Not many of us relate the outer glow of our complexion to the health of our liver. However, your skin is often the first place to show the effects of a liver that is overloaded and under-functioning. Today we are taking a look at how the health of our liver can significantly impact how our skin feels and looks, but more importantly what we can potentially do about it.
What does the liver actually do?
Your liver is the only organ in your body that’s capable of self-repair, which is just as well as you need your liver for a variety of functions including breaking down toxins, breaking down fats, deactivating hormones and storing key nutrients such as vitamins A, B12 and D .
As one of your body’s main elimination organs, any toxins that you eat, drink, absorb through your skin, or breathe in through your lungs have to be filtered out by your liver. In many ways, your skin is a direct reflection of how efficiently that filtration process is working. If your bloodstream is overloaded with toxins (such as chemicals put into foods, environmental pollutants, drugs or alcohol), the results will inevitably show up on your skin. A congested liver simply can’t break down these toxins efficiently, causing them to build up. When those harmful substances are expelled through your pores, they can irritate and inflame the skin resulting in a range of unwanted skin conditions including eczema, acne and other inflammatory conditions.
Another role that your liver plays is the breakdown of fats in your diet. When your liver function is slow or inefficient, those fats will just float around in your bloodstream. Often, the oil-producing glands in your skin (called the sebaceous glands) will try to compensate for this extra fat and use them instead. Unfortunately, using this fat-soluble material to produce sebum can cause all sorts of problems. These fats can upset the natural oils on your skin because they tend to contain inflammatory toxins. The quality of fats in your bloodstream will affect the quality of sebum on your skin. The thicker and more toxic the sebum, the more likely it will clog your pores. If your diet contains a high amount of saturated fat and trans fat – such as those found in fried foods, chocolate, margarines or other unhealthy fats – the impact on your skin will be even more severe, which could lead to a vicious cycle of even more breakouts and inflammation.
Quick tips to help support the liver and therefore support our skin:
A detox can help give your liver a spring clean and boost your skin. It involves eating the right kind of foods, drinking plenty of water and herbal teas and supplementing your diet with certain nutrients to support the organs that eliminate toxins from the body. A detox will not only give you more energy, mental clarity, improved digestion / bowel function and improved mood, you will also experience more radiant skin, hair and nails. An important step in a skin detox program is to include hot water with lemon first thing every morning to stimulate liver function and hydrate the body.
Your diet can be a big cause of many liver problems. Unfortunately, agriculture has started to use more and more pesticides and chemicals in their farming methods, which means that many of the non-organic foods you consume could potentially contain chemicals too. Your liver then has to break down these toxins, but it can become overwhelmed, especially if processed meats and refined foods are a major staple of your diet. Eating more wholefoods and reducing your dairy and gluten intake can also help to overload your liver with additional toxins. When eaten in excess, dairy and gluten can sometimes irritate the lining of the gut wall, causing toxins to leak out into the bloodstream, creating an even greater burden on the liver. Quite often, once we omit these from our diet (even for a short period), our skin issues will also clear up.
Your diet isn’t the only source of artificial chemicals though – what we put on our skin also affects our liver. Perfumes, suncream and most high-street cosmetics / skincare products are loaded with parabens, preservatives and artificial fragrances which will eventually be transported to your liver, but not without first making contact with your skin! frii[s]mith products have been designed to be VERY liver friendly! Our simplified skincare system is made from the highest cosmeceutical grade ingredients, combined with vital nutrients and energies from the Australian earth. They have been designed with a purpose to provide a non-burdening skincare routine that ultimately enhances overall skin health and lets the liver get on with all those other jobs it has to do! You can read more about our purpose here.
Here is a list of the foods to increase in your diet to help both detoxify and cleanse your liver:
- EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) and oils – oily fish such as salmon or mackerel, nuts and seeds such walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, avocados and nut and seed oils
- Plenty of water to flush out the impurities and improve bowel function (1-2 litres per day is a good guide)
- Eat plenty of protein such as organic eggs, fish, nuts and seeds, lean meats, lentils, quinoa, chia seeds
- 2-3 cups of vegetables per day (raw and cooked). Aim to eat a rainbow of colours every day
Supplements that may be necessary to support detoxification and skin health include:
- Magnesium – nervous system, metabolism, balancing blood sugars
- Zinc - hormonal health, skin repair, immunity
- Vit B - nervous system, digestive system, skin and metabolism
- Herbal supplements including milk thistle, dandelion root extract and artichoke leaf extract- to improve the digestion and elimination of fats and balance hormones that may be contributing to certain skin conditions
Alcohol is one of several substances that can damage your liver, and it’s not exactly great for your skin either, often being cited as a major trigger of rosacea. The odd glass of wine or occasional cocktail is nothing to worry about, as although your liver cannot store alcohol, it’s absolutely capable of metabolising it. It’s thought that around 90% of the alcohol you drink will eventually be excreted in urine and sweat. However, your liver does have its limits. It can process a small drink or so an hour but, if you’re drinking more than this, the alcohol your liver cannot process will circulate in your blood. Since alcohol can also act as a diuretic, it also means you’ll be losing more fluids – not a good scenario for your liver as it needs water to function properly!