In Traditional Chinese Medicine, your liver is considered to be your master organ. It is involved in almost every process of your body.
The liver is involved in the digestion of food, enzyme activation, hormone production, protein production, immune cell activation, storage of vitamins and iron, and blood sugar storage and regulation. Your liver is also vital for processing and detoxification of chemicals, alcohol, drugs and cholesterol, and affects many other functions related to mental and physical well-being.
LIVER AND TOXINS
Your liver processes toxins, which come from chemical processes in your body and from foods, drugs, alcohol, pesticides, and other environmental toxins. Your liver removes these toxins from your body by producing bile, which releases into your intestines and into your blood for excretion through your kidneys. The bile in your intestines mixes with your faeces and leaves your body along with any other undigested material.
Most people today have a sluggish liver due to stressful lifestyles and environmental toxins. These people detoxify less, produce less bile, and are often more prone to gas, bloating, constipation, inconsistent stools, or irritable bowel syndrome. Constipation increases the amount of toxins retained and reabsorbed back into your body. These toxins negatively affect hormones, neurotransmitters, and all your organs, which are all essential to emotional well-being.
Increased levels of toxins also burden your organs and make them work much harder, increasing their demand for precious nutrients, which leaves fewer nutrients available for making mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Toxins also create chronic inflammation in your body, which stresses your adrenal glands to constantly produce higher levels of cortisol. Continuously high levels of cortisol exacerbate depression and anxiety because cortisol suppresses serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. Poor liver function increases toxicity in your body and has a direct correlation with mental health. It also has a direct correlation to different diseases, including menstrual issues, low libido, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, vision disturbances, migraines, insomnia, and many other conditions.
THE ROLE OF LACTATE
Lactate is an anxiety-creating chemical that is produced when you eat high amounts of glucose and sugars. Lactate levels increase when you eat lots of sugars, simple carbohydrates, and inflammatory foods. Your liver converts lactate back into glucose, but if your liver is toxic or sluggish, lactate levels in your blood increase rather than being converted into glucose, causing higher levels of anxiety. To minimise lactate levels in your body, do the following:
- Eat fewer refined carbohydrates, sugars, and foods you may be sensitive to.
- Avoid alcohol as it interferes with liver function and also impairs your liver’s ability to convert lactate back into glucose. If you crave alcohol, you’re likely low in a neurotransmitter called GABA.
- Coffee stimulates sugar to be released into your blood and also interferes with liver function, both of which increase lactate levels in your blood. Caffeine also pushes your adrenal glands to work harder without nourishing them, making depression and anxiety worse.
LIVER AND YOUR HORMONES
Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone have a profound effect on your emotions, and your liver plays an important role in regulating these hormones. Many women are oestrogen-dominant, meaning they have high oestrogen levels and low progesterone. Progesterone is an important hormone in depression and anxiety because it helps improve GABA function in the brain and is linked to better sleep and more positive emotions in women. High levels of testosterone make you feel good and reduce feelings of anxiety, leaving you less prone to depression.
With women in particular, liver imbalances cause hormones to become unbalanced, and this can cause symptoms such as irregular menstruation, painful periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), gas, bloating, constipation, headaches, blurry vision, breast tenderness, mood swings, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Other factors that alter your oestrogen and progesterone balance include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the birth control pill. The chronic use of hormonal drugs depletes vital nutrients such as your B-vitamins (especially vitamin B6), folate, magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E, increasing your risk of emotional issues.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR LIVER
Caring for your liver includes detoxifying your liver cells, improving their functioning and healing, and protecting them from oxidative damage caused by all the toxins they detoxify. Using herbs, diet, supplements, and castor oil packs are some of the best ways to prevent and correct liver damage.
Liver-healing foods and supplements
Certain foods improve the health of your liver, some repair the damage caused to your liver by toxins, and others stimulate your liver to secrete more bile, which helps to eliminate toxins. Beets, artichoke, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, peas, beans, cabbage, parsnips, squash, yams, carrots, celery, chives, cucumber, garlic, kohlrabi, mustard greens, okra, onion, parsley, prunes, blueberries, apples, and turmeric are foods that enhance your liver’s health, and they also help reduce damage caused to your liver by toxins. Beetroot juice, especially, is a good source of a nutrient called glutathione, which protects your liver from toxin damage.
Bitter leafy vegetables like dandelion, chicory, and rocket (arugula) stimulate your liver to release more bile and toxins, and can easily be added to your salad. Choose organically grown foods as much as possible, since a lot of products contain pesticides, which are harmful to your body and increase toxicity. Avoid trans-fatty acids and junk food because these also increase the toxic load on your body.
Hot water with half a squeezed lemon and a little cayenne pepper half an hour before your meals is a gentle way to detoxify your liver. This tasty drink helps your liver and gall bladder to squeeze bile out into your intestines, releasing toxins that were stored in your liver.
Antioxidants are nutrients that help to repair and protect your liver cells from damage caused by toxins. Colourful berries (e.g. blueberries and raspberries) and fresh vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants. Nutrients that are antioxidants include glutathione, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, alphalipoic acid, and Co-Q-10. Antioxidants are also excellent for heart health, cancer prevention, and general health.
Water helps your kidneys flush out toxins.
Fibre binds to toxins in your intestines for easy removal through your stools.
Herbs for your liver
Herbs can detoxify your liver, improve its function, and protect it from toxic damage. Use these herbs under the supervision of a health professional since combining them with medicines or incorrect dosages may be harmful.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a popular herb for liver health. Milk thistle contains silymarin, a powerful substance that protects liver cells from damage by toxins and other chemicals. Milk thistle also helps liver cells function better, thereby improving detoxification.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum offi cinale) stimulates your liver to release more bile and is a powerful liver detoxifier. The root of dandelion is more useful for liver detoxification, whereas the leaf is more useful for kidney detoxification.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice used in Indian cuisine and contains curcuminoids, which have numerous health benefits. Turmeric protects your liver cells and stimulates your liver to produce and excrete bile. Turmeric is also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, making it useful for infections and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Turmeric also seems to help with cancer and cholesterol issues, making it a truly wonderful herb.
CASTOR OIL PACKS
Castor oil, when applied as an external pack on the skin over your liver area and abdomen, is a powerful way to flush out toxins from your liver. I have used it successfully on patients with menstrual pains, endometriosis, hormonal imbalances, constipation, and general detoxification.
How to apply a castor oil pack:
- Soak a white flannel cloth in castor oil, making sure it is wet but not dripping.
- Place the soaked cloth over your entire right rib cage, from the middle of your chest just below your right breast to the bottom edge of your ribs, spanning across to the line of your right armpit. This is where your liver sits underneath your ribcage. The castor oil will be absorbed through your skin and create a soothing, flushing effect on your lymphatic system and liver.
- Place a plastic wrap or a plastic bag over the cloth to protect your clothing from the castor oil and keep the oil against your skin.
- Fill a hot water bottle with hot water. The water should be at a temperature that you can tolerate and that does not burn your skin. Place the hot water bottle on top of your plastic wrap. The heat will drive the castor oil deeper into the skin toward your liver.
- Leave the pack on for at least one hour while lying down, or fall asleep with it for the whole night.
- Once you are done with your pack, place the cloth in a sealable container and keep it in your fridge. Use the same cloth again the next day, with just a little more castor oil added to re-soak it. After a week of using the same cloth over and over again, wash out the cloth, because by this time the castor oil left on it will be slightly old.
Repeat your castor oil pack daily for about two to three months. The accumulative effect of doing the castor oil pack regularly is what gives it its benefit. After a month of using the pack regularly, you will begin to notice its benefits.
Do not drink castor oil or apply it over broken skin and NEVER use it during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or while you are menstruating, have significantly loose stools, or are planning to become pregnant.
I offer an online course to heal anxiety and depression as well as free videos; visit the site below for more information and to learn how the mind is affected by the liver and digestive system and how to heal it holistically: www.curemind.drameet.com/p/anxiety-depressioncure-holistically
If you would like a Skype session with Dr Aggarwal, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org