Supporting the body’s ability to digest and absorb food will benefit those with a chronic liver ailment.
Augmenting digestive system wellness helps people feel better – and can also help support a struggling liver. Digestive disorders are placing a growing burden on Americans, causing an unprecedented number of clinic visits and hospitalizations. Meanwhile, the percentage of American adults with some type of chronic liver disease is continually rising. Most people fail to realize the tangible connection between the two, unaware of the positive liver consequences that result from improving digestive health.
Symptoms of Digestive Issues
According to the U.S. Department of Health, digestive issues affect about 70 million people at any given time. Digestive issues range from burping, bloating, fatigue and flatulence to nausea, vomiting, heartburn, ulcers, diarrhea and constipation. Besides causing many types of discomfort, digestive issues may prevent you from:
- eating foods you love
- breaking food down
- absorbing nutrients
- utilizing nutrients
Your Liver’s Role in Digestion
Technically, the liver is part of the body’s gastrointestinal system. Beginning where food first enters the body and ending where food leaves the body, the gastrointestinal system starts at our mouths and ends at the rectum. We eat food, but our digestive system doesn’t absorb food – it absorbs nutrients. Our food must be broken down into nutrients, which are cultivated and detoxified by the liver. Thus, our body’s ability to digest food (break it down and absorb the nutrients) directly impacts the liver’s role in digestion.
The liver contributes to metabolizing (breaking down) carbohydrates, proteins, fats and minerals. One of the liver’s many metabolic roles is to produce bile, a substance that breaks down fat to assist in its digestion and excretion. There are several ways to perceive this relationship:
- The less fat that is consumed, the less fat there is to digest and be broken down by bile.
- The more fat has been metabolized early in the digestive process, the less of a burden it is on the liver.
- Those with liver disease may have difficulty producing or delivering a sufficient amount of bile to break down fat.
- Someone with liver health issues may have additional problems digesting their food:
- There may be fewer enzymes produced by the liver to metabolize food.
- The liver may not be able to efficiently detoxify the foods eaten.
- Liver congestion negatively affects the production and secretion of bile that would hamper the ability to digest fats.
- If liver cells are replaced by scar tissue (cirrhosis), malnutrition may result.
Conversely, someone with digestive health issues will be inadvertently increasing the amount of stress on their liver. Thus, the liver will benefit from improving the digestive system’s competency in metabolizing food and absorbing nutrients.
Supporting Your Digestive System
Especially in those with a chronic liver problem, experts suggest supporting the digestive system and encouraging nutrient absorption to achieve the best digestive and liver health possible. While eating a balanced, nutritious diet stands as the cornerstone of supporting healthy digestion, there are two types of supplements that have proven their worthiness:
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. There are several reasons why probiotics assist with liver health. One benefit of probiotics to a vulnerable liver is via their prevention of production and/or uptake of lipopolysaccharides in the gut. Lipopolysaccharide inhibition reduces levels of low-grade inflammation in the liver – a known contributor to liver injury.
- Digestive Enzymes are specialized proteins that help break down food into its nutrients. These proteins can improve the digestion of protein, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and fat – which boosts nutrient absorption and utilization.
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