Spring Into Wellness & Love Your Liver

Poppy flower, outdoors. Hello spring conceptSpring has finally arrived and that means we will be spending more time outdoors, enjoying the sun, cookouts and all sorts of fun things. Spring is beloved as the season for renewal, love, vitality, spring cleaning of the mind & body and for growth. This lovely season is also notorious for triggering allergies, headaches, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, sneezing and more. Although we tend to blame the external environment, e.g. pollen, etc., it is also important to consider what’s going on inside our bodies. Have you ever wondered why some people react to pollen by experiencing seasonal allergies, and yet other people are not affected?

My established clients typically reach out to me this time of year when they start experiencing troublesome allergy symptoms, and they’re ready to cleanse, detox, clean-up their environment, and basically take action. For me, as a nurse, thyroid/autoimmune health coach, and certified detox specialist,  I know what’s really going on… they are inflamed on the inside, and as a result are symptomatic. Allergies are related to liver congestion. Otherwise, their body would not likely be affected by seasonal pollen…the body would naturally handle its external environment with ease and without producing all that coughing, sneezing, watery eyes or a scratchy throat. But, there are also a host of symptoms related to a sluggish liver in addition to allergies that you may not have thought about, such as a stiff neck, nutritional malabsorption issues, diarrhea, upset stomach,  a puffy face, hemorrhoids, strong body odor, tendency to hold weight in the upper abdomen, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and chronic throat problems. As for emotional health, a stagnant liver is said to be associated with feelings of anger, frustration, and in some cases, depression. Does anything here sound familiar? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the most common complaints I notice and they are usually related to liver congestion.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the seasons and the produce harvested as a result is intended to nourish and support targeted organs of the body. Seasonal living points us toward how to live in harmony with the natural cycles of our environment. Isn’t that amazing? Healthy living and eating in accordance with the seasons has already been figured out for us and it really makes so much sense. The problem is, many of us don’t listen to Mother Nature’s subtle cues and potentially compromise the opportunity to achieve optimum health.
SIDENOTE: Health is not merely the absence of disease.

During spring, the organ systems we tend to focus on are primarily the liver and gallbladder; however, the eyes and muscles are often a focus as well. For this post, I am mainly focusing on the liver and God’s antioxidant: glutathione.

The liver, which is found in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen is the largest internal organ (weighing in at 3.2 to 3.7 pounds) and is responsible for 500+ functions. Our liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen, fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K; vitamin B12, iron and copper. The liver produces albumin, a protein that is responsible for maintaining osmotic pressure in the blood, angiotensinogen, a hormone that raises blood pressure when activated by a hormone (renin) released when the kidney detects low blood pressure. As an organ in the “vessel rich group,” (VRG), the liver commands 27.8% of the total cardiac output (the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute). Briefly, to put this in perspective, 4-7% of the blood pumped by the heart goes to the heart, 13.9% to the brain, 23.3% to the kidneys, 8.6% to the skin, 15.6% to skeletal muscle, and 6.2% to the rest of the body. So, the liver, and then the kidneys receive the largest percentage of cardiac output.

One of the primary jobs of the liver is detoxification. It cleans the blood, neutralizes harmful toxins and bacteria, helps us to fight infection, and produces clotting factors. It is also essential for digesting the foods we eat by producing bile, which is stored in the gallbladder for use when needed. Bile is a key substance for digesting fats and regulating cholesterol and triglycerides. The liver also converts nutrients from food into molecules that make proteins and enzymes to balance hormones. All of those expensive bioidentical hormone creams used today aren’t worth a penny if the liver isn’t metabolizing them!

During the winter months, we all (me included) tend to consume more stews, soups, and comfy foods to satisfy us during colder weather, and this means we also sometimes put on some extra weight. This is perfectly normal, and is actually what nature intends. But with the arrival of spring, our winter weight (extra fat) is what can cause liver congestion as previously noted. This is why spring cleanse and detox programs are so popular during this season. Friend, if you don’t do a detox or cleanse any other time of year, please consider a spring cleanse, one that uses only real, clean foods. Forget those packaged “detox kits” on the shelves in the store – those can be dangerous as they are simply only a bunch of herbs that land you on the toilet for a weekend, making you think you’ve “detoxed.” Don’t do that to yourself!

Eating real foods provided to us during the seasons is perfection in my view, during spring Mother Nature blesses us with beautiful spring roots and greens such as dandelion, arugula, broccoli sprouts and spring onions. These are loaded with cleansing alkaloids to help support the liver in clearing congestion. Milk Thistle (silymarin) is one of my favorite tonic herbs to detoxify the liver in conjunction with a healthy, clean-eating detox program. Milk Thistle promotes the flow of bile and protects liver cells during the process. When choosing Milk Thistle, please be sure you understand the manufacturer’s standardization practices! CLICK HERE for the Milk Thistle I personally rely on and have used for the past 10 spring seasons.

I also wanted to mention glutathione. Glutathione is by far the most important antioxidant and it is the one made by your own body! I learned about glutathione when I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease, when my doctor told me it was absolutely essential for combating Hashimoto’s disease. Glutathione plays a central and protective role against the damaging effects of bacteria, viruses, pollutants and free radicals. It is also a powerful detoxifier of chemicals that are foreign such as cancer-causing metabolites; and, the lymphocytes of the immune system require maintenance of normal glutathione levels for healthy function.

And there is more…according to Dr. Alexander Haskell, author of Hope for Hashimoto’s, he found that glutathione is the most studied antioxidant in the medical literature for Hashimoto’s. Studies have shown positive results for the reduction of thyroid antibodies when glutathione is present. It literally shields cells from oxidative damage and inflammation and helps the immune function at its best. When glutathione levels are in decline, you are more susceptible to:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease
  • Sensitivities: chemical, heavy metal
  • Inflammatory disorders, arthritis, diabetes, asthma
  • Kidney disease
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome (intestinal permeability)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Accelerated aging – we produce more free radicals as we age, which results in wrinkling, risk for disease, and aging of the cardiovascular and other organ systems; it’s important to maintain optimal levels of glutathione!

Low levels of glutathione are often found in people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autism. When we are healthy, and the liver has all of the constituents required to make glutathione, we have good protection. However, consuming too much sugar, medications, trauma, poor sleep quantity & quality, smoking, surgery, and other stressors will deplete our levels.

Glutathione is manufactured by the liver and is a combination of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine. Consuming sulfur-rich foods like asparagus, avocado, garlic, spinach, and curry will help provide the liver with the raw materials it needs to make glutathione for you. In addition, consider incorporating one or all of the following into your routine:

  • Non-denatured whey protein: because it contains a double-bond of cysteine, colostrum, immunoglobulins, lactoferrins, & lactoferricin.
  • Glutamine: because it is typically reduced in any dysfunction of the gut.
  • Inulin, fiber, and prebiotics: because these improve function of the gut and prebiotics are the “food” probiotics need to survive once they populate your gut. My all time favorite is TruFiber by Master Supplements.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC): because it is a precursor to glutathione and heavily researched in rebuilding the liver, promoting detoxification, bronchial and lung disorders, and is used for rapid recovery after exercise.

For Glutathione Power  by Designs for Health use  the Search Box in the upper right hand corner of the page to search for specific products.

References

  1. Designs for Health, Research and Education Blog: Glutamine, A Tool for Tissue Health, Retrieved 18 Mar 2015.
  2. Haskell, A. (2011). Hope for Hashimoto’s, Park City, UT: Advancing Medical Care Publishers, pp. 108-109.
  3. Stewart, K. (2015). Enhance the Immune System: Glutathione, Pharmaceutical Grade. Vimeo video. Neurobiologix, Retrieved 15 Mar 2015.
  4. Waldeck, D. (2013). Understanding glutathione, The SGN Project Solutions, p. 142.

Shannon wants to know: What is your favorite way to get healthy during the spring season?

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