Love your Liver
Our liver, the Detox Machine
Being the top of the food chain, we consume foods that have been exposed to a wide array of chemicals and toxins before they finally reach our dinner plate. Individuals who tend to consume large amounts of processed foods, have a diet that is high in sugar, saturated fatty acids and are frequent alcohol drinkers then to have a poor liver function. Along with the addition of environmental pollution, these unwanted chemicals also known as ‘xenobiotics’ accumulate and get stored in our body. Our liver plays a crucial role as it controls what is absorbed and what is removed from the system. This multi-functional organ is involved in various processes including detoxification of chemicals, production of bile for fatty acid digestion, maintaining hormonal balance and storage of protein and glycogen for metabolism.
As blood is pumped through the liver, the blood is filtered through and the liver removes foreign proteins, toxins and chemicals. The toxins are converted by cytochrome family of enzymes (CYP) to produce by-products that are extremely reactive known as phase I. Build-up of these products during this phase can damage cell tissues if not removed correctly. However, they are required to jump-start the next reaction. Like passing a baton in a relay race, the ‘toxic baton’ is passed on to Phase II. By-products are joined with water-soluble molecules such as acetate, glucuronate, glycine and sulphate to form water-soluble end products which are then excreted in our urine.
Unfortunately, many individuals do not have a lifestyle and diet that support the liver to operate effectively and as a result succumb to feeling discomfort, fatigue and if serious, greater risk of diseases. The liver detoxification process is an extremely complex reaction and involves a range of correct nutrients to be consumed for the pathway to operate effectively. You can refer to our previous articles: ‘Step 3 to Wellness- Cleanse and Detox’ and ‘Detoxify your Liver and your Life’, that provides a comprehensive explanation on how to sense when our body requires a detox, and foods that contribute to a healthy liver. Some examples that have been shown to enhance the detoxification process of the body are green leafy vegetables such as spinach, asparagus and fibrous fruits such as papaya. It is also important to consume sufficient levels of fibre and drink plenty of water as they increase the movement of toxins from the blood into the liver for filtration to take place. Fibre also binds to xenobiotics during digestion which ultimately gets excreted out.
As the liver works hard to expel the toxins and chemicals from your body, do remember to replenish its energy and ensure that cells can continue to regenerate and repair itself. A diet rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C is important as these molecules prevent free radicals from attacking cells and tissues, maintaining its integrity. Such foods can be determined through an ORAC graph (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) which reflect the antioxidant capabilities of a food. The higher the ORAC value, the higher the concentration of antioxidant levels present.
Apte. U and Krishnamurthy. P, 2011 ‘Detoxification Functions of the Liver’, Molecular Pathology of Liver Diseases, Springer, 11: 147- 163
Zabriskie. N, 2012 ‘Phase I and Phase II Detox Pathways’, Vitamin Research Products, http://www.vrp.com/detoxification/phase-I-and-II-detox-pathways [Accessed: 6th March 2013]