Although most people know that they can’t live without the liver, few are aware of the important role that this organ plays in weight loss. Your survival is dependent on the liver’s ability to detoxify various chemicals – the most familiar one being alcohol, but weight control is also dependent on a healthy liver. That’s because the liver either produces or activates ALL of the hormones in the body that are necessary for fat-burning. Without optimal liver function, natural weight loss becomes a very difficult goal to achieve.
Due to chronic abuse of the liver through things like heavy alcohol use, using medications and drugs, and bad eating habits, especially an overconsumption of fats and heavy animal-based proteins, the liver can become overloaded and irritation can result. This results in an inflammatory response in the abominal cavity, which results in an accumulation of fluid (called ascites). As the retained fluids collect in the stomach area, the stomach will often begin to protrude outward, producing the appearance that is sometimes called a “beer belly”. In women, the problem can get bad enough that the protruding belly makes them look pregnant when they are not. For people with this water weight deposition, weight loss can be frustrating because exercise will not “burn it off” – because it’s not fat. Since natural weight loss approaches fail to get results in these situations, some people resort to diet drugs, which may work at first, but ultimately harm the liver even more and create even more abdominal water retention.
Ironically, with water weight gain associated with liver dysfunction, some diet plans and weight loss products can actually make the situation worse and lead to even more fluid retention. The Atkin’s diet, because it is so high in protein and fat, tends to be hard on the liver and will often lead to even more retaining of fluid. Certain products sold to help with weight loss may have ingredients that further stress and irritate the liver and result in even more water retention in the long-run.
In addition to the water retention issue, good liver function is necessary for the proper production and/or activation of the hormones that stimulate fat burning. For instance, the liver is needed to convert the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) to the active form (T3). When the liver is overworked and cannot do the hormone conversions efficiently, the body cannot burn fat efficiently, no matter how much exercise you may do or what other natural weight loss steps you take.
In addition to activating fat-burning hormones as with thyroid hormone, the liver produces insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which is another fat-burning hormone. IGF controls blood sugar during the relatively long-period that you go without eating during sleep. When you are asleep at night, your blood sugar levels fall and the liver generates IGF to cause the fat tissues to burn fat to boost blood sugar. Again, if liver function is not as good as it should be, this hormone is not produced efficiently and you don’t burn as much fat. The other thing that occurs is that your blood sugar will go lower than it should and you wake up in the morning feeling very fatigued and irritable.
At this point you may be wondering what steps you need to take to help improve liver function to help alleviate abdominal water retention and to help better activate your fat burning hormones to stimulate natural weight loss? To begin with, it is important to reduce the detoxification load on the liver. Drastically reducing alcohol consumption and avoiding all but those medications that are absolutely necessary is an important step. If possible, I recommend avoiding alcohol and non-essential medications entirely for at least a few weeks to give the liver an opportunity to recover.
The next step is to clean up you diet to make things as easy as possible on the liver. Probably the simplest and most effective approach is to eat pretty much a vegetarian diet for 14 to 21 days, sticking to mostly fresh vegetables and fresh fruit and using beans, seeds, nuts, and nut and seed butters as your main protein sources. If you can’t do that, it is advisable to at least cut out fried and greasy foods and high-fat meats for a while. The better your diet, the faster you’ll lose the retained water in the abdomen and the faster you’ll make real progress on losing weight.
There are various “liver de-tox” products on the market that contain some combination of herbs and/or nutrients that are reputed to be beneficial for the liver. These can be useful in more extreme cases or for those who simply aren’t willing to take the dietary and other lifestyle measures just described. In my opinion, changing the diet and implementing the other natural weight loss lifestyle factors is a much more effective way to go, but using a liver detoxification product is probably better than doing nothing. Because some of these products contain herbs that can interact with certain prescription medications, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a physician or a pharmacist before using any of these products if you are on prescription drugs.
In addition to weight loss, as liver function improves, your skin usually becomes clearer and your mood and energy level will typically improve, especially in the morning. People with chronic headaches often notice that the headaches become less frequent and may go away altogether. In addition, pains in the right shoulder and shoulder blade area can be referred from the liver and some people experience relief of these pains as the health of the liver improves.
It should be noted that as the liver recovers and the body stops retaining water in the abdomen, you will typically lose weight very rapidly (it could be 5 pounds or more per day!) and you will need to urinate frequently (that’s how the body gets rid of the excess water). Once the extra water is gone, the weight loss will slow down. If you continue on a natural weight loss program, a reasonable expectation after you have lost the water weight is about 1 to 2 pounds per week.