By Dr. Thalia Farshchian
It can be both a beautiful and frustrating thing that the body is so interconnected. In some respects, it is fascinating and comforting and in other ways, it can feel so complicated. The more I study medicine, the more in awe I become of how it all works.
As a doctor, I focus on both digestion and hormones. It is really no coincidence as these are two areas I struggled with myself. I had a childhood history of stomach aches, but when I went to college both digestive and hormonal issues reared their ugly heads.
At that time, the hormonal issues with my menstrual period took precedence and drove me to my doctor. I had a full work-up with blood work and imaging all to find out, I was normal. It was disappointing to hear as I felt awful. When I asked my doctor what was next, her response was birth control. If my hormones were all “normal,” why would I take birth control? Her response was, “it is just what we do.” After my frustration, I started looking at other schools of thought and found a naturopathic doctor.
He spent time with me to learn more about my lifestyle, stress and current complaints followed by a battery of specialized tests. In short, I was a first year in college eating a poor diet, experimenting with alcohol and stressed by the big changes in life. My doctor’s assessment was that my liver was having a hard time detoxifying my hormones and in turn causing my symptoms. Within a month of cleaning up my diet and adding in some supplements, I felt back to normal without birth control. I got so excited by the process of understanding my body that I became a naturopathic doctor.
Now the purpose of this story is not to make you all quit your jobs and become naturopathic doctors, but it was the first light bulb to go off in my head that these two seemingly different systems of the body were in fact related.
Love your Liver
Let’s start by focusing on and paying homage to the all mighty liver. It is an incredibly resilient organ that puts up with the dirty world we live in.
The liver helps with the following functions:
- Metabolizing protein, fat and carbohydrates from our food
- Producing cholesterol to help make bile acids in the gall bladder and hormones in the ovaries/testes
- Producing proteins necessary for blood clotting and fluid balance
- Stores glycogen for energy expenditure
- Activating thyroid hormones
We have various ways of testing its health, but there are symptoms that also clue us in to look closer including:
- Skin Issues: Acne, Liver Spots
- Hay Fever or Chronic Environmental Allergies
- Emotional: Anger (traditionally thought in Chinese Medicine)
- Hormonal Issues: Fatigue, Irregular Cycles, Breast Tenderness
- Digestive Issues: Indigestion, Fatty Stools (Floating), Abdominal Discomfort
- Cardiovascular: High Cholesterol
On a daily basis, our liver is up against quite a bit including:
- Saturated Fats
- Medications (prescribed, food based from hormone/antibiotic fed meat)
- Fumes via Paint/Exhaust, etc.
- Environmental Factors including pollen, dander, dust
- Hormones (our own, birth control, food based as mentioned above)
- Chemicals commonly from plastic and skincare products
- Bacterial toxins from digestive bacterial/flora imbalances
Among the list above are both things that are easily modified with proper awareness and those that are difficult to avoid or understand are an issue in the first place.
As I mentioned before the liver is arguably our most resilient organ system, which means we can support it with proper nutrition and lifestyle change. To enhance detoxification, incorporate the following:
- Exercise and break a sweat
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruits
- Foods high in Vitamin C including citrus fruits and greens: kale, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, broccoli
- Foods high in Vitamin E including avocado, almonds and sunflower seeds
- Foods high in Zinc including oysters, ginger root and pumpkin seeds
- Foods high in Selenium including brazil nuts and garlic
- Foods high in Magnesium including kelp, avocado and good quality chocolate
- Foods high in B Vitamins including lean meat and liver
- Be mindful of the quality of your meat products by sticking to grass fed, chemical free and wild
Our microbiomes, the bacteria that make up our body, are becoming quite the hot topic in health and wellness. We are made up of one trillion bacteria, which could allow one to argue that we are more bug than we are human.
With modern stressors of food sources, environmental toxins, antibiotics, increased cleanliness, reduced time breast feeding and life stress, our bacterial balance becomes heavily affected. This in turns can cause digestive, immune and hormonal issues. This topic can easily go on forever, but we will stay focused on the hormones.
So we know that the livers aids in detoxifying hormones to allow us to expel them via our urine and feces. The large intestines which help with bulking and excreting feces plays a role in hormones as well.
When the bacterial balance is thrown off and we have bad bugs that cause dysfunction, there can be an enzyme that is created in excess called beta glucaronidase. Beta glucaronidase actually takes hormones, medications and other toxins in the large intestines that supposed to be expelled and loops them back to the liver. This in turns results in the liver working over time. For some, this recirculation can exacerbate any of the general symptoms that suggest liver stress including hormone imbalances and/or increased yeast infections.
Stool testing can confirm the presence of excess beta glucaronidase and help determine the make-up of the microbiome. This specialized testing can offer information on the digestive component of detoxification and aid appropriately supporting those affected by hormone imbalance.
If you suffer from pelvic pain your liver and hormones may play a role. To learn more, consult with a naturalpathic doctor in your area.
About the Author
Dr. Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor in San Francisco helping people to optimize their health to stay active. She specializes in digestive and hormone conditions using diet and natural remedies to support healing. With an expertise in both these areas, she has been able to assist people in achieving their optimal body, inside and out. To learn more about Dr. Farschian please visit her Website — www.drthalia.com.