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So, How’s Your Liver Today?

By Sussanna Czeranko, ND

When you ask about how someone is, you might surprise them by asking more pointedly,

“How is your liver today?” In fact, our vitality and level of well-being are largely determined by

the health of our liver. A sluggish or overworked liver can be attributed to these symptoms:

fatigue, muscular weakness, waking up tired, inability to concentrate, irritability, moodiness,

depression, P.M.S. and menstrual pain; sensitivity to odours (perfumes and tobacco smoke),

headaches, digestive complaints (gas and bloating), food sensitivities, itchy skin and rashes.

What does our liver actually do?

The liver is an efficient, remarkable factory in the body. By partnering with other organs and

glands, it maintains quality control, produces its own energy supply, manufactures and

continually recycles to keep an adequate supply of raw materials for the body. Blood glucose,

the energy currency of the body is metabolised and regulated by the liver to ensure a constant

and adequate supply of glucose for the brain and the body. When we skip meals, it is the

adrenal glands that cue the liver to release glycogen from storage to be converted into glucose

for this period of deprivation. When our liver is working well, we can experience days without

food before symptoms of hypoglycemia manifest. However, our diet is more likely to consist of

stimulants and highly processed carbohydrates that lead to problems of excess blood sugar.

Refined sugar, coffee, tobacco, tea, chocolate, alcohol, drugs, and emotional excitement can

raise blood sugar levels and we experience the “high” associated with these stimulants. The

pancreas and the liver together immediately decrease the glucose to safer levels.

Fat metabolism is accomplished by the gallbladder and the liver. Bile is made by the liver

and stored in the gallbladder, which synthesize bile. Eighty percent of the cholesterol (a normal

structural component of most body tissues, especially those of the brain and nervous system,

liver and blood) is produced by the liver, leaving the remaining 20% of cholesterol to come from

the food we eat. Cholesterol is an important component needed for the formation of hormones,

and vitamin D.

The building material for our tissues, hormones, enzymes, antibodies comes from amino

acids and proteins that are metabolised in the liver. Should there be inadequate protein

synthesis, symptoms of muscle wasting, edema, mental depression, weakness, poor resistance

to infection, and impaired healing of wounds are the results.

As the major cleanser for blood, the liver filters a litre of blood every minute. Its capacity to

neutralise and detoxify metabolic waste, toxins, heavy metals, bacteria and poisons from the

intestinal tract ensures blood purity. The liver has a huge mandate and a huge challenge.

According to the statistics gathered by an organization, The World Counts, there are about

13 tons of hazardous waste produced every 13 seconds globally, amounting to 400 million tons

each year. ( The U.S. produces an average of 770 kg of food, plastic, and

hazardous waste per person. Thus, 5% of the world’s population generates 40% of the world’s

waste. Canadians are not doing much better since each Canadian generates 720 kg of waste.

About 1000 new synthetic compounds are introduced each year into our daily life, totalling

over 100,000 xenobiotics or foreign chemicals. Since 1970, the EPA has been collecting data

measuring 54 different environmental chemical toxins found in human adipose tissue. A total of

20 toxic compounds were found in 76 to 100% of all samples collected. Although exposure to

environmental toxins, drugs, pesticides, food additives and industrial chemicals can be

introduced through food, air and the water, our own bodies also add to the toxic load.

Endotoxins and toxins produced by our own body, such as intestinal bacteria, their metabolic by

products plus the normal intermediary metabolites that in excess quantities can disrupt normal

functioning and require detoxification.

The Detoxification Process

Detoxification in the liver entails converting toxins that are generally bound to lipids and

stored in our fat tissues into forms that are water-soluble compounds that then can easily be

eliminated in the urine or feces. There are two phases responsible for the breakdown of the

toxins. Phase l involves a group of enzymes called the cytochrome P450 system that attaches

the toxin to water and oxygen. These intermediaries are highly reactive and can be more

dangerous than the original toxin if they are not conjugated or bound in Phase ll to form

complexes which become neutralised, non-toxic end-products. The Phase l process often

produces free radicals that are thought to cause much of the harm resulting from toxins residing

in our bodies. This is one explanation why some may feel worse during a detoxification

program: there is an increased activity of Phase l, but with insufficient antioxidants to protect

against the free radicals produced when this phase is not balanced by Phase ll enzymes.

The activation of the cytochrome P450 pathway requires adequate dietary protein.

Deficiencies in minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium and molybdenum have been shown

to decrease the activity of P450 enzyme system. Antioxidants protect cell membranes from

free radical damage and diets restricted in Vitamin C and E have been shown to inhibit the P450

system activity. Glutathione, methionine and cysteine are important substrates that are utilized

in the conjugation phase (Phase ll).

The liver is the chief organ in detoxification. Optimising liver function focuses on protecting

the liver and increasing the ability of the liver to break down toxic substances into forms that can

be safely eliminated by the kidneys and intestinal tract. Detoxification programs are designed to

support and facilitate the liver’s detoxification process giving relief to chronic health problems. It

behooves us to participate in a guided fall cleanse and feel fantastic.

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