When it comes to hormone balance, many factors may be involved such as stress, diet and age. However, did you know that your liver function also has an effect on your hormone levels? A healthy liver is necessary in regulating hormone levels in your blood system. (1)
Yes, your liver is responsible for that and more, which is just one of the many reasons you need to keep it functioning in a healthy and productive manner.
YOUR LIVER’S FUNCTION
First, let’s go over your liver’s main function, which is to play a central role in metabolizing the body’s energy. For instance, the liver is responsible for producing bile, which in turn is necessary in the breaking down and converting of fats to energy. There is also the regulation of blood sugar, which the liver does by either storing excess sugar energy as glycogen or releasing glycogen into the bloodstream when energy levels are low.
It is also responsible for converting dietary nutrients into materials your body can use, along with either converting toxins into usable substances or excreting them.
In short, your liver is a key component in producing your body’s energy and building materials from the foods you eat, along with safeguarding you from toxins by removing substances such as byproducts of alcohol and medications from your blood. (2)
YOUR LIVER, YOUR HEALTH
While a healthy liver does a wonderful job of keeping you strong and energetic, there are limits to what it can handle while remaining fully functional. For instance, when you consume conventional fruits and vegetables which contain pesticide residues, changes in metabolism and oxidative balance in the liver can occur.
And, since pesticide residue is hepatotoxic (damaging to liver cells), prolonged exposure to high amounts of them can cause worsening liver damage, and possibly liver cancer. (3, 4, 5)
There are also substances such as alcohol, which is commonly consumed in our society. However, as alcohol is broken down by the liver, a number of potentially dangerous byproducts are formed such as free radicals and acetaldehyde. Unfortunately, these factors contribute to progressive liver damage, especially for heavy drinkers, and can result in fibrosis, and ultimately cirrhosis of the liver.
Even worse is that being one of the largest organs in your body and with the capacity to regenerate itself (to a degree), liver damage may not be noticeable until it becomes extensive, which is often too late. (6)
HORMONE BALANCE AND YOUR LIVER
Your liver’s function is reliant not only on hormone balance maintained by the endocrine system, but by the liver itself. For instance, when endocrine production is intensified, the liver removes the excess hormones from the blood, deactivates them and excretes them.
However, your liver can only do so much, which means hormone levels can build in the blood once the liver reaches its maximum regulatory capacity. This overflow can then damage the liver function which further decreases its ability to eliminate excess blood hormones, which leads to still higher hormone levels in the blood. (7)
Another aspect of your liver’s ability to control hormone balance are other toxins it is responsible for filtering, such as environmental toxins (smog, water contaminants, etc.), pesticides and drug or alcohol byproducts. Simply put, when your liver is already working hard at removing these types of contaminants, it has less capacity left over to remove excess hormones, too.
And, while alcohol consumption changes hormone levels in both sexes, studies indicate that women are far more susceptible than men to alcoholic liver injury (ALI) than men. This however does not mean that men aren’t negatively affected, since studies also show that alcoholic men have an inability to maintain adequate hormone balance, and instead are prone to low testosterone levels along with elevated estrogen levels.
And, for both male and females, estrogen has shown to be a possible cofactor in ALI, which may also explain women’s greater susceptibility to it.
In fact, excess estrogens are also implicated in other types of liver problems, such as:
- In acute fatty liver during pregnancy, mitochondrial injury can occur
- Decreased oxidation of fatty acids
- Altered function of proteins and enzymes in mitochondrial uptake
- Ultrastructural changes such as mitochondrial enlargement
Altogether, this puts men and especially women at risk for ALI, cirrhosis, cancer and other complications related to liver damage and excessive blood hormones. (8)
TAKING CARE OF YOUR LIVER
While there are means of improving your liver’s function you should adapt a liver-friendly eating program, it is strongly advised that liver-damaging substances, including endocrine disrupters, be avoided in the first place.
These can include:
- Organic industrial solvents, such as dimethylformamide, tetrachloroethylene and chloroform
- Drugs and alcohol, including prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Synthetic fragrances, plastics and some packaged foods
- Phytoestrogens, such as from soy products (9, 10)
Keep in mind that urban, industrial and farming regions may contain concentrations of air and waterborne contaminants. Due to this, using a breathing mask along with filtering water, or avoiding these types of areas altogether, is advised.
So far as a liver-friendly eating program, you need to:
- Avoid alcohol and drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Avoid all trans fats and hydrogenated oils
- Stick to fats which contain balanced 3-6-9 fatty acids
- Avoid processed and added sugars
- Avoid conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and meats in favor of organically grown
- Avoid processed “white foods,” such as flour, rice and sugar
- Avoid grains
However, do include:
- Healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter)
- Fresh, wild-caught, cold water fish from low on the food chain
- Grass-fed/grass-finished meats (many “grass-fed” meats are fattened on grain after a life of grazing, which nullifies the healthy fat content)
- Plenty of fresh organic fruits and vegetables (11)
In other words, what is good for the rest of you is good for your liver!
YOUR LIVER, YOUR HEALTH
When it comes to your liver, it is the only one you have which makes taking care of this highly important digestive organ in your critical best interest. Yes, your liver does regenerate itself, though only to a degree, and long-term toxicity can tax it beyond its abilities to do so.
And, not only can this result in hormone imbalance, but hormone imbalance itself can lead to irreversible liver damage, making it a double-edged sword!
So, by avoiding alcohol, drugs, environmental toxins and endocrine disruptors, you can better care for the second largest organ in your body (your skin is the largest, by the way).
However, it isn’t easy to avoid pollutants in our modern world, especially when you consider that something so innocuous as a cash register receipt contains endocrine-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA). This means sticking to a liver-friendly eating program and cleansing your liver at regular intervals using such all-natural antioxidants as milk thistle, dandelion root and herbal enzymes.
By doing this, you can avoid the risk of complications from liver damage, including fibrosis, cirrhosis, poor management of blood hormone levels and cancer.
Again, you only have one liver, so take care of it!
It’s time to feel your best and live life to the fullest!