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Love Thy Liver

See also Carahealth Liver

Modern society places increased strain on the liver. Most people understand that alcohol is broken down in the liver. We all know this after a Saturday night at the pub! Fast food, alcohol, cigarettes, hydrogenated vegetable oils in processed foods, oral contraceptives and stress all have a negative impact on your liver. Drugs are broken down in the liver and some are toxic to liver cells. Even some nutrients and herbal medicines can damage the liver and need to be taken with caution.

The liver not only affects us on a physical level but also emotionally. The English language has incorporated words regarding how the liver affects our moods. The word liverish means to be irritable and melancholia is a term for depression. Treating the liver can therefore regulate your moods.

Complementary health practitioners place a vital importance on treating the liver. Sluggish liver function can lead to many modern day health problems from acne to high cholesterol. In a modern day diet the liver is kept busy breaking down fats or alcohol and it can’t perform its other jobs properly, resulting in conditions such as high cholesterol, irritable bowel, nausea, low energy, varicose veins and PMT, mood swings and low energy.

So what are the functions of the liver?

Carbohydrate metabolism

In between meals, when blood glucose is low the liver breaks down glycogen to glucose. The liver also makes glucose from protein and fats. This provides fuel for the brain and energy for our day. The livers most important job is to regulate blood glucose levels. So protecting your liver can decrease the risk of late onset diabetes.

Fat / Lipid metabolism

The liver cells actually make cholesterol and use cholesterol to make bile salts. Bile emulsifies fats i.e. breaks large fat globules into droplets so that they may be digested. In a person with poor liver function the body can actually make too much cholesterol.

Protein metabolism

Liver cells make most proteins and without this function death would occur in days. The liver helps proteins become available for the production of energy.

Removal of Drugs and Hormones

The liver detoxifies alcohol from the body. Penicillin, paracetamol, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy are broken down and excreted by the liver.

Excretion of Bilirubin

Bilirubin sounds like a good name for a country music singer but is actually the pigment that gives bile its colour. It comes from the breakdown of worn-out red blood cells.


The liver stores vitamins A, D, E K and minerals iron and copper. Ferritin is like the iron we have in the bank. It is stored in the liver and used when our iron is low.

Foods that Help the Liver

I have mentioned some things that damage the liver now I would talk about the good news! The good news is that liver cells, which are called hepatocytes, can actually regenerate. Certain herbal medicines can protect your liver from damage and help your liver regenerate.

Bitter foods

The bitter taste stimulates the taste buds to promote salivation in the mouth to digest carbohydrates, bile from the liver to digest fats and hydrochloric acid from the stomach to digest proteins. Some bitter foods are great salad greens. Examples are endive, radicchio, chicory, silverbeet, beetroot leaves, cos lettuce and dandelion leaves. Dandelion leaves are great in salads. Rye bread is also bitter and will stimulate the liver. Lemon, lime and grapefruit are bitter and sour and improve bile flow. Many herbal medicines are bitter and stimulate digestion.


Most people think this humble vegetable grows in tins. Did you know though that beetroot is an incredible liver tonic that will help detoxify the liver? Beetroot contains chemicals or phytonutrients that boost the activity of key detoxifying enzymes in the liver whilst providing antioxidant protection against the free radicals produced during the detoxification process. Beetroot contains are large amount of flavonoids that give it its lovely colour these flavonoids are antioxidants. Beetroot and carrot juice together can regulate hormones and be prescribed for PMT and other hormonally related diseases. Check out beetroot at your green grocer. Grate it into salads, also use the beet greens as they are high in folic acid. Roast it in the oven with your next Sunday roast. Grate it into rice for kids to make pink Barbie rice.

Globe artichoke

Globe artichoke is a bitter vegetable and as such can stimulate the liver. Globe artichoke is used to regenerate liver cells in liver disease such as cirrhosis and hepatitis. The good thing about it is that it is still good for you on a pizza smothered with cheese and can even help you digest the cheese. Globe artichoke is available in jars from supermarkets and Italian and Greek delis for those in Dublin!! But lucky for us Galwegians, Lidl. Try some on your next pizza or pasta dish.

Foods to Reduce

Foods high in saturated fats i.e. Meat and cheese. Hydrogenated fats i.e. The “vegetable” oils that are added to processed foods. These are poor quality fats. Also avoids unnecessary use of drugs and intoxicants such as alcohol.

Herbal medicine for the liver

see also Carahealth Liver

Carina is available to lecture for your group or institution on this subject

Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu. is a practitioner of 11 years, complementary medicine lecturer of 4 years and mother of six in Galway, Ireland who practices what she teaches.

For an appointment call Carina directly on 083 34 66 333.

All products are available through www.carahealth.ie. Remember, we are here for a good time not a long time, enjoy your food life!

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