Six Lifestyle & Dietary Habits for Healthy Liver & Gallbladder Functions
Your liver plays an important role in keeping your body functioning, in fact it performs more than five hundred functions.
The liver manufactures about half of our bodies cholesterol, most of it is made by the liver and used to create bile, a thick fluid which aids in our digestion. Cholesterol is also needed to make certain hormones, including estrogen, testosterone and the adrenal hormones, as well as being a vital component of every cell membrane. The liver also manufactures other substances including proteins needed by the body for example; proteins known as clotting factors are produced to stop bleeding. Albumin is a protein needed to maintain fluid pressure in the bloodstream.
Sugars are also stored in the liver as glycogen and are broken down and released into the bloodstream when low blood sugar levels occur.
Inside the liver cells there are sophisticated mechanisms to break down toxic substances. Every toxin, drug, artificial chemical, pesticide and hormone, is broken down (metabolised) by enzyme pathways inside the liver cells and excreted as harmless by-products to be eliminated.
The gallbladder is a sac located under the liver. It stores and concentrates bile produced in the liver. Bile acids aids in the digestion of fats, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and is released from the gallbladder into the upper small intestine in response to foods.
So we can understand the importance of these two organs but did you know your liver can play a role in inflammation, leaky gut, food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, and autoimmunity? The liver is often forgotten as a vital part to health and addressing chronic health issues. Therefore, it is important to support the liver and gallbladder by implementing a few easy habits into everyday life.
Bitter foods in meals, such as arugula, brussel sprouts, dark leafy greens, artichoke, broccoli etc. As well as include foods such as apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, pickles, lemons, or anything else that would trigger the salivary response. Consuming bitter and sour foods with meals, or better yet before meals, prepares the stomach for the food you are eating, and triggers stomach acid production. Stomach acid creates the correct acidic pH needed to trigger bile release once the partially digested food hits your small intestine to complete successful digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir to get all the prebiotics and probiotics you need for healthy gut function and to keep the gut microbiota balanced. This will ensure healthy bile and liver function.
Don’t skip fibre. Fibre from plant vegetables, flaxseed meal and mucilaginous fibres from slippery elm are important to keep the bowel moving, they also bind to toxins for elimination from the bowel. This prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into circulation from the small intestine where bile deposits them.
Ensure that meal portions are not too big. Smaller portions are easier to digest and take less stomach acid and bile to complete this process, thus putting less pressure on the gallbladder.
Ensure meals contain a balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Don’t follow low-fat diets long term, if at all, as this will most certainly affect gallbladder function in the long run.
Try not to snack in between meals and have a break from eating for 1.5 – 3 hours to allow the digestive system to rest, and for the small intestine to undergo detoxification which helps to clear toxins out of the digestive tract as well as prevent dysbiosis.
Make sure you sit and eat your meals in a peaceful environment, maybe with family and friends. Eating on-the-run or in between meetings does not create the best environment for the parasympathetic nervous system to ensure proper digestion and optimal bile production.
Nourish your biochemistry
The methylation cycle is an important part of making bile to keep your gallbladder working the way it should and your liver detoxifying. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables to provide adequate Folate and to support the methylation cycle. Likewise, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you may consider testing your levels and potentially taking a supplement (discuss this with your practitioner). Drinking vegetable juices is a great way to support this cycle as it contains many minerals required for enzyme function, as well as betaine in beetroot that is crucial ingredient for healthy methylation and liver detoxification. So why not include in your routine, every now and then a juice containing beetroot, celery, cucumber, carrot, kale and an apple? Yummy, right!
Consider your prescriptions & medications
Drugs, whether legal or illegal, over the counter or prescription, are all cleared by the liver and gallbladder. Taking medicine on an occasional basis for acute symptoms is probably not a big problem but being on regular medications for prolonged periods of time may put extra pressure on liver detoxification systems. Does this mean you should stop taking your medications? Absolutely not! But it is good to be aware of the potential impacts, so that you can take steps to relive the pressure of this system through other means, such as cleaner eating and reducing chemical exposure.
Sleep is healing
Sleep is very important to keep our circadian rhythms regulated, and these circadian rhythms are very important for the regulation of our gut hormones and bile acid production. Sleep also allows us to rejuvenate and complete all the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release hormones regulating growth and appetite etc. So next time you think of staying up late to watch a show or to work, remember that you are changing hormone patterns in your body and affecting your digestion for the next day.
Reduce toxic exposure
We all know that we need to reduce our exposure to toxins as much as possible. Today it is very hard to completely ‘clean’ of toxins, and you’ll probably never be able to achieve this. You just have to do the best you can. Environmental toxins can come in the form of herbicide and pesticide sprays in your garden or on your food (if you don’t buy organic), but also from new furniture and the off-gassing that comes from it. Make sure that household cleaning products and personal care products are as clean as possible and contain minimal chemicals if at all. Check your work environment for possible exposure to any chemicals and take steps to protect yourself as much as you can.
Stress less and make time for the things you enjoy
Stress. We’ve all felt it. Long workdays, rush hour, deadlines, children and families, not enough sleep and so on. Stress can be beneficial as it can help with motivation and producing the flight-or-fight response. Feeling stressed is perfectly normal; however, too much stress can result in both mental and physical symptoms and can be damaging to your health.
Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body.The high demands that stress puts on the body can weaken the immune system and leave you more vulnerable to colds and infections and slow down healing. Stress promotes disease and can cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease. Stress can cause disturbances with your sex hormones. Stress can impact the function of your gut. It can affect digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients, resulting in nutrient deficiencies and affecting many important other systems. Too much stress can damage the lining of the small intestine and create a leaky gut. A leaky gut can lead to food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid issues. Likewise, in the liver during stress natural killer cells expand in the liver which can contribute to liver cell death. In the part of the brain that controls the liver, stress appears to impair blood flow and can lead to liver damage. You get the point… make time for activities that are relaxing, stress free and make you happy!