In the world of natural health, there’s a misconception that the liver stores toxins. It doesn’t. It processes and eliminates them from the body, but it doesn’t store them. It’s time to separate facts from fiction so we can learn how to better support our liver and general health. The liver has over 400 jobs and promotes health throughout the entire body. Here are a few things it does for us. The liver: - Regulates blood glucose by storing it in the form of glycogen. When the hormones insulin and glucagon signal a need for glucose (such as between meals or overnight), the liver will release glucose back into the bloodstream. - Produces and regulates cholesterol. When the liver is suffering from things like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, or damage from medications, it can cause abnormal cholesterol levels. - Helps eliminate excess nitrogen, a normal byproduct of protein metabolism. When a genetic disorder means we can’t do this, ammonia builds up in the blood and can cause brain damage, coma or death. - Filters pathogens and other substances that travel from our environment via our food into our bodies and prevents them from entering the bloodstream. - Contributes to the production of vitamin D with the help of the skin and kidneys. Vitamin D in itself has a huge number of roles including maintaining health bone formation, immune function, mental health, and reducing risk of certain cancers. - Stores vitamins such as A, D, E, K and B12, and releases them into the body as needed. - Detoxifies harmful byproducts from medications, changing them into a form the body can excrete. The vast number of things the liver does means it promotes health through the entire body. Any damage to your liver will have consequences in many other areas of your health. For example, fatty liver disease, whether caused by alcohol consumption or otherwise, increases your risk of cardiovascular disease three-fold if you’re a man, or fourteen-fold if you’re a woman. Taking care of your liver means supporting it through daily healthy choices. The best place to start is to work on avoiding substances that damage your liver, which of course means avoiding alcohol. Just 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks per day can harm your liver, and drinking 4 to 5 or more drinks in a row, known as binge drinking, can cause liver damage. Consuming alcohol leads to an increased risk of jaundice, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, and many other health conditions. Medications such as acetaminophen (like Tylenol) can damage your liver if you take more than the recommended dosages, take it in combination with alcohol, or take it with existing liver damage. It’s worth addressing the root cause of why you’re taking painkillers and other medications to reduce your reliance on them. Once you have addressed the most common causes of liver damage, it’s time to move toward things like reducing processed foods, addressing nutrient deficiencies by focusing on a nutrient dense diet (which we’ll tackle in an upcoming article), reducing exposure to environmental toxins, quitting smoking, and supporting habits that lead to quality sleep.
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