The role of the liver is crucial for our health, but unfortunately, liver disease rates are on the rise over the years and have become the fifth most common cause of death, and the second leading cause of mortality amongst all digestive diseases in the US.
According to Jillian Levy, CHHC:
“In ancient Chinese medicine, it’s said that “the physician who knows how to harmonize the liver knows how to treat a hundred diseases.”
The liver, one of the largest and hardest-working organs in the body, is believed to be of the “wood element” and is crucial for the transformation of food into energy, or qi.
Referred to as the ultimate multitasking organ, ancient practitioners believed that the liver was one of the primary organs that needed to be treated in sick patients. When the liver doesn’t perform properly, distention and discomfort within the digestive system result, which can then spread harm to other parts of the body.
Without the liver, it’s impossible to have a properly working metabolism, healthy circulation, balanced hormones, clean blood, and strong digestion. “
These are the primary functions of this important organ:
- Cleanses blood by metabolizing alcohol and drugs, and neutralizes toxins
- Produces cholesterol and turns it into essential substances used by the body
- Regulates the balance of hormones
- Produces stores, and delivers glucose to the brain and body and thus regulates energy
- Produces essential body proteins, supports the delivery of nutrients to the blood, and proteins that prevent infection
Liver damage can be a result of heredity, prolonged exposure to toxins, and long-term liver diseases, such as cirrhosis.
Christine Ruggeri, CHHC, explains:
”Most people associate liver disease with alcoholism, but essentially anything that can’t be broken down and used for energy immediately ends up in the liver for detoxification. This means that your liver needs all the help it can get. But when you overindulge in alcohol, chemicals, drugs, fried foods, processed or refined foods (white flour, conventional dairy, white sugar, and low-quality animal products, for example), your liver gets heavily taxed.”
These are the most common early signs of liver damage:
1. Abdominal Pain
A “stabbing” or “throbbing” pain in the abdominal area is another early sign of liver damage. This issue can often be relieved only through proper treatment of the underlying issue.
2. Abdominal Swelling
Liver damage disrupts the normal blood flow to the organ, increasing the pressure in the surrounding veins, including the ones responsible for transporting blood from the spleen and intestines to the liver.
This, in turn, leads to higher blood pressure levels or a condition known as portal hypertension. It results in the accumulation of fluid around the abdomen, called ascites.
3. Nausea Or Vomiting
A damaged liver cannot adequately expel toxins from the body, leading to sudden changes in normal digestion and metabolism. These changes cause numerous digestive problems, including nausea and vomiting.
Researchers have found that liver damage leads to chronic fatigue and exhaustion, which are believed to be a byproduct of neurochemical changes in the brain and hormonal imbalances. Their symptoms are aggravated by the high levels of toxic byproducts in the blood, as the impaired liver cannot properly remove.
The liver produces necessary protein enzymes, and an impaired liver leads to a damaged blood-clotting mechanism, that can lead to changes to the skin’s appearance.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports: “When the liver slows the production of or stops producing the proteins needed for blood clotting, a person will bruise or bleed easily.”
Liver problems often lead to discoloration of the eyes and skin, due to the accumulation of a bile pigment called bilirubin, which cannot be properly eliminated. Jaundice is characterized by yellowish hueing of the skin or eyes, and also leads to symptoms such as itchiness in the entire body, darkening of the urine, and cognitive impairment.
7. Dry Or Irritated Skin
A damaged liver cannot supply fluids within the body properly, so the skin becomes dry, irritated, and you might even experience reddening of the hands or feet, yellowing of the mucous membranes, or inexplicable spotting.
Fortunately, the liver is very adaptive and if treated, it can heal itself. Most liver-related diseases receive a positive diagnosis if controlled and guided by a medical professional. Therefore, in case you experience these symptoms, consult a medical professional, in order to determine the underlying cause and treat the issue on time.