When was the last time you stopped to think about your liver?
It’s probably not something you do every day, but every minute of every day your liver is working hard to keep you going. While your liver might be easy to forget about, it could become impossible to ignore if something goes wrong.
What does your liver do?
Your liver is like a hard-working factory in your body that processes everything your body consumes—whether you take it in from eating, drinking, breathing, or through your skin. Your liver performs over 500 functions vital to your survival.
Here’s a short-list of just a few things your liver does for you every day:
- It keeps your blood clean and healthy by metabolizing alcohol or other drugs in your system, and neutralizing and destroying poisons that might get in.
- By producing, storing, and supplying your body’s glucose, your liver regulates your body’s energy levels so your mind can stay alert and your body can stay active.
- Your liver creates many of the essential proteins involved in transporting substances in your blood, clotting your blood, and helping your body resist infections.
- From sex hormones and thyroid hormones to cortisone and other adrenal hormones, your liver keeps everything balanced.
- It produces cholesterol, then excretes it and converts it to other substances your body needs.
- Your liver regulates the essential vitamins and minerals in your body, including copper and iron.
- Finally, it produces bile which eliminates toxic substances from your body and can help aid digestion.
If that sounds like a lot of work, take a second to give your liver a quick, “Thank you!”
How can you keep your liver healthy?
In today’s world, we are all exposed to many factors all the time that could impact our liver’s abilities to eliminate harmful toxins. When your liver’s ability to detoxify is overloaded, it can lead to a dysfunctional immune system or disrupted endocrines.
Supporting your liver through food and nutrients can help alleviate the burdens of today’s toxicity-packed world, and allow your body to operate efficiently and resiliently. A functional medicine approach encourages eating more foods that support your liver’s pathways for healthy elimination, while reducing exposure to toxins, through a detox food plan.
Get your cruciferous vegetables: The phytonutrients in cruciferous veggies can help regulate liver enzymes, support metabolism, and hormone regulation. Cruciferous veggies include arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi.
Eat your veggies raw, steamed, or baked: Maximizing your consumption of raw, uncooked vegetables means you can get the maximum amount of nutrients possible out of them. If raw isn’t an option, opt for eating them steamed or baked which will retain more nutrients than other methods of preparation.
Wash your produce thoroughly: Right before consuming them, make sure to wash your fruits and veggies exceptionally well. This can help remove pesticides or other irritants that might have ended up on your produce.
Practice moderation: When it comes to the things that hurt our liver, they’re unfortunately sometimes the most delicious or fun things to eat. Sugary snacks and booze are a staple of get-togethers, especially as the holidays approach. Rather than aiming for abstinence (which can backfire and lead to binging), practice thoughtful moderation.
Make time for exercise: Physical activity helps keep blood sugar low and limits your excess fat, which can help aid your liver’s functionality.
Stay wary of inflammation: An inflamed liver isn’t a highly functioning one. Avoid foods or activities that you already know might lead to inflammation, like too much dairy or high-stress events. Introducing some anti-inflammatory ingredients to your diet can also go a long way. Make sure your meals sometimes feature things like turmeric, resveratrol, and Vitamin D.
Stay mindful with medicine: Always talk to your doctor or health professional before starting new prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, or alternative supplements. Many of these contain chemicals, which can have unintentional negative effects on your liver. Certain combinations can have negative impacts too. Make sure you always read and follow dosing instructions, even with OTC pain-killers like Tylenol (acetaminophen), and never mix medicines with alcohol.