The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in the body. It is the primary organ of detoxification and performs many other functions including, metabolizing fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, balancing hormones, blood sugar stability, the formation of ketones, and aiding digestion.
Liver does filtering and detoxification of natural and environmental toxins and pathogenic organisms in the body. It also recognizes toxic substances and converts the toxic substances into benign substances that can be released and removed by the kidneys or the gallbladder.
Digestion and nutrient regulation
Liver acts as a digestive organ and plays a central role in all metabolic processes in the body, helping metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It stores the vitamins and minerals and releases into the blood when needed and converts nutrients in our food into essential blood components. It also produces bile which is essential for absorbing fats in our diet. Bile is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Bile aids in the elimination of fat-soluble toxins and excess substances such as hormones from our bodies.
Blood sugar balance and liver health
Liver metabolizes carbohydrates and ensures blood sugar levels to remain constant. If the blood sugar level increases, it removes the sugar from the blood and stores it as glycogen. When blood sugars are low, it breaks down glycogen and releases blood sugar into the blood.
Liver helps metabolize proteins by converting amino acids in the foods which can be used to produce energy. During this process, ammonia is produced which is very toxic. Liver rapidly removes ammonia by converting it into a less toxic substance called urea.
Liver regulates hormones and directs them to perform their proper function in the body. It also aids the immune system in fighting infections and removing microorganisms from the body
Healthy foods for your liver
Eating a high-quality diet is essential for a healthy liver. Foods rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, minerals, and glutathione boosting foods are extremely important. The following foods are rich in these liver supporting vitamins and minerals
- Cruciferous vegetables – cruciferous vegetables include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens. They contain phytonutrients, carotenoids, and flavonoids that help neutralize toxins. They also contain glucosinolates which are sulfur-containing compounds that are broken down to metabolites that trigger specific enzymatic reactions that help detoxify carcinogens and heavy metals from the blood. They also aid in digestion. Broccoli contains vitamin E which is an important antioxidant for the liver. It is important to combine cruciferous vegetables with healthy fats for better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
- Beets – These are root vegetables that are high in antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, pectin, betalains, and betaine. They contain significant amounts of fiber, manganese, potassium, vitamins A and vitamin C. They improve enzymatic activity and stimulate bile flow which breaks down toxic wastes to help excrete them from the body faster.
- EGGS – Eggs contain sulfur compounds, methylation elements, and glutathione precursors. They have the full array of amino acids and are considered perfect proteins. They also contain carotenoid antioxidants such as vitamins A and E. They are also a rich source of vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and healthy saturated fat that makes for strong and vibrant cell membranes
- CITRUS FRUITS – Lemons and limes contain citric acid, potassium, vitamin C, and bioflavonoids. These nutrients help improve energy levels, enhance liver detoxification, and reduce inflammation. Grapefruit has high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, phenolic acid, potassium, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. The flavonoid with the greatest concentration in grapefruit is naringin which is metabolized into naringenin. Studies have found that these antioxidants help protect the liver from injury.
- LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES – The most nutrient-dense leafy greens are spinach, kale, chard, arugula, swiss chard, collards, and book Choy. These are excellent sources of potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also contain chlorophyll which assists the liver by neutralizing heavy metals and toxic chemicals
- GARLIC – Garlic is rich in allicin, vitamin c, vitamin B6, and selenium which all play a role in detoxification. Allicin is a sulfur compound that has antioxidant, antibiotic, and antifungal properties. Selenium is a naturally detoxifying mineral which helps alleviate the burden on the liver by increasing the action of antioxidants
- BERRIES – Blueberries and cranberries contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients called anthocyanins which give berries their distinctive colors. anthocyanins have demonstrated antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory biological activity. Berries can increase immune cell response and lower inflammation
- HERBS – Herbs such as milk thistle, ginger, dandelion root, cilantro, garlic, and turmeric are powerful for detoxification
- Coffee – it contains caffeine, organic acids, and polysaccharides. They also contain polyphenols which have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. studies have found that coffee has a protective effect against the development of cirrhosis
- Fatty fish – it contains omega 3 fatty acids which reduce lipid accumulation, improve insulin sensitivity and have anti-inflammatory properties
- NUTS – they are an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that protect against fat accumulation. Walnuts contain the amino acid arginine which is necessary to remove ammonia from the body. They also contain glutathione and omega 3 fatty acids. hence they can improve lipid profile, hepatic steatosis, and inflammation.
Must Read : A Comprehensive Guide for Liver Health
DONTS FOR A HEALTHY LIVER
Cirrhosis occurs when excess fat accumulation causes the liver to become inflamed and develop scars . The first stage of liver cirrhosis is fatty liver disease. fatty liver disease can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with poor nutrition and excess weight.
The main foods to avoid are refined sugars, alcohol, processed foods, trans fat, and red meats. Sugars can contribute to fatty deposits and inflammation by causing a surge of blood glucose and a large release of insulin. Alcohol can damage the liver by increasing the accumulation of fatty acids and depletes the liver of glutathione, sulfur compounds, vitamins, and minerals.
Dr. Nandish H K, Consultant Gastroenterology – Medical, Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra, Bangalore