By Joan Ebsworth, guest writer for sense*, biologist and mother of sense* Founder, Jonathan on the importance of the liver and the immune system , part 5 of her review of the immune system.
My new revelation about the liver and the immune system
I didn’t think that I would be writing about the immune system and the liver. I truly thought that I had reached a point where I knew all that I wanted to know about my own immune system. All the ways in which I could help myself keep it in reasonable order. Particularly through my dietary and lifestyle choices.
Obviously, in this time of pandemic we are all thinking about how we can protect ourselves from this virus. Then came along some information about the liver!
Well I have to say – that it really floored me!
I have books about the liver. If I was given a histological slide of liver tissue (a lab slide, the ones you get to look at in school). I would recognise it as such in an instant.
Although I knew a bit about this organ, the largest organ within the human body.
What I didn’t know was the liver’s vital importance to the immune system!
Why and how is the liver so important to the immune system
It is so vital that I just cannot understand why my books and other articles that I have read just never mention the importance of the liver and the immune system.
The liver is a front-line immune organ.
It plays a role in both the innate and the acquired immune systems (see my article on the immune system’s components).
I have always hated handling this organ when dissecting an animal. I sometimes think back to the fact that I was given it to eat, as a child. The mere thought makes me feel nauseous.
However, you cannot but be amazed at what this c 1.5kg structure actually does for us every second of the day.
It is thought to carry out over 500 different jobs within the body. It is one of the hardest working organs and we abuse it at our peril.
Sadly, abuse it we do or at least many of us do. Happily, though it has an amazing ability to regenerate itself.
Functions of the Liver
Here are just a few of the things that it does for us second by second of every day:
- Blood detoxification and purification
- Enzyme activation
- Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins
- Enzyme activation
- Vitamin and mineral storage
- Protein synthesis
- Bile production and excretion
Then there is:
Immune system functioning of the liver – viruses & toxins
It has the largest collection of phagocytic cells anywhere in the body. Fighting off pathogens that enter via the blood. It just gobbles them up – literally!
Phagocytes are cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead or dying cells. Their name comes from the Greek phagein, “to eat” or “devour”. And “-cyte”, the suffix in biology denoting “cell“. From the Greek kutos, “hollow vessel”.
100% of viruses that enter the body are carried via the bloodstream to the liver and are filtered and then eliminated via the bile duct into the intestines and out of the body via faeces.
It seems that the kidneys don’t do this –although they do eliminate other toxins.
Immune system functioning of the liver – bacteria
Bacteria and viruses are very very different . There are many different sorts of bacteria and most of them are good for us –they carry out important roles.
Remember that for every single human cell in the body we have 10 microbes or bacteria. The microbes living in the gut are now known to be vital to our well being.
Maintaining a balance between our gut microbiome and our liver is important for health. When the gut microbiome is out of kilter or the gut becomes leaky then bacteria can be carried to the liver.
It seems that this can be a danger signal for our health. Inducing an inflammatory cascade activation in immune cells plus other reactions too.
There is a link between liver dysfunction and the transfer of bacteria from the gut. This is an area of research that is ongoing.
So it seems that the the bacteria from our gut have a major role to play in either balancing liver function or in causing liver diseases. The liver detox system can become overwhelmed if our gut bacteria are not the right sort.
So, the health of our gut lining, its microbiome constituents and the liver all play a role in the functioning of the immune system.
Keep giving those little critters in your gut the right sorts of food or supplements!!
What happens if your liver is under pressure?
If the liver is sluggish as a result of other toxins (pollution, alcohol, smoking, diet) or illness then a bottleneck is created and the removal of viral material and toxins slows down and can stop.
When the liver isn’t working correctly then we are open to chronic infections and many other diseases including cancer and of course, COVID-19.
It is only the liver that can purify the blood of viruses and toxins and we only have one liver.
How does the liver react when working properly?
Conversely, if the liver is functioning at an optimum level then viruses are eliminated rapidly.
When needed the liver is able to mount a rapid immune response and that activity is what can increase body temperature.
A fever is part of the immune response and yet we do all that we can to stop it. Yes a fever can get out of control and it can kill –so we do have to monitor it carefully.
However, we do tend to take those paracetamol or other actions too rapidly on occasions to lower a fever.
What else does the liver offer the immune system?
As well as rapid responses this organ is capable of modulation and balance only recognising those viruses or toxins that will do us harm. It is a very complex operation.
How to improve your immune system
Rarely do we think about this organ – yet it makes sense to do so as it can be easily improved.
One of the easiest ways to clean the blood and so take a load off the immune system is to improve liver functioning.
Most of us expect too much of this amazing organ. Perhaps it is too efficient allowing us to take in toxins over a long period of time before we succumb to liver disease or other chronic illness.
We eat toxic foods, we drink alcohol, we smoke cigarettes, we breathe in toxic air, we drink toxic water, too much caffeine and use toxic cleaning products in our homes. Pesticides in our gardens, personal care products that we rub into our bodies are full of toxic chemicals.
They all contribute to the toxic load that we create for the liver so it is no wonder that COVID-19 found fertile hosts in the so-called most developed countries in the World.
The solution is the usual one! Lifestyle choices. are the key!!
Eat a clean and toxin free diet. Lots of vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants.
Remove processed foods.
No processed sugars
No refined grains (whole grains are much better)
Reduce alcohol dramatically (it is a toxin!). The less you drink, the less you need to and when you do, it relaxes you more quickly i.e. by drinking less.
Don’t smoke (or at least get onto the smokeless variety) but nicoteine is a toxin.
Hydrate yourself every day with clean filtered water not out of a bottle full of plastic particles.
Protect yourself from pesticides and herbicides in your garden, the cleaning products that you use in your home, personal care products. Just find alternatives and there are many.
In my home I use sodium bicarbonate and white vinegar as cleaning agents plus olive oil if I want a shine on some wood. There are no herbicides or pesticides in or outside my house.
Embrace a new clean lifestyle, plastic and toxin free
Where there’s a will there’s a way. There are plenty of web-sites out there helping you adopt healthy, plastic and toxin free lifestyles.
In these strange times –do take care of your liver.
It will pay off by your having fewer infections, more energy, a sharper mind, better digestion, clearer skin and much more.
This is not a sense* article. The views expressed in this article are those of the author so there may be opinions or statements in this article that are not approved by sense* and do not represent the views and opinions of the company.