Live and love your liver

Long liver
Last Updated 22 March 2013, 15:26 IST

Liver health has become a major concern globally. According to a latest report by World Health Organization (WHO), more than 2 lakh people die of chronic liver conditions, in India alone.

Liver is the one of the most important organs that plays a pivotal role in overseeing almost all bodily functions.

It stores minerals, vitamins and produces 80% of the ‘good’ cholesterol in the body. Liver also produces bile, which aids with the process of fat digestion. Liver also enhances the body’s coagulation capability, which helps in forming blood clots.
This action stops excessive blood flow during injury.


The best way to care for your liver is to maintain overall wellbeing by eating balanced meals, exercising regularly and keeping yourself vaccinated. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

* Consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to three serious conditions—alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver and alcoholic cirrhosis. Keep your alcohol intake to a bare minimum or avoid alcohol altogether.

* Various types of recreational drugs severely damage liver cells. Some prescription drugs can also be hepatotoxic, so do not exceed the recommended dosage of medication, unless advised by a doctor.

* Toxic fumes from paint thinners, bug sprays and other aerosols can enter the body through tiny blood vessels in your lungs and carried to your liver, which can cause injury to the organ. Wear a protective mask when using these products. 

*  Various forms of Hepatitis like A, B, C, D and E causes swelling of the liver, which affects its normal functions. Hepatitis can lead to liver scarring, cirrhosis and even cancer. It is important to vaccinate yourself against viral liver diseases.

Herbs and liver health

It is well known that natural foods can contribute to the overall wellbeing of the liver.  For example, garlic is known to activate liver enzymes that flush away toxins from the body, drinking freshly-squeezed lemon juice in the morning helps stimulate the liver and turmeric boosts liver detox by eliminating dietary carcinogens.

Moreover, research has shown that certain lesser-known herbs have hepatoprotective properties, which if taken as part of an herbal formulation, is beneficial for the liver. These include:

* Chicory (Kasani), which grows in the wild in northern and southern parts of India, is a potent detoxifier. The herb can also increase bile production. 

* Caper (Himsra) contains p-methoxy benzoic acid, a chemical constituent that is credited with hepatoprotective properties.

* Black Nightshade (Kakamachi) is beneficial for that the treatment of chemical-induced liver damage.

* The bark of Arjuna (Arjuna), a large evergreen tree, has an antioxidant effect on liver and protects the liver from toxins. 

Guide to Healthy Liver:

*  Avoid alcohol and drugs

* Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet

* Exercise regularly

* Lower the consumption of caffeinated beverages

* Get vaccinated

* Take no more than the recommended dosages of medication

*  Ask your doctor for a liver function test

*  Avoid being subjected to environment pollutants like paint thinners and pesticides

Ayurveda for a healthy liver

Ayurveda attribute liver congestion to heat that is trapped in the liver, and they seek to clear and cool the organ through lifestyle changes and herbal treatments. The liver is a natural multi-tasker: it plays a large role in metabolism, helps build proteins, breaks down hormones, clears toxins from the bloodstream, and much more.

Ayurveda views the liver as “hot” or “pittic” because the fiery, dynamic energy of pitta—one of the three doshas (along with vata and kapha) that regulate the physiological functions of the body—guides and supports these myriad functions of the liver. Too much fiery energy, however, can accumulate in the liver and lead to physical problems. Ayurveda describes symptoms caused by excess pitta:headaches; flushed face; red, burning eyes; acne; nosebleeds; outbursts of anger; inflammation, allergies, and symptoms of indigestion (like heartburn). Changes in lifestyle—like eating cooling foods, getting regular exercise, and taking time to relax—are often enough to bring pitta back into functional balance.

Herbal First Aid

Many herbs that support liver function can calm and pacify imbalanced pitta and reduce liver congestion. Some of them increase bile flow, others support the enzymatic detox processes, and some simply nourish or stabilize the liver.

Bitters: Herbalists often combine barberry, turmeric, dandelion, celandine, goldenseal, gentian, chiretta, and/or neem in “bitter” formulas. These herbs are best taken in small doses as tea or diluted extracts 20 to 30 minutes before a meal to support liver function, detoxification, and digestion.

Purgatives: According to ayurveda, pitta accumulates in the small intestines, and purgatives (laxatives) help to release it. One of the gentlest purgatives is the soluble fiber psyllium, which can safely be used on a daily basis for months.

Liver Tonics: Milk thistle has become a relatively well-known liver tonic in recent years, as more research has demonstrated its effectiveness in reversing chemical-induced liver damage and preventing liver toxicity during chemotherapy.

Fasting: The liver is a resilient organ, so it can often “decongest” itself if you reduce the burden on it. Every time you eat anything, you flood the liver with nutrients and potential toxins. Fasting helps it catch up. 

(Published 22 March 2013, 15:26 IST)

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