Liver Problems

Rather than dealing with various diseases of the liver, here we review the food and remedies which help liver function. This is the way naturopaths heal the liver.

Conditions which will directly benefit by improving liver health include viral and bacterial hepatitis, low-grade cirrhosis and alcohol or drug abuse. Special mention, however, should be made of hepatitis, which is an ever-growing problem in our society. There are many conditions which will vicariously benefit by treating the liver with kindness including skin disorders, hormonal imbalances, gall bladder problems and digestive complaints.

Symptoms of liver dysfunction include tiredness, aching muscles, loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice (turning yellow, including the whites of the eyes), diarrhoea, dark-coloured urine, abdominal discomfort, light-coloured stools, irritability, itching and flu-like symptoms.

Why Me?

Liver problems may be a result of substance abuse, heredity or bacterial or viral infection Some infections are spread by poor hygiene or contaminated food, others transmitted via needles or sexually.

What To Do

The liver (unlike the kidneys) is a grateful and resilient gland, and will regenerate if treated well.

Diet

  • All alcohol is forbidden.
  • Stay on a fat-free diet. Avoid margarine, butter, full-cream milk, cream, yellow cheese, avocado, nuts, seeds, red meat, chicken with skin and fatty fish.
  • Avoid coffee, sugar and refined flour products.
  • Your liver will thank you for not having to process any food containing preservatives, colourings and additives.
  • Legumes are a rich source of sulphur, necessary for the creation of detoxifying and liver-protective enzymes.
  • Eat small meals every three hours. This puts less strain on the digestive system, including the liver.
  • Dandelion root coffee is wonderful for the liver, and as you’ve kissed your morning cappuccino goodbye, you may as well start to enjoy its characteristic nutty flavour.
  • Take the juice of half a lemon in hot water first thing each morning.
  • Good liver foods include pineapple, lemon, grapefruit, pear, grapes, artichoke, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, bitter lettuces and chicory.
  • Fresh juices are good therapy. Drink one daily made from one or a few of the foods mentioned above. If your liver is feeble, however, too much beetroot juice will cause nausea.
  • Green tea contains the bioflavonoid catechin, which is an antioxidant and very healing for the liver. Drink three cups daily.

Herbs and Supplements

  • See Hair of the Dog.
  • Drink herbal tisanes containing liver friendly herbs such as Dandelion root.
  • The sulphur-containing amino acids methionine, cysteine and taurine help to make detoxifying enzymes in the liver such as glutathione. These enzymes are antioxidant, detoxify drugs and chemicals and protect liver cells. Vitamins B6, 9 and 12 are necessary cofactors in this process.
  • Vitamin C reduces inflammation, helps infection and detoxification. Take 500 mg-2 g three times daily.
  • Lecithin helps with fat digestion (hard work for the underpar liver), take one dessert spoon each day or three capsules.
  • Vitamin B complex: one tablet each morning.
  • Herbal bitters in water before dinner each night.
  • Take the tissue salt Nat. sulph: two tablets daily.
  • The liver loves herbs and responds very well to herbal treatment.

Liver herbs include globe artichoke, St Mary’s thistle, dandelion root, licorice, turmeric, bupleurum, schizandra, astragalus, polygonum, phyllanthus and golden seal.

Some people worry about herbal tinctures and extracts which contain alcohol: does their alcohol content negate their therapeutic potential? First, note that many of the constituents of herbs are soluble only in alcohol; also, alcohol is a good preservative and the amount of alcohol per dose of herbal medicine is tiny (1-2 mL per dose). The therapeutic potential of herbs for the liver outweighs the negative aspects. However, if you prefer, many of these herbs are available in tablet or tea form.

Other Steps

  • Minimise the drugs you take, recreational as well as pharmaceutical. The liver has to detoxify them all.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals in your home and workplace, for example paint fumes, cleaning products and pesticides.

At a glance

Good food
Legumes, green tea, pineapple, lemon, grapefruit, pear, grapes, artichoke, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, bitter lettuces, chicory and turmeric.
Food to avoid
Fat, coffee, alcohol, sugar.
Remedies to begin
Methionine, St Mary’s thistle, dandelion, vitamin C, lecithin, herbal bitters.
Lifestyle
Reduce chemicals in your environment and body.
MindBody
The liver is the organ of anger. Are you able to express your anger? Is there an issue or relationship which needs to be resolved?
Recommended: Hair of the Dog