need to restrict and strip away. If you’ve tested positive for something like heavy metals, you may need a more targeted intervention; however, the average person will thrive on some minor lifestyle adjustments and herbal support to effectively and naturally help the liver. If we eat with nature’s rhythms, cleansing should be a reasonably easy, gentle process guiding us into eating lighter foods in the coming warmer months.
When we talk about “liver cleansing,” it is really a matter of supporting the liver and giving it a break to do what it is designed to do; detox our bodies.
The Function of the Liver
The liver is known for its role in the detoxification process and has some other important jobs, including breaking down proteins and fats for storage; these reserves are later converted into energy for daily functions.
This vital organ is also involved in glutathione production, methylation, and maintaining vitamin D levels.
Bile Production and Function
Bile is a thick, sticky, yellow-green fluid that helps with the digestion of food and is made in the liver. More specifically, it breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can be taken into the body by the digestive tract. If the liver does not produce bile properly, it can lead to a host of digestive issues and gallbladder inflammation.
Another role of bile includes escorting substances that the body does not need, including byproducts like bilirubin, waste processed by the liver, and excess cholesterol. Furthermore, without bile, the body cannot digest fats properly. Eventually, the bile mixes with stool and is then passed out of the body during defecation, making bile crucial for expelling waste, which would otherwise accumulate in the body.
Some conditions associated with bile disruption in its production or excretion include gallstones, bile duct strictures, and various liver diseases.
The Liver and Vitamin D
Healthy liver function is necessary to maintain adequate vitamin D levels in the body; therefore, damage to the liver can lead to low vitamin D levels.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it must be dissolved in fat molecules to be absorbed from the digestive tract into the body. In order to absorb fats and the vitamins dissolved in those fats (vitamin A, D, E, and K), the body requires bile, which contains salts and enzymes that break down large fat molecules into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the intestines.
Vitamin D has multiple critical functions in our body ranging from immune health, bone health, blood pressure regulation, cell differentiation, insulin regulation, and mood regulation.1 Recent research shows that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of influenza and COVID-19 infections and death.2 Furthermore, research has linked low vitamin D levels with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. 3
This vitamin also plays a significant role in our mental health. After reviewing 14 studies involving 31,424 participants, Canadian researchers found a strong correlation between depression and a lack of Vitamin D – the lower the Vitamin D level, the greater the chance of depression. 3
In short, vitamin D is vital to our health, and without a properly functioning liver, our vitamin D synthesis will be impaired.
The Liver and Methylation
Methylation is a hot topic in the health and wellness world due to the MTHFR mutation’s growing occurrence.
The methylation process has numerous functions in the body and occurs in all of our cells but is especially crucial to healthy liver function and detoxification.
Simply put, methylation is the addition of a methyl group; it occurs around a billion times per second in your body!
Cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and detoxification systems are all impacted by methylation, or the lack thereof. Poor methylation can cause or contribute to most health problems. Signs of methylation issues include emotional illness, inflammation, fatigue, digestion issues, and more.
When it comes to the liver, methylation is a primary method of removing toxins in the phase 2 liver detoxification process by converting toxins from insoluble or fat-soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds.
Water-soluble toxins can more easily be eliminated from the body via watery fluids such as urine, sweat, and bile. If methylation is impaired, these toxins cannot be eliminated, and they will build up in the body.
Before we can move on from methylation, we need to note that optimal levels of B-vitamins are critical to methylation. The deficiency of B vitamins is one of the most common deficiencies I see in my clinical practice. When you are testing for B vitamins, be sure always to use an organic acid test because blood tests will only show you circulating B-vitamins, which is not informative about how your methylation process is functioning.
If you’ve never heard of glutathione, today, your world is going to change. Dr. Mark Hyman calls this powerhouse “the mother of all antioxidants.” Over 139,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles have addressed this incredible molecule. 4 Unfortunately, this is one of the most common deficiencies I’ve seen in my clinical practice. Low levels can be due to:
- Chronic stress
- Environmental toxins
- Processed foods, even those advertised as health-foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Radiation therapy
Low levels of glutathione can lead to:
- Pre-mature aging 5
- Impaired immune function 6
- Impaired T-cell function 7
- Build up of environmental toxins 8
- Susceptibility to carcinogenesis that leads to cancer 9
This incredible antioxidant is vital in the detoxification of xenobiotics due to its role in Phase I and Phase II of our detoxification pathways. Increasing evidence shows that dysregulation of glutathione synthesis contributes to the pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus, pulmonary and liver fibrosis, alcoholic liver disease, cholestatic liver injury, endotoxemia, and drug-resistant tumor cells.
Therefore, glutathione is essential for a healthy liver.
Putting It All Together
Now that you see all of the liver’s critical roles, I hope you are excited to give your liver the seasonal TLC it needs to thrive. If you are interested in testing for B Vitamins, Glutathione, and Vitamin D, you can reach out to me before supplementing. If you choose not to test, be sure to speaking with your health care practitioner to make sure that these suggestions are right for you.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share other herbs, remedies, and lifestyle practices you can take ok this and every spring to help you become your most vibrant, healthy, and thriving self by way of supporting the liver. Sign up for my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the updates!
The information in this blog and on this website is not meant to cure, prevent or treat any diseases or replace medical attention or advice.
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