Pop Quiz Time! Ready?
What is the organ responsible for breaking down and expelling toxins that enter the body, and that each system of the body, including the reproductive system, depends on to properly function?
I hope you got it right! If not, the answer is, C – the liver.
The liver, the master detoxifier, is indeed responsible for a large part of our overall health and particularly instrumental in fertility health.
The liver has two main jobs:
- To convert food, fluid, and the air we breathe (including that which the body absorbs through the air we breathe) into the life-sustaining vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and nutrients that fuel and protect the body.
- To break down and expel toxins and excess hormones.
It does these jobs by…
- filtering toxins from the blood at a rate of over one quart per minute
- making bile, the fluid that helps the body break down fats and prevents constipation
- metabolizing excess hormones
- participating in healthy immune system function
- producing interferon, a protein that acts as the body’s natural defense system against pathogens (viruses, bacteria, germs, parasites, etc.)
- storing vitamins, minerals and enzymes for use when the body needs them
- converting amino acids into glucose for energy production
A liver that is tired, congested, and overworked can produce a multitude of symptoms that are often thought to be caused by hormones and particularly hormone imbalance. Common symptoms of a sluggish liver are crashes of energy, poor digestion, skin issues (more below), weight gain and many more…
- anger or irritability
- bouts of general depression, headaches or body aches without an identifiable cause
- inability to properly balance hormones in the absence of other contributing fertility health issues
- poor digestion, nausea after meals (especially after eating fatty/oily foods) and constipation
- skin issues – irritation, some liver spots, itching, swelling with bags under the eyes, slight yellow hue, acne
- tiredness/fatigue without having overexerted oneself
Main contributors to liver sluggishness are eating a diet low in fiber that lacks fresh whole vegetables and overeating dairy, fatty meat, oils, alcohol and refined sugars. Repeated use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and tranquilizers, and exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, also contribute to poor liver health.
How to Improve Liver Health
The liver is an amazing organ! Thankfully, it is able to renew and regenerate itself. This can take some time depending on the degree to which it is damaged – in general anywhere from three months to a year.
“Optimum nutrition is the best liver protection and the key to liver healing…” ~ Dr. Linda Page
A liver health program designed to help revitalize the liver should first and foremost focus on diet and exercise. Without the foundation of a whole food, clean diet, and regular, moderate exercise, natural therapies supportive of liver health will not be as effective.
Dietary Choices for Optimal Liver Function
A liver health program should include a whole food Fertility Diet including Fertility Smoothies. This way of eating is high in the following, which are particularly healthy for the liver:
- Fresh vegetables, specifically dark green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables, chlorophyll-rich foods that boost liver health and function. FertiliGreens is a great way to get one complete serving of greens each day.
- Fiber which absorbs excess bile, promotes regular elimination, including elimination of excess hormones – whole grains, beans, and legumes.
- Lean protein (mostly vegetable)- sprouts, whole grains, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Potassium-rich foods – dried fruits, some seafood
- Sulphur-rich foods – garlic, onion, cage-free eggs, cruciferous vegetables
- Enzyme/probiotic-rich foods – fermented foods or kefir
- Clean, filtered water – 6-8 glasses a day (add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice too)
- Bitters that stimulate digestion – artichokes, beets and radishes and their greens, endive and arugula
Foods to avoid:
- refined sugar
- refined grains
- fried foods high in saturated/trans fats
Dairy products that are organic, grass-fed, and whole fat should be limited (avoid low-fat and nonfat dairy options).
In regards to lifestyle, the liver and reproductive organs depend on proper, healthy blood flow (circulation) and fresh oxygen to perform at their best.
Exercise – get moving! Be sure to exercise outside in nature where plenty of clean air is available to you as well. The liver depends on the oxygen coming into the lungs to properly function. Make sure you sweat when exercising to naturally detoxify (take a sauna or steam in a hot bath).
Breathe Clean Air – Buy an air purifier for the home or office and change or clean your furnace filter as suggested.
Herbalist Matthew Wood says, “Whenever we have a mental state where there is anger, frustration and fighting against the flow or a lack of confidence in the natural progression of events, the liver will usually be involved. These mental conditions correspond with the old idea of a ‘choleric’ or liver personality, in Greek and Chinese medicine…” Those with these mental conditions also tend to “suffer from problems because of tension in other parts of the organism… One of the areas most strongly affected is the sexual-urinary tract.”
Healthy levels of stress hormones are necessary for liver function and the body’s ability to produce sex hormones. When being properly produced at normal levels, the stress hormone cortisol, for example, enhances the body’s natural resistance to emotional stress, but also enhances endurance and energy production by stimulating the liver to convert amino acids into glucose.
On the flip side, when cortisol levels become too high as a result of chronic stress, they can inhibit “the body’s main sex hormones GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and subsequently suppresses ovulation, sexual activity and sperm count.” I encourage you to learn more through Hethir Rodriguez’ article Stress and Your Fertility. It is critical to teach yourself ways to manage your stress!
Herbs, Nutritional Supplements and Natural Therapies
Herbs and nutritional supplements can give your body the boost it needs to achieve optimal liver health.
A variety of herbs traditionally used to support liver detoxification, regeneration, and health are:
Milk Thistle seed (Silybum marianum): detoxifies, regenerates damaged liver tissue, stimulates bile production, and improves digestion
Burdock root (Arctium lappa): cleanses and nourishes the liver which aids in hormonal balance
Dandelion root and leaf (Taraxacum officinale): the root cleanses the liver, stimulates bile flow, supports the body in managing estrogen dominance, and acne – the leaf is nutrient-packed and nourishing to the liver
Chicory root (Cichorium intybus): aids the body in recovery of liver health issues
Turmeric root (Curcuma longa): a bitter herb, a liver regenerator that stimulates the liver enzymes necessary to flush toxins
Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis): an adaptogen for liver protection, enhances vitality and energy levels, anti-inflammatory and a protective antioxidant
Goji berries (Lycium barbarum,L.chinense): a nutritious fruit high in antioxidants that supports liver function to promote hormone balance
Immune system enhancing supplements are known to help support liver regeneration.
- Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system
- Probiotics – supportive of healthy gut flora to fight pathogens
- CoQ10 Ubiquinol – another powerful antioxidant for fighting free radicals
- Systemic Enzyme Therapy – promotes a healthy immune system response
- Fertile Woman One Daily – a complete whole food multivitamin formulated specifically for women that includes Reishi and Maitake mushrooms that are known to enhance liver vitality
- Choline – a micronutrient, B vitamin, known to support the liver’s natural ability to detoxify and prevent fat build-up within itself. Suggested daily use is 425 mg. Foods rich in choline are eggs (don’t skip the yolks) Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, wild Alaskan Salmon, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, lentils and peanuts
Castor Oil Therapy – Applied over liver area three times a week; aids in liver detoxification and increases liver circulation.
Fertility Yoga – Increases circulation throughout the body, stretches muscles and ligaments, promotes calm, relaxation, and stress reduction, enhances breathing and the flow of oxygen into the lungs.
Linda Page, Ph.D., Traditional Naturopath, hypothesizes that every American “has some degree of liver malfunction” as a result of the standard American diet which is often high in empty calories, processed foods, fat, refined sugar, grains and alcohol. Other contributing factors to poor liver function are the unknown amounts of toxins from lifestyle choices, environmental toxins, and body care products. This may be true of many cultures in this age of convenience.
It may not be completely realistic for some to avoid all that has been discussed that is known to task the liver. This being said, knowledge is power and knowing the standard way of life may not promote liver health (and as a result the body’s ability to achieve and maintain hormone balance); it may be time to commit to making dietary and lifestyle changes to show your liver some love. If you already lead a clean, healthy lifestyle and eat a whole food diet plus avoid toxins to the best of your ability, send your liver a thought of thanks. Then, drink another glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as a gift.
- Group III, E. (2013). The Top 9 Herbs for Liver Cleansing. Retrieved from: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/top-9-herbs-for-liver-cleansing/
- Haas, E., & Levin, B. (2006). Vitamins. In Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine (21st-century ed., pp. 129-131). Berkeley: Celestial Arts.
- Northrup, C. (2010). Menopause. In Women’s bodies, women’s wisdom: Creating physical and emotional health and healing (Rev. and updated. ed., p. 534). New York: Bantam Books.
- Page, L., & Abernathy, S. (2011). Section seven: Ailments and health conditions. In Healthy healing (14th ed., pp. 491-492). California: Healthy Healing.
- Taylor, M. (2015). 6 Must-Have Nutrients For Women. Parade, Walgreens Vitamin Angels Supplement-Walgreens Vitamin Angels Supplement. Retrieved from: http://www.franceslargemanroth.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Nutrients_Pop_Up.pdf
- Wood, M. (1997). Agrimonia eupitoria – Agrimony. In The book of herbal wisdom: Using plants as medicine (pp. 89-86). Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.