The liver is one of the most important organs after the heart. Being the largest internal organ in humans, the liver performs over 500 different functions.
- Fat metabolism – helps with your weight and cholesterol levels.
- Detoxification - fighting off infection, neutralising toxins.
- Filtering and storing blood – helps your energy levels and the ability to think and concentrate.
- Manufacturing essential proteins and hormones – necessary for a healthy immune system and controlling blood sugar and helping to clot the blood.
- Generating energy and keeping your metabolism rate.
What is a sluggish liver?
Natural therapists often use the term ‘sluggish liver’ to describe a situation in which your liver and gallbladder are not functioning as well as they could be. A sluggish liver has a huge impact on vitality and energy as well as the emotional aspect of a person, as the liver is associated with many important functions in maintaining our health.
Poor eating habits, prescription medication and toxins from pesticide, smoking, food preservatives etc can also be causes for a sluggish liver. Therefore, with our current modern lifestyle, a sluggish liver has become the norm not the exception.
So watch out for the signs and symptoms of sluggish liver, as it is an alarm to you that you need to do something to protect your liver, before it opens the gate to a wide range of more severe chronic health issues such as fatty liver, gallbladder diseases, immune system disorders, hormonal diseases and so on.
Sign # 1 Constant fatigue
Feeling of weakness, tiredness or chronic fatigue; these could be early signs of a liver problem. When the liver is overloaded with toxins, it needs to redirect most of the body’s energy to process said toxins immediately, thus automatically causing the body to compromise energy usually used for other task. If weakness and overall tiredness occurs with other related symptoms, prompt medical attention is recommended.
Sign # 2 Migraine and/or headache
There are many causes for headaches and migraines such as dehydration, high blood pressure, tension, brain tumour etc. However, if you suffer from an idiopathic headache - a headache that happens everyday for years, that is uncured - then this might be due to toxin overload due to a sluggish liver. Painkillers don’t address the root cause but only add to the problem, as a daily painkiller will accumulate more chemical toxins for the liver to process. So in the end, the headaches become more severe.
So the bottom line is: get a check-up to make sure there are no serious clinical underlying conditions, and then go for a detox or change your diet and lifestyle - these will definitely help the condition.
Sign # 3 Difficulty losing weight even though you’re dieting
A sluggish liver translates to a sluggish metabolism since the liver is unable to optimally process and utilise the protein, fat and carbohydrates you eat in food form. Fat metabolism is especially affected - a sure sign of this is the accumulation of abdominal fat with a typical ‘pot belly’.
The liver also has a relationship with the hormone insulin, which is very important when it comes to your metabolism. Most people with weight problems have an imbalance in their insulin levels and this makes it very hard for them to lose weight.
Sign #4 Sluggish liver equals sluggish bowel
Constipation, change of stool colour, fat in the stool (check out our stool infographic to understand changes in your stool) - could be the signs and symptoms of a sluggish liver. So if you’re going through some bowel issues, apart from loading up with fibre and water to get the bowel moving, you may also consider something that can support the deeper internal issue - namely your liver.
Sign #5 Sleeping disorder - a pattern of waking at night between 1 and 3am.
Based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine Meridian Clock theory, this is a classic symptom of those who have a weak QI in the liver. You might even feel irritable, agitated or even notice your heart rate is slightly higher at this time as well.
In short, the Meridian Clock theory indicates that each hour corresponds to each organ. So for instance the gallbladder’s ‘hours’ are between 11pm to 1am, while the liver’s is between 1am to 3am. Which means those hours are the optimal time for these organs to repair; processing waste and cleansing the blood.
So if you’re able to get to sleep at this hour, the gallbladder and liver will be able to work at the optimal levels as all the energy will channel itself to doing a good job. However, if you have a sleeping disorder, specifically during these hours, it might mean that there is something going on in your liver according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Sign #6 Itchy or Over Sensitive Skin
Early signs of liver problems may occur within the skin. This could mean an itchy skin area that progressively gets worse over time leading to urticaria, eczema, psoriasis, acne etc. The skin is the largest organ in our body. Primarily we should clear our toxins through our bowel movement, urine, as well as being detoxed through the liver. However, if our liver is overloaded and cannot handle the toxin, then as a survival mechanism, these toxins will be expelled through our skin, in order words, some skin conditions are a sign of either toxin overload or immune system disorder (allergy).
Sign #7 Emotional – lots of anger
Although the mind/body connection has been acknowledged only recently in Western medicine, the interaction of emotions with the physical body is an essential aspect of Traditional Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, most organs are connected to an emotion, and your liver is the organ connected to anger. The toxic overload in the liver, according to Chinese medicine, leads to anger problems and to people who have problems controlling or letting go of their anger.
Sign #8 Hormone imbalance
The relationship between the liver and hormones is an interesting one. The liver does not make hormones itself, as these are made in the many different glands in the body and not many people associate their liver with their hormones. The truth is that the liver plays a significant role in hormonal imbalances because the liver breaks down or metabolises the hormones once they have done their work in the body. If the liver is not efficient at breaking down these hormones they can accumulate in the body and cause hormonal imbalances.
5 quick tips to promote the healing of your liver
Reduce the toxic load as much as you can: alcohol, preservative, dyes, pesticides, heavy metal in large fish, coffee, processed foods with chemical additives and flour, sugar and fructose products.
Eating habit overhaul
Change your eating habits to whole, fresh and healthy food, eliminate processed foods - check out our 21 day healthy eating plan. Drinking green juices is great for detox and boosting liver function.
Sleeping is important for liver repair, so try to get to bed at 10pm, as you should go into deep sleep (REM) by 11pm. Your liver can then collect toxins and start the detoxing at the optimal level.
Give your liver the support it needs to strengthen and encourage its detoxification function with specific nutrients like B vitamins, amino acids such as glycine, taurine and methionine and herbs like milk thistle, dandelion and artichoke.
Exercise to improve blood flow to and through the liver which promotes detoxification of the liver itself. Stretching and yoga help to break up the physical tension patterns that develop between the liver and the shoulder, ribcage or neck.
- Sandra Cabot, MD, https://www.liverdoctor.com/liver-affect-your-hormones-and-your-weight/