In both western medicine and Oriental medicine the liver is known to play a crucial role in health. However, unlike western medicine, Oriental medicine has many ways of specifically optimizing liver function to create health effects by using herbal medicine, acupuncture and diet.
Why is the liver so important? Most people think that what the liver mainly does is detoxify the blood and body, and it does do that very important job, but also so very much more!
Here is a simplified overview of the main biological functions of the liver:
The liver performs 500 biochemical processes on the blood to make the blood useful for all it needs to do in the body.
- Processing digested food from the intestine
- Controlling levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in the blood
- Combating infections in the body, clearing the blood of particles and infections including bacteria
- Neutralising and destroying drugs and toxins
- Manufacturing bile
- Storing iron, vitamins and other essential chemicals
- Breaking down food and turning it into energy
- Manufacturing, breaking down and regulating numerous hormones including sex hormones
- Making enzymes and proteins which are responsible for most chemical reactions in the body, for example those involved in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues.
So one can see how important the liver is for almost every aspect of the body.
You may say but my liver enzymes on my blood work always come back within range, I don’t need to treat my liver.
Not True! the Liver enzymes evaluated in standard blood test only show when the liver is being seriously disturbed or undergoing serious destruction of liver cells.
There are many stages of less serious functional disturbances that do not show on lab work that Oriental medical practitioners are trained to recognize and evaluate through signs and symptoms.
The role of the liver is seen as controlling the smooth flow of qi and blood in the body so that all the bodily functions work harmoniously together and oriental medicine has a long history of working with the liver to treat many ailments.
The liver is subject to many pathological conditions which have specific signs and symptoms:
- Liver qi stagnation – this is a functional disturbance resulting in congestion of the liver and can manifest as irritability, anger, depression, fatigue, muscular tension patterns / headache, eye symptoms, PMS and hormonal balance issues, digestive issues such as acid reflux, irritable bowel or bouts of constipation, and much more.
- Liver Blood Stagnation – this a step worse than qi stagnation where the blood starts to get congested. These can be painful conditions, when the blood doesn’t move it can cause sharp fixed pains. We see this in conditions like dysmenorrhea and endometriosis, abdominal, uterine and breast tumors / cancer, cirrhosis of the liver.
- Liver Heat and liver Fire – these conditions develop from a toxic lifestyle and / or long term emotional stress such as unresolved anger. Chronic consumption of heating toxins such as alcohol, pharmaceutical or recreational drugs, coffee, toxic diets and allergens initially congest the liver and when the congestion of toxins build up they illicit an immune response and generates heat or in more extreme cases fire. The conditions arising from these imbalances are characterized by over excitation, irritation and inflammation of tissues. acid reflux, ulcers, colitis, blood toxicities and infections, inflammatory conditions of the eyes, hot temper, inflammatory conditions of the lungs, hemorrhaging and bleeding issues and more…..
- Liver Damp Heat – this is another category of heat where dampness is also present. This condition may arise from consumption of toxins or infections that overwhelm the bodies exterior defences and move deeper into the body becoming latent long term pathologies. If the bodies defensive qi is weakened viruses and other microbes can get past the immune barriers of the skin and lungs lodging in deeper more vital parts of the body becoming chronic. Conditions like chronic fatigue, dysentery, chronic infections of the digestive system, gallbladder issues and certain autoimmune diseases.
- Liver Deficiencies – these conditions are about when the liver is lacking something and thus creating an imbalance. Liver blood deficiency is when the body has low blood levels and the liver is not nourished properly. Liver yin deficiency when the fluids / cooling aspects, and female hormones of the body are low and imbalance the liver. Conditions include: vision problems, macular degeneration, migraines, emotional imbalances, lack of nourishment and drying up of tendons and joints, neurological conditions, tremors / tics, tinnitus, memory problems, lack of circulation, hot flashes.
The good news is that Oriental medicine has very effective and highly specific ways of improving liver function. Chinese herbal medicine has an amazing array of herbs and formulas that address liver issues in specific detail.
Acupuncture is very successful at addressing the energetic and neurologic aspects of liver function in the body and mind.
Diet and fitness are also of paramount importance to liver and overall health.
At Health Solutions I strive to provide highly individualized diagnosis and treatment to all my patients.
For any detailed questions about this article or a free first consultation and evaluation (offered between now and Dec 25th 2012) please contact me at:
Miklos Hubay L.Ac
Thanks for Reading!