By Dr. Ajit
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. When the liver is sluggish, digestion suffers, which leads to problems like fatigue, indigestion, high cholesterol, psoriasis, chemical sensitivities and constipation. And Spring is considered by most holistic medical systems to be the right time to cleanse the liver so it seems timely to give you some advice.
The liver has two main functions. It’s primary job is to act as a filter, removing harmful toxins from the body. There are five main sources of toxins and wastes that the liver deals with: toxins from food (preservatives and pesticides) and alcohol; external toxins (drugs and environmental pollutants); internally produced waste, such as hormones that are no longer needed and nitrogen waste products from protein metabolism. These are converted into less harmful substances by the liver and then eliminated from the body.
The liver is also a manufacturer. It produces bile that is used to break down and digest fatty acids; it converts sugar into glycogen, which it stores until the muscles need energy; it synthesises proteins and cholesterol and converts carbohydrates and proteins into fats, which are stored for later use; it also produces both blood clotting and anti-clotting factors as well as hundreds of enzymes needed for digestion and other bodily functions.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the liver is one of the seats of Pitta, the fire element in the body and plays a major role in digestion. The Pitta intelligence is responsible for all metabolism in the body so as a site for Pitta, the liver’s role in digestion is to help break down nutrients into their most elemental forms.When this digestive capacity is compromised, the body has a hard time metabolising the food we eat. When the food is not broken down sufficiently by the digestive process, not only is the body unable to access the nutrients it needs but this partially digestive food clogs the circulatory system leading to lethargy and sluggishness.
With all these important functions, you can see why we need to take care of our liver. Ayurveda recommends the following routines to support liver function:
• Every morning, scrape your tongue to remove waste products that accumulate over night (otherwise they will be re-absorbed)
• Every morning, drink a glass of warm water with 1tsp of honey, 1/2 tsp of grated ginger, ½ tsp of powdered fennel and a 1/2 tsp of lemon juice to flush out toxins from the digestive tract.
• Massage yourself at least 3 times a week with warmed sesame oil. Better still is to use Planet Ayurveda’s Pitta Oil, a medicated sesame oil infused with herbs to help the body release trapped heat.
• Avoid heavy foods that place pressure on the metabolism, like red meat, cheese, tinned foods, peanut and almond butter, carbonated drinks, coffee and alcohol and fried and fatty foods like fish and chips.
• Eat warm, light foods that are easy to digest. Consider lentils and Paneer (a form of cheese) as light protein replacements for meat.
• Eat regularly during the day and avoid late night snacks.
• Use spices like cumin, turmeric, fennel and coriander in your cooking.
• Eat with a calm mind
• Avoid hot showers, particularly on the head.
• Use Planet Ayurveda’s Livgood, a blend of Ayurvedic herbs like Kutuki, (Picrorrhiza currier), Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) & Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) that all support liver function. Taken with Stress Guard, a preparation to support the nervous system, you will give you liver the opportunity to do its job properly.
Finally, as a seat of Pitta, the liver is affected by emotions such as anger, rage, hatred and jealousy. Ayurveda believes that when our mind does not process our emotions properly, they get trapped in the body and can upset its delicate balance. Unresolved emotions that cause us to “flare up” produce excess heat which can settle in the liver, placing an added burden on its important work.
So every night before you go to bed, spend 10 minutes reviewing your day. Acknowledge on your achievements and reflect on the occasions where you feel you could have done better. Such a practice will not only give you a good night’s sleep but will allow you to “let go” of those negative thoughts and feelings before they have a chance to deposit in the body.
So take the opportunity as spring comes into full bloom and before the Pitta aggravating heat of summer, to give your liver some extra care and attention.