If your liver could talk, it would probably ask you to show it some more appreciation and treat it with respect. It may even ask for a bit of TLC so it can keep serving you efficiently and keep you well and healthy for the rest of your life.
Words: Maya Brosnan – Nutritionist, Iridologist, Fitness professional and Yogi.
The liver is a multi-tasking workaholic
Our bodies are in a constant battle with our toxic environment. The food we eat is loaded with chemicals as are the liquids we drink and the air we breathe. The liver, an incredible hard working organ, filters about 90 litres of blood per hour. It purifies the blood and detoxifies external toxins including environmental chemicals, pesticides, medications, alcohol and caffeine, as well as internal (endogenous) toxins such as hormones and toxic waste from the digestive tract. Our often under- acknowledged, under-nurtured liver constantly converts one substance to another changing chemical structures of different foods we consume to build structural proteins, as well as changing environmental toxins, chemicals, drugs and medications into safer more soluble molecules, ready for elimination through bile or urine. Even when the liver is not functioning optimally, it still has an incredible capability of regenerating, correcting and improving its own function while all it may need is a little bit of help from us.
Your liver talks to you every day
If the liver is over-worked or under-functioning, it may start to send you some signals. These signals, in other words symptoms you may experience, are your body’s way of letting you know you could feel and look a hell of a lot better if you took some time to nurture the organ that already does so much for you.
Some of the symptoms associated with increased toxicity include recurrent headaches or migraines, muscle aches and weakness, skin conditions such as acne, recurrent infections, poor short-term memory and concentration, chronic fatigue, lethargy, anxiety and mood swings, constipation or incomplete stools, waking up between 2am-4am (liver detox times), sensitivity to alcohol and even sensitivity to environmental chemicals and smells.
Detoxing correctly – is juice fasting good for us?
Juice cleanses are a popular way of initiating a detox. When used on a short term basis they can help us feel ‘cleaner’ both physically and mentally. But if we are looking at a longer, more thorough detox, then we find that we can enhance the juice cleansers’ detoxifying effect by adding vegan sources of protein such as chia seeds, crushed nuts and seeds or good quality clean vegan protein powders (such as pea protein or rice protein with no additives or artificial sweeteners). The amino acids in these proteins will help the liver unlock its detoxifying mechanism more efficiently rather than stir up more toxins building up through long term juicing alone. The body will attempt to clear any toxic build up encouraged by juice cleanses, but in order to completely eliminate those, the liver will need to have an abundance of amino acids (like cysteine and methionine for example) available’
The optimal detox plan
By reducing our exposure to environmental toxins by choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products, as well as choosing organically grown or pesticide-free fruit and veggies we can help reduce the toxic load on the liver as we begin to support its natural detox pathways it is so familiar with.
If you cannot afford to switch to 100% organic produce, go for fresh and local, and wash your fruit and veggies thoroughly. Soaking in warm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar will help break down some of the pesticides.
A natural health care practitioner such as an accredited nutritionist or naturopath, will be able to assess your detoxing needs and tailor an individual detox plan for you. I highly recommend seeing a professional who will support you through your detox journey, especially if you are a regular sufferer of any of the symptoms mentioned here.
Ask not what your liver can do for you but what you can do for your liver!
Here’s a general detox eating and lifestyle guide. Depending on your individual needs, these guidelines can be followed for anywhere from two to six weeks:
- Avoid all alcohol, caffeine, soft drink, diet soft drink, commercial juice and replace with herbal tea, green and white tea. Increase your water intake to at least 2 litres a day.
- Avoid using cheap plastic containers and products to reduce your exposure to harmful BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalates. Avoid heating food in plastic containers or eating out of plastic takeaway containers for the same reason.
- Remove all sugar and refined carbohydrates including lollies, chocolate, ice cream, soft drink, sweet and savoury biscuits, chips, cakes, cookies and bakery goods including any other products containing white flour or sugar. Replace with fresh fruit as well as a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. Choose rainbow coloured veggies to cover your plate with to increase your intake of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
- Avoid all dairy while detoxing (except sugar free full cream fermented yoghurt) including milk, cheese, and ice cream. Replace with the less reactive/less inflammatory form of dairy including goats or sheep milk and goats or sheep cheese. Other dairy alternatives include almond, coconut or rice milk, and refined – sugar free coconut yoghurt.
- Replace wheat with other less reactive grains such as spelt, millet, rye, buckwheat and whole grain oats.
- Avoid all processed meat and red meat. Replace with fresh fish, organic free range chicken, eggs and turkey, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid all commercial sauces such as tomato, sweet chilli and barbecue sauce and replace with herbs and spices.
Detoxifying Yoga Postures
Some asanas (postures) from the ancient science of Yoga can help the body’s natural detoxification processes in the liver, kidneys, lymph and intestines. Yogis and Yoginis believe twists, in particular, are detoxifying for the body and mind; as we twist we squeeze away toxic blood from our organs. As we untwist, we allow fresh supply of nutrient rich blood to nourish our organs and promote detoxification, physical and mental wellness. Other postures can massage our internal organs or lymph nodes and promote detoxifications through stimulating digestion and lymphatic flow.
Here are a few yoga asanas (postures) to practice:
Sit cross legged on the ground. Place your left foot beside the right buttock and draw your left knee towards the centre of the body. If that does not feel comfortable, straighten your left leg on the ground in front of you. Take the right foot to your left shin (or upper leg if you took the option of keeping your left leg straight), over the left leg, placing your right foot flat on the ground. Place your right hand behind you, about hand width away from your back. Hook the left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Make sure both sides of your sitting bones are in contact with the ground. Inhale, lift and lengthen through your spine, and as you exhale, twist from the naval upwards, turning to look over your your right shoulder.
Twisted Chair Pose
Stand with your feet as close together as possible and your big toes touching. If you suffer lower back pain, step your feet out wider to about hip distance apart. Making sure both your feet are flat on the ground, squeeze your inner thighs together and bend your knees, as if your are about to take a seat and sweep both arms up. Your sitting bones should be ‘sticking out’ a touch, so that your knees are aligned with your toes without going over them. Bring your hands to prayer position at your heart centre. Switch your tummy muscles on by lifting your naval up towards your rib cage and in towards your spine. Begin to twist (while keeping your knees bent and hands at heart centre) by bringing your right elbow to your left knee. Your right elbow should be pressing lightly into your left knee so that your chest can left and the spine can twist. You can look up or down, depending on how your neck feels. Stay in the pose for 8 full breaths, then switch to the other side.
Twisted Wide Legged Standing Bend
Step your feet out to about one to one and a half leg lengths apart. Making sure your feet are both flat on the ground, slightly pigeon toe your feet to protect your knees. Switch your core on by pulling your naval up towards your rib cage and in towards the spine, and switch your pelvic floor muscles on by pulling them in. Soften or bend your knees as much as you need and fold forward towards the ground. You can use a yoga brick to place your hand on or a folded blanket if needed. Place your right palm on the ground in line with the middle of your body, with your hand directly under your shoulder. Press your right hand firmly into the ground as you open your left arm up towards the sky. Draw your top (left) shoulder upwards to intensify the twist, and roll your bottom ribs skywards. You can look down, to the side or up, whatever feels comfortable on your neck. Stay in this pose for five to eight full breaths, then switch to the other side.
Three Legged Dog
Come onto your hands and knees with your knees about hip distance apart and your feet directly behind them. Take a breath in and on the exhale, sit right back on your knees (Child Pose). Extend your arms on the ground in front of you right out of your shoulders as far as they will go. Spread your fingers wide on the ground, and make sure your wrists and middle fingers are pointing directly forward. Take a breath in and on the exhale, tuck your toes under, lift your knees off the ground, and lift your sitting bones up towards the sky in Downward Facing Dog. Press both hands firmly into the ground, but relax through your shoulders, neck and face. Widen the space between your shoulder blades and rotate your triceps outwards, so that your inner elbows are pointing towards each other. Let your head relax, and bring your soft eye gaze between your feet or knees. Draw your tailbone skywards, and naval upwards towards your ribs. Keeping even weight through both palms, lift and lengthen your right leg as high as you can. You can point or flex your toes, whatever feels right for you. Stay in this pose for five to eight full breaths, then change sides.