Why Do We Need To Care For Our Liver?
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. About the size of a football it sits behind the ribs on the upper right-hand size and contains over 300 billion hard-working cells.
This amazing factory of an organ:
- Is a storehouse for vitamins, sugar and iron
- Metabolises vitamin D so that it becomes biologically available
- Produces cholesterol when needed and removes excess which isn’t
- Synthesises clotting factors to stop us from bleeding to death
- Supports the immune system and removes bacteria which may cause infection
- Creates bile to digest fatty foods and excrete waste products
- And, finally clears and detoxifies waste products, drugs and other toxins
Phase I and Phase II Detoxification
It is an amazing organ which still functions when even 75% of it may be damaged or diseased. Although by that stage[more], we would be very far from being “bright eyed and bushy tailed”, very much more like yellow-eyed and droopy tailed. If we’re overdoing alcohol, fructose, are exposed to external toxins such as organophosphorus pesticides or certain drugs then we need to support our liver so that it can detoxify these substances and prevent damage.
It manages to do this through a two-stage process called Phase I & Phase II detoxification.
The purpose of phase I detoxification is to create more water soluble intermediary metabolites. This can be an unsafe stage, quite often the metabolite can be as toxic, if not more so, than the originating toxin. Free radicals are also produced at this stage which, when produced in excess, can cause inflammation.
The intermediate metabolite then enters Phase II detoxification which conjugates it into a potentially harmless substance. This is then excreted safely from the body through bile into the digestive system, or through the kidneys into the urine.
Using nutrition we can help the liver:
- To provide substrates for the Phase I enzymes
- To provide protecting antioxidants for the free radicals produced by Phase I
- To provide sufficient substrates for Phase II so that metabolites from Phase I aren’t left in a possibly more toxic state than when the process began.
- 4.To provide the required substrates for Phase II conjugation so that detoxification can be carried out in entirety
To synthesise the Phase I enzymes our bodies need vitamins B, E and C, carotenoids, folic acid and the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is synthesised by the liver but still needs the necessary amino acids glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine which are found in protein rich foods. It can also be found in certain foods such as asparagus.
Other anti-oxidants that can also help protect the liver during Phase I include: vitamins A and C, carotenes, selenium, copper, zinc, manganese, co-enzyme Q10 and phytonutrients found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables called thiols.
Phase II needs nutrition to enable conjugation but also to synthesise the detoxification enzymes. Conjugation can be facilitated by: the amino acids glutamine, glycine, taurine and cysteine found in protein rich food; sulphur which can be found in vegetables from the allium family such as garlic, leeks and onions; and cruciferous brassicas such as broccoli and cabbage. Nutrients to help upregulate Phase II detoxification enzymes can be found in red grapes, cruciferous vegetables and garlic.
Include all these foods in your diet as often as possible to enable your liver to function at its best and restore that healthy bright-eyed look. And possibly lift up the bushy tail too.
For a liver-healthy diet please contact me for more detailed, personalised recommendations.
By Saffron Rogerson
27 February 2015