How to Holistically Care for Your Liver
It is the quiet warrior that keeps our blood clean. It is the noble worker that transforms the substances we imbibe, from foods and liquids to environmental toxins and pharmaceuticals. It is the champion that metabolizes nutrients, stores energy, and even aids in digestion of emotions and experiences.
It is the liver. An essential organ, the liver works around-the-clock for us. The largest internal organ, it is rather easy to overlook. That is because when it is working healthily and efficiently, it is quiet and begs for no attention. That is not to say that we should take this hero for granted. “Our precious liver only has a limited capacity,” Sarah Teeple, an Ayurvedic wellness counselor, holistic nutritionist, and founder of Teeple Holistic, tells us. Modern times exposes us, and therefore our livers, “to much larger amounts of toxins than they were 5000 years ago” when Ayurveda was created, Teeple continues. There is a seemingly ever-increasing influx of stressors, potential health invaders, and poor-quality foods.
Known in Ayurveda as a hot organ, the liver is directly connected to the body’s fat storage, pH level maintenance, and blood pressure regulation. The liver provides a home for the bhuta agnis, which, as Wellness Minneapolis Ayurvedic practitioner Vanashree Belgamwar tells us, “are responsible for transforming our food into biologically useful substances.” The digestive process breaks food down into its most basic form—the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether—and converts these elements into a form that the body can use. Furthermore, the liver is also connected to various subtypes of the Pitta dosha, says Belgamwar.
When the liver’s function and health declines, either in the form of inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis or other ailments, it can have immediate negative (and potentially fatal) effects on the rest of our bodily systems. For these reasons—and many more—it is critical to support the liver's optimal function.
As we’ve unveiled our UMA Ultimate Ayurveda Kit that includes a liver cleanser, we looked to Teeple and Balgamwar for their insight into how we can best honor this diligent, hardworking organ.
Cool the Fire
The liver is an organ associated with the Pitta dosha. (“The is the seat of bile which is characterized by fire, pitta” writes Dr. Vasant Lad.) This means that the liver works especially hard during Pitta times of day, which are between 10 am and 2pm, and 10pm and 2am, Teeple who uses the tenets of Ayurveda to help her clients find balance and vitality at her Louisville, Kentucky-based practice, tell us. To maintain balance and support this Pitta organ, it is important to eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables, both raw, and cooked. Give particular attention to cooling green vegetables, advises Teeple, like cucumber, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, sprouts, lettuces, and bitter greens like various kales, collard greens, chard, and dandelion greens. Cooling fruits, including melon, plums, blueberries, pears, and any apples accept sour green apples, are also beneficial for the liver. Also, “adding pitta-pacifying spices and garnishes such as ground coriander, fresh cilantro, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint, and lemon or lime juice can help,” says Belgamwar.
Avoid Aggravating Foods
Just as it is important to consume cooling nourishing foods, it is as important to avoid aggravating, taxing foods like those that are deep fried, or made with excessive processed oils and fats. “Ghee is the best oil for the liver,” says Belgamwar. In tandem with this, Teeple suggests to also steer clear of anything made with processed sugars, and excess alcohol (ideally no more than three to four drinks per week) and caffeine. For the coffee lover, there are some alternatives that provide the same pleasing ritual. Teeple loves the dandelion root beverage, Dandy Blend, an organic mixture of dandelion root and chicory root, and Rasa Koffee, “which contains lots of wonderful adaptogenic herbs.”
There isn’t enough that can be said for the balance-obtaining, health-unlocking potential of Ayurvedic herbs and adaptogens—and this goes for how they can support the liver. Various herbs can help to cleanse this organ, which we include in our UMA liver cleanser, Love Thy Liver. Other herbs can help to pacify excess Pitta, Teeple says, including Guduchi, Amalaki, Manjista, and Neem. As always, when embarking on any new herbal protocol, it is best to do so with caution and under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic counselor or practitioner.
One of the Pitta subtypes connected to the liver is Sadhaka Pitta, explains Belgamwar. This is located in the brain and in the heart, giving reason why there is a “powerful connection between certain emotions and the liver,” she continues. For this reason, it is essential to support the liver by regularly expressing how you feel. “So, express your feelings, whether to a trusted friend, counselor, or even in a journal,” says Teeple. “This can be very healing to the liver, and in turn, the rest of the body, as well Because it's all connected.”
This goes for all emotions—including anger, which Teeple says many women tend to “keep bottled up.” The same goes for "hotter" pitta emotions like rage, frustration, and competitiveness. These are often “suppressed by women, because they are seen as inappropriate in our misogynist culture, but you need to let out these feelings or they can and will cause mental and physical health problems.”
Look to the Breath
Sheetali pranayama, also known as cooling breath, is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that can help to rid the body of excess heat, thus balancing excess Pitta. There are “physical, mental, and emotional cooling benefits of this simple and effective breath practice,” says Teeple, who walks us through the easy practice:
“Sit in a comfortable position and set your timer for three to five minutes. Close your eyes, and slowly inhale through your mouth, through a rolled tongue (I call it the burrito tongue) if you are able to. Then close the mouth and exhale slowly through the nostrils. (If you can't do the burrito tongue, that's OK! My tongue doesn't like to bend that way either. Instead, just relax your tongue and let the tip stick out of your mouth slightly, so that you can feel the cool air pass over it with every inhale. Then exhale through the nose, just as instructed above.) Continue for three to five minutes, starting with three and working your way up to five over the course of a few days.”
These holistic practices offered by Teeple, coupled with our liver cleanser supplement (which we unpack below), offer accessible ways to fully support the liver’s optimal function, helping to promote vital overall health and wellbeing.
To learn more about Sarah Teeple and her practice, Teeple Holistic, visit sarahteeple.com.
To learn more about Vanashree Belgamwar, visit: www.wellnessminneapolis.com.UMA products are not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, or affect the structure or function of the body. The information herein does not constitute medical advice. Anyone suffering from a medical condition should consult with a physician. User reviews do not constitute a guarantee that you will achieve the same results -- what works for one may not work for another.