Do you desire youthful, healthy, glowing skin? If so, you’ve likely done a lot to get there. In the pursuit of better skin, it is common to seek out beauty salons, spas, specialists, lotions, serums and more. However, as the saying goes, beauty is found from within. I’m not talking about perspective either (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) but that actual physical beauty starts from within.
To be specific, our skin is an extension of the liver. In Chinese Medicine, ailments of the skin are regularly treated by remedying imbalances in the liver. That is because our liver is greatly responsible for two dominant functions that effect our skin health; digestion and detoxification.
The liver is both a detoxification organ and a digestive organ. When the liver is functioning properly, our blood is clean, free of pathogens and rich in nutrients, which feed our skin cells. When the liver is congested or toxic, our blood is poorly filtered (a primary job of the liver) and ends up becoming toxic and nutrient deficient.
To understand, the path from food to blood stream is stomach > intestine > portal vein > liver > blood. What we eat goes into the stomach for digestion, is processed by the small intestine, then portal vein (vagus nerve), then the liver, which lastly sends nutrients (or toxins) into the blood.
Because our blood is what nourishes our skin, if it is not healthy, our skin will not be healthy – simple as that. More specifically, if our skin is riddled with harmful microbes our immune system is activated, we become inflamed and some of the first places we notice this is on our skin. Acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin problems are basically inflammatory responses.
In short, whatever the condition of our liver, so is the condition of our skin.
The liver is hands down the most important organ in the body. It is referred to as “the Liver” for a reason – because without it, we could not live. In Greek they had a saying, “the condition of the liver, is dependent on the condition of the Liver.” Meaning, our body is only as healthy as our Liver.
It is the largest detoxification and digestion organ in the body. It is the body’s filter – it filters everything we come into contact with; the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink, anything we put in or on our bodies, the liver has to process. It is the liver’s job to protect our bodies from harmful chemicals, poisons, toxins, poor nutrition and so much more.
When we consume food, it is up to the liver to metabolize and eliminate any harmful preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, chemicals, bacteria and the plethora of additives that may be present.
While the liver can detoxify the body, it has been filtering and processing everything you’ve come into contact with since the day you were born. And though it is much more complex and dynamic than a piece of machinery, it can only withstand so much abuse. The consumption of obvious toxicity such as drugs, alcohol and cigarettes is one thing, but we live in a world today where our air, water and food are more toxic than ever before. Not just that, but most personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioners, soaps, lotions, etc.) are highly toxic.
This places a heavy burden on our livers that it is not used to and it is possible for our liver to become congested and fatigued from the constant work of processing this abundance of toxicity. When this happens, our healthy declines greatly and it shows up on our skin.
To give you an even better idea of the importance of caring for your liver consider this – aside from filtering everything you eat, drink, breathe and bathe in, the liver has at least 500 functions, including:
- Produces glucose, a basic source of energy. If the liver is diseased, poor glucose regulation is likely, which is linked to skin keratinocytes, and other skin problems associated with oxidative damage. 1
- Stores B12 and IRON, a deficiency in these can cause liver spots, dry skin, wrinkles and acne. 2
- Manufactures and stores vitamins A, B-12, D, E, K, which are essential vitamins for healthy skin.
- Makes amino acids, which become PROTEIN in your body for the use of hair and collagen production and more.
- Makes steroids, hormones and sex hormones.
- Makes blood clotting elements.
- Creates digestive fluids to digest foods, especially bile and lipase to break down fat. Without it, our skin would be deprived of essentially fatty acids it needs to smooth and supple.
- It regulates cholesterol and eliminates inflammatory, rancid fats that can cause oxidative skin damage.
- Kills bacteria and viruses – a root cause of skin problems is often bacterial.
- Produces interferon, a powerful germ killer that prevents cancers, including skin cancer.
- Makes most of the body’s lymph fluid – eczema is often a symptom of toxic, sluggish lymph. It also houses much of our immunity, it produces lymphocytes and white blood cells. 3
- It stores immune cells – a weak immune system is the core cause in skin problems, which are often inflammatory and bacterial related.
There are just some of the hundreds of functions of the liver. However, with these alone, you can begin to see the strong correlation between liver health and the skin.
The take home concept to understand here is that having a healthy liver doesn’t just mean better health, but also having healthier, more beautiful skin.
SIGNS YOUR LIVER IS CONGESTED, TOXIC & INFLAMED
It’s not uncommon for the liver to become imbalanced in some way or another; after all, it is the most active, important organ in the body, its work almost never ends. Though a rather general evaluation, it is not uncommon for a practitioner of Chinese Medicine to take a quick glance at your face to see what’s going on with your body.
While a deeper evaluation is necessary, it is safe to say that if you are experiencing persistent skin problems, that your liver may be stressed out. However, this isn’t the only symptom of a congested, stressed out liver, here are a few other things to look for:
- Distended stomach; constant bloating.
- Chronic fatigue, feeling run down, low on energy
- Hypothyroidism – constant sweating
- Memory problems, foggy brain, poor cogitative function
- Emotional problems; chronically depressed, frustrated, angry, easily stressed out and irritated.
- PMS symptoms; menstrual cycles are supposed to be light, cleansing periods, not painful and awful.
- Digestive problems – hemorrhoids, constipation, bad gas, diarrhea, indigestion, heart burn, bloating.
- Prostate problems
- Ovarian cysts
- Skin problems – acne, eczema, psoriasis, dry, itching, rashes, liver spots
- Burning, tired eyes
- Bad allergies
- Nausea especially after eating fat
- Yellowish skin and eyes
- Bleeding gums
- High cholesterol
- Sleeping trouble, especially waking up in middle of night
- Diabetic, hypoglycemic, hyperglycemic or any blood sugar disorders – sugar addiction
- Obesity, overweight or unable to gain muscle
- Estrogen dominance, hormonal imbalance
WHAT CAUSES LIVER & SKIN PROBLEMS?
At basic, anything in excess, that is toxic and places a great deal of stress on the body, will fatigue the liver and effect the skin poorly. Some examples include:
- Poor nutrition – processed, fast foods, conventional foods, factory farmed animal products, GMOs, etc.
- Sugar – especially refined sugar, HFCS, or any sugar in excess.
- Excess alcohol consumption, especially low quality alcohol made with poor quality, fluoridated, chlorinated water with low quality ingredients.
- Prescription drugs and medications, especially NSAIDs, pain pills like acetaminophen, antibiotics, antidepressants, and tranquilizers like antihistamine. Claritin for example contains arsenic trioxide, which causes liver tumors. 4
- Environmental pollutants
- Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Silver and mercury amalgam fillings
- Low fiber diet
- The emotions ANGER, APATHY and FEAR are highly toxic to the liver
- Plastic fumes pesticides
- Bacterial imbalances, certain viruses, mold, yeast, such as Candida 5
Cleaning Your Liver for Beautiful Skin
One of the primary functions of the liver is to metabolize and eliminate hormones to keep optimal hormone balance. Another primary function is the filtration of our blood (our skins nourishment). Lastly, the liver aids in digestion, which provides our blood with the nutrients it needs to feed the skin cells.
Therefore, by supporting the detoxification and functioning of the liver, we can experience hormonal balance, less inflammation, strong digestion, greater immunity, cleaner blood, and radiant skin.
The good news is that there are simple things we can do daily to detoxify and tonfiy our livers. Here are 7 simple things you can start doing today to experience greater overall health and the most beautiful skin of your life:
- Detoxifying Diet
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, arugula and radishes contain DIM, which promotes the detoxification of the liver, especially of excess hormones.
- Sulfur-rich foods like pastured egg yolks, onions and garlic, are potent detoxifiers that help the liver – sulfur is also great for collagen production, which can eliminate wrinkles.
- Vegetable fiber helps eliminate toxins from the liver and colon, which opens the detoxification pathways for the liver.
- Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, medicinal mushrooms, tonic herbs and raw cacao help fight oxidative stress that is caused by toxins and inflammatory substances.
- Medicinal, tonic herbs – some of the most potent liver detoxifiers and protectants are herbs. Botanical substances such as Schizandra, Reishi and Milk Thistle contain extraordinary amounts of SOD (superoxide dismutase), and other flavonoids that promote liver detoxification.
- Avoid Inflammatory, Toxic Substances
Perhaps the place to start, is by eliminating all that causes stress in the liver. As we discussed earlier, there are many causes of liver burden. Identify which of these are still in your life and take actions to eliminate them. Common inflammatory foods are any processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, conventional gluten, industrial meet, dairy and eggs, peanuts, non-fermented soy, and non-fermented legumes.
Also, take action in eliminating other toxic substances, especially the ones you put on your skin. Anything that goes on your skin, goes directly to your liver to be filtered. Switch to 100% organic skin-care. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg either to do this. You’d be surprised what one really great skin cleanser could do for your skin. Seek products that contain things like essential oils, medicinal clays, herbs, and as a rule of thumb; if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.
- Open Up Detoxification Pathways
The liver is one of the first detoxification pathways in the line of detoxification. One of the best ways to ensure your liver can properly eliminate is to keep the rest of the doors open. Make sure you are caring for your intestines, especially your colon, as well as your kidneys, and skin itself. When these are all working properly, it takes the burden off the liver and ensures that toxins won’t continue to recirculate through the body and liver.
For the intestines, eating the right diet, keeping stress low, exercising moderately and drinking of plenty of water is key. For the skin, try organic clay masks, such as the Alitura Clay Mask. Also, dry skin brushing and if you can, soaking in a hot spring or taking a dip in the ocean.
Whether you exercise to sweat, sun bathe or sit in an infrared sauna – sweating leads to lipolysis (breaking down fat cells), which will help your body release toxins that are stored in fat. Be sure though that your bowels are working as you begin to release new toxins. If you’re following the previous steps you should be good to go. Otherwise, you could look into colonics and probiotic therapy for further assistance. Either way, we highly suggest the consumption of probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and other cultured vegetables.
While supplements are not nearly as important as your state of emotional and mental health, nutrition, sleep, hydration and physical fitness, there is definitely a place for high-quality supplements.
I suggest high-quality, organic milk thistle, Chinese bitters, Schizandra and Reishi to promote phase 1 liver detoxification. Additionally, a high-quality glutathione supplement can improve phase 2 liver detoxification. Charcoal and edible clays are very potent detoxification supplements – they bind with positively charged ions (present in toxins) and escort them out of the body.
- Cleanse Emotionally
According to TCM, and likely in your own experience, emotions can be very toxic. In fact, if we observe how the Universe works from a physics level, we see that all creation in the physical (that which is made up of energy, matter, space and time) first started with the thought form. And it is our thoughts, which create emotions, and our emotions, which create motion.
What this means for us is that our emotions can create a physical response in our body – that responses may be a headache, upset stomach, or even a chronic disease, if those emotions are chronic.
There is no easy way to manage emotions, it takes training. However, you can start by becoming aware of your own thoughts and considerations that may be creating certain emotions. For example, the Buddha suggest that anger is an inability to lose (attachment). Angry is perhaps the most damaging emotion to the liver (When chronic), so learning to detach, let go and essentially, become a good loser, will take you a far way in mastering your health, healing your liver and improving your skin.
Once you’ve become aware of your own considerations that are creating your emotions, the second step is to allow them. What we resist persists. If we resist our anger, we will only suppress it. Acknowledging your emotions, even the low ones, does not mean you are letting them take up residence. In fact, it is the other way around, what you admire, will vanish.
I hope this helps in your path to beautiful skin!