How does my liver help me detox?
Think 'detox' and you'd be right to automatically think of the liver. It's an incredibly hard-working organ, performing more than 500 tasks daily in the body!
The liver's work involves processing digested food, controlling levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in the blood, and making bile. But did you know it also manufactures, breaks down and regulates numerous hormones including sex hormones, and that it combats infection by clearing the blood of infectious microbes, and neutralises drugs?
When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. However, if the liver is out of balance, emotional problems, nausea, dizziness, headache, cramping, menstrual problems, jaundice, weak or blurry vision, and digestive disorders may result.
In nutritional terms we tend to simplify the many functions of the liver into Phase I and Phase II detoxification ' or 'chop & mop' as it is affectionately known ' breaking things down and then parcelling them up and dispatching them. It's very important that these two phases stay in balance with each other, otherwise you might have a lot of potentially toxic 'intermediate metabolites' in circulation because they're waiting to be parcelled up and dispatched.
Most of the nutrients needed for Phase I are water soluble and so are needed on a daily basis because the body doesn't store them. Phase I needs lots of B vitamins, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, typically found in unprocessed foods like wholegrains, bananas and molasses, fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit, particularly berries; as well as avocados and almonds.
Phase II by contrast needs good quality protein such as that found in quinoa, amaranth, tofu and almonds, along with phytochemicals specifically found in garlic, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. A very simple daily practice that really helps to stimulate the liver and keep it functioning optimally is to take a glass of warm water and lemon first thing in the morning. Try it, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes to your feeling of wellbeing.
So if after a period of over-indulgence you decide to 'detox', please remember your poor liver needs the nutrients outlined above to clean things up! A daily token of love for your liver by tweaking your diet and alcohol intake is a more sustainable lifestyle choice than a week of starvation and then back to the bad old ways.
This article was written by Nutritional Therapist Georgie O'Conner for CNH (College of Natural Health). CNH trains students across South Africa for successful careers in natural health, and offers Short Courses in a range of natural therapies. www.collegeofnaturalhealth.co.za
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