Wow, liver, you really are one incredible piece of kit! Without you on top form, our hormones are going to be totally out of whack, and we’re going to have all kinds of problems with weight gain, cellulite and low energy. Here’s why…
After your skin, the liver is the largest organ in your body. It performs over 500 different jobs, mainly linked to detoxifying, fat burning and regulating hormones.
LIVER & HORMONES
You’ll probably know that your liver is the organ that’s responsible for detoxification, getting rid of all the nasties your body cannot use or that are toxic. It also helps break down and get rid of excess hormones once they’ve done their job.
For women, we’re mainly talking about oestrogen. Your body needs to break it down, secrete it into bile (a kind of digestive juice) and get rid of it, via the intestines, in your poo. If your liver is not up to the job, it won’t excrete this oestrogen as well as it should. There are lots of health conditions linked to having too much oestrogen (sometimes called oestrogen dominance). These range from menstrual irregularities or PMS [link to PMS page] to endometriosis [link to endometriosis page] and fibroids [link to fibroids page].
If your body is struggling to get rid of testosterone – which we tend to think of as a male hormone – you might get symptoms like acne and increased facial hair, or find yourself diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) [link to PCOS page].
Liver health has a massive impact on your energy levels and the speed at which you gain weight.
Thyroid hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate the speed at which your body works (aka your metabolism). Some of the main thyroid hormones need to be chemically changed in the liver before they can be used.
Liver not working optimally? Poor conversion of these hormones. And, if your thyroid is not working optimally, you can experience a whole host of symptoms [link here to the underactive thyroid page], including low energy, low sex drive, feeling cold or gaining weight.
Your liver also turns the sugar (which the body breaks down from the carbohydrates you eat) into glycogen, which it stores and releases between meals to keep your energy levels up. If your liver is under pressure, you’ll find it harder to store glycogen, which can lead to blood sugar problems, mainly energy dips, cravings, mood swings and sleep problems.
IN A NUTSHELL… hormone imbalance can be debilitating, robbing you like a highwayman of your energy, or flooring you with symptoms of some of the conditions linked to oestrogen dominance – or else devastating if you are struggling to get pregnant.
A healthy liver can burn fat, get rid of excess fat (via the bowel) or cause the body to lay down fat due to its relationship with the fat storage hormone insulin. If you have a weight problem – particularly if you’re carrying a spare tyre around your middle – chance are you’ll have an imbalance in insulin levels. And, unless you get a handle on that, you won’t see weight loss any time soon. Added to that, the more insulin you have in the your body, the more testosterone is produced, knocking that delicate balance of hormones even further out.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR LIVER
- Give your liver a break by easing up on all those things it needs to work so hard to get rid of. This means:
- Cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
- Rethink your personal care products (shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, body lotions, etc. Avoid anything that contains parabens or sodium laureth sulfate as these are synthetic oestrogens and contribute to hormone imbalance. Health food stores (or the internet) are your best bet but even supermarkets have a basic selection.
- Rethink your household cleaning products for exactly the same reason. Our favourite natural cleaning brands are Method and Ecover.
- Take care with your medications and prescription drugs. These place an extra burden on the liver, so make sure you’re taking the lowest effective dose.
- Eating organic if you can afford it. Non-organic food is contains artificial hormones, growth hormones and other chemical additives.
- Add in plenty of fruit, vegetables and other liver-boosting foods to your diet. This includes:
- Stinky veg helps. Literally, anything that smells when you cook it. So eat plenty of foods like garlic, onions, and cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cabbage).
- Beetroot and carrots are also liver-loving foods, stimulating the detoxification process.
- Leafy green veggies are great for mopping up environmental toxins from the blood stream.
- Start the day with hot water and lemon. The citric acid encourages your liver to produce bile, which helps you excrete toxins.
- Turmeric and cinnamon are great spices to try to incorporate as they’ve been shown to support optimum liver function.
- Get moving! Studies show that moderate exercise can boost levels of liver enzymes, which may support liver function.