The word liver comes from the old English word for “life”. Our quality and length of life is dependent on how well the liver functions. The liver is the largest and most active internal organ but is also the most overworked and least cared for organ in our body. The liver:
- manufactures 13,000 different chemicals
- maintains 2,000 internal enzyme systems
- filters 100 gallons of blood a day
- produces 1 quart of bile daily
Weighing around 4 pounds, it performs more than 500 unique bodily functions that are critical to live. Six of the primary functions are:
- makes bile for the emulsion of fats for digestion
- makes and breaks down hormones (cholesterol, testosterone, estrogen)
- controls regulation of blood sugar
- filters all food, nutrients, drugs, alcohol and materials in the blood
- detoxifies all endotoxins (internally produced toxins) and exotoxins (environmental toxins)
- contains Kuppfer cells which are part of our immune system- they alert the body to the presence of pathogenic microbes and toxins
Today, our liver has to deal with totally different issues than our grandmother’s liver did. Environmental pollution, prescription drugs, chemical food additives, water chlorination, household chemicals, pesticides, certain bacteria and fungi are relatively new toxins that impact our lives and livers everyday. We abuse our livers on a daily basis, causing chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, IBS, brain fog, indigestion and many other ailments. In many cases, the typical response to these symptoms is to take drugs that further limit the liver’s ability to function.
We live on fast foods, consume too much alcohol, abuse prescription drugs and live in a polluted world. In between drinking too much coffee and soft drinks, we occasionally drink a bottle of spring water thinking we are doing our bodies good.
So why do we not associate most health problems with the breakdown of the liver? Part of the reason is that liver dysfunction does not happen overnight. The liver can lose as much as 70% of its capability before liver disease is diagnosed. As the liver becomes overwhelmed with internal and external toxins, other organs and systems can also become overloaded with toxins. These toxins will affect those areas of the body that are genetically weak. For example, if the immune system is inherently weak, an overload of toxins may result in chronic fatigue or allergies. In this instance, the original cause of liver dysfunction may not be recognized.
While the liver plays a key role in most metabolic processes, one of its primary functions is to manage the detoxification process. It is one of the major organs of elimination in the body, along with the colon, kidneys, skin and lungs. Toxins in the liver are secreted mostly in a water-soluble form into the blood to be excreted through the kidneys, and into the bile, to be eliminated by the colon. If the toxic load is too high, the unfiltered toxins from the kidneys and colon return to the liver to be reabsorbed.
The liver is largely dependent upon smooth operation of the digestive and elimination organs. When the intestinal lining becomes too porous (leaky gut), toxins are rapidly absorbed, and the workload of the liver is increased. In addition, when the lungs, skin, kidneys and even the cells of the body are not correctly processing and eliminating toxins, there will be additional burden and stress placed on the liver. When the liver is overloaded, a domino effect is created, spreading toxicity throughout the body.
Next time I will get into more detail about some of the primary functions of our liver. But in the mean time, if you’d like a great liver cleansing recipe, look no further! This detox green juice tastes great and will help jump start liver cleansing and healing.