When you’re considering ways to boost your immune system, liver health isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. Sure, your liver is a crucial organ for detox, but what does it have to do with immunity? Learn all about liver health and immunity in this article!
In this article you’ll learn:
- What your liver does
- How liver health relates to immunity
- How to support your liver and immune system
- The best supplements for liver health
Your body, as a living system, pulls on all of its resources to keep things running smoothly every day. That means that every organ, tissue, and cell are intricately connected in a partnership that keeps you happy and healthy.
When any part of this system becomes damaged or overworked, it will affect the whole.
Your liver, in particular, not only plays a vital role in detox, but it happens to be essential for the proper function of your immune system. When your liver is overworked or damaged, chaos can ensue, and your body becomes more susceptible to infection and disease.
Therefore, if immunity is on your mind, liver health should be front and center in your wellness regimen.
Before we dig into the ways that this incredible organ supports immunity, let’s cover some basics about your liver.
Your liver is one of your largest organs, and it plays a central role in almost every metabolic process in your body. With over 300 different functions, many people consider the liver to be the most essential of all the organs. Some of the duties that you liver undertakes every day include:
- Converting the nutrients from the food you eat into energy that your body can use to fuel itself.
- Stores energy for later use.
- Takes up toxic substances in your system and converts them into harmless intermediates that can be excreted.
- Produces proteins that are important for blood clotting.
- Breaks down fat into usable energy
- Transforms protein (amino acids) into usable energy
- Assists in the production of bile to aid digestion.
- Removes excess glucose from your blood.
- Breaks down stored glucose if your blood sugar gets too low
- Stores and releases vitamins and minerals
You can essentially think of your liver as the gatekeeper in your body, surveying, transforming, and organizing every substance that flows through your circulation. Without a liver, your body wouldn’t be able to use the nutrients that you put into it. Furthermore, in the absence of a liver, your body would rapidly become overwhelmed with toxic compounds and foreign substances.
It’s clear then that in order to maintain a healthy body, your liver needs to be functioning optimally.
Now let’s explore some of the ways in which liver health directly relates to immunity.
Liver Health and Immunity
Immune Dysfunction and Cirrhosis
Perhaps one of the most direct ways to illustrate the effect that your liver has on immunity is looking at how your immune system responds when you have liver cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is a disease in which healthy liver tissue is damaged and replaced with scar tissue. Scar tissue creates a blockage in the flow of blood through your liver (a crucial process), which hinders the ability of your liver to process substances like toxins and nutrients.
Eventually, cirrhosis can lead to total liver dysfunction and the need for organ replacement.
People who suffer from cirrhosis deal with a host of issues directly related to immunity. In fact, the term cirrhosis-related immune dysfunction explains the immunodeficiency that often comes with this liver disease.
For people with cirrhosis, damaged liver function and the resulting immune deficiency can lead to:
- Increased susceptibility to bacterial infection
- Decreased immune surveillance (a process by which immune cells keep a watch out for harmful compounds).
- Reduced production of proteins that are essential to innate immunity.
- Alteration in the ability of immune cells to kill bacteria.
- Increased levels of pro-inflammatory compounds, leading to systemic inflammation.
Taken together, the effect of liver dysfunction on immunity becomes pretty clear in severe cases of liver disease. But does this mean that unless you have cirrhosis, you don’t need to worry?
Liver As Your Frontline Immune Defense
Anything that enters your internal circulation through your gut has to pass through the liver. That means that your liver is one of your first defenders against outside invaders and harmful compounds.
A little known fact is that your liver contains the largest supply of phagocytic cells in your body. Phagocytic cells (also termed phagocytes) are immune cells that essentially consume harmful compounds.
These cells assist your liver in detecting, capturing, and removing bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful molecules.
Because it does most of its work behind the scenes, you’re likely not even aware of all the potential immune-comprising compounds that pass through your liver every day.
Liver and Immune Cell production
Did you know that your liver produces immune-related compounds? Historically the liver was thought to be an organ that focused primarily on detoxification and metabolic process — but this is not the case.
Part of your liver’s function is to remain alert to potentially infectious agents, malignant cells, and tissue damage. When it senses that something has gone awry, it produces compounds to help your immune system fight back. Some examples include:
- Acute-phase proteins, which help to restore homeostasis after acute injury, infection, or immune disturbance.
- Complement components, which are proteins that support the work of phagocytic cells.
- Cytokines, which are signaling molecules that help with the cell to cell communication in your immune system
- Chemokines, a type of cytokine that specifically works to attract immune cells to the site of infection or inflammation.
Your liver is also a home for immune cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes participate in immunity by recognizing antigens (foreign compounds), produce antibodies (to fight those foreign compounds), and destroy cells that could cause damage to your system.
In your liver, lymphocytes play an immune surveillance role, keeping a watch out for infectious and non-infectious insults. In this way, they help to maintain the homeostasis of your liver.
The most abundant lymphocytes that can be found in your liver are NK cells (natural killer cells). These cells, as part of your innate immune system, are crucial for the defense against virally infected cells as well as detecting early signs of cancer.
Liver and Digestion
Research into the gut microbiome is elucidating the intricate connection between your digestive health and the health of your immune system.
In fact, your microbiota plays a crucial role in the maintenance and structure of immune tissue called gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which represents around 70% of your immune cells. This makes sense, given that your gastrointestinal(GI) tract is one of the primary barriers that your body has against the outside world.
Foreign compounds like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other toxic substances are held at bay by your GI immune system — blocking their entry into your systemic circulation.
Your liver is a vital digestive organ, both processing nutrients absorbed in the small intestine as well as producing bile to break down fat. These processes are essential for providing your immune system with the nutrients it needs to function.
What’s more, when your liver is overwhelmed or not functioning properly, it can cause distress to your GI, resulting in delayed gut transit, increased sensitivity, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and distension. All of which are associated with dysfunction in your gut microbiome.
Liver for Detoxing Heavy Metals
Heavy metals are one of the most damaging environmental toxins for your body, and specifically, your immune system. Each metal interacts with your body in a unique way, some causing overstimulation to your immune response, while others can hamper your immunity.
The result of overexposure to these metals creates the ideal environment for invading pathogens to thrive — which further stresses your immune system. Some conditions that are associated with heavy metals include autoimmunity, chronic-inflammatory reactions, cancer, hypersensitivities, and allergic reactions.
And although you may be aware of how to avoid certain metals in your environment like lead and mercury, even small amounts of heavy metals in your system can produce significant damage.
Your liver, being the primary organ of detoxification, plays a crucial role in eliminating heavy metals from your system. The problem is, if you’re not properly supporting the health of your liver, heavy metals can overwhelm this vital organ and potentially initiate liver disease.
Therefore, to get ahead of heavy metal toxicity that could damage both your liver and immune system, it’s vital that you support your liver detoxification pathways.
Luckily there are plenty of natural solutions that offer targeted support for liver detox (more on this below).
How To Care For Your Liver And Support Immunity
There are several lifestyle and dietary interventions you can make to support your liver and help maintain its optimal function.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol
Although this one is pretty obvious, if you enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, it can be a hard habit to break. Unfortunately, there’s no way around it — alcohol is a toxin. This doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey and never enjoy a drink again; just make sure that when you do drink, you’re consuming high-quality alcohol, and you’re doing so in moderation.
A lot of people talk about “eating clean”, but what does that actually mean?
If you want to support your liver you need to give it the nutrients that it needs in order to do its job. That means that your plate should be filled with real, organic, whole foods as much as possible.
At the same time, avoiding processed foods and ingredients you can’t pronounce is equally as important. These foods are not only devoid of crucial nutrients your body needs, but they’re filled with preservatives and artificial flavors and colors that can further contribute to the toxic load on your body.
Use Natural Personal Care Products
If you think chemicals are safe as long as you don’t ingest them — think again.
Your skin is a living tissue just like the rest of your body, which means that it can absorb what you put on it. Take a look at all of your personal care products; makeup, lotions, sunscreen, toothpaste, and deodorant — if there are chemicals in those products make a switch to natural brands that are free of harmful compounds.
Exercise is crucial for a healthy body, end of story. When it comes to liver health in particular, moving your body stimulates the movement of blood through your heart. This results in more oxygenated blood reaching your liver, and therefore more nutrient uptake by this energy-hungry organ.
There are several herbs and supplements that target the liver directly. Whether they’re supporting antioxidant systems, phase one and two detox, or simply nourishing liver tissue, these supplements can provide a powerful source of support to your liver function.
Your Daily Dose Of Liver Support
High-quality liver support supplements can be hard to come by, which is why I chose to create my own research-backed blend of herbs and liver supportive foods that I can take daily.
The fact of the matter is, toxic insults are everywhere. Even if you’re eating the cleanest diet possible, moving your body daily, and keeping an eye on your personal care products, your liver will still have its plate full with the toxins that are secretly lurking in your environment.
My Daily Detox formula is packed with ingredients that research shows can support the health of both your liver and your immune system. Some stand-out ingredients in this fantastic blend include:
Broccoli sprouts contain a compound called sulforaphane, which supports phase two detoxification, helping your body eliminate toxic compounds. In addition, sulforaphane boosts your antioxidant systems, which further supports both immunity and detox processes.
Schizandra berry is a traditional herbal medicine that’s known to support a variety of liver diseases, including liver cancer, liver injury, and hypercholesterolemia.
Burdock root has an affinity for your liver and enhances antioxidant activity in your liver tissue. This results in decreased oxidative stress and creates a protective effect on your liver.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and modulates the activity of a number of immune cells, including B cells, T cells, macrophages, NK cells, and neutrophils.The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, can also downregulate inflammatory chemicals in your body, helping to calm an overactive immune response.
Ginger lends immune support through its antioxidant and antiinflammatory effects. Among the various conditions that ginger may support are; cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, indigestion, ulcers, cancer, and infectious disease.
Moringa, a plant that’s native to India, is a powerhouse when it comes to nutritive support. In fact, its leaves have been used to treat malnutrition and to support the production of nutrient-dense breast milk breastfeeding mothers.
This plant is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, and anti-diabetic. In addition, research shows that moringa can upregulate the activity of lymphocytic immune cells and therefore modulate your immune response.
Your liver plays a crucial role in the health of your immune system. Right now immunity is a top priority for many people, and for good reason. While many people go straight to the immune-boosting protocols, liver health is often left in the dust when you’re thinking about prevention.
To maintain balance in your body, you absolutely must keep your liver in mind. This organ is the gatekeeper to your systemic circulation and is responsible for clearing out anything that doesn’t belong. Therefore, if you want to do your liver a favor, make sure what you put in and on your body is as clean as possible.
Due to the high levels of toxins in our environment, if you really want to support liver health, you need to take it a step further. That’s where a supplement like Daily Detox comes in. This potent and effective formula has everything your liver needs to maintain its everyday activities and keep your immune system on track.
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