liver healthThe liver is incredible. Most people think of it as a filter, but filters are physical barriers that accumulate junk and have to be cleaned. The liver isn’t a filter. It’s a chemical processing plant. Rather than sit there, passively receiving, filtering out, and storing undesirable compounds, the liver encounters toxic chemicals and attempts to metabolize them into less-toxic metabolites that we can handle.

  • It oxidizes the toxins, preparing them for further modification
  • It converts the toxins to a less-toxic, water-soluble version that’s easier to excrete
  • It excretes the toxins through feces or urine

Bam. It’s an elegant process, provided everything is working well back there. And it’s not the only process it controls.

The liver is the primary site of cholesterol synthesis and disposal. It creates cholesterol as needed and converts excess into bile salts for removal via the bile duct. The liver also plays a huge role in the burning of fat for energy, the storage of vitamin A, the metabolism of hormones, and the regulation of blood sugar. If you enjoy burning ketones, you can thank the liver because that’s where they’re produced.

The liver supports full-body health, in other words. If it isn’t working correctly, nothing is. Everything starts to fall apart.

How do we support the liver?

It’s not one thing we do. It’s many things. It’s nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, sleep — everything. It’s also the things we don’t do. The stakes are high, you see. Whenever there’s a grand overarching orchestrator regulating dozens of different processes in the body, you must protect it from multiple angles. A lot can go wrong. Or right, depending on how you look at it.

Since the liver is “hidden away” and you can’t really “feel” it, you may not give it too much thought. When you’re overweight, you know it. When your fitness is suffering, you consciously experience it. When your liver is overburdened or suffering, you don’t necessarily know it. That’s where doing the right things for the sake of doing them comes in handy.

So, what should you do to maintain pristine liver health?


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11 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Liver

Liver health depends on steps you take toward a healthy lifestyle, and equally as important, the things you refrain from doing. Here are some things you can to to contribute to lifelong liver health:

  • Reduce linoleic acid intake
  • Reduce refined carb intake
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Stop overeating, and lose weight
  • Practice time-restricted eating
  • Eat fatty fish and get omega-3s
  • Eat egg yolks and other choline sources
  • Take NAC
  • Take whey protein
  • Regularly deplete your liver glycogen
  • Get good, regular sleep

Reduce Linoleic Acid Intake

When a patient can’t eat, they get something called parenteral nutrition — a direct infusion of nutrients into the gut. The classic parenteral nutrition consists of an emulsion of olive oil and soybean oil. It’s very rich in linoleic acid and typically leads to elevated liver enzymes and fatty liver. That’s right: the medical establishment for whatever reason just accepts that people receiving parenteral nutrition have a high chance of developing fatty liver disease.

Okay, but what’s happening here? Is it really causal? Yes. The more linoleic acid you eat, the more oxidized metabolites of linoleic acid show up in your body. The more oxidized metabolites of linoleic acid you have, the higher your risk of fatty liver. These toxic metabolites of LA are actually full-fledged biomarkers of liver injury.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4405421/#:~:text=This%20study%20suggests%20that%20human,patients%20with%20obesity%20(48).‘>2 which affects how efficiently your liver works.

Of course, the combo of high linoleic acid and high refined carbohydrate is just about the worst thing possible.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

To detox alcohol, the liver converts it into the metabolite acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is far more toxic than ethanol itself, so the body then releases acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione to break down the acetaldehyde. If you stick to just a few drinks and space them out accordingly, your body’s natural antioxidant enzyme production can keep up. If you start binging, though, glutathione stores become overwhelmed and the liver must produce more. Meanwhile, acetaldehyde, which is between 10-30 times more toxic than ethanol, accrues in your body.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413112001891‘>4

Eat Fatty Fish and Get Omega-3s

If you offset some of that olive oil and soybean oil with a blend of medium triglycerides and fish oil, liver enzymes may drop and overall integrity of the liver may improve.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22308119/‘>6 Taking it with vitamin C may be even more effective.

NAC is well-known for boosting levels of glutathione, the primary antioxidant used by the liver to metabolize toxins and protect itself.

Take Whey Protein

Obese women with fatty liver who took 60 grams of whey protein per day reduced their liver fat by almost 21%.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24316260/‘>8 When liver glycogen is full, it becomes far more likely that your liver will turn any subsequent carbohydrate it encounters into fat for storage. If you keep liver glycogen low, or regularly deplete it, you can avoid de novo lipogenesis because there’s usually a place to store the glucose.

Furthermore, keeping liver glycogen low increases fat utilization from all over the body, including the liver.https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-03/uops-mwt030311.php‘>10 If you don’t get to sleep at a normal, consistent time, your rhythm is disrupted and the molecules can’t do their jobs.

If you hadn’t already noticed, these are good health practices in general. We keep running into this phenomenon, don’t we?

What’s good for the liver is good for the brain is good for the cardiovascular system is good for your performance in the gym is good for the mirror.

It makes things easier and harder.

You know what to do.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Do you have any other recommendations for liver health? Which of these do you follow?

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The post All About the Liver, and How to Support Your Favorite Detoxification Organ appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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why am i waking up in the middle of the nightWhenever I write about sleep, I hear from a chorus of people who struggle to sleep through the night. Anecdotally, it seems a far more common complaint than difficulty falling asleep in the first place.

These complaints are one of three types:

  1. People who have trouble falling asleep
  2. People who sleep fitfully, waking multiple times throughout the night
  3. Those who reliably wake once, around the same time most nights

Understandably, this is a hugely vexing problem. Poor quality sleep is a serious health concern. Not to mention, sleeping badly feels simply awful. When the alarm goes off after a night of tossing and turning, the next day is sure to be a slog. String several days like that together, and it’s hard to function at all.

I’m going to go out on a limb, though, and assert that waking up in the middle of the night isn’t always the problem we make it out to be. For some people, nighttime wakings are actually something to embrace. As always, context is everything.


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What Causes You to Wake Up In the Middle of the Night?

One of the most frustrating things about nighttime waking is that there are so many possible causes. Sometimes the solution is as simple as practicing good sleep hygiene. Other times, medical help is in order. Still other times, the solution is something different entirely.

Transitioning to Lighter Sleep Stages

Sleep isn’t a uniform state of unconsciousness you slip into when it becomes dark and, theoretically, ride until morning. It’s a dynamic process that goes in waves—or more precisely, cyclesthroughout the night.

There are four (or five, depending on how you slice it) stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1: light sleep, occurs right after falling asleep
  • Stage 2: deeper sleep
  • Slow-wave sleep (SWS): deepest sleep, a.k.a. Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep
  • REM: lighter sleep where our more interesting dreams occur (although we can also dream in non-REM phaseshttps://academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727‘>2 Still, you might be able to look at your diet and identify a likely culprit. For example, if your sleep problems started after going carnivore or adding intermittent fasting, that’s an obvious place to start.

    A food log can help you spot patterns, such as whether eating certain foods at dinner tends to correlate with poorer sleep. Alcohol and caffeine are big sleep disruptors as well, though you surely know that.

    If you’re frequently waking up to pee, you might be overhydrating, especially in the evening. More seriously, it can be a symptom of diabetes or bladder, prostate, kidney, adrenal, or heart problems. Getting up once or twice to pee probably isn’t cause for alarm. It’s worth seeing a doctor if you’re getting several times or urinating much more at night than during the day.


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    What to Do About Nighttime Waking

    First things first, pick the low-hanging fruit

    I’m talking good sleep hygiene practices. Things like:

    • Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.
    • Minimize exposure to artificial lights after the sun sets. Use blue-light blocking glasses, and turn on night mode on your devices.
    • Watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption, especially later in the day.
    • Go to bed around the same time each night.

    If applicable, experiment with your diet and food timing

    Depending on your current diet, some experiments you might try include:

    1. If you’re ultra-low-carb, try increasing your carb intake for a few weeks.
    2. Try loading more of your carbs into your evening meal.
    3. Make sure your protein intake isn’t too low.https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/7/5/938/4616727‘>4 That calls the “starving brain” hypothesis into question, but I suspect there’s an important nuance here. Individuals who can comfortably do longer fasts are almost certainly also fat-adapted and, at least during the fast, producing ketones to fuel their brains. Metabolically, they’re in a very different place from a carb-dependent person who struggles to make it through the night.

      Consider napping

      If you’re unable to get enough high-quality sleep at night, you might prefer to adjust your sleep schedule entirely. Instead, aim for a shorter nighttime sleep period, say five or six hours, paired with an afternoon nap. This is another variant of biphasic sleeping.

      Years ago, I wrote a post on how to conduct just this type of experiment. Check it out and see if it might work for you. It’s unconventional in this day and age, but I know people who thrive on this schedule.

      Finally, don’t hesitate to seek medical help

      Sleep issues are a symptom of many diverse health issues, including hyperthyroidism, anxiety, depression, and, as previously mentioned, diabetes, heart disease, and others. Your doctor may want to test you for sleep apnea.

      The Case of Hot Flashes

      Hot flashes are a common cause of nighttime waking for women of a certain age. If you endure nighttime flashes, you’re probably familiar with the standard advice:

      Unfortunately, as I’ve learned from my wife Carrie’s and many friends’ experiences, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I do think acupuncture is a potentially helpful, underutilized tool. Mostly, though, it’s just a combo of trial-and-error plus time that seems to get most women through this phase.

      Getting Back to Sleep

      In the meantime, while you get to the root of the issue, here are some tips for getting back to sleep:

      • Take care of pressing needs. Get up and pee, get a drink of water, or adjust the thermostat. There’s no point in trying to power through the discomfort that woke you up in the first place. Just fix it.
      • Keep artificial lights and screens off. Use small nightlights to light your path to the bathroom if necessary, and wear your orange-tinted glasses.
      • Do a calm activity such as reading by candlelight, deep breathing exercises, or sketching or writing in your journal.
      • Most of all, don’t stress! Fretting is likely to keep you awake for much longer than simply accepting the fact that you are awake and lying peacefully in bed.

      Are You Fighting Something You Should Be Embracing?

      I’ve long believed that humans naturally tend to be biphasic sleepers. The idea that we should be passed out for a solid eight hours per night is a social construct not firmly rooted in our sleep biology.

      Historian Roger Ekirch argues, rather convincingly I think, that before the advent of artificial light, humans across geographical locations and social strata slept in two chunks during the night. The first, usually just called “first sleep,” or sometimes “dead sleep,” comprised the first four or so hours. “Second sleep” went until dawn. In between, people would enjoy an hour, or perhaps two or three hours, of mid-night activities such as praying and meditating, reading and writing, having sex, and even visiting neighbors. This was seen as completely normal, even welcome.https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/39/3/715/2454050‘>6 Also, in one small experiment, seven adults lived in a controlled environment with 14 hours of darkness per night. Over the course of four weeks, their sleep and hormone secretions slowly and naturally became biphasic.https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2017.0967‘>8 If some individuals fall asleep earlier and some later, and most people are awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night, someone in the group is always up. That person can tend the fire and watch for danger. In fact, the waking hour was sometimes called the “sentinel” hour. According to Ekirch, it was often referred to as simply the “watch.”

      Are You a Biphasic Sleeper, or Do You Have a Sleep Problem?

      Waking up multiple times per night, such that you rarely feel truly rested, is a problem. However, we shouldn’t rush to pathologize a single nighttime waking. That might just be your natural sleep pattern. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be better off aiming for biphasic sleep either. Even if you wake reliably at the same time each night, sometimes a full bladder is just a full bladder.

      The litmus test is how you feel. With a biphasic schedule, the intervening waking period should be pleasant. Your mind should feel calm and alert, if perhaps a bit dreamy. Anecdotally, many famous writers, artists, and sculptors have adhered to a biphasic schedule, believing that creativity and flow are enhanced during the mid-night hours.

      Of course, you can’t tap into how you feel if waking is causing you a ton of angst. Remind yourself that waking can be normal, not dysfunctional. I know this can be easier said than done, especially if you’re sleep deprived. The thing about biphasic sleeping is that you’re still supposed to get the eight hours of nightly sleep you need, give or take. That means you have to spend nine or ten hours in bed. How many people do that nowadays?

      See if you can commit to at least a couple weeks of sufficient time in bed. Push away your previous (mis)conceptions about what a “good” night of sleep is “supposed” to look like. Try to welcome rather than fight the mid-night waking. Be open to what comes next.

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      The post Why Am I Waking Up at 3am? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Did you know that even occasional use of antibiotics, hand sanitizers, and other germ-killers can wreak havoc on your long-term health? This week, we’re here with Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a leading expert in the world of gut health.

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