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How to love your liver

11 Jul 2013 5:20 PM - with nutrition, herbs and more.


I recently wrote about the important role of the liver and the signs of liver dysfunction.  

A healthy and optimally functioning liver is crucial for your health and vitality so it makes sense to ensure your liver is working efficiently to cope with the daily demands placed on it.  

How do I assess the health of your liver?

The first step is to take a thorough history of your health, symptoms, diet and lifestyle.  

Your doctor may have requested that you have liver function tests (LFTs) in the past.  This blood test looks at levels of liver enzymes, bilirubin and albumin.   The results of this test can be an indicator of liver damage and are useful in determining or ruling out liver disease.  While useful, it doesn’t tell us a great deal about how well the liver is actually working in its role of detoxification.  (Often, the liver is not diseased or damaged but it’s just not working all that well).

A test often used by naturopaths is the Functional Liver Detoxification Profile ("FLDP").  This simple urine test assesses the effective operation of five of the key detoxification pathways in the liver.  It can tell us how well these pathways are working.  When used in conjunction with a naturopathic assessment of your health, we can provide very targeted treatment to more quickly improve liver function. 

Another test which can be useful if heavy metal toxicity is suspected is a hair mineral analysis.  This test takes a sample of (uncoloured) hair to test for the presence of heavy minerals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium.

These tests are not essential (and I don’t always request them) but they can be helpful in providing more information about what might be causing your symptoms.


What can you do to take care of your liver?

Firstly, stop overloading it by reducing the amount of processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and chemicals it is exposed to. 

Secondly, in order to perform its functions efficiently, the liver requires good levels of protein.  Protein provides the essential amino acids required for the numerous detoxification actions that the liver undertakes. 

Thirdly consume lots of fruit and vegetables which are valuable sources of the anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals required for effective liver function.  A diet rich in vegetables from the brassica family (e.g. brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) is supportive of liver function and adequate fibre and water will help with elimination. 

Many nutrients are required for good liver function. These include vitamins such as B2, B3, B6, B12 and vitamin C. You also need adequate intake of folate, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, zinc and copper. You get these nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet but occasionally you might benefit from a nutritional supplement (This is best determined by your naturopath).


What else can you do to improve your health?

If you concerned about the health of your liver, it is well worth investing in a thorough naturopathic assessment to ensure you are on the right track.  If you are interested in herbal support, herbs which can help include Curcuma longa, Silybum marianum (St Marys Thistle), Cynara scolymus, Bupleurum falcatum and Schizandra chinensis to name a few.  Typically, I will develop a tonic for you using these or other herbs depending on your unique symptoms, diet and lifestyle. 

I will also provide you with dietary guidance to make sure you are getting sufficient nutrients or provide additional nutrients to supplement your diet if necessary. 

To find out whether your liver may be letting you down or to learn more about whether additional testing may be warranted simply ask about this at your next naturopathic appointment or call the clinic for a chat on 03 9620 9503.

In good health,

 

 

Kaye Wright
Naturopath
Melbourne CBD

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