If you ask any doctor, digestive and stomach complaints are the most widespread symptoms patients report on their initial visits. As a matter of fact, gastrointestinal complaints are so common, that many medical professionals consider them to be “normal.” But just because something is considered ordinary doesn’t mean you should learn to live with it.
Whether or not your biggest complaint is with your stomach, I believe the foundation of great health starts with the gut and the liver. These two organs are where we absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins. If they aren’t working properly, then your body can’t function at its best.
For this reason, when a patient comes to me with acne or hormonal imbalances, I always start with a look at her gut and liver to make sure that her body is detoxing properly. Both skin and hormone health – like many other of the body’s processes – are intricately related to the proper functioning of these two organs.
So, whether you have specific health problems you need to address or you are just striving for even better health, your focus should first turn to cleansing and healing the organs at the heart of your digestive system.
The Role of the Gut and the Liver
When the gut and the liver are at their best, they make sure that the good stuff is absorbed by your body and the bad stuff is removed. When you eat, the stomach and small intestines help the nutrients coming in to be absorbed by your bloodstream, which then transports them to the areas of the body where they are used to create the essential components of life – hormones, enzymes, and the energy you need to thrive throughout the day.
On the other side of the equation are the things your body needs to get rid of, like the toxins you ingest from food, air, and water or the hormones that have been broken down and are no longer needed. The liver removes toxins from the blood, breaks them down into a water-soluble form, and then dumps them into the gut, where the large intestine filters them out of the body.
When the liver and gut are not working properly, this whole process becomes more inefficient. Your blood absorbs fewer nutrients, and toxins are now able to make their way into the bloodstream, where they can then be transported around the body. Toxins on the move can lead to cellular problems, which can lead to organ problems, which can then lead to disease.
Because of this, the first goal of good health should be to make sure the liver and gut are working properly so that nutrients are coming in and toxins are moving out.
The Key to Hormone Health? You Guessed It
Hormone balance is one function that is especially dependent on a healthy liver and gut. Sex hormones are manufactured in the liver, where cholesterol is made, broken down into DHEA, and then metabolized into 2 different types of hormones. The first group are your androgens, like testosterone, and your estrogen; the second are progesterone and cortisol.
Cholesterol is necessary in order to manufacture hormones. When people take statins to lower their cholesterol, one of the main side effects is the loss of their sex drive and function due to the reduction in the production of sex hormones. In the same way, if the liver is congested and overloaded with toxins, it takes away from the liver’s ability to make these hormones.
In addition to making hormones, the liver and gut are also where hormones are broken down and metabolized when they are ready to be removed. The liver has enzymes which help to detox excess hormones and any environmental toxins your body needs to get rid of. These enzymes break hormones down before they are emptied into the intestines, where your microbiome, or the layer of friendly microbes made of bacteria and yeast, further dismantles used and excess hormones. After they have been broken down, they are eliminated through the natural waste process.
How – and How Often – to Heal These Two Organs
I recommend all health regimes begin with cleansing and repairing the gut and the liver. In my practice, I start all my patients on a one-month clean-up campaign to support the healthy functioning of these two organs, which will immediately begin to have a balancing effect on hormones.
This detoxification effort involves removing alcohol, certain foods, and beauty and cleaning products that may be stressing your body due to the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. When it comes to alcohol, drinking in moderation may be fine for people who are healthy and whose liver and gut are working properly. However, it can be problematic and lead to hormonal disruptions if the liver is working overtime to eliminate other chemicals.
Many of my patients find that just starting with this first step reduces 50-80% of their symptoms before any other issue-focused work has been done. Once the liver and gut are clean and ready, you have a solid foundation on which to build in the next phase of treatment: adding nutrients, food, and supplements to support the balancing and repairing of hormone imbalances or any other specific health problem you are facing.
I recommend that every woman do a liver and gut cleanse at least once or twice per year, even if you don’t have a health issue you want to target. Not only is this the key to helping your supplements and food work more efficiently, but when you take the time to make sure your digestive system is in top shape, you can focus on having fun in life without worrying that health issues might pop up and derail you. The gut and liver are truly the foundation of good health. For that reason, you should treat them with loving care.