Love Your Liver!

As March unfolds and St. Patrick’s Day festivities commence, amidst the choice of a pint for many, it's important to pause and address the topic of liver health. The liver has many roles in the body:

  • Filtration
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism and Detoxification
  • Protein synthesis
  • Storage of vitamins and minerals

As a result of these key functions, liver dysfunction can have a cascade of effects including:

  • High cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dysglycemia
  • Early breakdown of joints

Is that last one a surprise to you? It was to me! I was listening to a podcast on kissing spine— an arthritic condition in horses that has become more prevalent. The discussion went to findings in dissections of horses with kissing spine showing bone level bruising throughout the body AND liver pathologies, and that further, when horses with kissing spine were given liver supportive treatments, the disease progression slowed dramatically or even stopped. So I had to dig deeper—was there research into the role of liver dysfunction in arthritis in people?  And the answer was a resounding yes.

Now in classical biomedical standards, the liver is not considered diseased until it’s near failure— jaundice, ascites, major problems...but there is also a clear association in the literature between hepatitis B infections and arthritis. So why wouldn’t earlier-stage liver issues from other causes have the potential to cause joint and bone changes? The research certainly points that way. Given all the things our liver does for us, I’ve had a change in perspective. With the abundance of liver-supportive herbs available to us that are safe, why not just plan on a quarterly liver cleanse to help keep that lovely organ happy and healthy?

*If you take supplements, herbs, or prescription medications—do review this protocol with your health care provider or herbalist*  

Do keep in mind—all the cleanses and tonics in the world won’t be able to make up for a poor diet! So on a daily basis, remember that your food and drink choices matter! Sugar, alcohol, and junk food add a strain to your liver. Herbal teas, nutrient-rich veggies, and fruits support your liver.

On a daily basis the following herbs can gently support your liver and blood:

  • milk thistle
  • goji berries
  • schisandra
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • chrysanthemum 
  • nettle
  • oat straw
  • black tea
  • green tea
  • white tea
  • dandelion (leaves, root, and flowers)

In terms of a safe liver cleanse, MediHerb has some lovely herbal complexes to both cleanse and support the liver. So every quarter, I recommend the following protocol: Raja Wellness Quarterly Liver Cleanse

Starting the cleanse with LivCo around the full moon taps into the clearing energy of this celestial body (stay tuned next month where I discuss parasite cleanses and the pull of the full moon for more details). Then take a break for a few days and start the “tonifying” phase with Livton to support the liver as the energy of the new moon helps guide the herbs into a building phase. For most people, doing this 4 times per year will be sufficient. If you don’t regularly take prescription medications, aren’t drinking alcohol on a weekly or daily basis, get plenty of exercise, and manage your stress—then 1-2x per year will be plenty for this cleanse.

In addition to the herbs, I recommend following a liver-friendly diet rich in plant-based proteins, vegetables, and some high-quality fish in addition to nuts, olive oil, and fruits. There is a multitude of research into nutrition for longevity, reduced disease, and health. The common theme among these findings is: to eat a diet high in vegetables, plant-based proteins, and whole grains with small amounts of fruits, grains, and animal proteins. Olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts all have protective properties for the brain and liver. As Jack Lalanne used to say “The longer the shelf life, the shorter your life”. Those handy packaged “foods” are often no longer actual food but merely a food-like product! 

Stress and psychological factors have a direct impact on the function of the liver. The more you can regulate stress through lifestyle and exercise, the better the liver will function. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is represented by the wood element—spring is the time of liver growth with new growth reaching and bending to new heights. A healthy wood element is flexible like the young tree, bending with the wind rather than breaking. The color associated with the liver is green and stones like peridot and malachite can support liver function. And yes, regular acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress and increase overall health- even for healthy patients a quarterly “tune-up” with your acupuncturist can keep new problems from emerging. For patients with a high-stress life or who engage in intense physical training-  monthly sessions help keep problems at bay.

Why are we so passionate about mental health at Raja Wellness? 

The link between mental health and cardiovascular health is quite significant. Stress, especially chronic psychological stress, has a profound impact on the cardiovascular system. When the “stress response” is activated, the body secretes glucocorticoids, epinephrine, and other hormones, while inhibiting the secretion of growth hormone, insulin, and reproductive hormones. The sympathetic nervous system is also activated, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure, among other physiological changes that divert blood to areas needed for immediate survival, such as the muscles and lungs, and away from non-essential areas like the gut and reproductive organs. This response is adaptive in the short term, but chronic activation due to chronic stress can lead to serious cardiovascular issues such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, and myocardial ischemia.

This connection between mental health and cardiovascular health highlights the intricate intertwining of psychological and physiological factors. The body's response to chronic stress can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system, emphasizing the importance of managing and addressing mental health to promote overall well-being, including cardiovascular health.

Acupuncture has many benefits for cardiovascular health:

1. Stress Reduction: Stress is a known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Acupuncture has been shown to modulate the body's stress response, potentially reducing the impact of stress on the heart and blood vessels.

2. Blood Pressure Regulation: Studies indicate that acupuncture may help in regulating blood pressure. By targeting specific acupuncture points, practitioners aim to optimize blood circulation and blood pressure levels, contributing to better cardiovascular function.

3. Inflammation Management: Chronic inflammation is closely linked to cardiovascular conditions. Acupuncture may exert anti-inflammatory effects, potentially reducing the systemic inflammation associated with heart disease.

4. Enhanced Circulation: The stimulation of acupuncture points is believed to enhance microcirculation, improving blood flow to vital organs including the heart. Enhanced circulation can promote heart health and overall cardiovascular function.

5. Complementary Therapy: Acupuncture is often used as a complementary therapy alongside conventional medical treatments for cardiovascular issues. It may help alleviate symptoms, improve overall well-being, and enhance the effects of standard cardiovascular care.

While acupuncture has clear benefits for cardiovascular health, we recommend individuals consult healthcare professionals before integrating acupuncture into their treatment regimen. Moreover, acupuncture alone may not be enough for people dealing with chronic stress. 

Learning to manage our stress is a key part of maintaining heart health—and that’s where professional mental health care is so important as part of your overall wellness. 

Herbal formulas also play an important role in heart health. Many formulas have been shown to reduce cholesterol and blood lipid levels, decrease inflammation, and increase peripheral circulation. For example, Clear Mind Formula is one of my favorite herbal formulas for heart health, especially here in Kentucky because of its natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This is a raw herbal concoction that we make in-house. We do recommend consulting with a trained herbalist before incorporating any herbal remedies into your care plan. 

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For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 270-506-3853 today!


References:

1. Wayne PM, Kaptchuk TJ. Challenges inherent to t'ai chi research: part II-defining the intervention and optimal study design. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14(2):191-197.

2. Fu, C., Zhao, N., & Liu, Z. (2013). Chronic pain: acupuncture and related therapies. Springer Science & Business Media

3. Chen J, Ye C, Yang Z, Zhang C, Li P, Xu B, Wu A, Zhang X, Xue X. Erchen decoction to reduce oxidative stress in dyslipidemia phlegm-dampness retention syndrome mice: In vivo mechanism revealed by metabolomics (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry). Phytomedicine. 2023 Jul;115:154808. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2023.154808.

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