10 Tips for a Healthy Liver
The liver is one of the body’s most vital organs. Located on the right side of the abdominal cavity under the diaphragm and next to the stomach, it is a giant organ that weighs about three pounds in an adult’s body. It is a very sensitive, loving, and caring mass of cells, intricately designed to protect and support your health, your body, and your life.
The liver is in charge of a wide array of critical functions, including filtering and detoxifying the blood, supporting digestion, and promoting metabolism. It also produces some of our most important enzymes, working around the clock to constantly support the body’s needs.
Like the little engine that could, our liver will keep chugging along whether we pay attention or not. But when neglected, it can become tired and sluggish, unable to excel at its many important jobs. It’s well worth taking the time and energy to get to know your liver, and to offer it the care and appreciation it deserves.
The good news is that a liver has a great ability to regenerate itself provided it gets the care it needs. When we choose to actively support our liver, it will flourish and thrive—enabling us to do the same. With the following Ayurvedic suggestions for a healthy liver, you can get started right away!
5 Important Liver Functions
The liver is said to perform around 500 different functions in the body—almost too many to count.1 We could talk about what the liver does all day long, but we’ll start by outlining just a few of the major jobs that the liver carries out to keep the body functioning well.
- The liver filters the blood and stores nutrients. The oxygen-rich blood from the heart and nutrient-rich blood from the digestive organs will end up in the liver for processing and filtration. Every minute, it filters more than a liter of your blood, constantly discerning what is usable nutrition and what is not.
- The liver removes harmful substances. A healthy liver will identify toxic materials such as chemicals, artificial dyes, plastics, pesticides, heavy metals, nicotine, and so forth. It then discards these substances, while storing helpful nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to release when your body needs them.
- The liver supports healthy blood sugar levels. It converts glucose into glycogen and stores it in the muscles for future need. When glucose levels drop, the liver liquidates its assets, sending the stored glucose back into the blood to keep your body nourished.
- The liver recycles blood. By producing new red blood cells, destroying the old ones, and converting them into substances that your body needs, the liver recycles for your betterment! When blood cells get old, they go to the liver to die. The liver then takes the hemoglobin and utilizes it to produce bile and other vital enzymes. Bile is a greenish fluid that is necessary to digest fats and proteins—it is vital to our health.
- The liver promotes courage. Considered a hot organ and the seat of pitta, the liver is associated with pitta-type emotions. Unprocessed, these emotions can show up as anger, jealousy, hate, frustration, and envy. On the contrary, a healthy liver promotes the positive emotions of pitta, such as courage, confidence, passion, enthusiasm, cooperation, and leadership.
Signs Your Liver Is Asking for Attention
If you’ve lived your life without giving your liver much thought or attention, you’re not alone. But if we go too long without acknowledging and caring for our livers, they will eventually begin to grow tired and run down. Because the liver serves so many essential functions in the body, we feel our best when we keep it working well.
So how do you know when your liver is in need of a little extra tender loving care? To start, think about these questions:
- Do you feel heavy or tired when you wake up in the morning?
- Do you sometimes see a yellowish color in your eyes?
- Do you experience skin irritation or dark spots on your skin?
- Has your energy declined?
- Do you often experience frustration and anger?
- Has your vision declined?
- Do you deal with a lack of vitamins or minerals?
If your answer to any of these is yes, then you should pay more attention to your liver—any of these signs can be the liver telling you that it needs your help. And even if you don’t have any of these experiences, it’s still a good idea to pay attention to your liver to prevent imbalances from arising in the future.
10 Tips for a Healthy Liver
- Eat foods that balance pitta. When you’re experiencing too much pitta, eating a pitta-balancing diet is especially supportive. Include plenty of foods with the bitter taste in your daily meals, such as dandelion greens, aloe vera, bitter melon, and leafy greens. Consume good oils and fats such as olive oil and ghee.
- Use cooling herbs and spices. The liver loves bitter and cooling spices! Incorporate powdered spices like turmeric and coriander powder in your meals, or enjoy fresh herbs like dill, cilantro, and mint. You can also incorporate herbal supplements like Liver Formula, bhumyamalaki, or kutki.
- Avoid hard-to-digest substances. Limit your intake of alcohol, drugs, chemicals, refined sugar, fructose, fried foods, and processed foods. These things can aggravate pitta dosha, dampen digestion, and tax the liver.
- Drink lemon water. Start your day with a squeeze of fresh lemon in room temperature water. This will help to activate the digestive system and gently cleanse and purify the liver.
- Follow Ayurvedic eating habits. Let lunch be your largest meal of the day. This is the time that your digestive fire (agni) is at its highest, which helps your liver to break down your foods into nutrients. Sit down to eat and make sure you don’t eat when you are emotional—wait until you can relax—and be mindful while you eat.
- Prioritize your sleep. Go to bed early, ideally by 10 p.m. The liver needs to rest and re-energize in order to function well, and it does this at night while we are asleep. If this is a challenge area for you, Ayurveda offers many tools to support healthy and balanced sleep.
- Do a liver cleanse. The transitions between seasons in the spring and fall are ideal times to cleanse and reset your system, giving the liver a well-deserved break. You can design a natural liver detox with the guidance of a practitioner, or do an at-home Ayurvedic cleanse.
- Stay Cool! Because the liver is considered a pitta organ, it can easily overheat, especially if you have a pitta constitution. Stay cool and hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day. Incorporate cooling practices like swimming, moon bathing, or pitta-balancing yoga. Perform Sheetali pranayama to cool your body and calm your mind.
- Relax and unwind. Overactivity, too much stimulation, and ongoing stress can all contribute to excess pitta dosha and an unhappy liver. Carve out time to intentionally relax. Incorporate a meditation practice, lie down in Savasana, or drink a cup of Mellow Mind Tea.
- LOVE your Liver. Literally! Put your hands below your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. Close your eyes and feel your liver energy. Breathe deep and send some love to your liver. Let it feel your appreciation and gratitude for all the ways it cares for you.
And one last tip—consider working with an Ayurvedic practitioner. A practitioner can work with you to fine-tune these tips and ensure that your liver is happy, healthy, and functioning at its very best.