5 WAYS TO NOURISH THE LIVER POST-HOLIDAYS
A fresh start...
Happy New Year yogis, foodies, and wellness warriors alike! Amanda here. At the beginning of each year most of us look forward to a fresh start. We set intentions, envision where our careers are headed, and inevitably end up putting in a little more time and effort into our health and wellness. I am no different. A few holiday induced food-comas and sugar-highs later, I am ready to make those oh so necessary dietary upgrades and am actually looking forward to getting back to my self-care routine. If you too are ready for a reset, below you'll find 5 ways to nourish the liver post-holidays!
The liver sits under the rib cage, to the right of your stomach. The liver performs many essential functions related to digestion, metabolism, immunity, and the storage of nutrients within the body. In regards to detoxification, the liver metabolizes toxins such as alcohol and drugs into inactive metabolites. As blood from the digestive organs passes through to the liver, cells unique to the liver monitor the contents of the blood and remove many potentially toxic substances before they can reach the rest of the body. More on liver anatomy + function here.
Stretching + detoxification
From a western medicine perspective, it is believed that the human body is designed to get rid of what we don't need. Since we inherently have several built in detoxification processes, it is understandable why some don't buy into the claim that yoga and stretching can help detoxify your liver. Because "detox" is a bit of an emotionally charged word, I am going to try and avoid using it in this upcoming explanation. Below I explain how stretching can help nourish you liver ;)
Force generation from a muscle = increased electrical flow through the nerves= increased blood flow to carry nutrients in= increased lymphatic flow to carry waste out= healthy tissue with improved capacity to heal. Now we know how increased muscular force generation can lead to healthy tissue.
How do we generate musuclar force? Muscular force can be produced at different muscle fiber lengths. When a muscle fiber is stretched, and there is minimal overlap of actin and myosin, the contraction force is small. When a muscle fiber is fully contracted, there is maximal overlap of actin and myosin and a small contraction force is also seen. However, when there is optimal overlap between actin and myosin, the amount of force that can be produced is maximal. If we are looking to optimize tissue health, we need to operate with muscles that are at their optimal length in order to produce max tension (force). We also want that tissue to experience a full stretch and a full contraction in order to keep the tissue healthy through a large range of motion.
Thus, we can stretch and contact all the muscles surrounding the liver in order to nourish the cells and clear out metabolic debris from this area, overall, resulting in better liver tissue health. In the pictures below you'll be oriented to where your liver is and 4 different stretches that will target all the major muscles that surround the liver.
No.1 Side Body Stretch
Liver Lateral View
Stretches that get into the lateral aspect of the torso positively affect the liver. When we stretch to the right we compress and contract the tissues around the liver and when we go to the left we stretch and lengthen those same tissues. Give these poses a try, making sure to do them on both the right and left...
No. 2 Front Body Stretch
Liver Anterior View
Liver Posterior View
Spinal rotation brings a rush of circulation to the abdominal contents. A spinal twist to the left stretches the back muscles posterior to the liver and a spinal twist to the right compresses the liver. Below are 3 different yoga poses that focus on spinal twists...
No. 4 Deep Relaxation Pose
The liver sits below the diaphragm. When we find stillness and silence and breathe deeply, the diaphgram starts to rise and fall and we end up stimulating the cells superior to the liver. Try connecting to deep breathing while doing the following...
- Savasana/Corpse pose (hand on heart variation pictured above)
- Sukhasana/Easy seated pose
- Alternate nostril breathing
No 5. Liver Elixir
Claire Ragozzino of Vidya will be our chef in Tulum, Mexico and was our chef at our Malibu retreat. Above she shares a liver elixir recipe from her spring seasonal juicing e-book. These ingredients are immune boosting and liver health optimizing. In ayurveda, foods with a bitter taste have an affinity for cleansing the liver. More on how the bitter flavor can be medicinal in this Vidya blog post.