Feeling tired? Suffering headaches? Have a lingering low mood you just can't shake? It may be a sign of liver strain. In today's stressful world, this hardworking organ has its work cut out, clearing toxins and playing a part in more than 500 processes in the body.
Here, we talk to medical herbalist and Artemis founder, Sandra Clair, about how to show our liver some TLC.
One of the liver's major tasks in the body is detoxification, and typically, it can carry out this process with ease. However, our modern lifestyles put our body under immense pressure.
Our environment has been increasingly exposed to thousands of manmade chemicals that weren't here 150 or even 50 years ago. Add to this the excess toxins that come from increased adrenalin and cortisol levels from today's hectic living and you have a recipe for an overworked, underperforming liver.
Toxic overload, which occurs when the liver cannot properly detoxify, is linked to many health issues.
Signs that your liver may need some support include: low energy, irritability, headaches, 'brain fog', allergies or food intolerances, nausea, high cholesterol, constipation, and sleep disturbances, particularly waking between 12am and 3am.
Detoxification is a natural process that the body undertakes every day – it refers to the metabolic process where the body eliminates what is metabolised, unnecessary or harmful to its functioning. There is only so much your liver can effectively detoxify, and any leftover waste will build up, causing unwanted symptoms.
Detoxification has been part of various cultures for centuries, with cleansing rituals including saunas, specific fasting protocols and herbal medicine. Now, science has begun to catch up with traditional wisdom, and the benefits these rituals have on overall well-being have resulted in the increased awareness of detoxification in mainstream society.
Detoxing shouldn't be considered a 'diet'. It's a way of life, a self-care practice you can do every day to look after your health.
There is a lot of confusing marketing around detoxing, along with products and fad diets that are neither successful nor sustainable. Often, they can do more harm than good due to their harsh composition. Sometimes they're made of processed ingredients that can deprive the body of essential nutrients.
The easiest way to support your body's daily detoxification is to take a medicinal tea with bitter liver herbs before breakfast, as certain plants contain specific phytochemicals which enhance the detoxification process. Many of these phytochemicals are unique to plant medicine, and not found in everyday foods, so a nourishing diet alone isn't enough.
Bitter medicinal herbs stimulate digestive enzymes in the body, activate the gut and cleanse the liver from wastes and toxins that may have metabolised overnight. St Mary's thistle, globe artichoke, dandelion root and calendula provide specific active constituents that support the liver in clearing substances such as alcohol, pharmaceutical and recreational drugs, food additives and environmental toxins.
A diet rich in greens helps to improve liver performance. Vegetables in the brassica family including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are particularly beneficial due to the presence of sulforaphane, a substance that enhances detoxification.
Opt for organic or spray-free produce to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals, and try to reduce your consumption of processed foods that contain additives, preservatives and trans fats. When it comes to other products, look for brands that don't include harmful chemicals such as parabens, artificial preservatives or synthetic scent.
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