Liver health highlights:
- Most known for its ability to neutralize toxins, the liver also plays a crucial role in digestion, which includes creating bile to break down fats
When Things Go Wrong:
- Chronic constipation, tenderness on right side, light or off-colored stools, digestive/small intestine issues
Supporting the Liver:
The largest organ in our body and weighing in at roughly 3 pounds, the liver sits in the upper right quadrant of the abdominal cavity. Most known for its ability to neutralize toxins, the liver plays a crucial role in digestion, including building proteins from broken down amino acids and creating bile to break down fats.
While the liver plays a vital role in filtering the blood and eliminating toxins, the liver also plays a role in producing bile which breaks down fats. The ability to ingest and digest fats properly is essential for maintaining hormonal health, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and providing satiety.
The liver produces nearly 1 quart of bile per day. Bile is a mix of water, bile salts, minerals, hormone waste, neutralized toxins and cholesterol. Bile emulsifies fat. Emulsification is the process of dispersing fats into small globules, so that lipase (fat-splitting) enzymes can further break down fats.
Imagery: Think of making salad dressing. When you mix oil and vinegar, the fat and vinegar stay separated. If you add in a bit of grainy mustard to that oil and vinegar, the grainy mustard disperses the oil, allowing the vinegar and oil to mix together. Bile is like grainy mustard, it breaks apart fat and allows the fat globules to separate.
The bile travels through ducts, from the liver to the gallbladder, then from the gallbladder to the duodenum (first part) of the small intestine. The bile is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder during a fasted state, then is released into the small intestine in the presence of a fat.
Bile salts are reabsorbed in the ileum (last portion) of the small intestine to be reused.
Supporting the Liver:
Supporting digestive function:
- Tincture or herbal bitters: Milk thistle, dandelion root, yellow dock, gentian root; the taste of bitter stimulates the liver to excrete bile
- HCl: Stimulates the flow of pancreatic enzymes, cholecystokinin and bile to prepare for receiving chyme (partially digested food) in the small intestine
- Pancreatic enzymes, taurine, bile salts: In working with a nutritionist or practitioner, try taking a lipase-loaded pancreatic enzyme when eating a fat-containing meal to break down fat
In terms of digestion, the liver is a bile-producing machine. In terms of all other bodily functions, the liver is a powerhouse -- breaking down and rebuilding proteins, neutralizing toxins and removing bacteria, and storing glycogen and forming glucose.