Updated: Sep 27, 2021
Our liver is an incredible organ with many functions, which is also related to a whole bunch of symptoms you wouldn’t have thought!
The liver is directly related to the eyes and both are the seats of Pitta dosha in our body – which is why you can determine liver health from the state of your eyes (e.g. yellow eyes, etc.). Pitta dosha is our inner fire, the principle of transformation and metabolism. When in balance, the fire element promotes healthy metabolism and digestion, passion, ambition, drive and focus, balanced circulation and healthy tissue.
Some of the functions of the liver are:
Cleansing and detoxification. The liver filters and cleanses the blood from toxins (ama) and waste products, preventing them to enter the cells of the tissues of the body.
Bile formation & secretion secretion. Important for a healthy digestion and metabolism of food as it emulsifies fats. The by the liver produced bile is temporarily stored in the gallbladder before released into the small intestine and therefor liver and gallbladder health are closely connected.
Hormone production. The liver produces hormones vital for bodily functions.
Synthesis and metabolism of proteins. The liver is the primary location for protein synthesis, metabolism and then degeneration. While most of our bodies tissues are made of protein it is particularly important for muscle build and Ayurveda links a weak or low liver directly to weak or defect muscle tissue.
Blood pressure and volume regulation, generation of red blood cells. The liver does not only generate new red blood cells but also eliminates dead ones.
pH regulation. Next to lungs and kidneys the liver also regulates the base-acid homeostasis of the body.
Metabolism and storage of fat, carbs and proteins as well as storage of vitamins and minerals.
Also, did you know that the liver is the only organ in our body capable of restoring gone tissue? A liver as little as 25% of it's normal size can rebuild itself to a full size, healthy and functioning liver. Pretty incredible, huh? So, our liver is well worth looking after!
Working in synergy with so many other body parts and functions, the following symptoms can be a sign of an imbalanced liver:
- Anger, irritation frustration
- Flushed face, skin irritations, acne
- red, itchy/burning eyes
- water retention
- slow, sluggish metabolism
- lymphatic stagnation
- seasonal allergies
- dark urine, pale or tar-looking stool
Both, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine see trapped fire in the liver behind symptoms and work with diet, herbs and lifestyle to cool down and balance out the excess fire to regain optimal health again.
Liver Cleansing Practices
Here are a few Liver cleansing practices I personally use especially now in spring time when my hay fever is going through the roof (which is often a sign of accumulated pitta in the liver due to Kapha foods and lifestyle over winter, which may have increased the work load on the liver, increasing ama and sluggishness in the body).
Clean eating & consuming.
Eliminate the consumption of processed foods, refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, meat & dairy to take strain of your liver. For all the coffee lovers – yes, unfortunately caffeine aggravates the liver too by increasing the body’s stress response. (Did you know that coffee seems to give you an energy kick but really it activates your stress response putting you into fight and flight mode and fatiguing your adrenals?)
You also want to cut back on:
- oils (healthy oils in moderation is great, not too much though and no deep fry, grapeseed or sunflower oils in processed foods)
- night shades like tomatoes, eggplants
- fermented foods (contain vinegar and alcohol)
- hot spices and anything heating/spicy
Eliminate toxicity and chemicals.
Our liver does not only process what we eat but also what we absorb via our skin. Try to eliminate any chemical products in your household and replace them for natural options. This includes soaps and shampoos, any skin and bodycare products through to your dish and laundry liquids and cleaning items. You can find natural alternatives in your local health food shop or handmade on markets, conscious gift & wellbeing stores and often even find better alternatives in your supermarket isle.
Increase bitter, light, sweet, dry and cooling foods.
As we want to pacify Pitta in the liver, which is comprises of the fire and water element, we need to dry up excess water and cool down excess heat. You can do so, by increasing the following foods:
- leafy greens, especially bitters (e.g. kale, dandelion leaf, rocket)
- green vegetables like bitter leaves, cruciferous vegetables, cabbage family
- beans and lentils
- whole grains like oats and barley
- raw foods (cooling and balancing for excess heat)
- beetroots and other sweet root vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin