Ep #179: Healthy Habits for Optimal Liver Function

By: Dr. Sherry Price

Health, Habits, and Epic Living with Dr. Sherry Price | Healthy Habits for Optimal Liver Function

One vital organ that is often overlooked but is essential for our body’s function and detoxification is the liver.

We are becoming more metabolically unhealthy and statistics show that our livers are sick and in trouble.

The liver has so much power to our overall health, yet we don’t always recognize it. It is responsible for detoxification, metabolizing estrogen and other sex hormones, and breaking down our food. If you want epic health, loving your liver and taking good care of it is crucial.

Knowing the right way to take good care of your liver and which foods are best may not always be clear. Today, I’m walking you through different ways to take charge of your health so that you can develop habits for a healthy liver.

 

If you want to learn how to eat for fuel and meet your health goals, come join us inside EpicYOU!

 

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • What happens if your liver doesn’t function properly during perimenopause and menopause.
  • Why detoxification is important for your health.
  • What nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is and why it is on the rise. 

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Welcome to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sherry Price. The goal of this podcast is to educate and enable empowered women to take the next steps towards achieving their health, wellness, and lifestyle goals. Let’s get started.

Well, hello, my beautiful friend. Today I have an amazing podcast for you. And while it may not sound like a sexy topic, I want to convince you otherwise on this podcast, so I really want to talk about loving our livers. Now, that sounds kind of quirky, but I will say that the liver has so much power that we may not be really fully realizing. And I think it’s really important if you want epic health that we really think about our liver and taking care of it more so, so that we can live the life that we want.

So I started thinking about putting this podcast together after I’d been reading a few books about what is the state of our health, what is getting better, what is not getting better. And we all know that we are becoming more metabolically unhealthy. The numbers are staggering, 88% of us are considered metabolically unhealthy. You will probably hear me say that statistic over and over and over because I don’t think we really fully understand as a population what that means.

And one thing that we really need functioning in our body, of course, all of our organs are very important, the brain, the heart, the lungs. We can’t really live without any of that. But one thing I think we’re taking for granted is our liver function. And the reason I want to pick out the liver for this podcast is because our livers as a nation are not doing well. So there is a term in the medical community called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

And I just want to stress that prior to 1980 this disease, meaning non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, has been really unheard of. Hardly anybody had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And now current rates state that up to 40% of the US adult population suffers with some form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And it is now the primary reason for a liver transplant in our country.

Now in the past, back when I was even in practice, liver transplants were saved for those who were alcoholics or had hepatitis, but they weren’t really going to people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Actually, when I was in practice, that was a term that was just coming around. And now this affects 40% of the adult US population. And so if you’ve never heard of this term, non-alcoholic, it’s fatty liver disease that’s not caused by alcohol.

So we know that alcohol is terrible on our livers. It creates them to be dysfunctional, it creates them to be fatty. It creates them to be inflamed and eventually leads to scar tissue where they can no longer function, hence needing a liver transplant. But now we’re seeing that outside of the use of alcohol. And so I really want to dive into what is causing that. We know that alcohol is harmful for the liver, but why else are we developing fatty liver disease?

And when we look at the primary reason of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it’s because of our ultra processed foods and namely sugar and fructose in our foods. So let’s go back to the function of the liver. The liver makes clotting factors that helps our blood coagulate and knows when to coagulate and when not to coagulate. And we also know that the liver is used primarily to break down products, break down foods, break down drugs and really metabolize things into its individual components so that the cells can use the nutrients from the food and then we excrete anything that we don’t need.

A lot of us think of the liver as our main organ for detoxification, meaning breaking down of the substances we consume into their smaller parts so that the body can utilize the parts that it needs and get rid of the parts that we don’t need. And now what we’re seeing over the last 50 years is that we have really shifted towards a diet of highly processed foods.

And these foods contain more and more chemicals that the body cannot use, more additives, more fillers, more things that make this product more stable or last on the shelf longer, so more shelf life stable. So they can be in the grocery stores for months and months and months or in our pantries for months and months and months without going rancid or spoiling. And so a lot of these chemicals are because of the ultra processing that we’re doing to the food.

But these chemicals, our body does not know how to utilize. And so the liver has to break them down and we’re consuming more of them. In fact, 60% of the American diet is contained of ultra processed foods or highly processed foods. And we know that these processed foods are addictive. We know that they have tons of sugar. We know that they remove a lot of the fiber and the benefits that we need and should have from food that feed our gut bacteria.

And so all this to say is that our livers are becoming overwhelmed with more and more chemicals, more and more sugar, and it’s damaging our liver. So I want to point out that alcohol and sugar, mainly soda and sweets, have the same detrimental effects on the body, particularly the liver. And just like with alcohol, that gets converted to sugar by the liver, when we drink sugar, when we eat ultra processed foods with high amounts of high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup or other forms of detrimental and poisonous sugar.

And the body can’t use that, what does the body do with it? It breaks it down, but then it stores it as fat. And where does the fat go? Well, we know first it goes to our waistlines, but it also gets stored in our liver. So our livers become fat, hence the name, fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic, fatty liver disease. And so when our livers get fat or they accumulate this fat, we know that the liver cannot function as effectively as when it’s non-fat.

So the liver becomes sluggish, it can’t break down the food the same way we did. It can’t break down estrogen and other molecules that needed to be broken down into our body so we can excrete them and then this impacts how we feel. So just to go back, I just want to make sure that you heard that the liver is responsible for metabolizing estrogen in our body.

And as we go through perimenopause and menopause women, then it becomes even more essential that our livers can break down estrogen. And if our livers are not functioning effectively, we will get a build-up and become estrogen dominant because we keep recycling the estrogen rather than breaking it down and excreting the amounts we don’t need. So when we aren’t metabolizing estrogen well because our liver is backed up, it accumulates and then we get all these signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance. And we are seeing this so much in our female population.

Now, if you want to explore this more, I do want you ladies to know that there is a test that you can run and have done by generally a functional medicine or an integrative medicine doctor who has the expertise of running this test. And not only running the test but interpreting the test and it will tell you how well your liver is doing specifically with estrogen and how it’s breaking it down and into what estrogen metabolites it’s breaking down into. Because some of the metabolites are safer than some of the others.

So I just want you to know that this test exists in case you want to be empowered to know exactly how you are metabolizing estrogen. I had this test done for myself because I really wanted to understand my body and where it’s working and how I can improve it. And I’m seeing more and more in the news, and I keep reading more and more reports about how estrogen dominance is increasing and how it’s really causing toxicity in our bodies.

And it’s coming from these plasticizers and the plastics and all the water bottles we’re drinking. And all these obesogens that are in our environment that causes estrogen dominance particularly in our personal care products like our makeups, our lotions and the things that we apply on our skin. And even some of those soaps and some of those really fragrant candles, and even in our toothpaste.

And once I started learning about this, I really wanted to clean up my own personal care products. And I have changed some of my brands and some of the items that I use on a daily basis because I didn’t want to increase these obesogens or this estrogen dominance that occurs. And I also created a detox reset program where I teach others about how to clean up the products that they use, how to protect their liver, how to detoxify their liver so it can work more effectively so we can get epic and optimal health.

If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, I mentioned at the end of the summer of last year, when I went through this detox program, I got really educated on this. And then I built my own detox reset program with the help of a physician and really putting together a beautiful program to walk women through on how to detoxify their bodies. Because let’s face it, we all don’t eat perfectly, and so we owe it to our livers. We owe it to our body to be able to detoxify the stuff that we’ve been putting into our bodies and really give it a fresh start and a reset.

And I really like to think of a detox program as really cleaning out the sludge that can accumulate over weeks, over months and even over the years if we are not actively doing things to detoxify our bodies, particularly our liver. And we all know that we cannot live without our liver. So detoxifying our livers and our body is a healthy habit that I believe we should all embark upon and we should do it routinely. It’s not, I detoxified once and I’m good for the rest of my life.

It’s like saying I just showered and so I don’t have to shower the outside of my body again. No, the outside of our bodies get dirty. We need to shower them regularly. We need to take care of our bodies routinely and regularly. And so I think of doing a detox as showering the inside of our bodies. Really cleaning up all the debris, all the damaged cells and all the guck that could accumulate and make our livers sluggish and make our bodies sluggish.

So I think it’s very helpful for our bodies to routinely, maybe that’s once a year, maybe that’s a couple of times a year. It just depends on how toxic your load is in terms of how often you want to do this and give your body this necessary cleanse that it deserves. I think of it as cleaning out the weeds of the garden so you can build a healthy environment for your cells to thrive and to flourish and for your hormones to work effectively and to be balanced.

Because we know when there’s an estrogen dominance, that means our progesterone is declining. And so we’re going to get symptoms of anxiety. We’re not going to be able to sleep right. We’re going to get more moody. And all of this can compound when we’re going through the change of perimenopause and into menopause. So our livers and our bodies deserve a good detox. And so we also want to have habits that don’t contribute to fatty liver disease.

And we know that eating a standard American diet definitely has been causal in increasing the risk of fatty liver disease. We went from non-alcoholic fatty liver, not even being a scientific term or something that was routinely talked about to now affecting 40% of the US adult population. And it is because of our highly processed foods. We have a high amount of fructose and sucrose and sugar in our beverages and in a lot of our foods.

And these are the specific items really causing damage not only to our livers, but really to our entire system. They’re highly inflammatory, not only with the sugar content, but we also see it with trans-fat. Now you probably remember trans-fat being all the hype and all the rage back in the day. And we know that that type of fat can have a negative effect on human health and it is non-essential to the diet. It’s bad fat. We do not need trans-fat in our bodies at all.

And in fact, in 2003 the FDA made a ruling that trans-fat must be listed on the nutrition label. However, if you also have been following trans-fat, you know that there’s a loophole to that. And that loophole is that products that say they’re zero grams of trans fat per serving, they can say that on their packaging as long as the actual trans-fat in the serving size is less than .5 grams.

So that’s the loophole. If you make small amounts of trans-fat, less than .5 grams per serving, not per the entire product, but per serving size, that you can actually state it contains zero grams of trans-fat. So now even reading the label is not always helpful and not always accurate because they could say it has no trans-fat when in fact the product does have trans-fat.

I mean, we could take one very toxic example from the grocery store and that is Cool Whip. Cool Whip contains trans-fat, but if you look at the label, it’ll say it doesn’t because it meets this loophole, which is less than .5 grams per serving size, which is two tablespoons on most Cool Whips. And not only that, the product contains massive amounts of sugar. It contains high fructose corn syrup. It contains just corn syrup as well. And all three of these products have been shown to increase inflammation, increase the risk of fatty liver disease, and increase many other diseases.

So just because the FDA came out with this ruling, doesn’t mean that our foods are free of trans-fat. And then look when we go out to restaurants, the process of frying many foods puts trans-fat into the product. And depending on how you fry your food or prepare your food at home, you may be unknowingly causing and putting trans-fat, depending on how you prepare your food at home and what types of oil you use and the smoke point of those oils. 

And so when you hear all of this, you might be saying, “Wow, this is really confusing.” And I agree, it is. This is why we need experts in the area to speak up and teach us about this and also get appropriate labeling on our products. If we don’t have complete transparency, it’s very difficult for us to make decisions about choosing products that promote not just normal health because I don’t want normal health. When I look around the US, normal health isn’t interesting to me. I want optimal health.

I want epic health because when I look around I don’t see a lot of people thriving. I see a lot of people just getting by and surviving. And this is why I’m so passionate about teaching us how to make better health choices so we can have optimal health and feel amazing throughout our lives. And not thinking weight gain is a normal sign of aging. And not thinking well, there’s nothing I can do because there’s no way to measure it, there’s no way to test it.

And I want to tell you, there’s tons of ways that we can take charge of our health and find prescribers and practitioners that help us do that. And it’s one of the reasons I offer testing and help women be able to own their health so that they can get the quality of life that they want. So if our livers are struggling, I want to offer that we will feel that. We will feel like we’re struggling too. We will feel like we’re not operating on all cylinders. We will feel less effective because our livers aren’t able to break down and get rid of damaged cells and get rid of ingredients and chemicals our body just doesn’t need.

And that’s why in my detox reset program, I walk you through exactly how to get rid of all the gunk in your body so that you can feel restored and feel like you’re back to functioning optimally again. I know when I did this program, my energy levels came back. My brain fog lessened. I had better digestion. For a lot of women, they’ll notice their skin clears up. They’ll have better mental clarity. They’ll have better balanced hormones.

And when I’m talking hormones, I’m not just talking sex hormones. I’m talking about hunger hormones, because those become off balance and out of whack. But I will say one of the biggest benefits is people notice that they’re less puffy, they’re less puffy in their hands, they’re less puffy in their face because the inflammation has gone down. Because we’ve rid the body of these toxins that make our bodies inflamed.

And you’ll see on my website, I even talk about improved mitochondrial functioning. That’s where our energy comes from. And if our mitochondria aren’t functioning properly, of course we’re going to feel tired, unmotivated, not wanting to work out, more sluggish. And then we increase the propensity that we want to just dive into more highly processed foods because they wake us up a bit and they feel energizing and they feel comforting to the body but that’s just temporarily.

And so I think we need to be thinking about healthy habits for our liver. And one way to assess your liver function is by looking at your liver function tests, often called your LFTs, stands for Liver Function Tests. And looking at your ALT is a great measure of determining if you have evidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and then you can also look at your AST. And really have a prescriber or a doctor or somebody like myself, really educate you on what those numbers mean. What’s considered the optimal zone, not just normal.

Because I find a lot of lab values will tell you the normal range, and I don’t want to be in the normal range. I myself with my health, I want to be in the optimal range if I can. And there are many lifestyle modifications that you can do to put you back into the optimal range if you’re not there. Yes, there are drugs out there that can help, but I will tell you, it’s the lifestyle changes that will have the biggest bang on your health.

And speaking of optimal liver function, there are pro drugs out there, so if you are on medication, some of those medications may be pro drugs. Meaning they are not the active form until they get to the liver and the liver converts them to their active form. One of the biggest drugs that people take as a pro drug is Plavix or clopidogrel. And so you need the liver to be able to convert that into the active form so you don’t develop blood clots and block stents.

Another example is Prednisone. That is a pro drug that converts to Prednisolone. And so just as with medication, same with food. We get more out of our food and we’re able to expel more of the nutrients as long as the liver is able to function optimally. And we know one of the biggest killers outside of alcohol of a dysfunctioning liver is highly processed foods because of the sugar.

I have a whole module inside of EpicYOU and a whole module inside of Tone in 10 and we even touch upon this in the detox course. Is that our sugar consumption has greatly increased in the past 50 to 100 years and this is leading to metabolic dysfunction. And that is manifested by obesity, high blood pressure, high lipids and as we’re talking about here, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. We’re seeing all these symptoms happening because of the metabolic dysfunction.

So just like alcohol, sugar is a chronic dose dependent toxin to the liver as well as to our mitochondria. So just like with alcohol, sugar causes us to be inflamed. It also increases our glycation, which is bad. We talked about that on a previous podcast. I talk about that extensively in the detox program as well. We get increased oxidation and oxygen free radicals, which are directly harmful to our cells. And all of this happens inside of our bodies, with the greater concentration of highly processed food and particularly sugar.

So we need to know what we’re eating. We need to have complete transparency of what is in the food that we are eating. And that’s why eating organic whole foods is something we should be striving for in order to maintain optimal health. So one of the healthy habits you want to take away from this podcast is by reducing the amount of sugar, particularly the very bad sugars like high fructose corn syrup and many others that go under different names.

And I have made a list of all the other names that this could go by. You’ll not only be helping your liver out by reducing these sugars, you’ll also be helping your waistline out. You’ll also be helping your brain out because you’ll have better mental clarity, which means you will reduce your brain fog. I fully support looking good from the outside, taking care of ourselves, grooming ourselves. But I also firmly believe we should be taking care of ourselves on the inside as well.

And when we can clean up our internal environment, we make that environment healthier, meaning it’s less likely for cancer to grow because you’re ridding your body of damaged cells. You’re cleaning out the toxins and the debris that the body no longer needs. You’re also creating an environment where you reduce the risk of heart disease, the risk of autoimmune disease. Because you’re reducing your inflammation and you’re following more of an anti-inflammatory diet.

And we also see that the brain thrives in this type of environment as well. And we have data to show that a lower sugar consumption leads to better cognitive functioning as well as a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. And what I really want you to hear from this as well is that you can learn to take charge of your health.

You can learn to be educated about the laboratory parameters that you get from your physician. And if you’re not getting that education, seek it out because this is your health, this is your body. And you are entitled to understand how your body works and what the numbers mean and not just shoot for normal. But also encourage you and your prescriber or your physician or whoever you’re utilizing to benefit your health is say, “Hey, I want to be in optimal levels.”

That’s what I help the women I work with, do, get to their optimal levels. And I just want to point out that in this information I am not anti-alcohol. I am also not anti-sugar, meaning no alcohol ever, no sugar ever. And if you want to subscribe to that philosophy, obviously you can. It’s all about finding what works for you. And so what I’m about is not necessarily being anti-alcohol or anti-sugar. What I’m about is being pro health, pro optimal health and pro epic health.

And if I’m going to be about epic health and optimal health then that means I need to make sure that I’m ridding my internal environment of things that don’t promote optimal health. And it doesn’t necessarily mean to exclusion and all or nothing, just means I’m very cognizant of when I do choose to consume these items. And as I share with the ladies inside of EpicYOU, for me that means 90% of the time I’m doing really well. And then 10% of the time I may make choices that allow me to indulge in some of these substances that are not healthy.

And so I encourage you to find your balance, for some people that might be 80:20. For some people, that might be 95:5. For some people that might be 90:10. For some people, they will rather be 100:0 in some of these areas, particularly when it comes to alcohol. But the analogy I like to use is, not let’s look over and see what the neighbor’s yard looks like and compare it to yours. It’s focusing on your yard. What do you want it to look like? Focusing on your internal environment. What do you want that to look like?

It’s not about what other people are choosing to do. It’s about what are you choosing and empowering yourself to do. And what are the outcomes that you want? Some people may just want normal health and that’s good. And some people want to take it to the next level and want epic health and optimal health and that’s great too. And at the end of the day, to have either, it’s about having the knowledge and implementing it so that you do have normal or optimal health.

And it’s by listening to podcasts like this, educating yourself, getting the information, getting the numbers, getting tested, and investing in your health so you know exactly how to take care of yourself, to become your best self. And one thing I’m committed to doing is when I learn this kind of information, I want to share it with others who are on a journey to improve their health.

And as we move into the month of March, we are going to be focusing on inside of EpicYOU, eating for fuel and to move your body in ways that feel good. Because I know there’s a lot of noise out there about what to eat, what to avoid, do this, don’t do that. And so I like to just sift through all of that and say, “What do our cells need? How do our cells flourish and thrive?” And that’s fuel. Food is fuel for our cells or food can be destructive for our cells and cause disease. It could be detrimental. It could be destroying and damaging.

And so what you eat matters. It matters a great deal. What you eat will even tell you how much energy you’re going to have and if you’re going to want to work out. And when you understand how to put the pieces together so that you can fuel yourself towards the goals that you want, that begins to feel amazing.

So if you want to join us for the month of March and learn how to eat for fuel and to move your bodies in ways that feel great, come join us. Each month we focus on a different topic. And not only that, when you join, you get access to all the topics we’ve already covered. This is a great first step you can take in terms of changing your health. And having a supportive community around you so that you can increase your knowledge in what you need to do and where you need to be.

And one healthy habit on that way is, by consuming less sugar and less highly processed foods. And in doing that, not only will your liver love you, but your waistline will too. Alright, my beautiful friends, that’s what I have for you this week. Go and be your epic you. See you next week.

Thanks for listening to the Health, Habits, and Epic Living podcast. If you are ready to take the next step to improve your health, wellness, and lifestyle goals, head over to www.epicyou.com to check out my programs and to sign up for my free newsletter. Again that’s E-P-I-C-Y-O-U.com. 

Please note that the information in this podcast is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.

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