The liver performs over 500 physiological functions for your body, making it the leading organ in achieving overall optimal health. Over time, exposure to toxins and chemicals in the food and environment can congest your liver, causing the body’s immune and stress response systems to become less effective. When the liver is congested, damage can occur. Such damage may be considered “clinical”, where laboratory test values are abnormal, or “subclinical”, where test results are within range, but symptoms of liver dysfunction are evident. It is therefore important to pay attention to the liver congestion signals and take steps to learn how to cleanse the liver as soon as you are aware of the symptoms to prevent further damage.
If you are experiencing any of these common signs, you may be experiencing liver congestion:
Disrupted sleep or exhaustion - you commonly have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, and you are always tired during the day. A congested liver produces metabolites that can keep your body from falling and staying, asleep as it circulates to the brain, triggering unwanted inflammation.
Acne or eczema – As the liver’s ability to clear toxins is diminished from congestion, the body will push these toxins out through the skin.
Unexpected outbursts of emotion – The liver is known in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as the organ responsible for the release of emotions such as anger, anxiety, and frustration. Excessive outbursts could lead to a body that is known as “heaty”, with an increase in the propensity towards sickness.
Lack of focus – acid from a volatile liver is known to travel through the body to the brain, creating brain fog.
Sudden allergies to foods or environment – The liver may suddenly see familiar foods or cleaning products as toxic when it could handle them before.
Decrease in absorption of nutrients – Nutrients, not only toxins, are filtered by the liver. When it is congested, the nutrients cannot be properly filtered for their appropriate use.
Hormone imbalance – The liver synthesizes and secretes important hormones, including, but not limited to, Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), Angiotensinogen, Thrombopoietin, Hepcidin and Betatrophin. When the liver is congested, it throws off the secretion of these hormones leading to an imbalance in the endocrine system. Also, it’s important in the breakdown of steroid hormones like progesterone and estrogen. Excessive liver congestion can reduce the clearing capability of the liver to eliminate steroid hormones, resulting in toxic overload internally. This is one reason why many in advanced stages of Adrenal Gland Disorders, with concurrent liver congestion, do not tolerate such hormones as well as the general population.
As an integral part of the body’s Neuroendometabolic (NEM) Stress Response, the liver must be fully functioning to help the rest of your organs combat stress. Though we see the adrenal glands as the primary organ responsible for fighting stress with the production of cortisol and other hormones, the adrenals are only responsible for a fraction of the overall stress we endure, namely intermittent and mild stress. The adrenals are purely a NeuroEndocrine response. The liver is part of the detoxification system and a major part of the metabolic pathways. When we look into the way the body responds to stress using multiple organs, systems, pathways, and chemical reactions, we see a bigger picture into the full NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. This picture reveals how stress should be evaluated and treated holistically as a whole body approach. All of the organs must work together on a functional level to fight stress when it first appears. When the other organs are not fully functioning, undue stress is placed on the adrenal glands, lessening their ability to produce and secrete stress-fighting hormones, leading to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. By knowing the symptoms, you can cleanse and repair liver congestion and get back to a healthy stress response, aiding in AFS recovery.
How the Liver Reacts and Responds to Stress
Blood flow is reduced to the liver when the body intercepts fear and anxiety, triggering liver damage – Without adequate blood flow the liver cannot filter toxins and process nutrients. This causes congestion.
Liver transplant recipients with high stress levels have been known to reject a new liver – the body tells the liver it is too stressed to sustain it.
Stress triggers elevations of ALT levels (an enzyme correlated with liver damage) – stress can literally kill your liver.
Natural “killer” cells expand in the liver during periods of stress, contributing to liver cell death – these cells can be repaired and regrown if therapy is administered properly and as soon as possible.
Stress causes inflammation in the liver, leading to liver damage – inflammation is an autoimmune response that is reduced by hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. Relieving stress and repairing the organs for detoxification is vital to AFS recovery.
How to Cleanse the Liver
The most important thing you can do to have a healthy, well-functioning liver, that is ready to join your body in the NEM Stress Response, is to prevent liver congestion in the first place. Some rather simple ways to prevent liver congestion are:
Avoid alcohol, which is taxing on the liver to process
Avoid coffee, sodas, and other caffeinated foods and beverages
Avoid large amounts of sugar, particularly in a short amount of time
Avoid toxins and pesticides in foods by consuming organic produce as much as possible
Increase cardiac health with regular exercise to increase blood flow to the liver
Drink plenty of water every day, especially before and after meals
Keep your other organs in good overall health
Once you have determined liver congestion, you can make some simple dietary and lifestyle changes to balance the function of the liver and repair damage:
Increase water intake – particularly in the morning to flush out toxins processed overnight
Replace at least 2 meals per week with vegetable juices
Add herbal supplements aimed at liver function:
Milk Thistle contains the active ingredient Silymarin, which protects the liver by strengthening liver cells that prevent absorption of toxins. Milk Thistle repairs the liver by stimulating protein synthesis to generate new cell growth. As an antioxidant, Silymarin can reverse the effects of liver damage caused by drugs such as acetaminophen and chemotherapy. The fermented form, such as Fermented Liver Rebuilder, is best.
Black Seed Oil contains the active ingredient thymoquinone, a powerful antioxidant that protects the liver from toxins and strengthens the immune system to promote optimum health. It is well known for its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties
Glutathione is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant. It can be made in the body by combining amino acids, and can also be obtained from natural food sources such as squash, peppers, asparagus, onions, and carrots. Make sure not to cook these food sources as the heat can denature the glutathione, rendering it ineffective. The lipsomal form of delivery is best, such as Liponano (add register mark) Glutathione.
Realize that you cannot cleanse the liver overnight. You should expect to actively research how to cleanse the liver and apply a purely holistic approach to liver congestion over a period of 1 – 3 months. It is very important to understand that your liver needs time to clear itself. If you feel the symptoms of additional fatigue, brain fog, or intolerance toward dietary supplementation, that might be a clue you have a congested liver. If your liver is congested, it is important not to overwhelm it with unnecessary toxins and metabolites. It is important to eat a clean diet with quality ingredients and take proper supplementation to decongest the liver. Decongesting the liver and body too quickly can even lead to a recontaminating/toxifying reaction. This is very unhealthy for the body as toxins get absorbed back into cells. In advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, this tends to be more common as low energy levels result in a even more sluggish liver. If you have a congested liver, make sure you talk to a provider who understands how to push on the brake pedal rather than only add more oil to the fire with more supplements.
Don't let liver congestion hold you back from living a healthy and fulfilling life! Take the first step towards better health by enrolling in Dr. Lam's Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Program. In this program, you'll gain access to expert guidance on targeted supplements, diet, and exercises and learn the strategies that helped Dr. Lam recover, so you too can reclaim your well-being.