As I was working on the nutritional supplements part of my book, I came across some articles I had read several years ago when researching ways to improve my liver function. In my younger years, I had not always been kind to my liver, and now that I was taking some Tylenol almost every day (for my ankylosing spondylitis), I wanted to protect it and possibly rejuvenate it. Reading about all the wonderful things that the liver does every day with little or no fanfare, I think it’s very underappreciated. Following is but a few of the liver’s functions.
The liver is the master alchemist of the body, performing over 500 biochemical functions. Most of us know it as the chief detoxifier of our bodies, eliminating potentially toxic substances, while at the same time metabolizing nutrients. The liver also keeps us alive between meals and during sleep (I wonder if that’s why it has the name, liver?), by storing extra blood glucose after meals as glycogen, then monitoring blood glucose levels and releasing glycogen as needed between meals to keep blood glucose levels where they should be and to feed the brain.
The liver also produces bile, which it stores in your gall bladder, to break down certain food particles for either further digestion or elimination. For instance, after your LDL cholesterol takes vitamins A, D, E, and K, plus the hormones estrogen, cortisol, and aldosterone, to the cells where they can do their work, HDL cholesterol brings LDL back to the liver where it is converted to bile salts and eliminated-pretty cool function. The liver also stores iron, vitamins A, D, and B-12. The liver also converts the fats you eat into useable fuel for cells or stores them as triglycerides. This is just a few of the hundreds of functions handled by this 2-3 pound organ.
Just like any other organ, the liver can be damaged by drug use (legal or illegal), alcohol, viral infections like hepatitis A,B,C,D, and E. Diabetic or obese persons can also develop fatty liver disease, and there are auto immune disorders and hereditary problems in some people. Point is, the liver needs your help. With environmental factors such as heavy metals in fish (mercury), air and water pollution, pesticides, and food-borne bacteria (salmonella, listerium, and e-coli, to name a few), the liver is constantly being pushed to the limits. But, the liver has something going for it that the other body organs don’t: the liver can repair itself and recover after disease, years of abuse, or inflammation, which I think is just plain remarkable.
Knowing this, I decided to add supplements to my liver several years ago. The ones I take, and have worked for me are: turmeric powder (1 tbsp/day), N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) (500 mg/day), and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) (500 mg/day). The turmeric is great and multi-functional. It serves as a powerful anti-oxidant, and is also a strong anti-inflammatory agent. NAC is a precursor to glutathione, which is important in three ways: as a strong anti-oxidant, a powerful natural detoxifier, and food for your immune system. ALA is a fatty acid that converts glucose into a useable form of energy for our bodily processes, including energy for the liver. It also recycles and recharges vitamin C and glutathione after they have spent their resources, so that they can continue. Since I have taken these, I have noticed my liver enzymes improve (according to my blood counts at my yearly physical), but more importantly, I have had more energy. Some signs of a liver not functioning at optimum levels are low energy levels and the inability to concentrate well. Let’s give a little love to the liver.
Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.