5 Signs of Liver Dysfunction and What to Do About It
BySarah Axtell, ND •December 22, 2022
There’s no doubt that we live in a toxic environment. Chemicals are found in house-hold cleaners, pesticides and fungicides, tap water, car exhaust fumes, pharmaceuticals, beauty products, and cigarette smoke. This places an incredible burden on our bodies, especially the liver, our main organ of detoxification. And then add alcohol and junk food to the mix….the accumulation of toxins and toxic by-products in our organs and tissues can have profound detrimental effects on our physiology.
You do not have to have cirrhosis of the liver or frank pathology of the liver to experience the effects below. This is where improper functioning of the liver comes in. In those with liver dysfunction, routine blood tests are generally normal or we may see an increase in liver enzymes (AST and ALT). Liver dysfunction can lead to other common organ system dysfunction or whole body symptoms.
5 Common Signs of Liver Dysfunction:
- Hormone imbalance symptoms, such as PMS, bloating, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, mood swings, cramps, and irregular menses. These can be signs of excess estrogen in the body (or estrogen dominance). The liver plays a role in detoxifying or metabolizing estrogen.
- Poor Digestion. The liver makes bile, which gives stools its brown color. The liver can make 1-1.5 quarts of bile per day. If the liver is backed up and thus biliary stasis is present, insufficient bile production can lead to light colored stools, poor digestion of fatty food, gas, bloating, and decreased appetite.
- Acne. Acne can be a sign of poor liver detoxification. It is the liver’s role to detoxify and cleanse the blood, but when it is congested and not working properly, the body relies on a secondary route of elimination, the skin, to push out toxins. This results in acne. If acne is locates on the jawline or around the mouth, this can be indicative of hormonal-induced acne. As stated above, when hormones are imbalanced, the underlying issue is often liver dysfunction.
- Headaches. If your headaches are triggered by walking down the detergent aisle of the grocery store, Chinese food (MSG), cigarette smoke, the smell of new paint, or alcohol, this can be indicative of poor liver detoxification. Hypersensitivity to chemicals warrants liver support.
- Fatigue. Thyroid disease and anemias commonly coexist with liver disease and can worsen any existing lethargy. Nutritional deficiencies as well as disturbances in fluid balance also contribute to exhaustion.
How to Support Your Liver:
- Avoid alcohol for 30 days. “Dry January,” anyone?! Luckily, the liver can regenerate itself and heal. A single month without booze tames inflammation. Weight loss also supports the liver (and avoiding alcohol can help with weight loss!). Losing 5% of your weight can reduce liver fat by 30%. Here are some mocktail ideas.
- Include liver-supportive herbs:
- Dandelion root supports function of both the liver and kidneys. Both of these organs are essential for helping your body rid waste and toxins. Dandelion root is a bitter herb that stimulates digestive enzyme release and increases digestive function throughout the entire digestive tract. It is a choleretic and cholagogue which means it stimulates release and flow of bile into the intestines. Having good bile flow is an essential piece of the detoxification process because the bile’s job is to grab onto the waste and toxins so that they can be eliminated through the stool.
- Milk thistle is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and protects the liver and kidneys. This herb is the most important herb for repairing a damaged liver and protecting the liver from harmful substances in our environment. Milk thistle increases levels of our body’s master antioxidant Glutathione. Glutathione is essential for repair of our body’s cells and is needed to run our liver’s detoxification system.
- Artichoke is another powerful bitter herb that stimulates digestion, promotes bile flow and improves elimination of waste through the stool. Artichoke also helps repair the liver and is helpful when there is liver inflammation and blood stagnation through the liver. Artichoke is a carminative herb and is helpful in reducing gas and bloating that may occur after meals.
These herbs can be taken together for a synergistic and enhanced effect. Many “detox” tea blends include these herbs. I often recommend the supplement, Liv Complex by Genestra, which includes the above herbs, for 30 days to support liver detoxification.
3. Castor oil packs- The external use of castor oil supports the body’s detoxification and elimination functions, enhances liver metabolism, balances the immune system, and improves lymphatic circulation. Here is a post on how to do a castor oil pack.
4. Include liver-supportive foods:
- Artichokes, Beets, Cilantro- These are foods that love the liver. When you eat beets, be sure to keep the greens, which are a potent detoxifier. Beet greens can be chopped and sauteed with some onions and garlic. Cilantro has the ability to chelate (or bind) heavy metals and eliminate them.
- Green Tea- Review of clinical trials shows that green tea consumption consistently leads to a significant increase in the antioxidant capacity of the blood. Antioxidants repair oxidative damage to the liver. Aim for 2-3 cups of green tea daily.
- Brazil nuts– Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Selenoium is a vital part of the liver detoxification pathways. Aim for 3-5/day.
- Turmeric – protects against heavy metal- induced liver damage, acts as a liver protective, is anti-inflammatory, inflammation modulating, and even increases glutathione (our most potent antioxidant)! Sprinkle turmeric on anything and everything (eggs, roasted veggies, soups).
- Broccoli sprouts – Broccoli sprouts are rich in sulforaphane, which supports phase 1 AND 2 detoxification. Sulforaphane also helps to push estrogen down the protective pathway to protect against breast cancer, fibroids and other estrogen dominant symptoms.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.