Happy Liver, Happy Life: How to Improve Liver Function

By: Dr. Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Dr. Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM



Improve liver function can help reduce symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue. Adrenal function is part of a network of anatomical and metabolic structures and pathways, called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system, that interact in a dynamic flow. Alleviating dysfunction in the system therefore requires attention to all organs and functions involved. The liver is a major player in this dynamic, and one of the benefits when you improve liver function is actually a better mood. The liver is a major body organ that is constantly involved in multiple metabolic functions. When the liver is overloaded, as in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), many of these functions do not work optimally, affecting energy, mood, and feelings of pleasure and happiness. Having a “happy” liver really can contribute to feelings of well-being.

In those experiencing Adrenal Fatigue, stress can be especially overwhelming and can negatively affect the body considerably. Over time, adrenal function will decrease as the body’s nutritional reserves run low. At the same time, levels of toxins and metabolites increase due to a sluggish liver. The liver may be sluggish due to a concerted effort by the body to conserve energy and slow down the functioning of some organs, or the liver may simply be overwhelmed by the toxins and inflammatory compounds that accumulate when your body and adrenals lack the energy to deal with them properly.

Major Liver Functions

Your liver does an amazing number of functions simultaneously.

  • The liver produces three-quarters of the cholesterol required by your body. Cholesterol is then used for the production of hormones and bile.
  • Your liver can store as much as one liter of blood when there is extra blood in the system. This blood is then available for times of heavy exertion or blood loss.
  • The speed of metabolism in a healthy liver is demonstrated by its ability to metabolize up to 0.5 ounces of pure alcohol per hour (although doing this frequently is extremely unhealthy).
  • On average, the liver produces a quart of bile daily. This bile is needed for the neutralization of toxins and metabolism of fat.
  • The liver detoxifies excess hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, as well as breaking down drugs, undigested proteins, additives, and toxins.
  • Vitamin processing is another major task of the liver. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all absorbed in the liver, which also converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. When there are extra quantities of certain vitamins—such as A, B-12, D, K, and the mineral iron—the liver also stores them for later use.
  • Ammonia, a byproduct of all protein metabolism, is converted into urea by the liver, before being excreted through the kidneys as urine.
  • Glucose is synthesized in the liver, four ounces daily, on average.

Knowing When You Need to Improve Liver Function

Improve liver function by understanding the signals it puts out when it is stressed.An overstressed and underactive liver may not produce red flags on conventional medical tests measuring liver function. Even if there are indications of liver trouble, the results are often overlooked when they are only slightly above or below normal range. This is true for tests of adrenal and thyroid function as well.

Health practitioners using the NEM model of Adrenal Fatigue look for symptoms of adrenal and liver overload that are considered sub-clinical by other doctors. They use more detailed examinations of symptoms and tests that measure metabolic changes over the course of the day. Symptoms indicating a need to improve liver function include:

  • Digestive problems,
  • High levels of some hormones,
  • High cholesterol,
  • Skin conditions,
  • Sleep dysfunction,
  • Memory problems,
  • Thyroid irregularities,
  • Eyesight problems including blurriness,
  • Immune system problems,
  • Mood swings, depression, and having trouble feeling pleasure and happiness.

How Liver Detoxification Can Help AFS

The adrenals and liver work together to respond to stress and toxins of all kinds. As Adrenal Fatigue progresses, liver function lessens, resulting in a of decline of both systems. Recovery requires gentle and on-going support through changes in lifestyle, diet, nutritional supplementation, and modalities such as detoxification, when appropriate. It should be noted that when the body is completely overwhelmed—as is often the case in advanced Adrenal Fatigue—any attempt to detoxify the body risks a retoxification reaction, worsening the condition. Overcoming AFS involves treating the body as a whole and recognizing the central role played by the liver.

To improve liver function you must stop all sources of overload, including alcohol, cigarette smoke, caffeine and tannic acid, (both present in coffee and black tea), fried foods, hydrogenated oils, roasted nuts, and most animal protein. Refined and artificial sugars and refined food products, such as candy and pre-packaged foods, are also on the do-not-consume list. These foods stress the liver, where their components must be broken down.

Certain drugs and supplements can be harmful to the liver, especially during a period of detoxification. Iron supplements, also known as ferrous sulfate, contain an oxidant that can be abrasive to the liver in excess. The antibiotic tetracycline and some over-the-counter medications can also be stressful for the liver. Read package inserts, and if any medications you are taking have known negative side effects involving the liver, talk to your medical provider about possible alternative medications.

A healthy digestive system is also important to improving liver function. The liver needs to do something with the toxins and byproducts it is processing, and the bowels are an excellent way of disposing of this waste.

Eating generous amounts of high fiber foods and drinking lots of water are the best ways of moving the bowels regularly. Drinking adequate amounts of water is vital for liver health, and most people do not drink enough. On average, healthy men need about three liters of water every day. Women need about 2 liters. But, you may need considerably more than this, depending on health, exercise levels, and the climate where you live. To improve liver function, consider increasing the amount of water that you drink daily.

Improving Liver Function in AFS Recovery

Improve liver function by keeping your liver cleansed and healthy.Overcoming AFS involves seeing the body as a dynamic and interconnected set of anatomical structures and metabolic systems working together.

When the adrenals become exhausted, the functioning of the liver is also affected. If the liver is already stressed from years of toxic exposure to alcohol, prescription medications, poor diet, and lack of exercise, the additional strain from the adrenals reduces liver function even further.

If you improve liver function by eliminating sources of stress, eating liver-healthy foods, drinking adequate water, getting moderate exercise, and making wise use of dietary supplements, your adrenals and liver can work together to restore health and happiness.

Bear in mind that a body suffering from Adrenal Fatigue is weak. Overaggressive detoxification or fortification of the liver may actually make the condition worse. In addition, what works for one person may backfire for another person. Always be very careful and consult an AFS-literate practitioner.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


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At first I did not know I had Adrenal Fatigue. After many specialists’ visits, a friend suggested I may have Adrenal Fatigue. I was debilitated. Even my dear naturopathic doctor helped all she could, but I was drained completely! I am a dentist, and even my thriving practice started to suffer. I just couldn’t find the energy I used to have. At my lowest point, I would be in bed for nearly 15 hours straight. Even my little children were worried about me. After reading Dr. Lam’s website I knew this Doctor understood what I was going through.
 
Western medicine offered me nothing. Dr. Lam’s program was outstanding. I worked with him for 9 months. I hate to even think of how I felt before. I was skeptical at first when he said I would be able to start running again, all I could think is “I’ve heard that before.” Well, slowly but surely I came back, and just began running again. Even while I walk and run, I feel thankful for his knowledge. He saved my life, my practice and my family.
 
It is a slow recovery from my advanced stage of Adrenal Fatigue to be sure. But yes, I am now 100%, all thanks to his wonderful program. I am so happy. This doctor knows his stuff! I am so grateful to you, Dr. Lam. I can hardly find the words to thank you. If you are serious about healing, he can guide you there.




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3 Comments

  • Mrs Cheryl Nel says:

    Goodday Dr
    I certainly suffer from this problem and it is getting worse.I am constantly and have been for many years been under heavy stress situations…I am a very highly strung person and nobody seems to know how to treat it properly.Sleep is not good and I am constantly tired.Ikeep on drinkig all kind of vitamins but don’t feel better…Sleeping tablets all seem to have a negative effect on me…..I must mention that I do not get enough or any excersise or drink water regularly.Can this be most of my problems.I am just too tired to do anything…..Would love to hear your comment

  • Julie says:

    Dr. Lam, Thank you for this article. How can I know if symptoms I am having (occasional loose bowel movements, pressure/dull pain in upper right abdomen) are related to my liver and/or adrenal function and whether a detox as you have described is necessary?