It’s an amazing thing your liver – did you know it’s the largest organ in the body, weighing over four pounds? And that is has over 500 jobs to do?
And it's working harder than ever. Over the last few decades, it has had to deal with thousands of new chemicals – in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we use and the water we drink. Not to mention that nightly glass or two of wine!
And when your liver struggles to cope, toxins and waste can get backed up (like a Hoover bag full of dust) and they can get recirculated back into our bloodstream.
How does your liver affect your hormones?
Did you know that as well as all those detoxification processes, your liver also regulates your hormones?
1. Oestrogen; one important role of the liver is to get rid of excess oestrogen, a very important process as too much oestrogen can cause PMS, heavy periods, breast tenderness, bloating, weight gain and headaches. You might also have a build-up of more dangerous metabolites of oestrogen, the ones that can cause increased risk of breast cancer and other chronic diseases.
2. Thyroid – your liver is where a lot of your thyroid hormones get converted into active mode, so if the liver is struggling, a deficiency of active thyroid hormones can slow down your metabolism, hang on to fat stores and crash your energy levels. And equally a sluggish thyroid inhibits liver function! And round you go again…
3. Insulin; your liver plays a vital role in blood sugar balance and insulin regulation. If your diet is too carb heavy, your liver can struggle to regulate your blood sugar which can cause fatigue, sugar cravings, fat storage (especially belly fat), mood swings and brain fog. And increase the risk of insulin resistance.
11 tips to look after your liver
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Staying hydrated helps your liver work properly. Kickstart your morning (and liver) with a freshly squeezed warm lemon water. You can get apps to help keep you on track, but this seems a bit regimented to me, far simpler to just get a nice jug. Add in a filter system (in-built or in your water jug) and your water will taste more pleasant and be much kinder to your liver.
2. Drink less alcohol. Now you don’t need me to tell you this one, but as you get older your liver is less able to cope with alcohol (just saying…!). Try and substitute for a healthy alternative. A sparkling kombucha is a great alternative for Prosecco or Trip do a refreshing CBD drink that promotes relaxation.
3. Eat more broccoli – and cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, rocket, watercress – they are all cruciferous veg that are loaded with something called indole-3-carbinol which helps to detoxify that excess oestrogen. Adding in two portions a day can really help your liver to detoxify that excess oestrogen. Try adding into smoothies, grating into slaws, steaming as a side dish or whizzing into soups.
4. Ditch the sugar, refined carbs and processed foods – stressing out your liver with too much sugar (that includes refined carbs) and industrial fats is going to raise insulin, cortisol and oestrogen – not good news for your liver.
5. Eat enough protein – protein helps your liver do its job. Aim for a portion of good quality protein (eg meat, fish, dairy, eggs, beans, legumes, quinoa, nuts, seeds, soy) at every meal. A protein shake can help you fill in any gaps, but make sure it's a good brand (I like Vivo!).
6. Get your bowels moving – if you’re constipated, your toxic waste is going to build up in your gut, and guess what? Your oestrogen is going to get recycled. So eat plenty of fibre, supplement with magnesium (citrate is best for relaxing the bowel), drink plenty of water and exercise daily.
7. Watch the pill popping – don’t just pop a pill without thought! Your liver has to detox any kind of medication, including antibiotics, paracetamol, ibuprofen, birth control pills and indigestion tablets.
8. Get a good nights’ sleep: While we are sleeping the liver is hard at work detoxifying our day. What’s more, skipping even a single nights’ sleep can impair the livers’ ability to produce glucose and process insulin. Bad news all round – better call it an early night.
9. Detox your products – minimise ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals‘ in your personal and household products by switching to natural organic brands – what you put on your skin goes straight into your bloodstream, and then has to be detoxified by your liver! (Put your product into the App ‘Think Dirty’ to see how ‘toxic’ it is).
10. Go organic – reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides and other mass chemicals by switching to organic for fruit, veg, dairy, eggs and meat where possible.
11. Get a sweat on! Sweating is a great way to get rid of toxins. The skin is one of your most important detoxification organs. Exercise, saunas, steam rooms, hot baths – try anything that gets you sweating (and ticking the self care box too).
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