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Sluggish Liver

The liver performs many functions, from processing nutrients to breaking down wastes and by-products so they can be excreted. It also produces bile For the digestion of fats.

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Symptoms

Natural therapists use the term ‘sluggish liver’ to describe a situation in which your liver and gall bladder are not functioning as well as they could be. Based on this philosophy, indications that your liver function may be sub-optimal and may benefit from therapies designed to support the detoxification and excretion of toxins may include:

  • Intolerance of alcohol and/or fatty foods 
  • Indigestion, constipation  and other digestive problems
  • Headaches   
  • Indigestion   
  • Acne and other skin conditions, such as eczema  
  • High cholesterol and blood lipid levels

Other signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of more serious conditions requiring professional treatment (such as hepatitis or gall stones). These include:

  • Jaundice (yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes) 
  • Nausea , vomiting and/or diarrhoea 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Indigestion, bloating and wind 
  • Fatigue 
  • Abdominal Tenderness or pain, which may be generalised or localised under the right ribs 
  • Swelling and hardness of the liver (hepatomegaly)  
  • Dark urine  
  • Unusually light or dark stools 
  • Swollen feet, legs and/or abdomen 
  • Confusion, sleep disturbance, and occasionally mental disturbance  
  • Generalised itching over the whole body 
  • Increased sensitivity to medicines and their effects

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, it is essential that you see your health care professional to determine the cause of the problem. Professional treatment and prescription medication are necessary for the treatment of severe liver and gall bladder disease such as gallstones, hepatitis, fatty liver or cirrhosis, and permanent changes to your dietary and lifestyle habits may also be required.

Causes

In naturopathic medicine, poor eating habits are considered a key cause of sluggish liver function (for example, eating too many foods that are high in fat and/or are heavily processed). Being overweight or obese may also compromise liver function by causing fatty tissue to accumulate in the liver (fatty liver).

Additionally, certain prescription medications and environmental toxins may affect liver function.

Natural Therapies

  • Professional treatment of all serious liver conditions is very important, however, if you are simply suffering from a sluggish liver, the following natural remedies may be of assistance. Your naturopath can also assist by tailoring a treatment plan to your individual circumstances. 
  • Milk thistle has traditionally been used as a liver tonic and supports the regeneration of liver cells. It may help protect the liver against potentially harmful substances such as alcohol.
  • In Western herbal medicine, bitter tasting herbs such as gentian and dandelion root are traditionally regarded as tonic herbs for the digestive system. It is believed that when their bitter flavours are sensed by the tastebuds, a reflex action stimulates the production of saliva and digestive juices, enhancing the functioning of the stomach, liver, gall bladder and bowel and aiding symptoms such as nausea, indigestion and poor appetite.   
  • Taking a combination of globe artichoke, dandelion root and vitamin C supports liver function by aiding in the production and flow of bile from the gall bladder. This combination has traditionally been used to assist detoxification. Consequently these ingredients can be taken to relieve digestive symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain and nausea and assist the digestion and breakdown of fats. 
  • Taking vitamin C and zinc may be beneficial, replacing nutrients depleted by alcohol and smoking. 
  • Lecithin assists in the metabolism of dietary fats.

Diet and Lifestyle Suggestions

  • Adopt a lifelong healthy eating and exercise plan. If you are overweight, take steps to reach a healthy body weight.
  • Eating a diet that‘s high in fibre and water supports regular bowel function, and assists your body in eliminating wastes so that they don’t accumulate in the colon. A high fibre diet may also help you lose weight if necessary. Consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes will help you maintain adequate fibre levels.
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat, and prioritise healthy fat sources such as olive oil, fish, and nuts, seeds and their oils.
  • Don’t eat junk foods or heavily processed foods.
  • Use non-toxic cleaning products and avoid exposure to toxic chemicals at home or work.

Important Notes

  • Adopt a lifelong healthy eating and exercise plan. If you are overweight, take steps to reach a healthy body weight.
  • Eating a diet that‘s high in fibre and water supports regular bowel function, and assists your body in eliminating wastes so that they don’t accumulate in the colon. A high fibre diet may also help you lose weight if necessary. Consuming plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes will help you maintain adequate fibre levels.
  • Avoid foods that are high in fat, and prioritise healthy fat sources such as olive oil, fish, and nuts, seeds and their oils.
  • Don’t eat junk foods or heavily processed foods.
  • Use non-toxic cleaning products and avoid exposure to toxic chemicals at home or work.

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