Your liver is a wonderful organ that conducts over 500 functions in your body!
These functions include detoxification, production of bile, metabolism and storage of nutrients, and the creation of proteins. That’s a lot of work to do each day! It is important for the liver to process fat-soluble toxins (such as medications, pesticides, fluoride, heavy metals, air pollution, phthalates, etc) and help eliminate them from the body on a daily basis. If these toxins buildup over time, it can contribute to a wide variety of symptoms and health concerns such as headaches, skin rashes, digestive issues, obesity, and muscle aches.
There are three phases of detoxification that occur in the body.
Phase I detoxification involves processing toxins from the environment and from the body itself and transforming them into less harmful substances. This phase requires the support of various nutrients, such as B vitamins, glutathione, and flavanoids.
Certain individuals may have genetic variants that can slow down or speed up Phase I and II, causing a variety of symptoms in the body. For instance, individuals who have a slow phase I can experience sensitivity to caffeine and odors. They can also be more prone to liver dysfunction. Individuals who have a fast Phase I can drink caffeine at midnight and still sleep well through the night.
There are specific substances that slow down or speed up Phase I as well as contribute to toxic intermediate products. Substances that can slow down Phase I include medications (benzodiazepenes, antihistamines, birth control pills, and ketoconazole), heavy metals, diet high in sugar and refined foods, grapefruit juice, and toxic compounds from the gut itself. If toxin levels are high in this phase, there is a potential to deplete nutrients in Phase II. Substances that speed up Phase I include alcohol, nicotine, steroids, char-broiled meat, and citrus fruits. If Phase I is working too rapidly, it can cause inflammation in the liver and damage liver cells.
Phase II detoxification involves adding substances to the transformed chemicals from Phase I and preparing them for elimination by the body via urine or stool. This phase has a need for amino acids, Magnesium, and Vitamin C to name a few nutrients.
Phase III detoxification occurs mainly in the gut. Unique proteins that are part of the anti-porter system in the small intestine remove toxins from the liver cells and dump them into the gut. These proteins also play a dual role in that they also take toxins to the liver for Phase I processing. Individuals that have inflammation in their gut or chronic constipation typically have a hard time with phase III detoxification and this can contribute to backup in Phase I and II detox pathways.
Supporting these phases in a proper fashion is important to create the best detoxification outcomes. Ideally, you want to support Phase III first by clearing out toxins in the gut and improving gut motility, then support Phase II, and lastly Phase I.
Biomarkers To Assess Liver Function:
From a basic lab panel, you can assess the health of the liver. Some markers to seek out when determining the health of your liver are listed below.
- A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) provides a nice snapshot of multiple markers that assess the health of the liver, including Aspartate Transaminase (AST), Alanine Transaminase (ALT), Alkaline Phosphatase, Total Bilirubin, Albumin, Protein, and BUN.
- The liver plays an important role in regulating iron levels. A decrease or increase in serum iron and ferritin can indicate liver dysfunction.
- Your cholesterol levels don’t just indicate your heart health; they can also be an indication of your liver health. High or low levels of total cholesterol along with imbalances in other lipid panel markers can indicate liver dysfunction, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Uric Acid is a marker that can indicate disturbances in the liver when the levels are decreased.
- A couple of enzymes that are found in many body tissues are Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH). When these enzymes are elevated in the blood, they can indicate liver disease as one potential imbalance in the body.
Other Tests to Consider:
Also, consider having your physician run a comprehensive stool analysis to determine the health of your gut. This test will assess inflammatory markers, bacterial balance, and the presence of yeast and parasites. Additionally, an epigenetic test can determine if you have genetic variations that make it slightly more difficult for you to detoxify optimally. You can order these tests by scheduling an appointment here.
You want to support your liver’s health each and every day to the best of your ability with lifestyle practices and nutrient dense foods. Below are some effective methods to support your liver and gut health.
- Incorporate lots of liver healthy foods into your diet.
- Eat organic as much as possible to limit exposure to pesticides which can burden the liver. Purchase wild-caught fish and grass-fed/pasture raised meat and poultry.
- Add in fresh vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, and all the leafy greens you can get your hands on. Incorporate fresh sprouts such as broccoli and kale sprouts. Raw beets and carrots are excellent for cleansing the liver of toxins. Low glycemic fruits such as berries, grapefruit, limes, lemons, and Granny Smith apples are fantastic for liver health. Don’t forget healthy fats such as coconut, olives, avocados, and their oils and in grass-fed ghee. Spirulina and chlorella are fantastic herbs to further promote gentle detoxification.
- Castor oil packs are a great lifestyle practice to improve digestive function, promote a gentle detox for the liver, and even support your immune response. It can also provide other benefits such as easing pain and promoting the breakdown of scar tissue. Castor oil has been used for many years orally and topically, however when using the packs, you want to use them topically.
- Dry skin brushing is a fantastic way to promote lymphatic drainage. Our lymphatic system needs movement in order to function optimally and regular exercise is key to supporting this magnificent system of the body. Dry skin brushing is an additional way you can enhance this mechanism at home. You want to brush upwards beginning at the feet and moving towards the heart. Move in circular motions on the abdomen and once you get to your chest and neck area, you want to brush downwards toward the heart. You also want to brush down on your back (purchasing a long handled brush is helpful!). Brush the skin very gently as the superficial lymphatic vessels are right under your skin.
- Mini trampolines are a fun way to support your lymphatic system and get a nice workout in too! Just 10 minutes of jumping on a mini-trampoline can promote circulation in your lymphatic vessels and help rid your body of toxic waste products.
- Epsom salt baths are so relaxing and who wouldn’t want to gently detox and support their magnesium levels while they bathe? Epsom salt baths are an excellent lifestyle strategy to incorporate into your weekly regimen to enhance your body’s detoxification process. If you’re using it for a short detox protocol, it is recommended to complete them 3x/week. If you’ve never completed one, start with 1 cup of high quality Epsom salts to a tub of warm water (you can increase upwards of 3 cups later on). You can add 5-10 drops of an essential oil of your choice for added benefit. I love lavender essential oil for mine. Soak for about 20-30 minutes and exit the bath slowly thereafter. Hydrate after the bath.
Once you determine the health of your gut and liver, consider completing a gentle liver cleanse once or twice per year. The VegeCleanse Plus offers a great solution for a gentle detox. Simply create a free account and gain access to this protocol. If you’re interested in ordering any of the lab tests above or getting started on your personalized liver detox journey, contact our office today!