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Boost Your Digestive System to Help Your Liver

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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., 8 Common Digestive Problems and How to End Them, Retrieved February 1, 2015, US News & World Report, LP, 2015., Love Your Liver!, Tanya Lee, ND, Retrieved February 1, 2015, Tanya Lee, Naturopathic Doctor, 2015., The Link Between Liver Disease and Dairy Problems, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 28, 2015, Natural Wellness, 2015., Improve Your Gastrointestinal Health with Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 28, 2015, Natural Wellness, 2015., Probiotics and gut health: A Special Focus on Liver Diseases, SW Gratz, et al, Retrieved February 1, 2015, World Journal of Gastroenterology, January 2010., Probiotics prevent deadly complications of liver disease, study finds, Retrieved January 29, 2015, ScienceDaily, LLC, 2015.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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