To the lay person, the liver is kind of like the central processor of a computer. We know that is does something, and what it does is very important. When we are called upon to describe exactly what it does, or how it does it, we tend to get a little bit lost.
The liver is the largest of the internal organs. It is located just under the diaphragm, above and to right of the stomach and the other digestive organs. As nutrient rich blood leaves the digestive system, it is filtered through the liver before going to the rest of the body.
In addition to filtering toxins from the blood, the liver plays a role in metabolism; storing glycogen, synthesizing the proteins of blood plasma, producing hormones, as well as producing bile, an alkaline fluid which help to break down lipids (fats) in the digestive tract.
There is no back up system for a healthy liver. Liver failure does not equate to a death as immediate as failing heart or lungs, but it is just as sure. The body simply cannot function very long without the liver doing what is does.
The liver’s blood filtering and detoxification processes seem to be among the most important. Modern life seems to expose us to a great number of toxic substances, and it is ultimately the liver’s job to remove these toxins from the system.
Nature has designed the liver to be very efficient at cleaning itself. Whether the toxins that it eliminates are introduced from highly processed foods, industrial processes, pollution, or simply a normal result of metabolism, the liver is able to break down and flush out the toxins.
The importance of the liver’s detoxification functions has led to a number of liver detox protocols. In the opinion of traditional medical science, these treatments run from reasonably harmless to potentially dangerous. Because the liver is such a hard working and important organ, it seems to make good sense to take as good care of it as we can.
The typical liver detox regimen usually involves a period of fasting, followed by the gradual reintroduction of foods that are thought to support liver function, allowing the liver to eliminate toxins that have built up over time.
Liver detoxification is not universally embraced by the medical community. Many do not accept that is a necessary or even beneficial strategy. If undertaken carelessly, it may result in harm to the patient. This especially true in the fasting and reintroduction phases, when adequate nutritional needs may not be met.
Like the other organs, the liver is healthiest and functions best when it is part of an overall healthy system. The best thing for liver health, for general health, is adequate rest and hydration.
Adequate and balanced nutrition is very important to liver function. Reputable liver supplements usually contain high doses of Vitamin B6 and other B complex vitamins. These vitamins are known for lowering cholesterol and breaking down estrogen in the liver.
A number a herbal supplements are used to enhance liver function, such as turmeric and milk thistle. Silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, helps to remove toxins from liver cells. Many of the herbal supplements contain strong antioxidants.