The Role of The Liver in Women’s Health
The topic of ‘detoxifying’ the body is hugely popular these days. If you were to do a general search, you’ll find hundreds of shakes, drinks, specific diets, or even colonic cleanses claiming to do just that. But in terms of women’s health, what exactly is it we need to “detoxify” and why?
There are numerous glands and organs within the body involved in hormone production, and for women that suffer hormonal imbalances, it’s important to ensure each of these organs are working efficiently.
It may come as a complete surprise to you, but one of the most important organs involved in correcting hormone imbalances is the liver. The liver is the largest vital organ in the body, responsible for over 200 different functions! Although not involved in hormone production itself, the liver plays a vital role in breaking down hormones no longer required in the body.
Some of the hormones the liver breaks down include:
- Aldosterone– this hormone controls the balance of sodium, potassium and water in the body. As I’ve discussed previously, having the correct balance of sodium and potassium can help to alleviate symptoms of PMS and irritability.
- The sex hormones– which control our menstrual and reproductive system. If these hormones are not broken down, they begin to accumulate, throwing this delicate system off balance. Oestrogen dominance in particular, is a common imbalance that results in symptoms of menstrual irregularities, PMS, irritability, fatigue, headaches, weight gain, bloat, breast tenderness, menstrual cramps, acne and many more.
- Cortisone–which controls the immune system and helps to convert proteins to carbohydrates. During this process the hormone insulin helps to regulate the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. When this process is not working efficiently, many women will experience weight gain or have trouble losing weight. High levels of insulin result in a fatty liver, making it even more difficult for this organ to function correctly, thus compounding the problem.
Do I Need a Liver Cleanse?
Hormone imbalances in women today is alarmingly high. Most women will complain of some sort of discomfort or frustrations during their menstrual cycle. In fact, over 80% of visits to the doctor is hormone related!
The wonderful thing about the human body is that it talks to us. We can have a daily conversation with our body once we know how to read the symptoms it’s expressing. For example, most of us know that we need food when our tummy rumbles. It’s the same with other symptoms, we just need to learn how to listen.
So how do we know when the liver is not happy? Here are just a few ways the body tells us:
- Intolerance to alcohol or coffee (this is a big red flag)
- Swollen feet or abdomen
- Easy bruising
- Yellowing of the eyes
- Dark urine and stool
- Bad breath
- Increased body odor
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness or dizziness
- Low energy levels or constant fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Rashes (including eczema)
- Inability to digest fatty foods
- Weight gain
If you were to do a search for a liver cleanse, you’ll find hundreds of diets and pills. Whilst these all have their benefits, it doesn’t need to be that difficult or time consuming, and certainly doesn’t need to cost the earth. Once you learn a few common symptoms of a stressed liver, it just requires a few tweaks to your diet and lifestyle and you’ll be back on track. The good news is the liver is capable of healing itself and will bounce back reasonably quickly.
- Reduce or even completely remove sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine from your diet.
- Increase fibre in your diet including plenty of leafy greens. Flax seed is a good fibre to start taking as it improves oestrogen metabolism.
- Take a good Vitamin B complex which helps the detoxification processes in the body.
- Improve the PH balance of you gut. Gut health is another highly popular topic that the yogis have been aware of for sometime. It’s very easy to correct this intestinal balance with apple cider vinegar, or lemon in a glass of warm water each morning.
- Finally, the liver loves turmeric and studies are revealing just how effective it is at improving liver function.
Yoga asana! Many people aren’t aware of just how affective many poses are at cleansing and detoxifying the organs and glands within the body. An example of such asana is featured above.
Merudandasana–The Liver Cleansing Pose
There a numerous poses that help to cleanse the internal organs, but Merudandasana is known for its ability to work deeply into the liver.
Start by holding onto the big toes with the legs extended. Lift the legs and rock back onto the coccyx. This asana tones and strengthens the abdominal organs as we work to find balance and steadiness in the pose.
For those that suffer constipation and bloat, you may find some relief as this pose improves intestinal peristalsis and works to alleviate constipation.
Merudandasana also tones the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and strengthens the muscles and nerves of the back and spine.
I personally practice this asana whenever I feel my liver is in need of some love. If you have tight hamstrings, keep the knees bent slightly.
Precautions : This pose should not be practiced if you suffer slipped disc, sciatica, high blood pressure or heart conditions
As you balance, hold the pose for as long as possible, developing a steady, strong breath in the asana. Practice up to 5 rounds to experience the magic!