The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It is constantly cleansing your blood; maintaining your blood sugar levels; digesting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; and producing bile and other enzymes…amongst many other functions (like storing vitamins, minerals, and glycogen). While we have machines that can fill in for your lungs and your heart, there is no machine that can fill in for your liver (and you only have one of them!).
So when things start going wrong with your liver, you can sure expect your health and other functions tied into the liver to decline with them…one of them being your ability to burn fat. The liver is an amazing organ (and one you can not do without) but is not indestructible. Once overwhelmed it will start malfunction with impaired enzyme production (key for thyroid, protein utilization and fat burning), bile development and maintaining hormonal balances (estrogen in control). If you are experiencing weight gain (and trouble losing weight), bloating, high blood pressure, fatigue or high cholesterol, these could just be a few indications that your liver is being overwhelmed and needs your help!
Many people are overweight despite eating hardly any food…so while calorie deficit is needed to lose weight, it’s only in relation to how optimal the overall metabolism is running in the first place. Have a hampered liver and it will also negatively affect your fat burning metabolism.
A healthy liver with help you burn and discard of excess fat…a compromised one will slow down that process. Also the liver is tied into the function of the thyroid and its hormones (which regulate full body metabolism), namely in the conversion of T4 to T3. Here’s just a little more science for those that like the nerdy stuff:
Thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyronine (T3) are essential for normal organ growth, development and function. These hormones regulate the basal metabolic rate of all cells, including hepatocytes, and thereby modulate hepatic function; the liver in turn metabolizes the thyroid hormones and regulates their systemic endocrine effects.
The conversion of T4 to T3 in extra thyroidal tissue occurs through a rapidly equilibrating pool via the D1 enzyme system and a slowly equilibrating pool via the D2 system. The type 1 deiodinase is mainly found in the liver and kidney, 18 and accounts for approximately 30–40% of extra thyroidal production of T3.
The relationship between the thyroid gland and the liver; Centre for Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Royal Free Campus, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, UK
We all know that too much alcohol is detrimental to the liver. Since it is effectively a poison, the body must detoxify the ethanol and the liver is the organ for handling that task. But alcohol isn’t the only way to destroy your “second brain”.
Today, an increasingly common disorder is known as “Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease”. The Mayo Clinic describes the various stages of NAFLD as:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver. It’s not normal for fat to build up in your liver, but it won’t necessarily hurt you. At its simplest form, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can cause excess liver fat, but no complications. This condition is thought to be very common.
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In a small number of people with fatty liver, the fat causes inflammation in the liver. This can impair the liver’s ability to function and lead to complications.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-associated cirrhosis. Liver inflammation leads to scarring of the liver tissue. With time, scarring can become so severe that the liver no longer functions adequately (liver failure).
So we can start to have a buildup of fat (which is not harmful instantly…but leads to), the next stage is increased inflammation…and finally internal tissue scaring (full blown liver disease). Sadly these are conditions that build up due to what we expose our body and liver to.
Basically, anything you do that chronically overloads your liver can knock it out-of-whack. Excessive alcohol intake is the most common way of destroying your liver. But it’s not the only way. The standard Western diet is pretty efficient at pulling it off as well, which is why we’re seeing so many people with screwed up livers.
So did we go wrong? The largest issue is the storage of too much bodyfat (aka obesity). As you gain more fat (especially around the abdominal…the old “pot belly”), you will also increase all your risks for getting a fatty liver.
What else? How about a buildup of excess fructose in our diets (high fructose corn syrup and sugar, anyone?)…that builds up in our liver, forms fatty deposits and takes us down the road of potential long term damage.
In the past, fructose was considered beneficial to diabetics because it is absorbed only 40 percent as quickly as glucose and causes only a modest rise in blood sugar. However, research on other hormonal factors suggests that fructose actually promotes disease more readily than glucose. Glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body but all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of test animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to problems that develop in the livers of alcoholics.
What else you may ask? How about excessive sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and omega-6 fatty acids? You can probably also add pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and environmental toxins to the list as well since anything coming into the body is handled by the liver.
Both experimental and epidemiological studies have shown that dietary linoleic acid (polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid) is required for the development of alcoholic liver damage. Animals fed tallow and ethanol had no liver injury, but even 0.7% or 2.5% linoleic acid with ethanol caused fatty liver, necrosis, and inflammation.
Sadly it also seems that as childhood obesity is on the rise…so is the potential for long term liver damage with our overweight children.
In a new and disturbing twist on the obesity epidemic, some overweight teenagers have severe liver damage caused by too much body fat, and a handful have needed liver transplants.Many more may need a new liver by their 30s or 40s, say experts warning that pediatricians need to be more vigilant.
Quote and picture from MSNBC story on Childhood Obesity.
Remember that we said the “buildup” of fat while hampering optimal liver function, is not yet doing any permanent damage. So if you can start to turn things around, and get the liver to start getting rid of those fat deposits…then you can also “speed up” that fat burning metabolism (keep it running optimally).
Here’s some tips to take into action to help get the liver working optimally (taking the load/stress off it and letting it clean things up…think of it like a messy/dirty house, how are you expected to get it cleaned up if you keep throwing more dirty clothes and junk all over the place?)
The quality of fat you eat has a very large influence on health, and especially on the liver. Excess omega-6 is damaging to the liver. This type of fat is found primarily in refined seed oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil… Sugar is also a primary contributor to fatty liver. Reducing your sugar intake will go a long way toward reversing it. Omega-3 fats also help reverse fatty liver if an excess of omega-6 is present. There was a clinical trial using fish oil that was quite effective. You might try taking 1/2 teaspoon of fish oil per day.
Yellow cooking oils which remain liquid at room temperatures are usually high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These seed based oils go by many names, including: corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and others. Do not cook with these oils, and don’t eat food prepared in them when you go out to eat. And lastly, don’t eat any processed and pre-packaged foods which contain them in their various forms. Instead, try replacing these oils with more traditional fats like coconut oil, ghee, or real olive oil.
Conventionally raised livestock eat a diet unnaturally high in corn and soy — whether it be cows, chickens, pigs, turkey, or even some farmed fish. Because of this, the foods these animals produce is unnaturally high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and — in some cases — devoid of any Omega 3 fats with which to balance them out. Avoid any animal products from animals fed these unnatural diets. If you eat fish, meat, eggs, and dairy (which you should!), you’ll want to stick to grass-fed, pastured, or wild animals.
- What is in your foods & drinks (and this includes ALL artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and other additives not naturally found in foods…read a label and see everything you are putting in your body, or better yet…don’t eat or drink anything that has a label!)
- In-home pollutants such as cleaning chemicals, laundry detergents, mold, carpet cleaners, pesticides (outside and around the house), scented candles, air fresheners (read the label, you are inhaling those chemicals)
- Personal care products including what we put on our skin like soaps, makeup, perfumes, lotions, detergents for our clothes (especially dry cleaning)
- The water in your shower (full of chlorine…would you drink chlorine? Get a shower filter.)
- Medication (over the counter) and prescription drugs (very toxic to the liver)
- Lack of natural air (open the windows, put some live plants in your work/home…best natural air filters there are)
- Even that “new car” smell…..all chemicals going into you!
Start to really look around and clean up your daily environment. More and more chemicals that you are exposed to even on small levels is not going to help you long term.
taken from the Break Free Life ebook.
So there you have it…be kind to your liver and your metabolism will thank you. On the flip side, treat your liver like an amusement park and you will suffer the consequences over time. Eat real natural foods, as clean as you can. Live clean and get plenty of fresh air. It’s a simple message…now go live it!