How to Repair Your Liver

You’ve had a rest and now it’s time to clear up

There’s something rather soothing about the first few months of the year. There’s not much going on, diary-wise, but there’s a pile of books still waiting to be read and plenty of great stuff to catch up with on TV. This is a time of rest and some light internal housekeeping. The liver is the place to start.

The liver is a thing of wonder, the multi-tasker par excellence. It creates, destroys, alchemises, cleanses, sifts and filters its way through whatever you throw at it, without ever taking a break.

It rarely makes a fuss, and can put up with a great deal before it starts to rumble. So you may not notice when it is functioning below par, or has started to accumulated fat.

There are two things you need to do to show your liver some love: clear and strengthen your detox pathways, and reduce any fattiness you may have accumulated in that region.

Let’s start with your detoxification pathways.

Clear the way

Until very recently — about a century ago — the work of the liver’s detox department was on the whole fairly manageable: recycle old hormones, process food metabolites, make heavy metals safe, eliminate pollution from smoke… run-of-the-mill stuff for such a powerful organ. Excessive alcohol intake was perhaps the greatest challenge it might encounter. Otherwise, the liver was more than up to the task it was created for.

Then, almost without warning, the 20th century burst through the door, bringing with it hundreds of thousands of synthetic chemicals in the form of food additives, cleaning materials, pesticides, herbicides, drugs, dyes, plastics…. all unnatural substances bearing no resemblance to anything the liver had ever seen before. These new industrial toxins are now routinely consumed, injected, inhaled or rubbed in, before they are dispatched to the liver, which is somehow expected to deal with it all.

There’s only so much a liver can take. Signs of toxic overload include chronic fatigue, frequent infections, immune disorders, mental fog, poor memory, and hormonal imbalances. These signs suggest that the detox pathways need to be decongested and reinforced.

Detoxification occurs in two phases.

Detox phase one

During phase one, toxins — both natural and unnatural — are neutralised. Most chemicals are fat-soluble, and have to be transformed into water-soluble substances by the cytochrome p450 enzyme group before entering phase two for further processing. This activity creates free radicals and substances that are even more toxic than the original product, and these have to be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

In order to function, the cytochrome P450 enzymes require B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folate, B12), vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and magnesium. Antioxidants are particularly important to phase one, helping the liver deal with the free radicals that are produced.

Detox phase two

This is the conjugation, or transformation phase. Substances are added to the toxins created in phase one to make them harmless and ready for excretion. This happens in several ways that require many nutrients but above all glutathione, sulphate and glycine.

Glutathione is considered the body’s “master” antioxidant, and certainly the most important antioxidant in the liver. It is made of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.

The richest dietary sources of all three amino acids are red meat, poultry, fish and dairy foods.

Although ready-made glutathione is found in some food sources (broccoli, asparagus, avocado, spinach) absorption is too poor to be of much value. Fortunately, like other important antioxidants, the body makes almost all of its own supply. To do so also requires B vitamins, including B12, and vitamin C, which acts as a liver antioxidant, and vitamin E, also an antioxidant.

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Image: ivabay on Pixabay


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