Liver is one of the most important vital organs in the human body. It is the largest solid organ and largest gland in the human body. It is the functional powerhouse of the body. It carries around 500 essential tasks. It belongs to the digestive system. However, Liver disease is now catching up with cardiac disease. Hepatic disease load is increasing in India with 22.2 deaths/100,00 population linked to cirrhosis by the Global Health Observatory data from the World Health Organization.Cirrhosis, jaundice and other liver diseases are one of the major causes of deaths worldwide.
The liver is very important to the human body. Few of the major functions include detoxification, protein synthesis, reservoir of few nutrient elements and production of digestive enzymes. So when the liver is damaged the body is under a lot of stress and a potential inflammation called hepatitis or degradation called liver cirrhosis occurs. There are several biological, chemical or habitual factors which can lead to liver disease. 28th July is celebrated as world hepatitis day. So it is important to know the ways by which the liver can be kept safe.
Liver In Brief
Liver’s exact location is in the upper right part of the abdomen. It is below the diaphragm and sits on top of the stomach, right of the kidney and intestine. Liver gets the blood from two sources. One is the oxygenated blood received from the hepatic artery while the nutrient rich blood flows from the hepatic portal vein. The liver is the primary filter and detoxifies the toxins or waste which is accumulated. Though it performs several functions, there are few which are quite important and are as follows:
- Catabolism And Flushing Of Waste : It is a part of the digestive system. It makes bile which acts as a kind of vector. This helps in carrying the waste and breaks the fat in the small intestine. It converts the ammonia to urea and flushes the urea with urine.
- Synthesys: It produces proteins needed for blood plasma and produces certain digestive enzymes for digestion of food particles.
- Storehouse and Scavenger : It acts as a storehouse for glucose and releases it as and when needed. Also it scavenges haemoglobin, retaining the iron.
- Detoxification: It detoxifies medicines, poison catabolise them and flush them from the system. It activates the local immune system, creates hepatocytes and other immune factors and degrades and removes the bacteria from the bloodstream.
- Clears Bilirubin : Bilirubin is a byproduct of broken RBCs. It is yellowish in nature and generally settles in your tissue. One of the symptoms of jaundice. It clears the bilirubin from the bloodstream.
As mentioned above, if the liver comes in contact with any irritant, antigen or inflates due to infection then the body comes under a lot of stress. Modern science relates liver problems as a problem of organs but ayurveda has a different approach.
Liver Problem : Ayurvedic Approach
Ayurveda attributes liver as the seat of Pitta Dosha. If the liver is imbalanced, then one might see Pitta related symptoms. The liver comprises five bhutagni (digestive fire), that correspond to earth, fire, air, water and space. Each one of these agnis digest the respective element of the food and convert the rasa dhatu to blood tissue. Ayurveda concept thinking says that if any of these agni burns improperly, then the conversion will not be successful. This will also lead to the accumulation of ama in the blood. This may lead to the system imbalance and one can see blood related issues such as acne, sores and psoriasis. Liver related issues like hypercholesterolemia, hypoglycemia, constipation, hepatitis or cirrhosis can occur. In severe conditions, it can lead to life threatening cases.
There are many treatment options available in the market. Starting from modern day supplement to herbal remedies combined with diet and healthy lifestyle. Let us see a few of them. Let us explore the ayurveda for liver problems.
Herbal Pitta Pacifier
Ayurveda recommends calming of the Pitta and pacify the imbalance caused to liver damage. Minor liver cirrhosis treatment in ayurveda can be done by calming the pitta dosha. The benefit of these herbs varies. Few can increase the bile flow, other supports the enzymatic detoxification while other will help to rejuvenate the liver. This will work in minor ailments but in life threatening condition, one needs to consult and expert.
Bitter Is Better
In our daily routine, we must have heard our mother or grandmother saying drink bittergour juice or neem kadha. These act naturally as ayurvedic herbs for liver treatment. It will purify blood. Ayurveda also recommends that bitter herbs stimulate the production of gastric juices and aid in filtration of impurities. A combination of turmeric, barberry, neem, chiretta, gentian, celandine and few other bitter herbal extracts can help the liver improve its function and aid detoxification and digestion. They serve as an excellent ayurvedic medicine for liver cleansing.
Bowel movement is also important in clearing the impurities and waste from the body. Whatever liver metabolises needs to be removed from the body. A disturvbed intestine often increases the problem for the liver and creates an imbalance in Pitta. Laxatives aid in the bowel movement. Isabgol is a natural laxative used by people having constipation. One of the mildest laxatives described by ayurveda is psyllium.
Milk thistle has been used widely as ayurvedic liver tonic. It is useful in reversing the chemical induced liver damage and can prevent the liver from chemotherapy. It is generally safe and non toxic. Chinese herbal system uses bupleurum and schisandra for curing liver damage.
Apart from that there are few commercial ayurvedic formulations which one can explore.
Consult your medical practitioner before baking taking any of these herbal supplements.
It is always better to reduce the load of your vital organ. When you eat a lot or eat quite well, then along with nutrition you also allow the toxin to overload the liver. So it makes the liver overworked. Fasting can reduce the load and it allows the liver to catch up. If you have low blood sugar or cannot sustain fasting, then you can do intermittent fasting and have fruit or vegetables juices to support your body.
Consult an expert before considering fasting.
Apart from supplements and fasting, tweaking and change in habits will be good for your health and liver.
- Avoid Drinking : Alcohol puts a lot of pressure on the liver and excess drinking can lead it to alcoholic fatty liver. Alcohol will damage the liver and the consequences will be that the liver will not be able to break down fat.
- Eat Fiber : Food rich in fiber keeps your stomach full and helps in digestion. This will also reduce the load on the liver. Moreover avoid spicy, processed food. Food high in sugar content should be taken in reduced quantities. They ultimately lead to formation of fat and put pressure on the liver for fat metabolism.
- Lose weight: Obsese people are at higher risk of acquiring liver disease. They generally have high levels of LDL. LDL increases cholesterol in the liver and may lead to hypercholesterolemia. So it is better to reduce weight either by dietary control or by doing exercise.
- Dining Time: Do not skip meals or delay your meal. This will be helpful in balancing the Pitta. Dine early, and sleep by 10pm. Awakening between 10 pm to 2 am will increase the Pitta dosha. Also lack of sleep will lead to insomnia, stress, disturbed glucose metabolism resulting in weight gain.
Liver is an allrounder and if not the most but one of the most important organisms. Apart from the dietary control, make use of yoga and medication. This helps in reducing the ama tatva in blood and liver. Avoid stress and negative emotions. Even modern science confirms that thinking negatively affects your body negatively and releases many toxic elements in the body. So think positively and balance your diet to keep the liver healthy.