Nourish your liver
The liver is a vital organ for metabolism. It can be called the engine of the body. Its many important roles include digesting, metabolising and manufacturing essential compounds for keeping the body healthy. This organ is also responsible for identifying toxins and helping detoxification.
Our liver is critical for life-long health so it makes sense to treat it well. While there have been major advances in treating liver diseases, there are no absolute cures. That’s why it’s important to take steps to prevent liver disease, such as making healthy lifestyle choices and getting immunised against viruses that can cause liver disease. Inclusion of some potent herbs may have an added advantage in ensuring a healthy liver.
The liver is a unique organ which can ‘heal’ itself most of the time. However, we must reduce the burden on it. We must remember that every time we eat we flood the liver with potential toxins along with nutrients.
Recent research points to lifestyle modifications such as diet, moderate exercise and stress management for improving liver function. Nourish yourself well. Eat good-quality, freshly cooked food when you are hungry. Do not consume food that is high in sugar and trans fats.
lAvoid overeating and refined or heavily processed food.
l Avoid excess sugar, oil, salt, spices.
l Eliminate extra carbs from your daily diet.
l Have foods rich in Vitamin E — almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, spinach, mustard greens and papaya.
l Have foods rich in Vitamin D — curd, cheese, eggs, fish, mushrooms.
l Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids are helpful — flax seeds, walnuts, soya bean, tofu, chia seeds, shrimp, fish oil.
Red rice, raisins, tender coconut water and sugarcane juice are considered wholesome for liver health. So also barley, wheat, green gram and red lentils. It is good to avoid fermented food such as vinegar and alcohol.
Remember that high-fibre diets help keep the bowels, liver and blood clean by facilitating elimination. Drinking plenty of water to flush out toxins is beneficial.
Do not skip or delay your meals. However, fasting for a day — or even just a meal — helps liver function. Fasting doesn’t mean that we starve. Always stop a fast at any sign of exhaustion. Drink easily digestible nutrient-dense juices of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Avoid sugar-rich juices and sports drinks. Also minimise exposure to chemicals of all sorts —from food additives, aerosols, air pollution, cigarette smoke to caustic cleaning agents. The liver needs to break down every chemical entering the body either for use or excretion.
l Air pollution and exposure to chemicals of daily household use and other toxic substances are injurious to liver health.
l Negative emotions create hormones that flood the liver with toxins. Stress can aggravate liver congestion. Regular practice of yoga, especially meditation, reduces stress and helps in optimum liver function. Take time to breathe deeply, relax, meditate, or pray.
lExercise regularly at moderate intensity — walking 10,000 steps daily / jogging for 30 minutes should be helpful.
l Insomnia is known to cause liver imbalance. Eat early and sleep before 10 pm. Lack of sleep disturbs the metabolism of glucose, resulting in weight gain. It has also been linked to an increase in anger.
Fatty liver disease, which usually accompanies obesity, is the physical manifestation of a ‘sluggish liver’ — the liver is literally clogged with undigested fat! Unfortunately, there are no visible signs or symptoms in the initial stages. Most often fatty changes in the liver are detected during a routine health check-up.
There are herbs that support liver function and help reduce this congestion. Some of them increase bile flow, others support the enzymatic detox processes and some help stabilise the liver.
Herbs: The following herbs as supplements keep the liver healthy and disease at bay.
Triphala: About 20 ml of decoction with a teaspoon of honey, twice daily before food (or 2 tablets twice daily).
Trikatu (combination of black pepper, Indian long pepper and ginger): About 1 gm powder to be consumed with honey/water after food (or 1 tablet), twice daily.
Haridra (turmeric): About 2 gm of turmeric paste mixed with 3 teaspoonfuls of Amalaki (Indian gooseberry) juice could be administered once or twice a day (or 1 tablet each of Haridra and Amalaki, twice daily).
Pippali (Indian long pepper): Consumption of 2 gm of long pepper powder with a teaspoonful of honey, once or twice a day for about a month.
Bhumyamalaki, Katuki, Kalamegha, Kiratatikta: All these bitter herbs are established hepato-protectives — 5 to10 ml of fresh juice / 2-3 gm powder of any of these herbs can be taken along with honey.
Triphala, Trikatu, Haridra and Amalaki are available in tablet form from Himalaya Wellness.
Liv. 52 DS (Himalaya): 1 tablet, twice daily, or Arogyavardhini vati (any reputed pharmacy) 2 pills, twice daily for about 6 months, will be helpful in setting right a sluggish liver. n
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 19 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services, at The Himalaya Drug Company