Liver Health – Love your Liver !
All drug activities and environmental toxins involve the liver, plasma, blood, and pancreas. The 2 most common sites for drug side effects are the GI tract, and the Nervous system. The liver is one of the most important and metabolically active organs in both Western Medicine and in Ayurved.
The functions of the liver include:
- bile formation and excretion,
- glycogen storage,
- synthesis and metabolism of fats and proteins,
- decomposition of RBC’s,
- synthesis of plasma protein,
- and hormone production.
The hepatocytes or liver cells are responsible for:
- heme synthesis (for hemoglobin),
- mediating the immunity in blood-borne diseases,
- protein synthesis, protein storage,
- breakdown of carbohydrates,
- synthesis of cholesterol, bile salts, phospholipids,
- detoxification and excretion of toxins (ama),
- and the formation and secretion of bile.
The liver is the final step in breaking down food into the elements needed by the body. The monosaccharides from breakdown of carbohydrates, the amino acids from the digestion of proteins, and the fatty acids from the digestion of fats all move into the liver, and specifically into the hepatocytes. The hepatocytes contain a high number of mitochondria, the organelles that generate ATP. Mitochondria take in all of these elemental substances and use them in the Krebs’s cycle or TCA cycle to produce ATP or energy.
Through the lens of Ayurved, we see the liver as converting the dissolved food into the 5 elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space to be used by the whole body.
The liver houses the Bhuta agnis or the elemental agnis which are the manifestations of the digestive fire. All 5 transform ingested food into biologically useful substances. In other words, the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are broken down by the enzymes of the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine into a dissolved food entity, or chyme. Then the liver converts the dissolved food into the elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether to be used in the health of the organs and tissues. Rasa and Rakta come together and communicate in the liver. The liver, spleen and bone marrow are the seats of rakta srotamsi. When we improve the health of the liver in Ayurveda, we automatically improve the health of the rasa, and rakta, and improve immunity. We also improve digestion by working on the bhuta agnis, and consequently all nutrition is effectively extracted from the food we ingest. Emotional outlook is improved as the liver is the site of stored anger. Energy level is improved and overall health is improved when the liver is in good health.
Blood and lymph mix in the sinusoids and the Kupffer cells filter out the toxins or ama. The nutrient rich blood is then sent to the heart via the inferior vena cava. When the liver is overloaded with toxins, the liver pushes the lipid soluble toxins into the fat layer. Our nervous system is comprised of fat, particularly the white matter, and therefore these toxins can end up in our nervous system. Examples of toxins that may get stored in the fat layer include: heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives, food additives, pollutants, plastics, and other environment chemicals. The specific mechanism that does this is the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The liver sinusoids contain an abundance of smooth ER which is responsible for lipid and protein synthesis. This organelle pushes the excess toxins into the lipid layer. Once they are in the fat layer, they are difficult to remove and the only way to remove them is to do a purification therapy that allows the body to enter a fat metabolism mode. In fat metabolism, the body uses the fat layer as a caloric resource and breaks it down. This causes the toxins which have been pushed there to be released into the blood and converted to water-soluble toxins for the kidneys to excrete. But if we take good care of the liver and avoid these types of toxins as much as possible, we will avoid the toxin deposition in the fat layer.
In Ayurveda, one of the first things we treat in any disease is the liver. There must be good liver health in order to extract nutrients efficiently from food and to generate ATP for energy. Some herbs that improve liver health are: guduchi, kutki, kalmegh, bringaraj, and aloe. The bitter taste of greens aids the process of cleansing the liver and blood, removing toxins and parasites, and it enhances the release of digestive secretions and digestive enzymes. Yoga asanas that stimulate the digestive fire are: peacock (mayurasana), maha mudra, twists such as ardha matsyendrasana or bharadvajasana, marichyasana C or jathara parivrttiasana, focusing at the navel center (agni bhavana), Uddiyana bandha, agni sara, and nauli. Massaging bringaraj oil over the liver marma point (yakrut) in a clockwise direction is also beneficial. Pranayama exercises which will help the liver include: alternate nostril breathing, and holds after the inhale and exhale. The hold after inhale builds the digestive fire, and the hold after the exhale allows the ama at the lower 3 chakras to be held in the fire longer. Some meditation practices that will enhance the fire in the liver and in the GI tract include chanting the mantra, OM SURYA NAMAHA, or OM RAVAYE NAMAHA, or OM RAM NAMAHA. By bringing in these practices, you bring health to the liver, and you show your liver LOVE.