You may think that your brain rules your body, but you can make a strong philosophical argument that the liver really rules your physiology. Yes, the brain is the prime minister that administers the nervous system and many important bodily processes, but the liver is the royal organ that loyally maintains the body’s inner workings. So you’d be wise to keep your liver happy if you want to be healthy.
The liver is plenty powerful in its role of ruling the kingdom of Bodyland. It removes toxins from the blood, plays a role in protein and hormone synthesis, stores glycogen, and yields bile along with other chemicals that help break down fats and aid in digestion. The liver helps decompose red blood cells, stores blood and regulates how much blood circulates. In other words, the Liver King supervises your inner kingdom, ensures its byways are well-kept and keeps the supply lines of water and food operational.
But there’s a problem in centering so many bodily purposes in one organ. When the liver becomes toxic, running in a depressed state or otherwise succumbing to a state of dysfunction, many things become unbalanced. With a domino effect, when the liver slips below par, the body begins experiencing the signs and symptoms of ill health. A poor-functioning liver impacts a frightening number of other organs.
A list of symptoms reflecting a dysfunctional liver includes gastritis, nervous stomach, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastric ulcer, dyspepsia, hepatitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, colitis, premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, mastitis, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts, genital pain, tension headache, migraine headache, TMJ dysfunction, chronic hepatitis, chronic cholecystitis, hepatomegaly, costochondritis, post herpetic neuralgia, intercostal neuralgia, hypertension and poor peripheral circulation.
I find it interesting that Western scientific medicine conceives the liver totally in terms of its direct functions. Yet, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the liver is viewed also in terms of indirect effects linked to its dysfunction. In other words, when the liver becomes too hot from excessive alcohol, drug or coffee consumption, it begins to “overact on the spleen and stomach and depress the functions of the heart and kidneys.”
In TCM, the liver is recognized as being responsible for storing and regulating blood, for maintaining the free flow of qi (energy) in the body, for controlling the tendons and manifesting signs of its problems in the nails and in the eyes.
Storing And Regulating Blood
The primary function of the liver is to store up to 55 percent of your total blood volume when the body is at rest. It also regulates how much blood circulates when the body is physically active. In times of emergency, the liver can provide up to 2,000 ml of blood to the heart, giving you greater strength, stamina and mental clarity.
Maintaining The Free Flow Of Qi
The liver is responsible for maintaining the easygoing, free-flowing and harmonious functional activities of the body’s organs. At peak capacity, the liver effectively manages the constant movement of energy in the body. When the liver becomes depressed (slow-acting, sluggish), it suffers qi (energetic) stagnation, which can lead to tiredness, fatigue, cloudy thinking, depression and anger.
Emotional shifts and attitudes such as psychological depression, moodiness, loneliness and anger are the root causes of the syndrome known in TCM as “liver qi stagnation.” When the liver qi (energy) stagnates, it can cause complications in the spleen and stomach or in the heart and kidneys, leading to vomiting, nausea, heart palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, dream-disturbed sleep, cloudy thinking, poor digestion, hypochondriac pain, irritable bowel syndrome, dysmenorrhea and PMS issues as well as soft and brittle nails, blurry vision, red eyes, headache, bilirubinemia (buildup of blood-breakdown byproducts) and erectile dysfunction.
The Liver Controls The Tendons And Manifests In Nails
The liver nourishes the tendons as an aspect of its blood-controlling function. Since the tendons attach muscles to bones, this part of its role reflects its control of the normal physiological activities of the body. So when the liver lacks blood and/or is low in energy (qi), those activities deteriorate. The tendons receive insufficient nourishment to stay flexible, and they grow stiff, inflamed and painful.
It is important to note that TCM defines three types of blood: heart blood, liver blood and spleen blood. Each has its own function in the creation, promotion, distribution, cleansing and storage of blood. The state of liver blood is reflected in the health of the nails. When there is ample healthy liver blood, both tendons and nails stay strong. But when there is restriction (stagnation) or deficiency of liver blood, then the nails become soft, thin and brittle.
The Liver Opens Into The Eyes
According to TCM theory, each yin (nurturing) organ has a body part to which it opens. In this system, the liver opens into the eyes. Therefore, the nourishment of liver blood is responsible for the proper functioning of the eyes. Indeed, the liver meridian (an energetic line through the body) travels upward through the eye system. Consequently, liver deficiency can lead to blurry vision. Liver heat rising upward can lead to red and dry eyes. Liver dampness can lead to bilirubinemia.
There is much more to the “Chinese liver” than Western medicine recognizes. However, when considering not only its physiological function, but also its meridian route and energetic function, one can begin to understand the vast importance of this organ to overall health and well-being.
From both a scientific, reductive Western perspective and a traditional Eastern viewpoint, the causes of liver dysfunctions are the same. Poor diet along with the excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs (legal and illegal) stress the liver and impair its ability to function properly. Knowing this, it becomes obvious that indulging in poor lifestyle habits that negatively affect the liver leads to a host of problems that are preventable.
You can usually restore the health of the liver by sticking to a liver-friendly routine: Reduce stress, eat nutrient-dense foods and curtail drug and alcohol consumption. A liver-detox program is also a good way to jump-start the liver’s rejuvenation process.
Your body needs a healthy liver to function properly. Pamper your liver and your unimpaired liver will offer you unparalleled well-being.