Your Liver and Hormones
One of my teachers in medical school said, “The liver is one of the most underrated organs of the body” and he couldn’t have been more correct! The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself, and performs over 500 different functions, including fighting off infection, neutralizing toxins, manufacturing proteins and hormones, controlling blood sugar, and helping clot the blood.*
Blood tests revealing an elevated AST or ALT can indicate liver dysfunction, in which more tests and imaging may be required to make a diagnosis. However, optimizing liver function may be a necessary step in your journey to wellness even in if liver enzymes are within normal limits.
So how does it pertain to your hormonal health? The liver uses two phases of detox pathways to metabolize hormones so your body can get rid of them. Phase I converts substances into a less harmful chemical, and is also the main pathway for estrogen hormones. Estrogen gets broken down into two metabolites,- one weak, one potent. If the conversion process favors the potent one, then it may potentially contribute to estrogen-sensitive cancers, and fibroids. Phase II, known as conjugation, combines hormones and other toxins with certain groups to make them more water-soluble and effectively excreted.
In addition to detox pathways and hormonal health, the liver also produces Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), a protein involved in transport of sex hormones. SHBG inactivates hormone production if levels are too high, however, it is more attracted to testosterone than estrogen, and potentially lead to further imbalance.
Here’s how you can help support your liver in it’s 500+ jobs:
-Limit alcohol intake – alcohol places extra burden on the liver because it competes with glutathione, a critical antioxidant needed for metabolizing estrogen.
-Support phase 1- nutrients such as vitamins C and E help protect against free radicals that may be present before conversion by phase II. Foods such as sunflower seeds, cooked spinach, citrus fruit, strawberries, brussels sprouts and almonds are great sources of these nutrients
-Support phase 2- processes such as methylation, sulfation, glucuronidation, and glutathione conjugation require nutrients present in foods such as animal products, egg yolks, garlic, avocado, walnuts, and green leafy vegetables.
-Avoid processed foods- the liver already has a lot to process, no need to further clog our precious systems.
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