The liver is arguably one of the most important organs in our body, coming in after the heart and the lungs. It is in charge of detoxifying the rest of our body from toxins we ingest from our environment, and is continuously fighting to purify our blood and helping our metabolism digest our food. In Ayurveda, the liver is translated as our Pitta, or metabolism, and is in charge of breaking down and assimilating our food. In this article, we will go over some of the main roles the liver plays in the body and how we can better promote liver health.
Detoxification When we eat, the digestive tract breaks down the food into tiny bits of energy that pass into the bloodstream and into the plasma (rasa dhatsu). This nourishing fluid then travels to the liver where it is further refined from unwanted toxins such as prescription and recreational drugs and alcohol.
Synthesizes Protein The liver is the primary place where proteins are metabolized, synthesized, and degraded. Proteins make up most of our body tissue but are especially important when it comes to building muscle tissue. This is why having a weak liver may result in lower muscle tissue and physical weakness.
Digestion The liver is an essential organ in the process of digestion; it breaks down complex carbs, fats and proteins and changes it to molecules the body can use such as glucose and cholesterol. The liver is also responsible for storing and distributing our body’s main source of energy-glycogen.
Bile Production Bile is manufactured in the liver and then stored in the gallbladder, where it is secreted into the small intestine when the body needs it to break down food as it is digested. In Ayurveda, Pitta can be translated as bile.
And more… On top of all this, the liver is also responsible for producing important hormones, metabolism of fat, regulating the body’s PH levels, “cleaning” out red blood cells, and regulates blood pressure and volume.
According to Ayurveda, the liver is seen as a Pitta (fire and water) organ that is the seat of our Agni, or digestive fire. Agni is our metabolism, and serves as a vehicle of transformation as food enters the system and is metabolized into energy our bodies can use. The liver is also the seat of emotions. Just like it does with food, the liver plays an important role of digesting emotions. It is especially tied with feelings of anger, resentment, envy, irritability, frustration, and impatience. These are all emotions of an imbalanced Pitta! However, a balanced Pitta in a healthy liver is associated with courage, confidence, satisfaction, and other positive emotions. You can discover a lot about the health of your liver by the expression of emotion. Pent up anger and resentment can damage the liver over a long period of time, so it is important to find healthy ways to manage negative emotions before they impact our health. The liver is no doubt critical for our overall health. Here are a few ways we can help keep a healthy liver:
Follow a Pitta-pacifying diet Since the liver is intimately connected with our digestion, the foods we eat have a profound affect on the health of the liver. Pitta thrives on a cooling diet that emphasizes sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Bitter tasting foods such as leafy greens and dandelion greens are especially good for the liver because of its cooling and cleansing properties. Raw vegetables and fruits are wonderful to pacify Pitta.
Detoxing While detoxing the liver, it is crucial to cut out refined sugars, oils, fats, and other toxins that are hard for the liver to break down. Additional toxins such as cigarettes and alcohol are extremely taxing on our liver, so it is important to stay away from them during a detox. Drinking plenty of water helps the liver flush out toxins, and you can get an extra boost of vitamin C by adding some lemon to your water.
Routine Having a routine helps balance out negative emotions and regulates stress levels. In all of Ayurveda, having a consistent schedule is recommended to help the body find harmony in a natural rhythm. A Pitta- pacifying routine is especially beneficial for liver health. Staying cool in the summertime by waking up early, drinking water, and eating cool foods helps sooth Pitta.
Tending to your Emotions Often times when there are negative emotions that come up in life, we have the tendency to push them aside to “deal with them later”. Most times this is a subconscious habit that leads to bottled up emotions, which sit in our liver and stagnate. By tending to you emotions when they first arise, you can avoid health issues surrounding the liver.
Herbs There are many herbal remedies that help support the liver in Ayurveda; most of them carry a bitter taste. Bhumyamalaki is a light, dry, bitter herb that is deeply pacifying to Pitta when there’s excess heat. It also helps strengthen the liver and gallbladder. Kutki is another herb that is wonderful for supporting a healthy flow of bile, and is balancing to both Pitta and Kapha. Some more beneficial herds are: Turmeric, Triphala, Chyavanprash, and Guduchi.
The liver is an incredible organ in charge of some of the most important tasks in the body. They are the seat of our digestive fire, many emotions, and help us assimilate nutrients. Our livers, when balanced, radiate vibrant health throughout the rest of our bodies. The liver is endlessly detoxifying and purifying our blood, while producing hormones, storing emotions, regulating glycogen storage, protecting our bodies from any impurities. The liver has an amazing ability to heal and rejuvenate itself, but we must give it the periodic rest it deserves. Loving your liver and taking care of it has the potential to positively impact your overall health, vitality, and longevity for years to come.
Many Blessings, Santa Cruz Ayurveda
Resources Mischke, Melody. Love your Liver: An Ayurvedic Guide to Fostering Liver Health. Banyan Botanics.com. Web. July 31st, 2017.