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Spring time = Liver Detox time

How to Optimize Liver Function to Rebalance Hormones in Women

We have all heard about using hormones or herbs to address our hormonal imbalances. But there is not much talk about the liver. Let’s understand the organ that does more than just detoxing. The liver is the second largest organ of the body. Do you know where it is found? Put your right hand over the end of your right rib cage, just below the diaphragm – your hand is now over your liver. Your liver performs about 200 vital functions, most of which are vital for good health. Blood filtration, protein synthesis, excretion of bilirubin, hormones, cholesterol, drugs, and production of bile are just some of the important functions that the liver performs.

How Do You Know if Your Liver is Sluggish?

Many people have been told that their liver is "fine” based on their blood work. The reality is liver abnormalities in your lab work often do not appear at the onset of the problems but after years of suffering from a sluggish liver. Here are some early signals that your liver might not be in the best shape:

Cholesterol and level of fat: One of the main functions of the liver is to maintain a healthy level of fats in the bloodstream. For an average person approximately 80% of the cholesterol is generated by the liver. A sluggish liver will show up as elevated low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”), reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”), elevated triglycerides, elevated ALT and AST liver enzymes, and weight gain.

• Digestive problems: Out of the many functions that the liver performs the most important is to produce bile, which helps in digestion through the process of emulsification of lipids. A sluggish liver produces less bile, causing many digestion problems for the affected individual, including bloating of the abdomen, constipation, inability to digest fatty foods, and loss of appetite

• Skin-related allergies: The liver plays an important role in eliminating toxins from the body and maintaining the efficiency of the body’s immune system. If the process of eliminating toxins is hampered, as is in the case of a sluggish liver, skin irritation or skin allergies occur, which are considered the first sign of liver damage. A person in such a case may develop rashes, psoriasis, acne, or eczema.

• Fluctuation in blood sugar level: One of the main functions of the liver is to maintain the sugar level in the blood. A sluggish liver fails to do so, and would fluctuate the sugar levels to a great extent. In such a condition, a person would show symptoms such as loss of appetite, weakness or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, low energy level, or abdominal pain

• Hormonal imbalance: The liver is responsible for filtering out mutated hormones. A person with a sluggish liver would be quite affected by the hormonal (and neurotransmitter) imbalance and would exhibit symptoms such as sleep and disturbance, depression, heavy or clotted menstruation in women, irregular periods, breast or uterus fibroids, ovarian cysts, and mood swings or menopausal issues.

• Other symptoms: Apart from the sluggish liver symptoms mentioned previously, individuals suffering from this condition may also show other symptoms, such as intolerance to alcohol or coffee, swollen feet or abdomen, yellowing of the eyes, dark urine or stool, bad breath, body odor, and heartburn.

Physical symptoms that indicate it’s time for a cleanse:

Here are just a few of the many symptoms that you may be experiencing if your body needs help with detoxification:

  • Headaches

  • Bloating

  • Acne, eczema or skin rashes

  • Gallstones or difficulty digesting fats

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Sensitivity to smells, also known as multiple chemical sensitivity

  • Fatigue

  • Low sex drive

  • Hair thinning or loss

  • Poor concentration or memory

  • Slow metabolism and weight gain

  • Women: Breast tenderness and/or irregular or heavy period

Please don’t think that you need to wait for these symptoms to arise before doing your first cleanse!  This is the prime time to start performing your “annual maintenance” through a gentle spring detox.

Here is the good news: the liver can regenerate itself, provided you give it the right support.

What Does the Liver Do for Us?

Your liver does so much more than you imagined. The liver is responsible for over 200 functions in the body and is the largest internal organ, weighing in at about 55oz (or 1.5 kg). It is central to so many of the body’s functions and most people are unaware of how vital it is to good health. Some of the major functions of the liver are include purifying our blood ,regulating the metabolism through bile production, storing minerals and fat-soluble vitamins, protein synthesis, glycogen storage and conversion, cholesterol production, parasite protection (by filtering protozoa) and, of course, detoxification.

Although the liver is wonderful at healing and amazing at self-recovery, it does take a great deal of abuse in our Western lifestyles. Some of the choices can be fairly obvious (like eating non-organic food, living in a polluted area, drinking contaminated water) but many other choices (like skin care products, house cleaning products, drinking tap water or prescription medication) can create further load which we might not even be aware of. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), studies show that an average American is daily exposed to 200 chemical toxins and carries as many as 91 of them.

Where is All the Toxicity Coming From?

There are a lot of factors which affect whether the liver performs its critical functions effectively. Poor lifestyle choices can put too much pressure on this delicate organ. Here are some things that contribute to our toxic load:

• Non-organic food (mercury, lead, PCBs and over 130 pesticides)

• Air pollution

• Tap water

• Skin care products (can contain phthalates, BPA, triclosan, parabens)

• Household cleaning products

• Medications; both recreational and prescription, including commonly-used ones like corticosteroids, tetracycline and aspirin

• Plastics

• Cookware like non-stick pans

• Stress

• Alcohol

• Coffee

There are over 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States alone and each year approximately 2000 more are added for use in food, cosmetics, cleaners and other products.  In the 25 years between 1970 and 1995, the amount of synthetic chemicals produced in the U.S. tripled, from about 50 million tons to approximately 150 million tons annually!

Our body is designed to excrete these toxins. We have a few detoxification organs, namely: skin, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract and, of course, the liver. They are all capable of performing the beautiful job of freeing us from these toxins – the challenge is when the load is higher than what they can handle; this is when toxicity takes a toll on us.

The moral of the story is that unfortunately these chemicals are everywhere.  They act as preservatives in our food, pesticides and herbicides on our produce, stabilizers and colouring in our cosmetics, fire-retardants in our furniture and mattresses and contaminants in our water supply.  These synthetic chemicals also make up most of the ingredients in conventional cleaning products and they even sneak their way into pharmaceuticals.

What’s most concerning is that many of these chemicals are considered “hormone disruptors”, meaning that they interfere with our natural hormone function and can often lead to health concerns.  This is especially true in regards to the chemicals in plastics, which mimic estrogen in the body and can lead to conditions related to estrogen dominance.

Spring is considered a time of renewal for the seasons, mind, body, and emotions. Associated with the spring season and Wood element is the liver, an organ closely connected with the flow of qi in the body. As stated , the liver is responsible for bodily functions like detoxification, bile formation and secretion, digestion and metabolism, protein metabolism, regulating hormones, and various other important functions. Liver stagnation can cause problems like neck and shoulder tension, chest tightness, teeth grinding, eye issues (especially in right eye), feeling hot all the time, fibroids, prostate inflammation, hip pain, toenail discoloration, waking up between 1 and 3 am, digestive symptoms, PMS, migraines, poor sleep, irritability, impatience or frustration, anger, or feelings of being stuck in one’s life.

How do our bodies cope with these chemical exposures?

Many of the chemicals that we are exposed to on a day to day basis are fat-soluble, which means that they dissolve in fat and are stored in our fatty tissue. Fat-soluble toxins are more challenging for our bodies to process and remove than water-soluble toxins because they hide away and accumulate in our fat cells and tissues.

Fat-soluble toxins are most easily excreted either through sweating or via liver detoxification and subsequent excretion by the bowels. Water-soluble toxins are more easily excreted via the kidneys. It is important to support each of these detoxification pathways during a cleanse to support the elimination of both water-soluble and fat-soluble toxins.

Since many toxins are stored and accumulate in our fat cells, it’s important that you support liver function and detoxification whenever you begin a weight loss regime. If you don’t support your body in processing the chemicals that are released as you burn the fat in which they were stored you may experience symptoms of increased toxicity like headaches, loose stools, water retention (puffiness) and acne or skin rashes. Since these chemicals can affect hormonal function, you may also struggle to lose weight if you are not concurrently supporting liver detoxification.

Winter is a time of preservation and maintenance whereas spring is a time of cleansing and renewal.  As the snow melts and new life sprouts up through the earth there is growth and transformation all around us!

Spring is an ideal time to detox your liver to support your overall health and emotions. The word detox can imply that extreme measures need to be taken, but taking this kind of action is actually hard on the body and can cause negative detox symptoms. Practices like scalp massage and combing, daily movements like walking, qi gong or yoga, eating in season, addressing stored emotions, and castor oil packs are all holistic practices that encourage good liver blood movement and relieve stagnation symptoms. The idea is to support your liver in gentle ways that flow with the slow transition to spring. For severe cases of liver illness, seek professional help to be prescribed the best course of treatment.

Eating in Season

Eating in season and liver friendly foods is an effective way to support your liver while detoxing. Avoiding foods that inflame the liver, while supplying it with foods that the liver can easily process will allow the liver to function at a higher level, instead of being overworked. Along with eating fruits, vegetables, and grains that are in season, there are certain flavors and foods that suit the wood element, and support the liver. Pungent tastes like ginger, peppers, clove, garlic, clove, and allspice increase heat and digestive action in the liver. Bitter and sour foods like green tea, lemon, bitter leafy greens, zucchini, guava, pomegranate, green papaya, green apple, and herbs like parsley, dill, and mint purge the liver and increase the flow of bile to help with cleansing and elimination. Seasonal foods like artichoke, eggplant, dark leafy greens, celery, green onion, cilantro, tangerine, rhubarb, kiwi, eggs, chicken, shrimp, and brown rice will be easier for your body to digest, allowing the liver a break from working too hard. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods in excess.

Processing Emotions

Every organ has an emotion associated with it, and anger, frustration, and impatience are associated with the liver and gallbladder. These emotions can be the trigger or symptom of an imbalance in the liver, and while the emotions themselves are not inherently problematic, the repression or inward expression of these emotions can have negative somatic results. When approached with compassion, curiosity, and patience, processing feelings of anger or frustration can have an upward momentum, allowing for growth and acceptance. Because spring is the time of upward growth and expansion, it is the perfect time to address any stored emotions that might be liver qi. Ways to process emotions include lifestyle changes, movement, social connection, speaking your truth, creativity, relaxation, and rest.

Castor Oil Packs

Castor oil is a vegetable oil pressed from castor beans, and has many medicinal uses, like castor oil packs. The use of castor oil packs to aid in liver detox is an ancient practice that helps support optimized liver function, improve detoxification and hormonal balance, and to reduce inflammation in the liver. A component of castor oil, ricinoleic acid, is known to help the body rid itself of excess toxins. It is recommended to use a castor oil pack 1-2 times/week to help support the liver if dealing with hormonal imbalance, detoxification issues, or fatty liver. When treating the liver, place the pack directly over the liver, on the right side just below the rib. Often used overnight, castor oil packs are beneficial during the hours of 1-3 am, which is considered the time when the liver is most actively detoxing and is highly active. Waking up during this time might signal that your body is ready to detox and needs extra support.

Allow your body to relax into the changing season by making small changes to your routine to support your body gently. Stimulate acupressure points and the gallbladder meridian through massage, add movement to your day, eat foods that are anti-inflammatory and encourage liver detoxification, process any stored emotions, and use castor oil packs to aid in liver detoxification at night. Gentle changes can have a significant and positive impact.

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