Does Your Liver Need a Rest?

Liver, the unglamorous liver!

 It’s not a “sexy” organ like the heart. It doesn’t have exercises around it like breathing exercises for the lungs. It doesn’t even seem to really affect us, since we don’t get “liver stones”, or liver pain. So why should we worry about the liver?

Many of us know that the liver is the “filter” of your body. We also may have heard that it has a lot of important functions. I can almost hear “so what” as a response. I am here to tell you, that it plays a very important role in how you feel on a day to day basis. It can even affect how and where you carry your weight.

Your liver is hard working. It has in excess of 500 functions. Unfortunately, they are all boring sounding functions, such as:

—filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, going to the rest of the body,
—produce digestive bile to allow your body to digest it’s food
—filter the toxins that enter the blood stream.
—metabolize or detoxify all the drugs
—make proteins needed to allow for blood clotting
—store vitamins, minerals and glycogen
— prevent the blood vessels from becoming “leaky”, by producing albumin.

These are probably the least exciting functions of the body, they go on without us paying any attention, nor caring; until something goes wrong.

Keep in mind, that in our society, the liver is already overworked with all the toxins it has to filter, the bile it needs to produce because of our excessive eating. When it can’t keep up, it stores the toxins it can’t do anything with inside fat cells. Why do you care about that? Well, the more toxins your liver has to deal with, the more fat cells you need to protect your body from these toxin.

Add the holiday season excess!

The holiday season is upon us, with all the feasting of holiday dinners, office parties, cookie exchanges and just all over seasonal eating. Add the seasonal drinks at the local coffee shops and you have a recipe for liver overwhelm. Your body needs to process all that extra food, extra sugar, and even the waste products that come from all that processing. It really is a lot to ask of your liver.

When your liver is already overworked, and you add more work for it, it reminds me of the I Love Lucy show where she and Ethel are working at the Chocolate Factory, and can’t keep up with the conveyer belt. Your poor liver is trying it’s best to keep up, but it gets further and further behind, so it resorts to crazy things, like stuffing toxins into the nearest fat cell. Then the work it does do, it doesn’t do as well. So toxins slip by, chemicals don’t get metabolized, and vitamins may not get stored. It seems to me to be a recipe for disaster.

Is this your liver?

What can I do?

There are so many ideas about how to support the liver, and very good ones. However, sometimes I think the obvious and easy things get overlooked. Why not just slow down the conveyer belt? Better yet, turn it off for a while and let it rest.

You ask: “What are you saying?"

I am saying, try not eating for some amount of time.

“Are you suggesting I FAST?"

Yep, it’s the “F” word, isn’t it? Actually, I am suggesting you let your liver rest for a bit. If not eating for part of a day, a full day, or a couple days is possible, I suggest you give it a try.

“I heard fasting isn’t good for you!”

Fasting is a controversial subject, which is why I call it the “F” word, that and many people think it sounds like a horrible thing.

Let’s just call it skipping a meal, and not having snacks. Try this, try skipping dinner or breakfast for one day. If you get hungry, drink some water. It’s amazing that a glass of water makes your hunger pains go away for a while. If they come back, have another glass of water.  If you try that and find that you can survive that, try skipping both breakfast and dinner. Just once. See how that works for you.

How do I do it?

Just do something else instead of fixing and eating a meal. Does that sound too easy? Just think of the extra time you will have, let alone the headspace of not having to decide what to eat, why, when and what others will think. No battle of whether or not to have a “carb” or a 
“protien”. You really get a break from all of it.

You can try eating lunch one day, then not eating again until lunch the next day.  You will have gone almost 24 hours without eating, but eaten both days.  You will have skipped two meals, and probably not missed either one...much.  To me, this is the easy way to get some good liver downtime without feeling deprived.

What if I get hungry?

This is the best part of skipping meals, you actually get to feel what hunger truly feels like.  Often time we eat out of many reasons besides being hungry.  So I suggest you drink a glass of water and see that those hunger feeling will subside for a while.  If  you get hungry again, have more water.  You could also decide to have bone broth during your non-eating times, it depends on how you want to do it.  I should note that drinking water and not eating will cause you to take a few extra trips to the bathroom; that's not a bad thing!

This is not something you need to do on a daily basis!

The idea of “intermittent fasting” is sort of a complex issue. It’s kind of a trend now, and people like to make lots of rules to follow. Standard rules for everyone is just not logical, because everyone’s life is different.

I like things simple. If the conveyer belt is backed up, turn it off for a bit. Even better, slow it down by giving it less to deal with. If you turn it up, just remember, your liver will get exhausted and backed up, and Lucy and Ethel will have to start shoving chocolate into their hats again. Then you will have to turn it off again until it can get caught up again. So my idea is to just keep in mind what and how much you have eaten. Try to keep your meals moderate. In times of excess, have a day off or a couple meals off of eating. Just rest that liver for a day or two.

What if I feel I can’t do it?

Why not?

I honestly know people who are ravishingly hungry every three hours, because they work out every single day for two hours. However, even they have a day off, and could skip a snack. The serious ones already do that.

However, if you just enjoy eating three meals, (and for some, also two snacks a day), but don’t really use it all up with heavy exercise, I suggest you consider what your liver is having to do all day long without a rest. Even with the exercise, it’s still a lot of work for the liver.

How about the rest of my family?

You know I would love them to join you, but I also know most of those family members will revolt until they see your health revive. So this is when you use your creativity and do something like order a pizza, but go for a walk while they eat it. Better would be to make a large crock pot meal that you can eat the next day, and not feel like you missed out on something.

Won’t I be exhausted?

People are always surprised when I say you will actually have more energy. We forget that when we eat, our blood flows to our digestive tract, with less blood flow to other parts of our bodies. Digestion takes a tremendous amount of energy. When we are relieved of this duty, our blood is free to send the oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, proving energy to all our functioning cells. Or, as in our Lucille Ball clip, Lucy and Ethel have time to wrap each chocolate individually. Maybe chocolate wasn’t such a great visual for us.

Won’t this release toxins stored in my fat cells?

Yes, it will. That is why you will want to start slow, and eat as clean as you can around a fast day. Having said that, if you slow the work your liver is required to do, it will be capable of dealing effectively with those toxins, to eliminate them from the body.

Should you work on your detox pathways? Always, but this will actually help clear up some of those pathways, by reducing the backlog of the overworked liver.

Will it help me lose weight?

Let me put it this way: if you restrict your food intake 200 calories a day, it will take you 8 days to reduce your intake by 1600 calories. If you eliminate your intake for an entire day, you will have eliminated at least that in a single day. This is not the reason for me bringing this subject up, it is also not something that I suggest you do without common sense.

Common sense warning!

Luckily, I believe our bodies tell us when we have restricted ourselves too much, but there is sometimes the one person that gets carried away with things. Don’t do this if you have had issues with anorexia or bulimia.  I don't take this lightly, and I know there are people that can be sent into anorexia, but they know who they are.  Don't feel the need to do this at all if you are one of them.  This is a suggestion for people who don't have these issues!

What if I fail?

Is it failure? Did you plan on not eating for the day, but threw in the towel at dinner? Then weren’t you successful for two entire meals? This isn’t a goal of achievement, it’s a goal of supporting your liver. Always remember the reason for what you are doing. You want to support your liver, so it can support your health. Trust me, your liver will be very happy for any break you can give it.

 

This is not a substitute for eating healthy!

In my much younger days, my idea of a balanced diet was to not eat all day, then go out to eating and drinking (in a very unhealthy way). That is not a balance, that is just unhealthy. It’s like diet Coke and a hot fudge sundae. The long term goal of supporting the liver needs to come from eating healthy. There are just seasons where sometimes excess is expected and hard to resist. Also, some of us don’t realize that some of our daily eating is actually excess. Sometimes doing without will allow you to realize how little you actually need, and how much better you can feel without overloading your body with excess.

I’m here to support you!

My goal is to support you in establishing better habits to support your health. I want to help you sift through the controversies and the “research” and the recommendations and find what actually works for you, to improve your health.

As always, if you know someone who you believe could benefit from the information, please feel free to share it with them.

To your health!

Patti Bealer