By Gillian B
Weighing 3-4 lbs, the liver is the cornerstone of about 500 different functions in the body, including detoxification, blood formation, blood sugar regulation, defending the body against infection, and hormone function. As important as the liver is to our well being, it is often overlooked and ignored when probing for the root cause of disease.
It’s important to note the liver’s relationship with the gallbladder. They work so closely together that many healing modalities just consider them one in their treatment plans. Whatever we can do to help our liver helps our gallbladder, and vise versa!
During digestion, the liver secretes bile into our small intestine, alkalinizing and lubricating the digestive tract. Bile is an essential ingredient in the recipe of healthy digestion, and without it, we leave the body at risk for nutritional deficiencies and overgrowth of bad bacteria. The release of bile also stimulates peristalsis, which moves fecal material out of the body.
However, due to many factors including consumption of processed foods, too much red meat, alcohol, drugs, and seemingly less harmful habits like overeating and snacking between meals, our liver and gallbladder can become completely backed up!
What we need to realize is that we are not invincible. Sure, the liver can tolerate a lot of abuse when we are younger, but as the toxic bile continues to build up, it forms stones. These stones accumulate in the liver and gallbladder and cause all sorts of problems in the body.
Here are some key diet and lifestyle shifts that we can make to show our liver more love:
1) Eat at Regular Mealtimes
Like nature, the human body has its own rhythms. While our internal organs are all connected and work together, each organ has a time throughout the day when it’s at its peak. The key to optimal health is to sync our lifestyle to our body’s natural rhythms. One of the easiest ways for us to accomplish this is with our diet.
This means eating our meals at regular times in relation to the position of the sun in the sky. In the morning, our digestive system is just warming up. Its best to eat a light breakfast from 7-9 AM.
Lunch is when our digestive capacity is at its peak, and the body is ready to receive the most amount of nutrients from the foods we eat. This is also when the sun is highest in the sky, so naturally, it would be best to have our largest meal of the day for lunch. Eat your heavier starch or protein meals around noon.
As the sun diminishes in the second half of the day, so does our digestive capacity (after 6 PM, it’s merely 20% of what it is at noon). In order to support proper digestion, we want to eat a lighter dinner between 5-7 PM. Vegetarian meals are easiest to digest at this time, and in order to give your body enough time to process it, you want to have dinner as far away from going to bed as possible.
Its important to note that irregular eating habits, which include eating between meals and snacking in the middle of the night greatly upset the body’s finely tuned biological rhythms. For every little snack eaten between meals, the gallbladder releases a small amount of bile. However, the secretion is not sufficient to completely empty the gallbladder, which increases the risk of gallstone formation.
Most of the important hormonal secretions in the body depend on regular cycles of eating, sleeping and waking. So, staying up late and snacking is a lot more damaging than you might think!
2) Quit Overeating
How many times a week do you eat too much in one sitting, or eat more frequently than your body needs to nourish and sustain itself? I hate to break it to you, but this is self-abuse.
Overeating is a very unloving habit that most of us don’t even think about. It is the number one dietary cause of gallstones, a congested liver and all the illnesses that result. Eating until overfull or grazing all day is regular practice for many people. But the truth is, it overburdens the digestive system and inhibits its ability to digest food, assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste effectively.
Long term, this dangerous habit leads to poor metabolism, the accumulation of gallstones, toxins and an overgrowth of bad bacteria. The self-love solution is to eat until you are 80% full, leaving 20% of room for digestion.
3) Cut the CRAP!
We live in a world of constant temptation with fast and convenient, attractively packaged processed foods. The worst part is these “foods” have very little nutrient value and don’t satisfy us for long, so we develop food cravings and experience constant hunger.
One of the main functions of the liver is to process fat from our diets. Unfortunately, packaged, processed and pre-made foods are loaded with bad fats like canola, soy and hydrogenated oils, and fried foods are loaded with trans fats, which are completely foreign to the body and wreak havoc on our already struggling liver and gallbladder.
You may not think it’s a big deal to indulge in a bag of chips, quinoa onion rings or sweet potato fries, but your liver says otherwise! Don’t let those toxic oils into your body ever again.
4) Mindful Meat Consumption
Let’s face it, we live in a protein-obsessed society where people have meat or dairy 2-3 times a day without even thinking twice. Many cultures around the world eat lower protein diets and their rates of chronic disease are significantly lower. Excessive animal protein is especially hard on the liver and causes it to produce increased levels of cholesterol in the blood. While there are divided opinions on the subject of eating meat, I believe moderation is best. I urge you to break out of your comfort zone and explore what feels best for you.
If you suspect your liver/gallbladder is in need of some TLC, slow down on meat consumption and replace it with nutrient-dense vegetables. Try having meat once every other day, instead of every day, and experiment with one of the many delicious vegetarian recipes out there. By doing so, you will take a burden off of your body and have more free energy to detoxify and heal.
5) Reduce Stress & Feel Your Emotions
Our body holds emotional tension just as it holds physical tension. We all know the feeling of having a tense neck or back after or during a stressful time. In Chinese Medicine, every organ has a corresponding emotion, indicating that this is where the energy of that emotion is stored in the body. The emotions that are associated with the liver are anger, resentment and frustration. What are you holding on to? Perhaps its time to explore what emotions you have been suppressing. Remember, you must allow yourself to feel your feelings in order for the energy to move through you! Write in a journal or talk it out with a friend or a trusted therapist.
6) Cleanse Regularly
In our modern day lives, we are exposed to hundreds of thousands of toxins every day. Whether it’s through food, alcohol, tap water, household or workplace chemicals or even the air that we breathe, toxins accumulate quickly in our body. This is something that our ancestors really didn’t have to deal with. So modern-day problems call for modern-day solutions!
I’ve written extensively about how to care for your liver and gallbladder using a detoxification technique that I learned from health author Andreas Mortiz. You can read about my experience and results with the cleanse HERE and get the summary of the protocol HERE.
7) Food Combining
What is food combining? It means pairing foods based on the mechanisms needed to properly digest the nutrients, optimizing digestive energy consumption and waste production. It is essentially how to eat to cause the least amount of stress on your body.
Animal foods require an acidic environment to digest, whereas grains and starches need a more alkaline environment. Putting the two together in the same meal (such as meat and potatoes) confuses the body and makes digestion half as efficient, trying to behave as if it were food combined properly. This leads to fermentation that feeds bad bacteria and promotes overgrowth, and embarrassing gas and bloating.
Practicing proper food combining as a part of your daily routine is the ultimate way to show your liver and your whole body the love that it deserves!
To learn more about proper food combining, click HERE.
8) Regular Sleep Routine
Lastly, one of the easiest ways to show your liver love is to get a full night’s sleep as often as possible. Many of us burn the candle at both ends, staying up late on our computers or out with friends, only to wake up super early for work the next day. Our bodies need rest. Without it, we become walking zombies and our organs struggle to keep up with our never-ending demands.
According to the Organ Clock in Chinese Medicine, gallbladder time is from 11-1 AM and liver time is between 1-3 AM. Organ function is highly disrupted if we are routinely up during these crucial healing and detoxification periods. Also, if you find you are routinely waking up during these windows, it can be an indicator that these organs are overwhelmed and need some extra love and attention.
There you have it! Eight loving lifestyle shifts that you can make to support not just your liver but your entire body. These practices can enhance your life in every way possible!