Love Your Liver and Improve Your PCOS
Thank you to our Wellness Partner Emma Sutherland for this great article.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) affects many different areas of a woman’s body and health, not only her ovaries as the name might suggest.
The liver may be one of these other areas. Women with PCOS are more likely to experience what’s known as Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, also called a ‘Fatty Liver’, and hormonal problems like oestrogen dominance in which the liver plays an important role. Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and high unhealthy blood fat levels (hyperlipidemia) are often seen together with a fatty liver, and these challenges are also often present in women with PCOS. There may well be a significant link!
A study in The American Journal Of Medicine found “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia even in lean subjects with normal glucose (blood sugar) tolerance. And women with PCOS, whether overweight or slender, are very often insulin resistant.
Let’s take a closer look at what and where the liver is, what it does, and how to boost its health and performance to help you live a longer, healthier, even PCOS-free life.
What your Liver Is, Where It Lives And What It Does?
The liver is the largest internal organ, and weighs (roughly) 1.5kg. It sits just under the right ribcage. It is the most amazing organ, with its powers of regeneration impressive, and important for its role in the body. It has many and varied functions, from producing proteins to detoxifying and protecting your body, to producing digestive chemicals, breaking down hormones like insulin and oestrogen, and storing different substances including glucose, Vitamins A, D, B12, and Iron.
A protein of particular interest in PCOS in called Sex Hormone Binding Globule (SHBG). SHBG is important in binding and inactivating excessive hormones, like the increased testosterone and estradiol levels so common in women with PCOS. As SHBG is often in lower levels, and oestrogen and testosterone levels are often higher, in women with PCOS, a healthy liver that produces optimal levels of SHBG and breaks down excessive and unneeded hormones is crucial.
How Do You Know If You Have A Fatty Liver?
There may or many not be altered liver function test results, and there are often no signs or symptoms. This can make diagnosis a little tricky. There may be tenderness when the upper middle or upper right part of your abdomen is pressed, or you may experience pain in these areas. You may also feel sick or tired. Your health professional may notice that your liver seems enlarged.
According to a study in The Journal Of Hepatology, “women with PCOS should be screened for liver disease.” Given this can be performed by ultrasound at the same time as the ovaries are being assessed, this seems to me to be a simple and cost effective strategy. You might wish to mention this to your health professional next time you have a consultation, or even print this article and take it with you.
Once you know that you have a fatty liver, how can you naturally boost the performance of this critical organ?
Top 10 Tips to Detox Your Liver
With some simple changes to your food plan and lifestyle, you can help your liver to function better, which will help you to reduce your PCOS signs and symptoms.
1) Drink hot or cold filtered water with lemon juice and/or green tea.
2) Eat cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol, which naturally helps to detoxify the body of excessive oestrogen levels.
Cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
The inclusion of these vegetables, in combination with a (gluten-free) high fibre food plan, helps to improve the function of and protect the liver. They also aid in the detoxification and removal of excessive oestrogen from the body, and have been shown to be important in both treating fatty liver and PCOS.
3) Hydration is vital for total body and liver health. Many professionals suggest a minimum of 8 glasses (or 2 litres) of pure water each day. I am most certainly in this camp.
4) Include healthy protein in your food plan, with most meals. Protein is important for healthy and complete liver detoxification.
These foods include:
- Fresh fish
- Free range eggs
5) Eat organic
Reduce or remove pre-packaged or processed foods entirely. Organic foods are ideal. They are more pure and contain far less of the toxins that can compromise liver function. The increased nutrient load and reduced levels of anti-nutrients (consumable products that not only don’t offer any nutrition, but take nutrients away from other healthy processes in order to break them down) make organic foods ideal.
6) Avoid unnecessary medications. Mediations add a toxic load to the body, and must be broken down by the liver. Discuss each prescribed and non-prescribed medication taken with your doctor or pharmacist. Ask how each one may affect the liver.
7) Alcohol consumption should be reduced or avoided due to the stress it places on the liver.
8) Foods rich in antioxidants are a great addition. They not only help to improve the detoxification process, but they tackle the increased inflammation so often seen in women with PCOS. These foods include:
- Acai berries
- (A little) dark chocolate
- Red kidney beans (dried)
9) Minimise or avoid exposure to toxins like pesticides, herbicides, and what is termed recreational drugs. Be aware of your choice of personal, cleaning and other household products. Products with long lists of hard to pronounce, chemical sounding names are most likely not healthy for your liver or your PCOS.
10) Lose weight, if needed. This has been shown to reduce a fatty liver, and PCOS signs and symptoms.
A healthy lifestyle is important to reduce or eliminate a fatty liver, and the potential future health risks that it poses. A healthy liver is important for a long and healthy life, and will help you to reduce – even completely eliminate – your PCOS signs and symptoms. By loving your liver, you really can make a significant and positive change to your health.
Read more from Emma on the Studio-You blog.
From PCOS to perfect health,