Caring for your Liver

Did you know your liver is your very own chemical processing plant? With more than 500 functions, the liver is crucial to life. This hardworking organ plays many vital roles, including filtering blood, destroying and removing toxic substances, and helping to digest and absorb fats. Additionally, the liver stores important nutrients, including iron, copper, vitamins A, D, K, and B 12. It also helps regulate body cholesterol and hormonal balance.

Liver diseases on the rise

Your liver is one of the most important organs in the body because of its ability to turn food into energy and remove poisons from the blood. Tragically, however, several liver diseases are on the rise. Did you know that cirrhosis of the liver is the 9th leading cause of death in Western countries?

Here are some conditions causing liver problems:

  • Acetaminophen toxicity
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Cysts
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Fibrosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Jaundice
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)

Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver, also called hepatic steatosis, is, aptly, a disease of too much fat in the liver.

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by the consumption of too much alcohol. Since one of the liver’s jobs is to remove harmful substances from the blood, over time, heavy drinking can cause the toxins from alcohol to overwhelm the liver and leave it unable to break down fats.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is fatty liver disease in the absence of high alcohol consumption. In Canada, the biggest cause of NAFLD is obesity, though it can also be linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, starvation, protein malnutrition, rapid weight loss, genetics, and use of certain medications like tetracycline and corticosteroids.

While many people don’t know when they have a fatty liver, some people report discomfort in the liver area, fatigue, and a general feeling of being unwell. Blood tests for liver enzymes—ALT, AST, and GGT—can be taken to see if the liver is stressed or inflamed.

While there are currently no medications proven to reverse fatty liver disease, there are many things that can be done.

Caring for your liver

There are some basic healthy foundations when it comes to keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Not surprisingly, one of the key pieces of treating fatty liver disease is to remove or reduce the stressors that contributed to it in the first place, including establishing and maintaining a healthy weight, cutting back on the exposure to toxins, limiting alcohol consumption, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and limiting your intake of medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®).

Reishi mushroom for fatty liver disease

Japanese red reishi mushrooms have been found to help detoxify the liver through a variety of mechanisms. A 2017 study on the triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides—compounds found in Ganoderma lucidum—were found to reduce mild fatty liver conditions to normal. One of the things that reishi did was increase the body’s glutathione content. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the cells from damage. Though it has many functions, in the liver, the enzyme glutathione S-transferase takes the sulfur from glutathione and attaches it to toxic molecules, rendering those toxins easier to remove from the body.

While taking reishi mushroom is certainly no excuse to overindulge, in addition to making healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices, taking this supplement regularly appears to offer some liver protection and support.

Nature’s Hangover Remedy

On St. Patrick’s Day, bars around the country are getting ready to serve up pints of green beer, shots of Irish whiskey, and a host of other Irish-themed cocktails. Hordes of shamrock-wearing revelers will head out to their local watering holes to booze it up and paint the town green.

Sure, it’s fun to be Irish for a day and toast the Emerald Isle’s patron saint—and an occasional drink is believed to be beneficial to your heart—but it should come as no surprise that too much tippling is a bad idea for your liver.

Plus, no one enjoys the next day hangover. So, if you’re looking for something to speed up your hangover recovery, read on.

The multitasking liver

The liver is one of the largest and hardest working organs in your body. In charge of over five hundred chemical functions, the liver helps with digestion, detoxification, regulation of blood circulation, storage of vitamins and minerals, and so much more! As if that weren’t enough, this remarkable organ can even regenerate itself.

As resilient and industrious as the liver may be, it is not indestructible. Overindulging in alcohol can damage liver health, and alcohol abuse can lead to serious liver issues, including liver infections, cirrhosis, enlarged liver, and liver cancer.

The hangover

It’s not like we don’t get the message that drinking excessively is a bad idea—our bodies tell us in the form of a hangover. Waking up the next day with a headache, nausea, diarrhea, unsettled stomach, and fatigue is a sure sign that the body is in distress.

If you think that having a few drinks will help you sleep better, sorry to say, you’re wrong. While you may not be fully conscious, alcohol disrupts brain activity, scrambling your biological clock and resulting in a less restful and restorative sleep. It also dehydrates your body and depletes water soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the Bs.

Hangover fixes

Of course, the most effective way to avoid a hangover is to avoid overdrinking, but what else can you do?

Hair of the dog

“Hair of the dog that bit you” is an expression used to suggest that having a little of what made you suffer in the first place will help cure you. Since hangovers start after blood alcohol levels start to drop, the idea is that having a drink or two will ease the withdrawal. However, you’re really not helping yourself by delaying the inevitable, and as we age, the poor liver has a harder time bouncing back.


Now, this is actually a very good idea and an important part of recovery, as alcohol is a diuretic. You can also help reduce your likelihood of suffering a hangover if you alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water on your night out, as part of the reason for hangover headaches is that the water-based brain shrinks with dehydration.

Don’t take acetaminophen

If you are trying to get rid of an alcohol-induced headache, the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not a good choice as it could aggravate the liver toxicity effects of booze. Alternatives include acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though they may irritate your already upset stomach.


Many swear by taking vitamin B12, vitamin B6, a complex of B vitamins, or vitamin C before, during, and/or after drinking to avoid or treat hangovers. These water-soluble vitamins may be depleted by drinking excessively, so it is a good idea to replenish them after drinking (before going to bed and the next day). Because alcohol is a diuretic, taking them while drinking may not be as helpful. Note that you are best to have them with some food, as they can upset your stomach in high doses.

Reishi mushroom’s liver health benefits

Looking for a great herb to promote a healthy liver? Then you have come to the right place. The dynamic reishi mushroom has, for centuries, been one of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s go-to herbs. Reishi is renowned for its powerful healing properties, including its ability to protect the liver and support liver detoxification processes.

Japanese red reishi mushroom contains antioxidant properties that can support the liver by reducing the damaging effects of free radicals in the body, thus eliminating harmful immune responses that impair proper liver function.

What’s more, reishi can boost the body’s ability to fight off infections—viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens. This is important when you consider viruses like those that cause hepatitis. If you want to get technical, scientists think that the polysaccharide fractions and tripertenes from reishi are at least some of the compounds that may help protect the liver from infections like chronic hepatitis B.

When it comes to liver health, this fabulous fungus is also used as a liver tonic. Reishi has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels, helping to counteract hardening of the arteries—a serious condition called arteriosclerosis that can lead to a diseased liver.

While it may help to take a reishi mushroom supplement before going to bed after a night of drinking, and having another the next morning, the better suggestion is to take it more regularly to support your liver and your whole body year round, as the big benefits of reishi mushrooms extend way beyond curing hangovers.

Protect your liver

So, if you must indulge, follow some of the liver-supportive and hangover-treatment tips here. It may literally save you from some major headaches.