Love Your Liver a Lot
by Michelle Kramer
Many people live their lives with chronic discomfort and assume it is a normal part of aging. In many circumstances, the distress can be traced back to liver function. Fatigue, muscle aches, dry eyes, acne, stomach ulcers, back pain, heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea are all symptoms that can indicate poor liver health. This organ is deeply involved in the complex array of chemical reactions that take place as we break down and absorb nutrients. Every part of the body relies on the basic nutrients made available through the digestive system as well as the effective removal of waste products. Without a healthy liver, foods cannot be digested, absorbed, and transported throughout the body properly, and resulting consequences will manifest as the symptoms above.
Weighing around three pounds, the liver consists of four lobes of unequal size and shape. It lies on the right side of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm. It is the largest glandular internal organ and is involved in over 250 individual functions, some of which are
• Cholesterol production (produces about 80% of the cholesterol in the body)
• Storage of vitamins and minerals
• Detoxification and filtration of harmful substances from the blood
• Conversion of glucose to glycogen and maintenance of proper blood glucose levels
• Regulation of blood levels of amino acids (building blocks of protein)
The liver continually secretes a dark green/yellowish digestive liquid called bile, which emulsifies fats, neutralizes acids, and facilitates the digestion of calcium and vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bile also removes toxins from the liver and cleanses the intestinal tract. Once produced in the liver, the bile travels through the common bile duct into the gallbladder. This is a small pear-shaped organ that stores and concentrates bile by adding mucus to create a thick substance. When protein and/or fat containing foods pass from the stomach into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine), gastrointestinal hormones cause the gallbladder to contract and eject bile into the duodenum. Proper digestion and absorption of food is maintained by sufficient bile flow. Emulsified fat is then left for enzymatic breakdown and intestinal absorption. The bile salts then continue down the intestine, where most are reabsorbed in the ileum (last section of the small intestine) and return to the liver. The cycle continues, as the bile salts are stored in the gallbladder for future use.
Inflammation, congestion, and toxicity of the gastrointestinal tract will affect the process of bile salt re-absorption, thus reducing the supply required for proper bile production. It is the lack of bile salt concentration in the bile that leads to the formation of gallstones, as over-saturated bile and unabsorbed constituents begin to harden. This impairs the digestion of fats and is unhealthy for the intestinal environment. Gallstones can also occur in the bile ducts of the liver, causing the basic structure of the lobules to become distorted, which can affect the blood vessels supplying these liver units. Blood vessels kink, the internal blood supply drops, and liver cells become damaged. If this happens, the liver’s ability to detoxify the blood is reduced. The outcome is a buildup of harmful substances within the liver and the blood. Rather than the normal greenish brown colour of stool, bowel movements may appear orange-yellowish, tan, or pale when gallstones in the liver or gallbladder have critically impeded bile flow.
Blockages of the liver ducts will affect blood cholesterol levels over time. The liver and small intestine manufacture the majority of the body’s cholesterol. Along with bile, cholesterol is directly released into the bloodstream from the liver and attaches to blood proteins to be transported around the body. Cholesterol secretion is inhibited when gallstones block the bile ducts of the liver. This results in back-flow into the liver cells and bile production decreases. On average, a healthy liver generates around one litre of bile each day. However, blockage of the bile ducts results in a cup or less of bile excreted into the intestines, limiting cholesterol elimination. The “good” cholesterol molecules are smaller and leave the bloodstream more efficiently than the “bad” cholesterol, which are larger and cannot find their way to the smaller blood vessels. This results in unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol.
In the gallbladder, gallstones consist mainly of a mixed composition of cholesterol, calcium, and bilirubin. They may also contain water, mucus, salts, toxins, and bacteria. Stones can increase in size in the gallbladder for eight years before noticeable symptoms occur, some growing two to three inches across. Ultrasound or radiological evaluations can detect larger stones that have calcified. When a gallstone slides out of the gallbladder it can become impacted in the cystic bile duct or common bile duct and the wall of the duct will spasm and contract to expel the stone, which can be extremely painful. Therefore, gallstones can irritate the lining of the gallbladder and the bile ducts causing inflammation and fibrous adhesions.
Removing gallstones from the liver and gallbladder aids in regulating normal digestion, absorption, and elimination processes. This can be done by doing a liver and gallbladder flush and is a powerful way to improve overall health. Through Integrative Microscopy (live blood analysis), the condition of the liver and gastrointestinal tract are evaluated and a protocol can be devised to help improve the function of these areas.
Moritz, A. (2007). The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse: An all-natural, at-home flush to purify and rejuvenate your body. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press.
Michelle Kramer works at Choice Nutrition in Melfort, SK as an Integrative Microscopist. She has a Bachelor’s Degree of Nutrition and Food Science with interests in nutraceutical supplementation and natural health products, specifically pertaining to skin and digestive health. Previously, she practiced as a registered massage therapist in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in her home town, Regina, SK. She is currently taking the Herbal Practitioner for Healthcare Professionals online program through the College of the Rockies. To contact her, call (306) 752-9277, email: email@example.com, or visit: www.choicenutrition.ca to learn more about how to support liver health and other health-related issues. Also, see the Directory of Services ad on page 25 of the 20.6 March/April issue of the WHOLifE Journal.