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What's Your Liver Got To Do With It?


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In some foreign countries the liver is deemed so important to health that the groom promises his liver to his bride as opposed to his heart. In fact, in most places outside the US, the liver is considered critically important to good health, and natural liver therapy abounds to maintain this critical organ. Could it be that we might learn a thing or two regarding the relationship between the liver and good health?

The liver is literally the body's filter. It makes sure that everything we need is absorbed, and everything that we don't need gets dumped. Just a few of its major jobs are:

  • Accesses the energy we need from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

  • Stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars.

  • Filters the blood, removing all kinds of harmful substances.

  • Metabolizes, helps utilize, and eliminates excess hormones.

  • Creates substances that enhance our immune system (like gamma globulin).

  • Stores extra blood for emergencies.

  • Helps maintain our electrolyte and water balance.

  • Helps us utilize fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, F, and K).

  • Creates bile, which breaks down fats.

Bile and Your Health

The bile produced by our liver is stored in the gallbladder, then excreted into the intestines to break down fats. At any given moment in the US, it is estimated that 20 million people are suffering from gallstones. A great percentage of these people develop stones due to bile stagnation, a bile that has become too thick, or liver damage from drugs, alcohol, birth control pills, and prescription drugs that cause the bile to become stagnated.

Stagnant bile results in poor skin tone, acne, poor blood clotting, poor vision, an upset antioxidant system in the body, immune dysfunction, and a liver that holds onto toxic chemicals that would normally be cycled out of the body in the bile.

Many of the ancients recognized these facts, and herbs were routinely used to keep the bile running smoothly. They knew that when the bile is stagnant, sadness and disharmony can result. In fact the word "melancholy" comes from the Greek melanos (black) and chole (bile)--or "black bile."

Ancient Healing

Both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine relate anger with poor liver and gallbladder function. Someone who is chronically angry would be prescribed liver therapy to open, cleanse, and cool the liver and bile.

Ancient healers held that the liver and bile flow are critical to healthy, normal appetite. When the bile does not flow smoothly, loss of appetite and a bitter taste in the mouth result. Fat-soluble vitamins can not be used in these cases, and immune weakness and dysfunction can result.

The ancients were also convinced that too much or too little bleeding during menstruation was related to poor liver function. It was felt that the liver's function of storing and releasing blood was interfered with in such cases.

Finally, these healers of the past also felt that the liver "ruled" the tendons and is manifested in the health of our nails. Sore joints and weak, brittle nails were often attributed to poor liver health.

Modern Health Concepts

In today's drugs-and-surgery approach to health care, the old concepts related to liver health are all but forgotten. In the holistic camp however, the liver is paid close attention. The following is a little quiz to help you judge the health of your liver. If you answer yes to five or more of the following questions, it's important that you pay more attention to liver health.


1. You suffer from dry, brittle nails and/or chronically painful joints.

2. You have persistent skin problems (especially psoriasis).

3. You have a habitual bitter taste in your mouth.

4. You have constant dry eyes (which are not caused by prescription drugs).

5. You have menstrual problems.

6. You have chronic indigestion when eating fatty foods.

7. You have burning feet.

8. You often have a generalized queazy feeling.

9. Your stools are perpetually light-colored.

10. You have periodic bad dreams or nightmares.

11. You have a history of gallbladder attacks or gallstones.

If the above represents you, it may be time to start rehabilitating your liver and gallbladder.

Natural Liver Therapy

An old-time professor in one of the medical schools used to tell his students not to be telephone poles along a patient's path toward good health. The story behind this advice is the path from disease to health can be compared to a walk down a sidewalk --blindfolded. Your innate intelligence knows the way and guides you. Your only dangerous obstacles are telephone poles. In some cases, you bang into one more than once as you attempt to proceed toward your goal. Hence the advice, "Don't be a telephone pole."

There is a concept of healing called "retracing" that many of today's medical doctors don't understand. However, the old-time healers knew that the path to recovery is often in stages, especially for those with long-term chronic illness. When undergoing a true cure, the symptoms and stages of a disease peel off like an onion with the most recent symptoms disappearing first until you get to the core of the problem. Often you must revisit symptoms you have not experienced in years. After returning to fight one last battle with your immune system, these symptoms disappear for good.

Another concept of healing is called the Herxheimer reaction. It occurs when our body is killing and throwing off microbes (bacteria, viruses, yeasts, etc.) in larger amounts than our organs of elimination (kidneys, bowels, etc.) can handle. This phenomenon is a good sign that something is being accomplished in the body. However, the symptoms of this reaction can be quite severe depending on the toxicity. These flu-like symptoms can include rash, aches, pains, fever, diarrhea, constipation, exhaustion, and headache, usually occurring on the last few days of a three week detoxification. So it's important to plan a liver cleansing to end on a day or days when you can take off work if necessary. Do not take the liver system and its detoxification lightly.

The answer to a Herxheimer reaction is to go slowly. If the dose calls for 9 daily, start with one for a day or two to test the state of your liver. If things go well, build up to the full dose. If you begin to have a reaction, slow down your treatment, whether it be nutrients or whatever, while increasing your body's ability to throw off toxins and dead microbes. This means more pure water, some fiber to increase bowel function, some light exercise, and plenty of rest.

Liver Detoxification

One of the liver's hundreds of jobs is to filter toxins from the body and release them via the bowels or kidneys. When the liver becomes overloaded, it can no longer keep the body free from toxins, and we will absorb, reabsorb, and have toxic chemicals circulating in our blood. The effects of this can be so slow and cumulative that we can easily mistake them for poor health or diseases that develop over time.

Nothing can demonstrate the reality of retracing or Herxheimer reaction like a liver detoxification program. Being a self-detoxifying organ, once the liver is encouraged to discharge the stored toxins and cleanse itself, a remarkable thing can happen. Both retracing and Herxheimer can occur. The symptoms or diseases that plague us can become much worse for a short time during the detoxification. And problems and symptoms that we never dreamed could come from the liver will show up and be exaggerated.

The remarkable thing about the retracing phenomenon when it comes to liver detoxification is that some or even most of the "diseases" we have had were not diseases at all. Rather, they were auto-intoxication or self-poisoning from a toxic and congested liver.

Another remarkable thing about discovering that our "diseases" were really caused by toxins is the shock over the folly of treating these diseases and symptoms with drugs and medicines. In fact, in most cases of this type of disease, the treatment with drugs only makes the situation worse by adding more toxins to the mix. If these cannot be released from the body, they too will have to be detoxified at some time in the future. We may need to detoxify our liver two, three, or even four times depending on how toxic it is.

Tissue (Cell) Salts

For an overview of Cell Salts go to How to Detect Mineral Deficiencies.

When the liver is detoxifying, it needs water to flush toxins out of the body.  Nat Mur is the cell salt that makes water work.

When toxins are present, they create an acid imbalance.  Nat Phos is the cell salt that neutralizes acid within the body.

One would imagine that in all cases of herxheimer and retracing, these two cell salts would be invaluable.


Beets and Other Therapies

The best way to start is with beets, preferably organically grown. Beets and beet tops are the richest source of betaine, a natural liver detoxifier and bile thinner. Use chopped or shredded raw beets combined with a little raw flax oil and lemon juice daily. It's easy to include whole beets in our diet. They can be baked, roasted, grated raw in salad, or juiced with other vegetables.

To get a jump start, Dr. Bruce West from Health Alert recommends 2-3 AF Betafood tablets per meal for three to nine months. This product is a concentration of the liver detoxifiers and bile thinners from beets. For any of the symptoms associated with sluggish bile, this product can be a miracle. A surgeon friend of his from New Orleans testified that he performs less than 10% of the gallbladder surgeries he once did now that he prescribes AF Betafood.

If you have the type of liver problems related to joint pains, arthritis, and tendon problems, he uses 2-6 Betacol, tablets daily and claims fantastic results. Betacol is a strong liver detoxifier which also contains the Wulzen Factor (the anti-stiffness factor) from cane juice.

Arthritics have a toxic liver and often suffer from constipation. Guanidine resulting from this scenario ends up being stored in the liver. Guanidine is the most alkaline substance known. When it is released into the bloodstream from a toxic and overloaded liver, the end result is calcium deposits in the joints and resultant osteoarthritis.

Betacol helps correct this chain of events. And it can be very powerful. With some folks, when the liver is highly toxic, less than one capsule a day can be tolerated. That is because Betacol is an efficient liver detoxifier, and the body cannot tolerate too many poisons being released from the liver in a short time. If that's the case, you may want to use half a capsule and slowly work up to 3-6 capsules daily. In addition, try using AF Betafood in conjunction with Betacol to keep the bile thin and facilitate the release of toxins from the liver.

A tablespoon of raw flax oil when combined with AF Betafood and Betacol is often very helpful. In some instances, he uses a tablespoon of flax oil and 6 Livaplex tablets daily (especially with people who have a liver problem manifesting itself in the skin). Livaplex is a combination of the products discussed along with other nutrients. All products except flax oil are produced by Standard Process Labs.

Coffee Enemas

Coffee enemas are one of the therapies that the doctors like to scoff at most. Perhaps they do not remember when coffee enemas were an accepted medical remedy noted in the Merck Manual (the medical standard). Regardless of the ridicule heaped on this procedure, coffee enemas remain a powerful means to detoxify the liver.

In brief, coffee is brewed and cooled. It is then introduced to the lower bowel via a one-quart enema. The fluid is retained for 15 minutes (or as long as possible). The chemistry of the coffee results in its being transmitted directly to the liver, inducing a detoxifying purge. Poisons are dumped into the intestines for elimination with the stools.

Caution should be used with coffee enemas. If you have bowel or heart problems, check with your doctor before using them. For most people a coffee enema daily for ten days, followed by one per week for six weeks provides a good liver purge. As usual, liver therapies can be enhanced when utilized in combination with one another.


Milk thistle extract is the most effective herbal preparation for enhanced liver health. And some practitioners have found that milk thistle seed extract can be very helpful in psoriasis cases. This herb is used extensively in Europe, and provides psoriasis help in about half the cases. When combined with the other therapies discussed, results are superior.

The liver is a lifesaver but it can also be the source of your problems if you do not treat it well. I hope this information helps guide you toward better health if you liver is indeed the source of your health concerns.


Hobbs, Christopher, Natural Liver Therapy, Botanica Press, Box 742, Capitola, CA 95010

"Silymarin Reduces HyperinsuIinemia, Malondialdehyde Levels and Daily Insulin Need in Cirrhotic Diabetic Patients", Velussi, M., et al, Current Therapeutic Research, May 1993;53(5):533-545.

"Liver, Gallbladder Cleanse", Health Alert, Vol.8, No.1.

"The Liver in Sickness and Disease", Natural Fitness Newsletter, Vol.3, No.12.


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