Taking care of our liver is not something we think about very often, but our liver certainly takes care of us. This large organ is a key player in running the complex machine of the body—in fact, it performs over 300 functions. For example, the liver filters toxins in the blood that may come from drugs, alcohol, or other poisonous substances. It breaks down protein into amino acids. It converts the carbs we eat into glycogen, which can later be converted back to glucose to give us energy. Bile, which is necessary for breaking down the fats we eat, is produced in the liver. The liver also produces the cholesterol we need to stay healthy. It even regulates blood clotting so that we don’t lose too much blood when we get injured.
The best way to take care of the hard-working liver is to avoid harmful substances like drugs and alcohol. Alcohol can damage liver cells that can eventually lead to cirrhosis—a disease that can be fatal. Some medicines harm the liver—even an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen can damage the liver if too much is taken at once or if it’s taken regularly over a long period of time. The trouble is that you often won’t know there’s anything wrong with your liver until the damage is quite serious. So prevention is key.
What positive action can you take to enable your liver to keep functioning at its peak? Eat a healthy yoga diet (lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products—preferably organic), drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Yoga asanas are particularly good for the internal organs, including the liver, because of the way the bends, stretches, and twists massage these organs and improve circulation throughout the body. This week’s asana, Threaded Spinal Twist, is a good one to include in your practice session to help keep the liver healthy.