In preparation for a presentation that Katie and I are giving this Saturday at a Wellness Retreat I have done much review on the detoxification funtions of the human body. This is one of my favorite topics and I’d love to share this with our blog fans! Todays blog is a basic introduction to what the liver does, and a few initial things you can do to support the liver. Tomorrow we will delve into some foods that help your liver detox.
The human body is built with wonderful detoxification mechanisms. It is REALLY cool actually. Your liver is incredible. That thing is so busy all the time and usually… just does not quit. What does it do you ask? Well for starters It filters 1.5 liters of blood in a minute. ONE POINT FIVE LITERS!! That is a Nalgene and a half, or two bottles of wine volume equivalence! Much of that blood comes from your gut after you eat food. That blood in your gut absorbs much of the nutrients and compounds that were present in the food you ate. Some of those compounds in your food were toxins too. Don’t get too upset though…It will be OK. I will explain how to minimize these, and how to help your liver help you. In addition to filtering all that blood every minute, it also stores carbohydrates for you. And it is GENEROUS with giving away those carbohydrates when you need them. Unlike your muscles, they are more selfish and hold onto their stored carbohydrates. Your liver’s generosity in turn helps you out when you have not eaten for a few hours. If your blood sugar drops your liver is the first to give up some carbohydrates to your blood to hold off your hangry cranky mood for a little longer. Your friends and family appreciate your liver’s generosity too. Nobody likes it when you are hangry. It also stores some vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin D, and Iron. Thanks liver. And additionally it builds carrier proteins that transport around your vitamins and minerals. With out those carriers your vitamins and minerals would not get to where they needed to go, to do the things that they need to do. That would be sad. Your liver also builds cholesterol which believe it or not you do need in the correct proportions anyways. And most importantly for the detox discussion, your liver breaks down things that can be harmful to your body like alcohol and xenobiotics. There is your nerd word of the day folks… XENOBIOTICS. A xenobiotic is anything that we come into contact with that needs to be broken down and processed. Like alcohol, drugs (both perscription and over the counter, chemicals (like pesticides, pollution, or from cleaning products etc). Certainly some of these chemicals are found in the air that we breath and some in the foods that we eat.
So the liver clearly has a pretty full schedule every day. It likes it’s job, and does it very well, but sometimes just like you, if you throw too much of a work load at it… it gets over whelmed. And then it can’t do it’s job as well anymore. I’m sure you can relate. We have all had those crazy busy weeks when school or work or familiy commitments overwhelm us and life starts to get messy. So how can we help the liver continue to keep helping us? By taking it easy on the liver. We live in a world that unfortunately has polution in their air, possibly in the water (depending on where you live) and our food sometimes has compounds that our liver needs to clear out. The first layer of helping your liver help you is supporting the organs of elimination. Your skin, your kidneys, your liver, your lungs, and your gut. How do we support these organs? The three “Fs” my friend (even though one of them is a “PH”) FIBER, FLUID AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY!
Fiber helps the body mover everything along. Especially when you follow it with water. Fiber also has the capacity to take some of the excess toxins / xenobiotics right out of the gut with it. We like you fiber! Hydration is very important as well. You want to be sure your drinking enough water so that your cells are not shriveled up and dehydrated. They need to be hydrated to properly function! Plus drinking adequate water helps you move all that food through your digestive tract as well. Drinking plenty of water is also good for your kidneys which are busy doing their own filtering. Just keep things moving… elimination. Physical activity aids your digestion as well, and also increases your sweat. Sweating is another way for you to detoxify your system! Other ways to increase sweat are ofcourse going into a sauna, hot yoga class, or just sitting outside in Arizona. I used to live in Arizona, the whole state is an outdoor sauna April through September. Physical activity is helpful even if you don’t sweat. A brisk walk is still great for your heart and digestion regardless of whether or not you actually sweat.
So the take home message today folks is every nutrition student’s mantra Fiber, Fluid and Physical Activity. Now go eat a piece of fruit, drink a glass of water, and go for a quick walk. Your liver will thank you. Tomorrow we will build on this some more 🙂
Have a healthy liver today!