Sunday, January 13, 2013

15 Foods that Benefit Your Liver

My last post was about the liver and how certain herbs can benefit or ever cure certain liver conditions. The liver is truly the master organ of the immune system, the detox "powerhouse" of our body, producing chemicals to combat viruses (including the HIV virus) and bacteria and producing antihistamines to neutralize substances that promote the growth of cancer. When the liver is not functioning properly - and is over-blocked by toxins - the body's immune system is severely weakened leading to chronic illness.
Because the liver is responsible for at least 500 functions within your body, keeping it in optimal condition can help you in a number of ways. The American Liver Foundation indicates that keeping it strong and unpolluted can increase your energy level, boost your immune system and regulate your system's natural metabolic process. According to The New York Times, a healthy liver can even affect your mood, making you less agitated and more focused. According to Dr Leo Roy MD, "No disease, especially degenerative diseases including cancer and AIDS, could survive longer than a few weeks in the presence of a healthy liver." 

We are what we eat! What we choose to put in our bodies determines to a level our health condition (emotional and psychological factors play a huge role in that too!). I am not the kind of person that would support anything extreme as far as food is concerned; “never eat sugar”, “never eat fried food”, “never eat white flour”, “never drink alcohol and coffee” etc, etc. It’s important to be aware of what’s good for you or not, know how your body works and learn to listen to its needs and yes, sometimes it might need a rich chocolate mousse, for emotional support! Always remember that your emotional, psychological and sociological needs are as equally important. And the key to all that is nothing but humble B A L A N C E! 

Along with the herbs listed in the previous post, there are certain foods that really aid and detoxify your liver. When eating for a healthy liver, the most vital thing to remember is to include variety in your daily diet. Consuming plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds is the best way to provide your body with the nutrients you need to keep all of your organs healthy. It is also important to remember to use alcohol and coffee in moderation, as these items do not offer nutritional benefits to the body, but do put stress on the liver.

Liver is the only organ that can actually regenerate! So, give it a chance! As Hippocrates nicely  put it “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”!

1. Carrots
Scientists in India have discovered that carrots afford significant protection for the liver, at least experimentally in laboratory animals. When liver cell injury was induced experimentally with chemicals, paralleling the liver damage inflicted by chemical pollutants, experiments showed that lab animals could recover with the help of carrot extracts. These extracts increase the activity of several enzymes that speed up detoxification of the liver and other organs.

2. Beetroots
Packed with iron, calcium, betaine, B vitamins and antioxidants, beets are one of the liver's best resources for maintaining optimum health. They detoxify the liver and spleen, they are great for toning and rebuilding the liver, they are suitable in cases of anemia, and help to treat many liver ailments, including jaundice, cirrhosis and other liver diseases. Some herbalists use it to treat liver problems induced by alcoholism. Emily A. Kane, N.D., Lac, explains that "Beets improve liver function largely by thinning the bile, allowing it to flow more freely through the liver and into the small intestine." Check out this tasty juice recipe, recommended for a liver cleanse & boost: Detoxing and Nourishing Juice with Beetroots, Carrots, Radishes, Parsley and Lemon

3. Lemons
The Ancient Egyptians believed that eating lemons and drinking lemon juice was an effective protection against a variety of poisons. Lemon juice is often called the liver's best friend. It is one of the only foods on the planet that has an atomic structure similar to that of digestive juices. As a result, putting lemon juice in your water can provide your liver with some relief as it filters toxins and processes nutrients.
Lemon juice supports liver function by strengthening liver enzymes, regulating blood carbohydrate levels and serving as the basis for new enzyme creation. According to A.F. Beddoe, author of "Biological Ionization in Human Nutrition," fresh lemon juice works better at helping your liver make more enzymes than any other food. In addition, lemon is a natural antiseptic that kills harmful bacteria. 

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (cold pressed)
In a study conducted  at the University of Monastir in Tunisia and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, researchers discovered that extra virgin olive oil provides powerful antioxidant protection against toxins that cause oxidative stress (the physiological stress on the body caused by free radical damage, which is linked to a host of health problems as well as agingand damage to the liver.
When we combine extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice together, they act as a potent liver and gallbladder flush, detoxifying the liver, lowering biliruben levels, removing heavy metals, increasing the production of bile from the liver, stimulating lymphatic flow, and restoring the pH of your saliva, which in turn helps you to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. 
Olive oil with lemon helps the body by providing a lipid base that can suck up harmful toxins in the body. In this way, it takes some of the burden off the liver in terms of the toxic overload that many people suffer from. 
Just make sure that it's good quality and always remember you must consume it raw!

5. Artichokes
A member of the milk thistle family that helps control blood sugar levels, the artichoke is a fibrous, green veggie containing cynarin. Cynarin is a phenolic acid compound that experts believe is responsible for its cholagogue and choleretic properties:
•    Cholagogue – a medicinal agent, which promotes the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.
•    Choleretic – a substance that stimulates the production of bile in the liver.
if the bile is not transported adequately to the gallbladder, the liver has an increased risk of being damaged.
Clinical studies indicate its benefits to the liver ranging from protecting it from damage, lowering the risk of liver fat accumulation to hindering liver cancer cell growth. Thus, those with chronic liver disease have every reason to choose artichokes as their number one vegetable pick.

6. Garlic 
This superfood, known for its ability to fight infections and cancer, is also among the many great liver cleansing foods as it is very useful in repairing a compromised liver. The main reason for its superior effects on the liver have to do with the fact that garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that are known to activate the liver enzymes responsible for expelling toxins from the body. In addition, garlic contains both allicin - an antioxidant - and the mineral selenium, both of which are important for the protection of the liver and assist in the removal of heavy metals from the liver.

7. Onions
Onions contain sulphur compounds, which are important for aiding the liver in its detoxification process.More specifically, these are called methionine and cystine and, among other things, they are good at detoxifying the body from heavy metals, like mercury and cadmium. The vitamine C also found in onions is excellent at detoxifying the body and is effective in moving lead, arsenic and cadmium. So increasing consumption of onions can help the body to get rid of these harmful metals. 

8. Grapefruit
Phytonutrients in grapefruit called limonoids inhibit tumor formation by promoting the formation of glutathione-S-transferase, a detoxifying enzyme. This enzyme sparks a reaction in the liver that helps to make toxic compounds more water soluble for excretion from the body. Grapefruit, like other citrus fruit, provide an excellent source of vitamin C, an important antioxidant nutrient that protects our liver cells from free radical damage.

9. Leafy Dark Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables
Among the most powerful allies in cleansing the liver. They can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Extremely high in plant chlorophylls, greens literally suck up environmental toxins from the blood stream. With their distinct ability to nuetralize heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides, these cleansing foods offer a powerful protective mechanism for the liver. Broccoli and spinach contain B-complex vitamins which improve liver function and promote liver decongestion. Vitamin B12 helps to metabolize fats and improves liver health. Enrich your salads with bitter greens (which are even more effective) like arugula, fresh dandelion leaves, chicory, endive, mustard greens, and watercress. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussel sprouts cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and cabbage also increase the amount of glucosinolate (organic compounds) in our bodies that helps create enzyme production for digestion.

10. Radishes

Radish juice helps to soothe the digestive system and detoxify the body. The leaves are also edible and very nutricius indeed!
Radishes are beneficial for both the gallbladder and liver functions, as they act as a cleanser. they contain sulphur based chemicals, which regulate the production and flow of bilirubin and bile, enzymes and acids and also helps remove excess bilirubin from the blood. This makes them an excellent detoxifying agent for the body. They protect and soothe the gallbladder and liver, while protecting them from infections.
They are also highly effective in treating jaundice, as they halt the destruction of red blood cells and increase the supply of oxygen to the blood. For this treatment however, the black radish is preferred.

11. Nuts, legumes and seeds
Beans, soy beans, lentils and peas, raw nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds (especially flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds), should be included in your daily diet. These are detox foods that help the liver to flush out unwanted toxins. Walnuts, are high in glutathione (like avocados) and omega-3 fatty acids, which help support our liver through its cleansing process.

12. Avocados

Researchers in Japan have discovered that avocados contain potent chemicals that may reduce liver damage. According to the same research, avocado extracts may be especially promising for the treatment of viral hepatitis.
Avocados can help your body produce a type of antioxidant called glutathione, which is needed for our livers to filter out harmful materials. In addition, they contain essential fatty acids, which are absolutely necessary for healthy cell membranes. The liver requires abundant amounts of essential fatty acids to function properly. 

13. Apples
Apples prevent the formation of gallstones. In addition, they provide an excellent source of pectin, a type of fiber which binds with toxins and heavy metals, aiding their excretion from the body. This helps to reduce the amount of detoxification that is needed to be completed by the liver. When on a liver detox, the malic acid in apple juice will help to open the bile ducts that run through your liver and will begin to soften and release the stones.

14. Red Grapes
Grapes activate liver to glycogenic functions and bile secretions and are highly beneficial for all types of liver disorders.

15. Berries
A daily diet rich in berries may reduce an enzyme called alanine aminotransferase (ALAT), a well-established marker of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and metabolic syndrome by 23%, according to new research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Herbal Remedies For Your Liver

Facts about the liver

Your liver is the largest solid organ in your body; and is also considered a gland because among its many functions, it makes and secretes bile. The liver cells have two different sources of blood supply. The hepatic artery supplies oxygen rich blood that is pumped from the heart, while the portal vein supplies nutrients from the intestine and the spleen.
Normally, veins return blood from the body to the heart, but the portal vein allows chemicals from the digestive tract to enter the liver for "detoxification" and filtering prior to entering the general circulation. The portal vein also efficiently delivers the chemicals and proteins that liver cells need to produce the proteins, cholesterol, and glycogen required for normal body activities.

The liver can be considered a factory and here is a list of its most important functions:

Production of bile that is required in the digestion of food, in particular fats.
•      Storing of the extra glucose or sugar in the body into stored glycogen in liver cells              
        and then converting it back into glucose when the the body needs it for energy.
Production of blood clotting factors.
Production of amino acids (the building blocks for making proteins), including   those   
        used to help fight infection.
Processing and storage of iron necessary for red blood cell production.
Manufacture of cholesterol and other chemicals required for fat transport.
Conversion of waste products of body metabolism into urea that is excreted in the 
Metabolizating medications into their active ingredient in the body.

Common liver diseases

The main cause for liver damage is alcohol, which can eventually lead to cirrhosis.  Alcoholic liver damage has three different conditions: steatosis, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Steatosis, or fatty liver, results from a buildup of fat in the liver, while alcoholic hepatitis is liver inflammation. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that 70% of alcoholic hepatitis patients develop cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that alcoholic cirrhosis is the fourth most common cause of death in people aged 45 to 54. Over all age groups, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that cirrhosis was the 12th most common cause of death in 2000.
Women have a higher risk of alcoholic cirrhosis, since the alcohol reaches their bloodstream at a higher level and they have a slower breakdown of alcohol. It also takes less alcohol consumption to cause cirrhosis in women. The Merck Manual Home Edition notes that women who consume 20 ml of pure alcohol a day and men who consume 60 ml of pure alcohol a day for many years can develop severe liver problems by their 40s.
Patients may not have symptoms in the early stage of alcoholic cirrhosis. When patients do develop symptoms, these are some of the most common ones: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, abdominal painbloating, fatigue, weight loss, itching and the appearance of spider-like blood vessels
The second most common liver disease, after alcoholic damage, is hepatitis. Hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver, is not just one disease, but many. It can be either acute or chronic and it is caused by certain viruses (A, B, C, D or E), by alcohol again or by certain drugs or medications (even widely used, over-the-counter pain relievers or fever reducers that contain paracetamol). About 5,000 people die each year of hepatitis B (it is spread like AIDS) and the ones that survive have a high risk of being diagnosed with liver cancer some years later.
Other common liver diseases are Acetaminophen Toxicity, Fibrosis, Jaundice (icterus), Liver Cysts, and Cholangitis (PSC).

Caring for your liver

So what can you do to help your liver in a natural way apart from watching your alcohol intake?   
For those of you who wish to treat, strengthen or cleanse your liver here is a list of the most effective herbs and how to use them:

• Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is ranked among the best foods for the liver. The roots have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine for a number of diseases, they are also used to cure jaundice (also known as icterus). The leaves are diuretic and the flowers are full of lecithin, a substance that has been proven very helpful for many liver diseases.
Dandelion is edible and actually in Greece these boiled greens is one of our most typical salads! You may steam them and eat them with lemon, olive oil and salt or you may boil them and keep the water to drink as tea with a bit of lemon added to it, which is also a liver tonic. I do that very often and I actually love it! Apart from helping your liver, it’s also a great blood purifier and is also recommended to people suffering from arthritis. I even add tender young dandelion leaves in raw salads mixed with other greens more mild in taste, like spinach and lettuce. If you can’t get hold of fresh dandelion, you may just get the herb and make a nice tea, I usually combine it with Milk Thistle for even better results!
If you don’t like the taste you can always get it in natural supplements or tinctures.

• Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle is a top-choice herb for all kinds of liver ailments, including everything from hepatitis to cirrhosis to Amanita mushroom poisoning. It has been used as a liver remedy for at least 2,000 years. Research shows that compounds from the seeds help protect the liver against damage from alcohol and hepatitis and can even regenerate liver cells that have been damaged. Other studies show that the compound silymarin, which is found in milk thistle, helps protect the liver from many industrial toxins, such as carbon tetrachloride. 
Even if you don't have liver damage or liver disease, milk thistle helps improve liver function by helping the liver remove toxins from your body. Very young leaves of this herb can be used in salads. Drink plenty of Milk Thistle tea (again you may combine it with dandelion) or just buy milk thistle capsules at health food stores and follow the directions on the package.

• Chicory Root (Cichoriu intybus plant root)
Known for its vibrant blue flowers, chicory is also a medicinal herb celebrated for its ability to help cleanse the liver. Ancient Roman, Persian, Arabian, and Indian physicians used chicory leaves and root to aid against a slew of liver ailments including jaundice, gallbladder and liver stones, urinary stones, constipation, indigestion, depression, and headaches. You may use chicory root extract and follow package instructions.

• Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Widely used in Chinese medicine as a male tonic, this herb also has strong liver-protecting properties. Chinese doctors use its extracts effectively to treat viral hepatitis and other liver ailments. The seeds contain more than a dozen liver-protective compounds. You should be able to find the dried berries in certain herb shops and health food stores. In China, people take approximately one to seven teaspoons a day for up to a month after the hepatitis has subsided.

•  Chinese angelica (Angelica sinensis) 
Also known as dong-quai, this Chinese herb is revered in the Orient as an aid for women's health. It also helps protect the liver, apparently by helping it use more oxygen. Chinese herbal physicians favor it for treating cirrhosis.
The usual recommendation is to take two to six teaspoons a day in teas, tinctures or pills for as much as a month. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant.

• Tamarind (Tamarindus indica)
In Latin America, many people drink tamarind juice when drinking alcoholic beverages. That's because it prevents hangover.  A study confirmed that extracts of tamarind prevented liver damage in experimental animals that were given liver-damaging chemicals.
The sugary pulp around the seeds is used to make a sweetened beverage that is consumed more as a food than a medicine. You can drink two glasses of it a day, but in many countries it is not very easy to find.

• Artichoke Leaf (Cynara scolymus) 

It provides exceptional regeneration effects in the liver, and similarly to dandelion, artichoke stimulates the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder where toxins can be removed.

• Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
In Asian folklore, this herb has been highly regarded for conditions related to the liver. Extracts of this yellow root are significantly protective for the liver. It not only helps stimulate enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins (including known carcinogens) from the body, but UCLA research found that it’s capable of combating the effects of those carcinogens by blocking the spread of malignant cells. I suggest you start adding it in your food and teas. I use it a lot in soups and salad dressings. If you have a liver problem take up to five teaspoons a day for a month. 

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Appart from it's many anti-depressant compounds (and the fact that it is an excellent alternative to St. John's Wort), the active compound in liquorice root, glycyrrhizin, inhibits liver cell injury caused by many chemicals and is used in the treatment of cirrhosis and chronic 
hepatitis. You may add it in alsmost any tea and it works as a sweetener as well!

• Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)
The ancient Greeks and Romans considered celandine to be one of the most powerful liver cleansing herbs. It stimulates enzyme production from the pancreas, has the ability to cleanse the liver, stimulates the under-active gallbladder, it relives spasms and indigestion, and can improve scrofilus diseases, eczema and jaundice. 

• Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Tea is clinically effective in treating acute infectious hepatitis (especially green or white tea). If you have hepatitis, you can treat it with tea by drinking  two to four cups a day.

• Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus niruri)
Chanca Piedra, also referred to as "stone breaker", is a “premier” herb in the therapeutic herbal tradition of Peru, where knowledge of rainforest remedies spread to Andean civilizations, including the Incas. It stimulates the liver to purge itself of harmful toxins and foreign particles. It is believed to break up and expel both kidney stones, and gallbladder stones, to help stimulate the production of bile and to promote healthy liver and gallbladder function. The whole plant, including leaves, stems and root are shredded and simmered for 10 – 15 minutes (about one tsp. per cup of tea). For gallstones, it is taken in small amounts 3 or 4 times daily if there is an immediate and urgent need.  Otherwise a cup of tea is taken once or twice a day or several times a week as a maintenance dose.  Lemon juice can be added as a tonic for the liver.