Herb-ing and loving our livers
In the past I have posted bits and pieces on one of my favorite food topics, herbs. And though what I had researched and written is very far from being comprehensive and mostly executed through my food blog, I feel it would also be good to take it up here as well to seguey into a health and wellness post.
And while we are into promoting wellness, why not choose to talk about our liver. Our liver is a glandular body organ that:
- Manufacture (synthesize) proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors
- Synthesize, store, and process (metabolize) fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol
- Metabolize and store carbohydrates, which are used as the source for the sugar (glucose) in blood that red blood cells and the brain use
- Form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption (taking in) of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Eliminate, by metabolizing and/or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin from the breakdown of old red blood cells and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins
- Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins
Such complex functions right? So what can we do to protect our liver and its normal functions. Something I read says and I quote:
Avoid liver cleanses. Herbal and other products and regimes which claim to cleanse the liver can damage and destroy cells. The liver cannot be dirty; and it does not need to be cleansed.
Eat well and regularly. Fasting reduces liver efficiency quickly.
Eat cooked food. Raw food may contain bacterial, viral, and enzymatic substances that create more work for, and may even cause an infection in, the liver. Fruits and vegetables need to be well cooked; steaming may not be enough to kill pathogens.
Avoid ingesting chemicals. Remember that chemicals are stored in fat and excreted in milk, eggs, and sperm. To avoid chemicals in your food, focus your organic expenditures on organic butter, oil, cheese, full-fat milk, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains. The amount of agricultural chemicals in one pound of non-organic butter is equivalent to eating non-organic produce for ten years. With the exception of apricots, cherries, peaches, strawberries, melons, cucumbers, green beans, and bell peppers - the most heavily "dosed" produce - I often buy locally-grown non-organic produce since the cost is usually far less.
Get angry. The liver is the storehouse of unexpressed rage. And, yes, we are all angry about "life as it is" as one of my teachers puts it. My mentor, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, favored a Manhattan phone book and a rubber radiator hose as a way to "wake up and work out" anger. A rolled-up newspaper and a cushion, a tennis racket and a bed, or even boxing gloves and a "heavy bag" will also work. Don't wait until you are angry. Make it a part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth. Set aside at least thirty minutes a week to bring your anger to the surface. You will be shocked at the rapid benefits this brings your liver and your health.
Avoid essential oil. Even natural essential oils can impair liver function. Look for them hidden in natural and organic products such as soaps, toothpaste, mouthwash, skin lotions, deodorants and antiperspirants, and candles. And avoid anti-bacterial soaps too.
Judging from what I had seen from friends and relatives which at one time or another experienced some liver issues, here are my simple reminders:
1. Avoid alcohol. If you can't, always drink in moderation.
2. Do not smoke. Liver issues are almost always exacerbated with smoking.
3. Do not use drugs even for 'recreational?' purposes only. Even prescription drugs, including over the counter medications can be harmful to the liver. Take it from me. Been there, done that. Always ask your GP for clarification. And do not self-medicate.
4. Watch your weight. Always maintain it at normal numbers. Excess bodyfat had been found to be strenuous to the liver's fat metabolizing function.
5. Avoid getting exposed to environmental pollutants, icluding household items like air fresheners, paints, solvents even insect killers. The liver not only is in charge of detoxifying the body with what we eat, drink, medicate and breathe.
6. You can never be wrong with a balanced diet. Always include herbs to nourish the liver. Herbs such as milk thistle, ginseng, turmeric, and dandelion.
Thistle contains silymarin which is said to help regenerate liver cells; ginseng for energy, though ask your doctor if you are hypertensive; dandelion serves as a natural diuretic that also help repair or rebuild the liver; and turmeric, a most common kitchen herb is used essentially to fight arthritis but considered good as an anti-inflammatory agent.