The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body, responsible for many things from detoxification to metabolism. When the liver is fully functioning, we often take it for granted. When it becomes sluggish or overloaded, it can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being. Let’s explore what your liver is, all the important functions it has, and how to help keep your liver running smoothly so your body can heal and function at an optimal level.

What is the liver?

The liver is a vital organ in the human body located on the right side of the abdomen, just below the diaphragm. It’s one of the largest organs and has over 500 known functions.

Firstly, it plays a key role in your metabolism. Your liver helps break down the food we eat into nutrients that our body can use for energy, growth, and repair. It also helps regulate your blood sugar levels by either storing or releasing glucose, depending on what your body needs.

Secondly, the liver is crucial for detoxification. It filters out and processes harmful substances like alcohol, drugs, and toxins from the bloodstream. Your liver converts these substances into less harmful forms that can be released from the body.
Additionally, the liver produces bile (a substance necessary for digestion). Bile helps break down fats in the small intestine and helps with the absorption of nutrients. The liver also stores important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, D, E, K, and iron.

Moreover, the liver helps regulate the levels of hormones in the body. For instance, it breaks down and removes excess hormones, such as estrogen and insulin, from the bloodstream once they have served their purpose. This process prevents hormone levels from becoming too high, which could lead to hormonal imbalances and related health issues.

Knowing the important roles your liver plays in keeping your body balanced and free from harmful toxins, it’s easy to see that if your liver isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to many symptoms that are considered common, but are absolutely not normal.

Fatigue and Low Energy Levels:

One of the most common signs of a sluggish liver is persistent fatigue and low energy levels. When the liver is overwhelmed with toxins or it is struggling to process them efficiently, it can lead to feelings of tiredness and lethargy that stick around even after getting enough sleep.

Digestive Issues:

The liver plays a crucial role in digestion by producing bile, which helps break down fats and aids in the absorption of nutrients. When the liver is overwhelmed, you can experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. Additionally, you may experience difficulty digesting fatty foods or notice changes in your bowel movements.

Unexplained Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight:

A dis-eased liver can interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize fats effectively. Even with a healthy diet and consistent exercise, a dis-eased liver can lead to unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight. This is because the liver is responsible for converting stored fat into energy. When it’s not functioning optimally, your body has a more difficult time accessing and using that stored fat for energy.

Skin Problems:

The health of our skin is closely linked to the functioning of our liver. As the largest and most visible organ in our body, our skin can reflect how well the liver is able to effectively detoxify the body. A sluggish liver can manifest in various skin issues, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, or dull, dry skin. You may also notice an increase in the appearance of dark spots or blemishes.

Mood Swings and Irritability:

The liver plays a crucial role in filtering out toxins from the bloodstream, including excess hormones and neurotransmitters. When these toxins accumulate they can lead to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. You may also experience feelings of anxiety or depression as a result of liver dysfunction.

How To Detoxify a Toxic Liver

As you can see, there are many symptoms that can negatively impact our health and wellbeing from a liver that isn’t working properly. Unfortunately, problems associated with less than optimal functioning of the liver are on the rise. From 2009 to 2012, severe liver disease cases have doubled compared to the previous decade and chronic liver health issues among adolescents and young adults has more than doubled over the last thirty years.

Many people who are experiencing some of these symptoms believe that they can treat their liver dis-ease by going through a detoxification program. While detoxifying the liver is the ultimate goal, there can be issues within the three phases of this process that don’t allow the liver to detoxify and can lead to bigger issues if not addressed correctly. Many clients whom we help have tried detoxifying their liver on their own only to find they feel worse or end up sick. Let’s look at some issues that can arise if there are any functional issues within the three phases of detoxification in the liver.

Phase I Detoxification:

  • If Phase I detoxification is impaired, toxins may not be broken down well enough or they may be converted into even more toxic substances that can accumulate in the body.
  • Conditions such as liver damage (e.g., hepatitis, cirrhosis), nutrient deficiencies (e.g., deficiencies in B vitamins, antioxidants), or exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., pollutants, heavy metals) can disrupt Phase I detoxification.
  • The accumulation of toxic substances can increase stress on and cause damage to cells, potentially contributing to inflammation and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as liver disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Phase II Detoxification:

  • Phase II detoxification issues can create a buildup of reactive and potentially harmful compounds.
  • Genetic differences (polymorphisms) in Phase II enzymes, deficiencies in important cofactors (e.g., glutathione, sulfur-containing amino acids), or exposure to certain medications and toxins can impair Phase II detoxification.
  • Insufficient Phase II detoxification can make you more susceptible to negative effects from environmental toxins, drugs, and dietary compounds. It may also contribute to the development of conditions such as chemical sensitivities, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

Phase III Detoxification:

  • Dysfunction in Phase III can cause your liver to detoxify faster than what other processes in your body can handle. When this happens, your body can’t get rid of the toxins released from the liver fast enough and they end up back in your bloodstream.
  • Liver diseases such as cholestasis (impaired bile flow), certain genetic disorders (e.g., Dubin-Johnson syndrome, Rotor syndrome), or drug-induced liver injury can disrupt Phase III detoxification.
  • Accumulation of toxins within liver cells can contribute to liver damage, inflammation, and impaired liver function. If these toxins are not eliminated from the body, it may lead to systemic toxicity. Imagine what would happen if you didn’t take out the trash in your home. Over time, the trash bins would begin to overflow and it would be a lot harder to get rid of the trash… not to mention the smell! That is what systemic toxicity is like in the body.

Disruptions in any phase of liver detoxification can have significant implications for overall health and may contribute to the development or progression of various diseases. Before attempting to detoxify the liver, it is important to address underlying factors contributing to issues with the detoxification process. We do this by making sure we are getting proper nutrition, making healthy lifestyle changes, and by completing targeted interventions.

It takes more than just detoxifying our livers in order to keep them functioning properly. We also need to stop putting so much strain on them to begin with! By maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and reducing exposure to environmental toxins we can help our liver heal and function the way it was designed to.

By listening to your body and recognizing the signs of liver dis-ease, you can take proactive steps to improve your overall health and well-being.

For more information on how to naturally support your liver and minimize your exposure to environmental toxins, follow us on Facebook, subscribe to our newsletter, or register for an upcoming event to learn more!