It's pretty astounding that I didn't get to know my liver until late in my thirties. Naively, I always assumed that the liver was really just impacted from alcohol abuse for that was the only time anyone in my culture ever spoke of liver health. Now in my forties with two daughters of my own I am spreading the virtues of loving the liver to almost everyone I speak with.
Alcohol has never been an issue for anyone on either side of my family but working – extra hard – and juggling many things at once has been a family trait. I worked my way through college via multiple jobs and simultaneously carried a full course load. That, and my own overachiever mentality, which so many women struggle with, challenged my equilibrium: work stress and plain old life stress have been the relevant aggravators to my health.
What happens to the liver during chronic stress? And how does that impact your health? Quite simply the liver is responsible for detoxification plus filtration and the breakdown and assimilation of fats and proteins. When compromised, it can't perform its functions optimally which means toxins are not ushered out of the blood efficiently and nutrients are not utilized properly. Stress – emotional, environmental, and lifestyle related – bogs down the liver and can create stagnation. Our health depends on movement; constant energetic and physical flow. So stagnation is not what we ever want to see in the body. Think of a mucky pond. Stagnation creates a breeding ground for trouble.
A liver impacted by stress can create all kinds of symptoms:
- Digestive Upset
- Aches and Pains
- Hormone Imbalances
- Dry Skin
- Fluid Retention
- Anger and Irritability
- Painful and Heavy Periods
With a list like that I'm thinking Liver Health should be part of the core curriculum in school because all of the above can be major plagues on our health and account for the majority of women's doctors visits. Imagine a woman going to the doctor and complaining of being lethargic or slightly blue and being told to drink lemon water in the morning, walk regularly in nature, and consume cucumbers throughout the day instead of issuing a prescription for Prozac. Or a newly menstruating teen complaining of excruciating cramps could be told by her mother, auntie or dear friend, to focus on her liver health. Let’s try increasing fiber intake, drinking lemon water, and taking Milk Thistle before we turn to 800mg ibuprofen? It’s remarkable how when you start with the liver, everything else seems to improve.
The wonderful thing about becoming your own greatest health advocate and best health friend is that you stay attuned to what your body needs. Most people dismiss changes in energy or every day aches and pains as something that simply happens with age. Understanding the early signs of a distressed liver can help to greatly improve one's quality of life.
I give my liver love at every turn. Incorporating herbal bitters, bitter greens, plenty of water, and I take Silbymum marianum, Milk Thistle for its antioxidant, liver protective, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, hormone balancing, and strengthening cellular membrane properties – what’s not to love about this phenomenal plant?