Written by- Ashleigh Iredale
As naturopaths, we tend to talk a lot about the liver because the elimination pathway is an important element of our health. When the liver is behaving sub-optimally, we recognise this through various signs and symptoms even when pathology testing is telling us otherwise. I wanted to talk about this topic with you all because its an area that I’m constantly addressing with young girls with skin issues and I have found that many women do not realise the impact the liver has on hormone balance. Below you can continue to read about the anatomy and function of the liver, the various ways we see symptoms occur and my tips to increasing liver functionality through diet and lifestyle.
A great way to understand your liver is to think of it like a filter. Its job is to detoxify our blood from harmful chemicals, toxins, drugs (pharmaceutical and recreational), alcohol, pollution and pesticides. One of its most important jobs is the breakdown and removal of excess oestrogen. Oestrogen is vital in regulating our menstrual cycles & reproduction, building our bones, nourishing our skin, regulating cholesterol levels and elevating our mood (when oestrogen levels rise after our period, so does serotonin, and we are in fallible!). Once oestrogen has done its job, the liver is responsible for metabolising it (breaking it down) and removing any excess from our blood. If the liver is clogged up with other toxic gunk (ie, other drugs, alcohol) oestrogen may not be sufficiently cleared from our blood. Overtime, oestrogen builds up and we are at risk of Oestrogen Dominance/Excess particularly in relation of progesterone. Please be aware that the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) contains a synthetic form of oestrogen which is not the same as our endogenous oestrogen (true hormones) and will also create a small burden for the liver as it needs to be metabolised and detoxified as well.
Signs and symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance
· Hormotional; PMS, PMDD, anxiety, depression, short-tempered
· Fibrocystic breast disease
· Irregular and/or heavy periods
· Breast tenderness, bloating & hormonal weight gain
· Fertility challenges
· Other including stress, the OCP & other synthetic oestrogens found in plastics, and alcohol
Five tips to improve liver detoxification
· Eat 3 cups of leafy green veg daily to cleanse your liver
Spinach, rocket, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Bok choy, Asian greens, asparagus
· Cut down alcohol to 1-2 per week. Two glasses per day has shown in clinical trials to impair liver detoxification & increase circulating oestrogen
· Include turmeric powder or fresh root in your cooking daily or take a supplement. It is a brilliant liver tonic. I like to add it when I’m simmering my onion, garlic and oil in the pan. Increase absorption with black pepper, heat and good fats.
· Swap out 1 coffee per day for dandelion & chicory root tea
· Two litres of filtered water daily