The Disease Prevention Organ: The Most Important Thing You Didn’t Learn in Health Class
Originally published (in part) in the Crazy Wisdom Journal newspaper
I remember once I had a biology teacher who was giddy about discussing the “millions of chemical processes” in the body. But when we learned about the roles of each organ, the liver was described as if it were a simple filter on a vacuum cleaner. It was there to “remove toxins from the blood.”
Where did those toxins go? We never covered that part.
I assumed they stayed in the liver and that it just turned into a rather gnarly “dirt sponge” as you got older. You could buy a mysterious thing called a “liver cleanse” at the health food store if you worried about it, which I never did … until recently.
I visited a neurologist turned chiropractor named Jen Hartley in Colorado. On my first visit, I learned more in 15 minutes with her than I had in the past 15 years of doctor appointments. The most surprising thing she said was that my hormone-related symptoms were a liver problem.
I had played treatment pinball with my glands and organs for years attempting to correct a mysterious imbalance. But I had never once considered the liver to be part of it. Isn’t the liver at the end of the chain of processes, like the drain everything passes through after its job (good or bad) has been done?
Apparently it is far more than that.
The liver processes Dr. Hartley described would have made my ninth grade biology teacher go into overload. It’s not a “filter” in the sense that we think of filters as an inert sponge for accumulating dirt. It’s more like a factory with an almost magical array of chemical processes. The liver plays an integral role at some point in almost every process in your body, to the point that you might say any disease is caused by the liver not working as well as it should. A healthy liver, fed right, should be able to remove the factors that cause disease.
Hormonal disorders might involve your glands or chemical estrogens from your environment, but it is the liver that controls how much of those hormones remain floating around in your body. The liver is supposed to recycle or remove the excess ones.
Cancer might come from a lack of antioxidants to clean up free radicals, but the liver creates, recycles, and mobilizes the most powerful antioxidants in the body, as well as controlling the cellular energy cycles that keep them cancer free.
Diabetes might involve insulin and sugar imbalance, but it’s the liver that stores, releases, and regulates the body’s sugar-based fuels. The stress hormone, cortisol, might cause stress-related disease but only if the liver doesn’t have the ingredients to deactivate it when it’s not needed.
If you find yourself juggling prescription drugs to regulate all these problems it is probably because your liver isn’t doing it for you. The liver ultimately controls every toxin, chemical, hormone, mineral, vitamin, amino acid, fat, sugar, and protein in your body. Even if its effect comes later when it should be removing the by-products of completed processes. Imagine what would happen if you cleaned your tub so you could take a bath, but the drain didn’t work? You’d have to bathe in dirt, scum, and toxic cleaners. And that is literally what happens inside when your liver can’t clear things out quickly enough.
I’ve often wished for a user’s manual for my body so I could “pop the hood” and figure out what has gone awry, but there is a reason that we don’t have one. It’s because if your liver is working right, it dispatches toxins and corrects imbalances without you ever even knowing it, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
So, how can we help our magical liver factories get back on the job so upper management (the brain) doesn’t have to handle emergency waste clean-up and disaster relief operations?
For one thing, you might have heard from your yoga teacher that the liver “stores anger,” and it turns out there is a correlation. When your body stresses out, it makes cortisol, and the liver needs a lot of glutathione to get that hormone out of your body. Otherwise it floats around damaging your organs and causing the dreaded “belly fat” problem.
If you don’t get enough glutathione (and you probably don’t, especially if you go on strict diets) then the first order of business is reducing the need for it by calming down. Practice yoga, walk your dog, smile, and so on. If you’re stressed out and angry all the time, your liver can become chronically backed up. This is how it’s possible to have illnesses with root causes dating all the way back to a traumatic event years and years ago.
The second important thing is to get a little bit of exercise every day. Even a little exercise, like five minutes of sprints, can purge some of your liver’s stored energy (glycogen) and get things moving. The liver was meant to constantly release and then re-stock energy stores. If there is no energy release, things get stale in there really fast. Stale, as in “fatty liver disease” stale. In fact, when you’re liver is working well it secretes excess fat as well as toxins, so you don’t necessarily have to “burn” every calorie you eat. Neat!
Third, it turns out that one of your most important jobs as upper level management for your body is to fill all your liver’s orders for necessary ingredients. Make sure to get all the substances to keep each “toxin removing department” of the liver running smoothly. Unfortunately, some of those ingredients are a little hard to come by. That’s why it’s important to make a habit of including certain foods in your diet.
Here’s How It Works:
There are two main systems inside liver cell, which are known as the Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways. In a nutshell, these phases break down toxins with chemistry. (It’s SCIENCE!)
The Phase I pathway converts oily toxins into ones that can be washed out of the body. Phase II excretes this toxic sludge from the body via bile or urine.
Here are descriptions of the liver “phases” and some recipes that contain many of the liver-healthy foods you need to assist in these complex processes. Enjoy these whenever you can to keep the polish on your shiny new liver!
Cytochrome P450 System — requires all the B vitamins, glutathione, magnesium, zinc, vitamin and flavonoids in order to work. Exercising helps to raise glutathione levels, as long as you’re not starving yourself as part of your weight loss program. If you are sensitive to caffeine, alcohol, aspirin or ibuprofen there might be a problem with this process. The B vitamin called Niacinimide is particularly useful here.
Removes: This process makes, recycles and removes hormones (including birth control ones,) cholesterol and vitamin D. It also breaks down and removes drugs and toxins including narcotics and antibiotics.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Almonds, Apples, Asparagus, Avocados, Bananas, Beets,Berries, Brazil Nuts, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cardamom, Carrots, Cheeses, Cherries, Raw Dark Chocolate, Caraway, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Citrus Peels, Cruciferous Vegetables, Dill Weed, Eggs, Garlic, Grapes, Kefir, Dark Leafy greens, Molasses, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Nutritional Yeast, Onions, Oysters, Parsley, Peaches, Pears, Peas, Pecans, Peppers, Potato, Purple Colored Produce, Raw Whey, Red Wine, Sage, Shell Fish, Spirulina, Spinach, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Tea, Tomatoes, Turmeric, Turnip Greens, Walnuts, Watermelon. You can also take the supplements NAC, Taurine and Tyrosine. Actually, these are the main ingredients needed for every stage of work going on in the liver.
Now that we’ve completed Phase I we have a nice sludge of toxins all ready for removal, and if Phase II isn’t completed this sludge just backs up and causes a hazardous waste spill in our bodies, so don’t stop here or you’ll have a “healing crisis” on your hands! So, let’s get Phase II on the road.
Glutathione Conjugation — Happily, this process is helped by substances found in red wine! Onions, garlic and milk thistle also help. And it requires lots of Vitamin C, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins as well as glycine, arginine and ornithine.
Removes: poisons in the liver, lungs, intestines and kidneys from intestinal bacteria. It also removes cadmium, lead, mercury, aromatic disulphides, paththalene anthracene, and estrogens, including the xenoestrogens (environmental estrogens.)
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: (The same foods necessary for Cytochrome P450 above.) Grass fed beef gelatin contains many of the amino acids needed for both of these processes and tastes fine mixed into a bit of sweetened pumpkin puree or pudding.
Phases I & II Glutathione Conjugation Recipe: PURPLE SUPER SALAD
(Purple produce contains anthrocenes, which assist in Phases I & II Glutathione Conjugation.)
In a large bowl, whisk together:
3 tablespoons almond oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons dill weed, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 cups baby spinach or replace some of the spinach with purple cabbage
1 purple carrot, shredded
2 handfuls of blackberries, black cherries, or red grapes
Some also like this salad with diced black olives and/or a diced hard-boiled egg
The next process is:
Glucoronidation — Which is inhibited by Aspirin and probenecid. This process uses some special substances found in green tea, dill, caraway and citrus zest.
Removes: hormones, cleans up by-products of oil and fatty acid metabolism, and removes Benzoates from processed food additives. Also eliminates chemical and bacterial toxins, excess steroidal hormones, toxins from fungal infections and chemical toxins such as nitrosamines, aromatic amines, alcohols and phenols.(If you chewed your food thoroughly you have already started this part of the process with saliva.) And here are some interesting specific ingredients it takes out: alcohols, phenols, artifical vanilla, morphine, diazepam, aspirin, digitalis, and it helps your body use T4 thyroid hormone correctly.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Caraway, Cashews, Chocolate, Citrus Zest, Dill Weed, Dark Leafy Greens, Mushrooms, Oysters, Peas, Pumpkin or Squash Seeds, Spirulina, Spinach.
Glucoronidation Recipe: EASY RAW VEGAN KEY LIME CHEESECAKE
Crust: Take 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut and sprinkle it evenly over the bottom of your cake pan. Then mix the following in a food processor:
1 1/2 cups walnuts and almonds
1/2 cup dates
1 pinch sea salt
Press this mixture evenly over the coconut.
Filling: In a high-speed blender —
3 cups cashews
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon key lime zest
2 tablespoons key lime juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup of water, only if you need it to blend. Use as little as possible. Mix until “cheesy” and pour on top of crust. Then put it in the freezer for an hour to get the right consistency. Defrost it for a 30 minutes before serving. It’s super rich tasting and actually tastes like cheesecake.
The next phase is:
Acetylation — Slow metabolizers and people very sensitive to chemicals have trouble with this process.
Removes: excess histamine, serotonin, sulfa drugs, PABA and chemicals like sulfur amides and hydranzines.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Almonds, Asparagus, Avocados, Berries, Broccoli, Cheeses, Citrus Fruits, Eggs, Guava, Kefir, Kiwis, Dark Leafy Greens, Lemon, Mushrooms, Oysters, Papayas, Peas, Pecans, Peppers, Spirulina, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes.
Acetylation Recipe: IRISH BREAKFAST SKILLET:
Use a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. “Grease” it with coconut oil and add:
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan and cover. Turn the heat to medium-high and allow to cook until the pieces begin to brown. It’s okay to turn one or two over and check every couple of minutes. Discard any condensation on the lid, as you want some moisture but not too much. Once the potato is browned on one side, stir it well and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan again. Allow to cook until beginning to soften. Then spread all the sweet potato to the sides, making an open space in the middle, then add:
2–4 eggs, cracked into the center
Sea salt and pepper or rosemary to taste
Cover and cook until eggs are almost to desired done-ness. Turn off the burner and add two handfuls of shredded cheese, sprinkled evenly over the sweet potatoes. Cover again and allow to sit for two minutes, then serve. Makes enough for two large breakfasts.
The next process:
Acylation — Hepatitis, chronic arthritis, and low thyroid involve problems with acylation. This process utilizes Acetyl CoA, vitamin C and the B vitamins Thiamine and Pantothenic Acid.
Removes: benzoate, aspirin and toluenes like the preservative BHT. Acetylation can be enhanced by alkalizing the pH.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Apples, Apple Cider Vinegar, Avocados, Bananas, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Eggs, Figs, Garlic, Lemon, Mushrooms, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Spirulina, Squash, Sweet Potatoes.
Acylation Recipe: BRUSSELS SPROUT HASH
Use a large heavy bottomed saute pan with a tight fitting lid.
¾ cup of Water
2 cubes of bouillon. (I like Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon with Herbs.)
¾ lb of Brussels Sprouts, cut in quarters
2 heads of Broccoli
Dust liberally with ground sage.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes with the broccoli pieces sitting stem down in the water, then stir well. The bouillon cubes will have dissolved and the stems will begin to soften.
1 handful of dried cranberries and/or mission figs.
Cover again and cook until broccoli pieces can be cut with a spoon. It’s also really tasty to dice and add several of your favorite pre-cooked breakfast sausages.
Methylation — This process is inhibited by stress and excess alcohol. Most importantly this process gets rid of excess stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, histamines, serotonin and extra estrogens. This might be the most important phase for happiness. It utilizes SAMe, magnesium, betaine, choline, methionine and the B vitamins. Adequate protein is important.
Removes: excess hormones and neurotransmitters, including steroidal hormones like estrogen, adrenaline, dopamine, melatonin, histamine and serotonin. Eliminates homecysteine and chemical amines and phenols.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Almonds, Asparagus, Avocados, Bananas, Beets, Broccoli, Raw Dark Chocolate, Eggs, Figs, Kefir, Dark Leafy Greens, Molasses, Oysters, Parsley, Peppers, Potatoes, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Quinoa, Shell Fish, Spirulina, Spinach, Tea, Turnip Greens.
Methylation Recipe: FILLING SPICED FIG PROBIOTIC BREAKFAST
Combine in large breakfast bowl:
½ cup plain kefir (I like goat milk kefir for this)
5 dried black mission figs, diced
4 tablespoons of cottage cheese
1–2 teaspoons molasses (to taste)
1 large pinch of ground clove or garam masala
1 small pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, if you like spice)
1 small pinch of ground cumin (optional, but I find it makes it wonderfully aromatic)
Next, stir in:
1 small diced apple
1 cup of grapes, halved
This is my favorite way to get fruit as a meal, and not feel hungry soon after.
Sulfation — (Inhibited by NSAIDs.) This is another one of those little processes that can cause a lot of seeminlgy unrelated problems if it’s not working. It requires Taurine, NAC, and balanced amino acid intake. Issues with this phase can cause stress, anxiety, mental disturbances and thyroid problems.
Removes: stress hormones, especially Cortisol. This is the primary way to get rid of excess neurotransmitters, environmental toxins, many drugs, and poisons from bad intestinal bacteria. It also recycles thyroid hormones.
Requires Nutrients Found in These Foods: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Broccoli, Cheeses, Raw Dark Chocolate, Cruciferous Vegetables, Eggs, Garlic, Kefir, Nutritional Yeast, Onions, Peas, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Raw Milk, Spirulina. It is also helpful to take MSM and Tyrosine.
Sulfation Recipe: GREEN MOCHA PROTEIN SMOOTHIE
In a blender, combine:
1 ½ cup Almond Milk
1 Ripe Banana, frozen
2 tablespoons Spirulina powder or grass-fed beef gelatin
1 tablespoon Raw Cacao powder
1 tablespoon Espresso powder
½ cup of ice cubes
For extra amino acids and choline add a raw egg if you like.
Finally, there are a few liver support “super foods.” These can literally regenerate your liver in many ways. They are grass-fed beef gelatin, Dandelion Tea, artichoke, and the supplement milk thistle. Coffee with honey and grass-fed butter is also helpful. Taking Niacinimide twice a day can also help your liver maintain proper cellular respiration. Dandelion even makes a great replacement for coffee late in the day. So enjoy these whenever you can to keep the polish on your shiny new liver.