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Optimising Liver Health for a Healthy Pregnancy With Nutritional Medicine

By Nadine Stewart (https://nurturewithnadine.com/)

The road to pregnancy may seem like it starts with a positive pregnancy test, but in reality, the journey begins long before that moment. Taking care of your health during the preconception phase can impact your future baby's well-being in ways you may not have imagined.

Did you know that the state of your liver health can affect your pregnancy outcomes? It's true - and just one example of how prioritising preconception health can make all the difference. How is your liver health?

Signs Your Liver Might Be Sluggish:

  • Fatigue

  • Anger & Irritability

  • Brain Fog/Lethargy/Feeling Drained

  • Headaches & Migraines Behind Eyes

  • Chronic Joint or Muscle Pain

  • Infertility and miscarriage

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Excessive Perspiration

  • Trouble Digesting Fats

  • Gall Bladder Removed

  • Allergies

  • Bloating, Abdominal Pain, Constipation, Diarrhoea

  • Hormonal Imbalances

  • Anxiety and Depression

  • Unexplained Weight Gain

Did you have some of the above symptoms? No problem, we have some tips and valuable education for you below.

Whether you are on the path to parenthood or committed to enhancing your well-being, understanding the role of the liver in overall health and fertility is crucial. In this blog post, we delve deep into the multifaceted functions of the liver,  and its specific influence on fertility, conception, and healthy pregnancy.

Revealing the Liver's Vital Role: More Than Just a Detox Organ

Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body, performing countless functions in order to keep you healthy. One of its most well-known roles is detoxification: filtering out harmful toxins and excess hormones so they can be excreted from the body. But its responsibilities extend far beyond detoxification.

The liver's capabilities extend to producing bile, a vital substance that assists your body in digesting fats and absorbing specific nutrients. But its functions don't stop there - the liver takes on the role of producing hormones that regulate blood sugar levels, and immune responses, and even acts as a storage unit for critical nutrients. This includes glucagon, Vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, and essential minerals like iron, copper, and zinc.

This extraordinary organ holds a central role in thyroid hormone conversion too. It is believed that about 60% of T4 is transformed into the active form, T3, within the liver itself.

This means that a healthy liver is not only essential for proper thyroid function but also significantly impacts fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Therefore, prioritising liver health should be an integral part of preconception and overall well-being.

The Intricate Link Between Liver Health and Fertility

When it comes to fertility, the focus is often on reproductive organs like the ovaries and testes. However, it's important to recognise that the liver also plays a crucial role in maintaining reproductive health.

The liver helps to metabolise hormones that are crucial for reproductive function - including oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When liver health is compromised, it affects the body's ability to produce the necessary hormones for conception.

In women, having less-than-optimal liver health has been linked to complications regarding egg quality. Specifically, the liver's role in regulating oestrogen levels can directly affect the maturation and release of healthy eggs. If oestrogen levels are out of balance, it can lead to eggs that are not fully developed or released properly during ovulation.

Furthermore, oestrogen also influences the production of cervical mucus, which is essential for helping sperm reach the egg. If liver health is compromised and oestrogen levels are affected, it could lead to changes in the quantity and quality of cervical mucus, potentially hindering conception. 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Poor liver health can also exacerbate conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). When the liver isn't efficiently processing insulin, blood sugar levels can rise, leading to greater insulin production. High insulin levels can stimulate the ovaries to produce more androgens, worsening PCOS symptoms.

Similarly, when dealing with endometriosis,  impaired liver function might struggle to keep oestrogen levels in check. This could stimulate the growth of more endometrial tissue, worsening your endometriosis symptoms, and potentially impacting your fertility.

Liver health is intrinsically linked to male fertility, given its role in regulating key hormones such as testosterone. Testosterone is instrumental in stimulating sperm production. However, if the liver's performance is compromised, it may struggle to maintain balanced testosterone levels. This imbalance can disrupt sperm production, potentially leading to a reduced sperm count. Thus, optimal liver health is crucial in preserving efficient sperm production and overall male fertility.

In addition to its role in hormone regulation, the liver also plays a critical role in releasing key proteins that support robust sperm production. One such protein is Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which binds to sex hormones including testosterone in the bloodstream. This binding process is essential for maintaining the balance of free and bound testosterone, a crucial factor for normal sperm production through a process known as spermatogenesis, which occurs within the testicles. If liver function is compromised, it could potentially affect the release of SHBG and other vital compounds, This can lead to an imbalance in hormone levels, which can then impair sperm production.

The Impact of Environmental Toxins on Liver Function and Fertility

In our fast-paced, modern lives, we're continually in contact with environmental toxins. These include things like pesticides and fertilisers, chemicals found in plastics, pollutants, substances from smoking and alcohol, both recreational and prescribed medications, heavy metals, and even chemicals like parabens and SLS that are present in our personal care products. And this list doesn't include everything!

These toxins, and others, can accumulate in our bodies, often finding a long-term home in our fat cells. It's up to our loyal liver to handle these toxins, alongside its job of detoxifying our own natural hormones. If the liver is overwhelmed with the task of clearing out these external toxins, it can negatively impact our hormone balance, and in turn, our fertility.

Numerous products nowadays include various chemicals such as DDT, BPA, BPS, PCBs, and glyphosate, among others.  According to a study, Women with the highest levels of PCBs have a serious 50% decrease in their ability to get pregnant and if they become pregnant are much more likely to miscarry. This same study found women with higher pesticide exposure (specifically glyphosate) had infertility rates 39% higher than those without exposure.

There is also evidence indicating that when a baby is exposed to these toxins while in the womb, it can result in alterations to foetal development and epigenetics. New research has unveiled that, astonishingly, newborns are already exposed to an average of 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord blood at the time of birth. This implies that even before they enter this world, these tiny beings are subjected to a multitude of toxins. What's more alarming is that out of the 287 chemicals examined, 208 have been linked to birth defects or irregular development in animals during testing. Can you imagine the potential harm they could do to our precious babies?

Considering all of this, it's clear why it's important to incorporate a gentle liver cleanse to ensure the arrival of a healthy baby into this world.

Why Opt for a Liver Cleanse Instead of a Detox

Detoxification has gained popularity in recent times, with methods ranging from juicing to using binders. However, it's crucial to understand that these detox practices can sometimes lead to depletion. For instance, some binders don't discriminate between toxins and essential minerals, potentially stripping the body of necessary nutrients. Similarly, juicing, while nutrient-rich, can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which ultimately place undue stress on the body's systems. Therefore, it's essential to approach detoxification with a balanced perspective.

A cleanse takes a gentler approach and considers the intricate interplay between various vital organs that work in harmony with the liver. This includes the gut, gall bladder, and pancreas, among others. A cleanse is not just about eliminating toxins but also about supporting and enhancing the body's natural detoxification process. It recognises the interconnectedness of our bodily systems and aims to improve overall health and wellness.

Others who may benefit:

:People with a history of exposure to high levels of environmental toxins or certain types of medications, including in-vitro fertilisation drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, and antibiotics, could  benefit from a cleanse. Similarly, those with a diet high in processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine, or those enduring high-stress or sedentary lifestyles, may also find a cleanse helpful.

The Ideal Timing for a Liver Cleanse before Conception

The timing of a liver cleanse should ideally be several months before trying to conceive. This allows the body time to eliminate toxins and restore balance.

A liver cleanse involves the release and elimination of harmful substances stored in the liver. This detoxification process requires time as the body methodically works to expel these toxins. By starting this cleanse well before conception, you're setting yourself up for success, providing your body with the necessary timeframe to complete this process, minimising any potential adverse effects on fertility.

It's also important to avoid a liver cleanse during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. The reason behind this caution stems from the potential risks involved. During a cleanse, there's a possibility of experiencing nutrient deficiencies, which can be detrimental during these periods when the body's nutritional demands are significantly increased.

Moreover, there's also a risk that the baby could be exposed to toxins being released from the liver during the cleansing process. These toxins could potentially enter the bloodstream and, in breastfeeding mothers, find their way into the breast milk. This scenario could pose significant health risks to the developing baby or nursing infant.

Liver Love: The Ongoing Commitment

Before we delve into the specifics of the essential nutrients for liver health, it's important to understand that supporting liver health is an ongoing commitment, not a one-time event. While the therapeutic benefits of a liver cleanse are undeniable, it should be seen as a launching pad towards a healthier lifestyle rather than a standalone solution. A liver cleanse can help detoxify your body and restore equilibrium, but the real work lies in the day-to-day decisions you make.

Consistently supporting your liver means making mindful dietary choices, embracing lifestyle changes, and steering clear of harmful foods and toxins. It's about creating an environment where your liver can thrive and remember that your liver needs more than an occasional detox, it requires ongoing love and care.

Essential Nutrients for Liver Health

The liver thrives on essential nutrients to perform its symphony of functions. Thankfully, there are many essential nutrients that support liver function and keep it healthy:

  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant helps protect the liver from free radical damage, aids in detoxification, and supports the production of glutathione - a crucial antioxidant for liver health. Sources include Acerola, broccoli, baobab powder, bell peppers, kiwis

  • B Vitamins: B vitamins play an important role in metabolism and energy production, which are necessary for proper liver function. They also assist in detoxification processes in the body. Good sources of B vitamins include dark leafy greens, seafood, organ meats, red meat, eggs

  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket, kale, watercress and Brussels sprouts contain compounds including sulforaphane and fibre that support liver detox

  • Magnesium: This mineral is essential for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body, including those involved in liver function and detoxification. It's found in foods like dark chocolate, organ meats, almonds, spinach, nuts & seeds, fatty fish and avocados

  • Selenium: An important mineral for liver health, selenium aids in the production of enzymes that help flush out toxins from the body. Good sources include Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats

  • Milk Thistle: This herb has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for liver disorders. It contains silymarin, a compound that helps protect the liver from damage and supports its regeneration

  • Turmeric: The active component in turmeric, curcumin, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit liver health. It's also been shown to support the production of glutathione - an essential antioxidant for liver function

  • Dandelion Root: This herb has traditionally been used to support liver and gallbladder health. It contains compounds that stimulate bile production, which helps with the elimination of toxins from the liver

  • Ginger: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can also benefit the liver. It has been shown to protect against liver damage and improve overall liver function. Ginger can be consumed in supplement form, added to dishes as a spice, or enjoyed as a soothing tea

  • Green Tea: Another powerful antioxidant, green tea contains catechins that have been shown to protect against liver damage and support its detoxification processes.

Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Liver

While a balanced diet is integral to maintaining liver health, it is far from the only factor that matters. In fact, a holistic approach to wellness that includes regular exercise, adequate sleep, effective stress management, and other lifestyle modifications can significantly enhance liver function and overall health.

  • Hydration: Hydration is crucial for liver function as it aids in flushing out toxins and waste products, preventing their accumulation in the liver. Staying hydrated maintains optimal blood volume and flow to the liver, enabling it to perform effectively and maintain overall health.

  • Stress Management: Stress management is crucial for liver health. Stress can directly and indirectly damage liver tissue and disturb emotional health. It can also weaken blood flow to the part of the brain that controls the liver, potentially causing liver damage.

  • Adequate sleep: Adequate sleep, typically seven to nine hours per night for adults, is crucial for liver health. Sleep allows the body to perform essential repair and maintenance processes, including those related to liver function

  • Avoid Toxins: It's important to reduce your toxic burden, which refers to changes you can make in your daily habits to minimise exposure to toxins. This could include buying organic or cleaning produce with baking soda before consumption, reducing exposure to environmental toxins such as cleaning products and perfumes, and maintaining a clean home environment by opening windows and dusting

  • Regular Exercise: can decrease stress on the liver, boost energy levels, and help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for liver disease. Furthermore, getting enough quality sleep is crucial for the body's metabolic processes, including those that occur in the liver

Key Takeaways:

  1. The liver, as a master detoxifier, is vital for overall health and fertility. It plays a critical role in hormone regulation, detoxification, and nutrient storage that significantly influences fertility

  2. A healthy liver ensures hormonal balance, crucial for reproductive health. Any damage or under-functioning of the liver can affect this balance and consequently fertility

  3. Exposure to environmental toxins can disrupt liver functions, leading to hormonal imbalances and compromised fertility.

  4. Undertaking a liver cleanse can help eliminate toxins, thereby aiding in preparing the body for a healthy pregnancy

  5. Besides cleansing, maintaining liver health requires a holistic  approach including proper nutrition, hydration, stress management, sleep, and exercise.

Embarking on your journey to a healthy pregnancy begins with taking proactive steps towards overall well-being. By adopting the practices laid out in this blog, we don't just support our liver health; we also create an optimal environment for conception and a healthy pregnancy.

Remember, your journey to conception could begin with better liver health. Ready to take the leap towards a healthier pre-pregnancy journey? Reach out to Nadine for a discovery call and start with optimising your liver health

To Wholeness!

From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine

Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.

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