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Liver Disease, Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Gallstones
Your liver is the major organ of detoxification in the body. It is intimately involved in at least 500 functions of the body. The implications of living a life of poor health because of a damaged liver is expanding all the time as we understand more about its complex work. In natural healing we place great emphasis on liver health. The main categories of work for the liver can be grouped as follows.
- Digestion: The manufacture of bile by the liver enables us to digest fat. Bile is stored in the gallbladder.
- Detoxification: The liver breaks down chemicals in food, drugs and alcohol and other toxins, rendering them less dangerous.
- Fighting infection: All blood from the intestines (carrying what we absorb from food and drink) visits the liver before it is released to the general circulation. Eating is a high-risk business because it can easily introduce harmful organisms into our bodies. The liver is a major storage unit of large white blood cells that destroy rogue cells and invaders. Liver damage can compromise the immune system and means infection is more likely.
- Storage: Your liver stores large quantities of iron and vitamins and it holds a large reserve of glucose. This glucose is rapidly released for energy. The storage capacity can be lost when the liver is damaged and this will lead to poor energy levels.
- Removing wastes: Your kidneys remove most chemical waste from your blood but the liver does this as well by combining toxins with bile. This bile is moved along to the colon for removal in faeces.
- Hormones: The liver has a part in the manufacture of many hormones, including the sex hormones. The liver also breaks these hormones down and regulates levels in the body, which is why it is so active during the menopause.
- Metabolism: High activity levels in the liver produce internal heat and contribute to the maintenance of body temperature.
- Enzyme & protein production: Its ability to produce enzymes means that the chemical activity of the body continues unimpaired. Proteins manufactured include those involved in blood clotting and tissue repair.
The liver does have a highly regenerative capability but this complex organ can be damaged by virus, infection and lifestyle. Long term liver damage means that there is no longer the capacity to regenerate cells or make new ones. The final outcome may result in liver cancer and premature death. The main risks to the liver include hepatitis and cirrhosis. It can also be damaged by blockage from gallstones but early intervention makes this more unusual.
This is mainly caused by viruses and these are all on the increase. The two main routes of infection are via shared blood and body fluids or from contaminated food, water and drinks. Chronic hepatitis C will lead to cirrhosis of the liver, where large areas of tissue are permanently damaged beyond the capacity for repair.
This is on the increase especially in Britain which suffers from a binge drinking culture – alcohol-related liver disease is becoming a major health and social issue. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is also on the increase and often results in cirrhosis. Factors that increase the risk of fatty liver include diabetes, long term steroid use, obesity, coronary artery disease and repeated heart failure. Infection from chemicals, long term use of some drugs (including recreational drugs) and certain inherited conditions also contribute to cirrhosis.
Gallstones form fairly easily in certain groups, such as overweight middle aged women. Many tiny stones may form or a single large stone can develop. Stones have the potential to block the exit of bile from the gallbladder. This places immense stress on the liver and pancreas and may cause jaundice. However, many gallstones are discovered post mortem and have been “silent” and caused no problems during that person’s lifetime. Other people may suffer considerably with digestive problems and a severe right-sided pain (mimicking a heart attack). This is one reason that any chest pain must be investigated. The pain of gallstones will often occur an hour or two after a fatty meal. Because of the stones inside it, the gallbladder is unable to release sufficient bile to emulsify the fats and may be in spasm. There may also be bloating and belching and stagnation of body fluids; this leads to inflammation and increasing pain. Many sufferers opt for surgery or ultrasound to remove or shatter stones. Natural healing programmes offer alternatives and may limit the need for more invasive procedures. We do strongly recommend that this work is correctly supervised by a trained practitioner in natural healing and herbs. You may find one in your area by exploring the websites of The Association of Master Herbalists and The College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Our focus is to keep the liver and gallbladder strong and healthy into significant old age as we harness the incredible capacity of the liver to regenerate. The motto is prevention and we support the detoxification ability of the liver with certain herbs, herbal medicines and healthy foods and drinks.
Foods & herbs for the home
- The liver enjoys simple unprocessed food especially those tastes that are bitter and cooling. A very simple raw food salad is perfect as a prelude to a richer meal – it prepares the liver for food to come. Try chicory, rocket, watercress, fresh herbs, cucumber, radish, spinach leaf and young tender fresh dandelion leaves.
- Simple dressings such as olive oil and lemon are cooling or experiment with our liver-supportive kitchen vinegars. Lemon & Artichoke Concentrate is similar to a traditional European bitter in a delicious organic cider vinegar base, while Onion & Horseradish Concentrate adds zest and zing with equally important liver foods packing in the flavour. Experiment making your own vinegars as well, using your favourite spices and herbs in organic apple cider vinegar.
- Organic Turmeric is an Asian spice with a strong tradition for liver support. Add this raw to jacket potatoes, rice and pasta as well as tomato dishes and beans, soups and casseroles.
- Watercress is a fabulous liver food. It is an ingredient in PolliTox Capsules – ask us for a sample. Pollutox capsules also contain marigold, a lovely flower with properties that assist the liver - Jill Davies has written about it in her book “Marigold” that you can download and read.
- One of our top foods for the liver is Milk Thistle Seeds; their nutty texture is delicious added to many foods. You can read much more about this well-respected herb by downloading Jill Davies' book “Milk Thistle”.
- While many people recognise the value of using St. John's wort to treat depression, it is less well known that the whole herb is also liver-supportive. You can learn more by reading another book by Jill Davies entitled “St John’s Wort”.
- Almost all herb teas bring benefit to the liver and assist digestion and detoxification. High levels of caffeine and sugar are detrimental to the liver so make your substitutes with Organic Lavender Flower Herbal Tea or Nettle Herbal Tea which is rich in minerals.
- Superfood Plus contains many compounds that can support all the processes of the liver and this food remains our first choice for liver maintenance.
- Liver support is made easy by regular periods of detoxification, especially effective in spring and summer. Detox is not difficult and can be as simple as one day eating simple raw food plus a few drops of herbs taken throughout the day.
- A simple detox tea can really move things along as you participate in a short cleanse and we created Mullein & Star Anise Tea to make a delicious and effective herbal addition to our range of detox products.
- More intensive work is possible and a good place to start is to read books by Dr Richard Schulze who is renowned for his detox programmes. His book "5-Day Liver Detox" is available for purchase or free download.
- Working with a practitioner who is skilled in detox programmes and herbs is recommended for longer cleanse programmes. A natural healing approach to health does not recognise strict separation between mind, body, emotion and spirit. Traditional systems of medicine are rather better at recognising these links and the emotions best associated with the liver are joy and anger. Whether anger creates a miserable liver or a miserable liver adds to anger is for each individual to explore. Anger is healthy; it is repressed anger that is damaging. The positive liver emotion is joy and that is something to celebrate during a spring cleanse.
- Liver pain can be helped with warm Castor Oil packs placed over the liver area. Full instructions are included.
Additional help is available by phoning the free product advice line at Herbs Hands Healing between the hours of 9.00am to 1.00pm. Tel: 01379 608201.
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Learn more about Dr. Richard Schulze’s Superfood Plus and why we believe this is such a wonderful food by following this link on our website, where extensive information is available. Also please visit our Superfood Plus facebook page for articles and current news.
To learn more about natural healing for this and other ailments, visit Dr Schulze's blog.
If you would like to see videos of Jill Davies showing you plants growing in their natural settings and discussing their medicinal attributes then visit us on facebook. You can also explore additional herbs and their traditional uses by linking to Herbs Info & Photo Gallery and Herb Profiles. Useful additional information can also be found at the Herbs Hands Healing information pages on Detox & Cleansing and Natural Healing.