From the perspective of Western medicine, the liver produces and secretes bile, using it to break down and digest fatty acids. It produces blood-clotting factors and at the same time creates protective elements that keep blood clots from blocking the circulatory system.
It also converts sugar into glycogen and stores it for use by the muscles in the form of glucose energy. Additionally, the liver synthesizes proteins and cholesterol, and it’s the place where your body stores valuable trace elements such as iron, copper and Vitamins A, D, and B12.
The liver in ayurvedic wisdom
In Ayurveda, the liver is known as the “seat,” or home, of Pitta dosha—the fiery mind-body element associated with metabolism. Every day, your liver helps your body to digest, metabolize, and manufacture essential compounds.
For instance, the liver is responsible for converting clear plasma (Rasa Dhatu) to blood (Rakta Dhatu). It is the liver's job to scan and identify toxins in the Rasa Dhatu and store them so they don't enter the blood. This maintains the purity of the blood by keeping ama, or impurities, from mixing with it.
The liver-cholesterol connection
“A full 80% of the cholesterol in your body doesn't come from the food you eat. It's produced in your liver,” says Toomey. “That’s why supporting liver health is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against bad cholesterol — the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that carries cholesterol into your bloodstream and in excess can lead to clogged arteries.”
The Maharishi Ayurveda approach focuses on balancing the liver through herbs, diet and lifestyle changes. When your liver is in balance, it produces more of the good kind of cholesterol — (HDL) or high-density lipoprotein, which carries LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream. This helps protect the arteries from buildup.
Says Toomey, “how much ‘good’ and how much ‘bad’ cholesterol your body produces depends on one thing: how well your body metabolizes fats.”
Liver health and your skin
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, because the liver is the seat of Pitta dosha, you might start to notice some heat-related skin problems when your liver goes out of balance. Let's look at the subtle functions of the liver to understand clearly what can go wrong.
The liver is composed of five bhuta agnis—digestive fires that correspond to the five elements of:
- Earth (prithvi)
- Fire (tejas)
- Water (apu)
- Air (vayu)
- Space (akasha)
Each of these specializes in digesting that particular element in the food. To effectively transform the clear part of plasma (Rasa Dhatu) to blood tissue, these five bhuta agnis must be in balance.
If their flame burns too high, or too low, or burns unevenly, then the Rasa Dhatu will not be properly converted into blood tissue, and toxins will enter the blood. All of these functions are governed by Ranjaka Pitta—and when it goes out of balance, it can affect the blood and skin and result in issues such as skin breakouts, dryness, and irritation.
An accumulation of toxins in the liver can also result in sensitivity to allergens, cholesterol issues, occasional constipation, digestive issues, or fatigue. If the imbalance continues for a long time, more persistent health issues could develop.
What can I do to balance my liver?
“Because so many essential bodily functions rest on the liver, Maharishi Ayurveda provides recommendations for diet, daily routine and herbal formulas to ensure its healthy functioning,” says Toomey.
Ayurvedic diet tips for a healthy liver
Avoid toxins in your food
Eat organic, freshly-cooked foods. If you eat foods that are laced with preservatives and chemicals, or that are processed or left over, you're just making your liver work overtime to filter out the toxins. Eventually that's going to tax the health of your liver.
Avoid overindulging in heating foods such as alcohol
Stay away from cigarette smoke, air pollution and exposure to commercial household cleansers and other toxic substances. These are all taxing to the liver. In general, drink lots of water to flush out toxins, but be sure it is pure water.
Keep Pitta dosha in balance
Eat a Pitta-pacifying diet in summer, favoring cooling foods such as sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. These include sweet, juicy fruits, summer squashes, cooked greens, sweet milk products, lassi, and grains. Avoid sour or fermented foods such as vinegar, pungent foods such as chilies, and salty foods. If you have a lot of Pitta in your basic constitution, then favor this diet all year round. Start the day with a stewed apple or pear, to set the metabolism and cleanse the liver.
Ayurvedic lifestyle tips to balance the liver
Don't skip or delay meals, especially if you are trying to balance Pitta or have a sharp apppetite
In the evening, retire before 10:00p.m., as you want to be sleeping before the Pitta time of evening starts (from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.). If you are awake during this time, you'll increase Pitta dosha, which may prevent the liver from performing its necessary cleansing and resting functions during the night.
Also, a lack of sleep has been shown to throw off the metabolism of glucose, which can result in weight gain. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to an increase in anger. Both of these symptoms point to a liver imbalance caused by lack of sleep.
Avoid situations that cause conflict or anger
Avoid pressure situations on the job. Practice the Transcendental Meditation® program regularly to reduce mental ama, and to prevent stress and strain of daily life from taking its toll on your liver. After all, negative emotions create powerful hormones that flood your liver with toxins.
Ayurvedic herbal formulas to support your liver
The ancients of Ayurveda held that by keeping your liver healthy, you enjoy greater mental and physical energy, clearer skin, and increased immunity.
Our Liver Balance formula stimulates cleansing of the liver and its microchannels (called shrotas in Ayurveda) to flush out undigested impurities (called ama), thereby clearing the path for vital nutrients to reach the liver. It also strengthens the first important step of digestion, which involves breaking down food in the stomach and small intestine. This product also supports balanced digestion by enhancing the five bhuta agnis, and enhances the intelligence of the liver (Ranjaka Pitta) so it produces healthy blood cells, bile, and nutritional fluids
Cleansing formulas such as Elim-Tox and Elim-Tox-O are also important ways to support the liver. These formulas are more targeted to support liver health and function, and it also focuses more on balancing the five bhuta agnis. Liver Balance is especially helpful for keeping the bhuta agnis in balance even if a person has an imbalance in Ranjaka Pitta, or if they have a low agni or digestive fire.
So remember to give your liver some love! If you take care of this powerful organ, you will enjoy more energy, clearer skin and stronger immunity all through the year.
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