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Posted Aug 07 2009 12:06pm

By Marie Dufour, RD -  Twenty Two gallons an hour! That’s how much blood goes through our liver every hour of every day.  This blood-guzzling gland, the largest in the human body, gets a piece of just about every metabolic action.

- It stores energy to release glucose when our blood sugar gets too low;

- it cleans up the waste from the protein we eat by converting ammonia into urea and sends that to the kidneys for disposal;

- it generates the substances essential in blood clotting and the globulins for our immune system;

- it stores vitamins and minerals and launches them into action;

- it produces bile, triglycerides, cholesterol, and lipoproteins essentials for fat metabolism;

- it metabolizes steroid hormones (i.e.estrogen, progesterone, testoterone);

- it cleans up drugs and alcohol from our blood; and

- like a giant pac-man, it also eats up bacteria and other wastes.

And what thanks do we give the poor liver, eh?  Any kudos?

Ah, the heart is another thing: we love the heart.  And the kidneys? Well, they don’t let us forget them if we keep them too dry or too wet.  But the liver is a pretty faithful worker who is able to take years of abuse before crying foul.  

Taking good care of one’s liver is a 2-prong approach.  On the medical side, talk to your doctor about Hepatitis A, B and C and how to get immunized.  On the nutritional side, here are a few liver-loving tips:

1 – Drink alcohol as little as possible (max 2 drinks daily for men, 1 for women) – If you have high liver enzymes, cholesterol or triglycerides, avoid alcohol altogether.

2 – Do not smoke either cigarettes or marijuana – Their toxins go through the liver for clean-up and put a strain on the system, increasing risk for liver cancer.

3 – Avoid fried foods and foods rich in saturated fat (animal fat, coconut and palm oil) – Excessive fat metabolism makes the liver work harder.

4 – Avoid high doses of vitamins, herbal supplements and acetaminophen – They contain toxins that must go through the liver for clean-up, even “natural” herbal remedies.

5 – Eat fruits and vegetables -

       Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage)

       Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, lime, except grapefruit)

      Allium plants (onions, green onions, shallots, garlic, leek)

                      to provide nutrients essential in the liver’s detoxification pathway.

6 – Finally, exercise at least 30 minutes a day and keep your weight within normal range.  Alcohol, tobacco and obesity work together to increase the risk of liver cancer.

Had a rough weekend of BBQ, ribs and beer?  Make a nice leek-and-potato soup, a stir-fry of onions and broccoli, even a French onion soup (without the cheese….)


Sources:  Liver Foundation – Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy.

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