Supporting Your Liver

Saw this photo of a turtle floating in the ocean. Love it, so true!

Turtle Floating

I started swimming in the ocean last week and was amazed at how it rejuvenated my mind and body….just washed away my fatigue….at least temporarily.  What was that movie where the woman was all stressed out being around family during the holidays???…and her daughter said, “Mom, just float…. like the fish!”

I finished the Healing Your Gut four week protocol of herbs and am disappointed that I’m not seeing the progress I had hoped for.  Susan Blum mentions that if you’re still experiencing problems you may need to do another four weeks with the herbs listed in my last post.  I’ve been experiencing a decrease in energy and more digestive problems.  This could be due to many other factors going on in my life….stress, over activity, viral???  Who knows.  At some point it may be necessary for me to find a functional doctor, someone that can put the pieces together and help me with this.  But I have one more chapter, Supporting Your Liver, which I’ll be working on in March and April before my trip back to the Mainland…more stress, which might throw me back again….but life is stress, some good, some not so good, it’s all part of life and I need to find MY way of dealing with it without causing my body harm.  I’m still doing guided imagery, body scan meditation, and yoga several days a week.  I’m continuing to eat gluten and dairy free, lots of greens everyday.  Every morning I cook collard greens, spinach and chard (or whatever I find at the Farmer’s Market) in olive oil with onion and maybe mushrooms, then have a salad with dinner; protein powder twice a day (currently using hemp protein), organic chicken, veggie burgers or grass fed beef, beans, occasionally fish or shrimp.  The only thing I haven’t tried is to cut out the grains that I eat (quinoa, brown rice, brown rice pasta, buckwheat pancakes….oh no, please don’t take away my buckwheat pancakes!!)  Paleo?  Maybe I’ll try it in the future…but for now on to Supporting Your Liver chapter.

Signs and symptoms of toxin-related illnesses include:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • brain fog
  • feeling puffy all over
  • headaches
  • muscle pain
  • tingling in your fingers or feet
  • unexplained weight gain

Genetics plays a role, by influencing the functioning of enzymes.  If you are genetically handicapped it means you were born with detox enzymes that don’t work as effectively as they could.  So, you need to be more careful to not expose yourself to toxins.  This explains why two people exposed to the same toxins react differently.

Environmental Exposure: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, fire retardants used in certain manufactured products, Bisphenol A (BPA), found in plastics, Polytetrafluoroethylene (non-stick coatings in cookware), Perchlorate, used to manufacture fireworks, explosives, flares, and rocket propellant.  Check www.ewg.org/sites/humantoxome for more than 500 different chemicals and toxins; check areas that you live or you age group.

Mercury Exposure:  From dental amalgam fillings, cosmetics, pesticides, and some vaccines. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the number of amalgam fillings and mercury concentration in the blood and urine.   It’s also a pollutant released into the air from many factories.  Then it settles in the soil and the bottom of the oceans, lakes and rivers, small fish eat the algae then the big fish eat the small fish, with the biggest fish having the highest levels (tuna and swordfish).  Wild kind salmon have the least because they are vegetarians.  Mercury vapors can accumulate and have toxic effects on the nervous system and kidneys.  Mercury vapors cross over the blood-brain barrier very easily and can accumulate in the brain.

Methylmercury exposure is almost exclusively from seafood such as tuna and swordfish.  This type of mercury is toxic to the brain but doesn’t cross over the blood-brain barrier as easily, but accumulates in other tissues of the body.  When your blood shows elevated mercury it’s usually from methylmercury.

Mercury Exposure Symptoms:  Tremors, Gum disease, irritability, depression, short-term memory loss, fatigue, anorexia, sleep disturbance.  Routine blood tests often don’t detect chronic low level exposure which can cause brain fog, muscle fatigue, overall fatigue, anxiety depression and difficulty concentrating and remembering things.  You may have difficulty exercising because you feel worse afterward.

Arsenic.  Can cause cancer in humans and contaminate drinking water.  FDA has approved several organic arsenic compounds for use in small amounts as antimicrobials in animal and poultry feeds.

Lead.  It accumulates in the bone, where it can be stored for many years, then released into the blood after menopause.  Exposure from drinking water from lead pipes.  Get reverse osmosis filter for your kitchen sink.  Many brand name lipsticks contain lead.  Check out www.org/skindeep for a list of safer cosmetics that are free of harmful chemicals and metals.

Plastics.  BPA is an endocrine disruptor, a chemical that acts like hormones in the body.  Besides plastic, BPA is on 40 percent of paper receipts that came from cash registers and ATMs.

Pesticides, prescription medications and more.  According to the CDC, when people are exposed to small amounts of these pesticide over a long period of time, they may feel tired or weak, irritable, depressed, or forgetful.

Pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, sex hormones, and drugs used to treat epilepsy and depression, contaminate the drinking water supply used by at least 41 million Americans, according to a five-month study by Associated Press National Investigation Team released in March 2008.

Autoimmune disease and toxins.  There is a theory that mercury alters or damages the cells in your tissues, making them look foreign to your immune system, which then attacks the cell.  The other theory is that mercury stimulates the army of cells in the immune system called lymphocytes and they grow abnormally, losing their tolerance and ability to tell the difference between self and not self.  Then they either directly attack or make antibodies to attack your own tissue.  A study from the National Institute of environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina found a strong link between lupus and self-reported mercury exposure and also a connection between lupus and working in a dental office.  Studies show that people with higher mercury exposure have an increased risk of getting an autoimmune thyroid disease.  Researchers in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University found higher mercury levels being associated with having a much greater risk for having higher thyroglobulin antibodies which is very common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, pernicious anemia, fibromyalgia, chronic hives and type 1 diabetes and suggests that these other diseases are associated with mercury as well.

Vaccinations.  Mercury, when put in vaccines as a preservative, is called thimerosal.  There is a debate concerning whether mercury in vaccines has caused autism in some children.  Though nothing has been confirmed there are also questions raised as to whether mercury or aluminum might be triggering autoimmune diseases in people who have a genetic susceptibility.

Xenoestrogens are created when chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.  Sometimes they’re stored in your body fat, so when you go on a diet they are released and you may feel sluggish.  Symptoms for women are tender breasts, heavier and more painful periods, bloating, water retention; for men, more breast tissue or low sex drive.  They’re found in plastics, detergents, pesticides and industrial chemicals.  They’re also found in conventional dairy and meat you eat because those animals are treated with hormones to grow faster and make more milk, which is why you should buy organic dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, turkey and pork.  The University of Milan conducted a review of all the studies looking at the role of environmental estrogens and autoimmunity.  They found a positive association between exposure to different agricultural chemical pesticides and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and a positive anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) lab test. Having a high toxic load makes it harder for your liver to handle mercury, pesticides, and environmental estrogens, toxins that we know will affect your immune system.  The researchers from the National University Health System, Singapore, did a thorough review study looking at the role of estrogens in autoimmunity.  They report evidence that oral contraceptives and the use of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increased the risk of lupus and that the incidence of lupus rises after puberty and drops after menopause, when estrogen levels are lower.  Estrogen causes a shift toward lymphocytes that make antibodies (Th2) and women with lupus are already TH2 dominant; so the extra estrogen makes the disease worse.  Interesting, I did take birth control pills for many years, then had a hysterectomy which sent me directly to menopause at around age 50, then was prescribed high doses of estrogen from an idiot doctor who insisted that it could do me no harm whatsoever.  A woman’s body produced less estrogen for a reason and I’m totally fine with having hot flashes as long as I’m healthy and am able to live my life the way I’d like to.  When I’m in my 60’s and 70’s I want to be healthy, happy, confident, and have an ease and grace about life that transcends to everyone I meet.  Ahhhhh!

Back to estrogen….Some estrogens are gentle, but some are what we call toxic, because they are more likely to cause cancer or cause autoimmune diseases and your liver has a vital role in determining which kind you will have.  Estrogen is constantly moving, and your liver is supposed to detoxify it by changing its structure so that it can be less active and excreted through your bile, then made into either good, soft, gentle estrogen or bad, harsh, more toxic estrogen.  Toxic estrogens make you have more PMS symptoms, anxiety or other mood changes, water retention and insomnia.  You might also have noticed that your period is heavier, longer, or irregular.  These are all symptoms of estrogen dominance….too much estrogen activity.  Estrogen and progesterone help balance each other.  Progesterone decreases during chronic stress, so you need to support your body’s production of progesterone by following the guidance in the chapter on Understanding the Stress Connection….in other words, meditation, guided imagery, exercise, good diet, sufficient sleep, good relationships…

So, the first step is to clean up your environment and remove all of the xenoestrogens and other toxins around you.  The next step is to help your liver do a better job removing toxic estrogens from your body.  Toxins are stored in every cell in your body, and you need to get them out.  One way is to optimize your liver function, which may be all you need to boost the estrogen detoxification pathways.  If that isn’t enough, the second way is to focus on mercury and use glutathione, metallothionein and chelation to remove it.

Next time I’ll review my results from the tests in Supporting Your Liver Workbook.  Foods to improve detoxification and supplements for liver support on a medical detoxification program.  Until then, keep smiling, rest when you’re tired, find things to laugh about and find someplace to “Just Float”…like the turtle.

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