With over 500 different functions, your liver is an incredibly important organ for your health at all times but, especially during perimenopause.
A few of your livers key functions are:
Keeping your blood sugars stable; storing glycogen for energy; metabolising and removing toxins; storing fat soluble vitamins like A and D; supporting good digestion; producing bile for the breakdown of fats and good bowel motility; producing and clearing cholesterol; and creating some of your hormones as well as breaking down and removing excess estrogen.
(If you’re experiencing estrogen dominance, you may also want to read Your Liver and Estrogen).
With all the changes that menopause brings your liver can start to struggle, even if it hasn’t before.
But how do you know if what you’re experiencing stems from your liver?
Ayurveda always likes to understand the root cause of our symptoms, instead of just treating what is on the surface.
Here are eight signs or symptoms that your liver is struggling:
1. Nausea (+ Bloating. Ok so really that is 2 in 1!)
Nausea is the most obvious sign of liver imbalance.
Your liver produces bile which is stored in the gall bladder (GB). Your your GB squirts bile into your small intestine to emulsify the fats you eat, as well as fat soluble vitamins, fatty hormones, and fatty toxins into small globules to be processed, absorbed, and the excess removed from your body.
During Perimenopause, your liver is working hard to process your changing hormones so bile production is often lower. When you eat more fat that you have bile to deal with it creates nausea, often with loose bowel movements.
Interestingly, if your thyroid function is low, it will hinder your GB’s ability to release bile leading to sluggish flow, stagnation, formation of bile sludge or even stones, increase cholesterol (which Biles helps to break down); as well as bloating, sluggish bowel movements and nausea after eating.
All of your body systems are connected!
2. Poor Sleep
Sleep is often an issue during perimenopause. It may be that your liver is contributing to your waking in the night.
While you sleep your body is doing its house cleaning: flushing the gut clean to be ready for the next day and processing all that you have digested, food, as well as your daily experiences.
Your liver is a part of this process especially between the hours of 1 – 3 a.m.
If you find you are often waking during this time it is a sure sign that your liver is struggling. You may not feel it physically as nausea at this time, but each of our organs have an energetic component that affects our emotions and mind too. This excess liver energy may show up as feeling mentally active or irritable at this time of night.
Eating a lighter and earlier (no later than 7pm) dinner will help you body and liver settle during the night.
3. Poor Elimination
I’ve already mentioned how your bile, which your liver creates, and how it flows will impact your bowel movements. Each woman can experience this differently depending on several factors.
If your bowels are moving too fast and or loosely (ie. More than 2 x a day) it is in indication that you liver is too hot and your gall bladder may be struggling too. This can lead to low absorption of nutrients and fatigue.
If your bowels slow down and become sluggish (ie. once very 2 days) or truly constipated (less than 4 bowel movements a week) the backlog will put further pressure on your liver’s ability to function well.
4. Fatigue + Brain Fog (another 2!)
Slower bowel movements leads to liver sluggishness and low function. This creates reabsorption of toxins and feeling fatigued. It also affects brain fog. (Read more about Brain fog here)
As your liver also helps to create and store energy low liver function will simply make you feel generally heavy, lethargic and tired rather than sparkly and energised.
5. Mood Swings
Your liver’s function can affect your mood. Your days can feel hard enough when you are experiencing poor sleep, low energy, and brain fog which will also affect your mood.
Ayurveda also links the hot emotions of irritability, anger, jealousy, and the tendency to be overly critical of yourself and others to the energy of the liver.
If you are feeling these feels often it is time to reach out for some liver love and support!
6. Sugar Cravings
Good liver functioning will help to stabilise your blood glucose levels. If your liver is not working well, your blood glucose levels can fluctuate. This can trigger like sugar cravings and mood swings.
It can also be a sign of high Pitta (fire energy), which heats up your liver and can make you feel hungry all the time. This can lead to food cravings as you try to satisfy your excess appetite and help yourself to feel more grounded.
7. Skin Flare-ups
Your liver function is intimately connected to your skin. Maybe you had acne as a teen but not since… until you hit perimenopause. Or perhaps childhood eczema springs up again. My skin become more sensitive during perimenopause so that even the natural creams I was using on my face created a reaction.
Your liver processes EVERTHING you put on you skin, that you breathe in and that you eat. We all accumulate some toxins from poor digestion or simply the world that we live in. If our liver function is low, and bowels are sluggish so toxins are not being removed, they will recirculate and show up in our skin. This creates eczema, rashes psoriasis or adult acne.
Headaches can have many different causes and can manifest if different areas of the head. Any regular headaches should be check out by a professional to rule out any more serious causes.
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda recognise that there are 3 types of headaches that stem from the liver, and its associate organ the gall bladder (GB).
If you experience regular headaches, especially around your temples, top of the head and behind your eyes then it is probably coming from your liver.
Another clue that your headaches are coming from your liver/GB is when they come either just before or in the first few days of your menstrual cycle. In perimenopause the changing levels of your hormones, which influence both our blood vessels and your liver/GB function can trigger migraines or intense headaches.
On a subtle level, when our menstrual cycles become erratic or finally stop, there is less energy moving downward and more moving up towards the head. Sharp headaches around the temples can indicate excess heat rising to the head creating stagnation and pain.
Reducing stress, (I always imaging readers thinking “Ha how!”, When I write this! Please reach out if you need support. 😊 ), and taking care of your diet, elimination and liver health will help.
So, what can you do to look after your liver?
Ayurveda recommends doing a gentle detox each Autumn and Spring.
Eat primarily what your unique constitution needs to stay well, and include freshly cooked vegetables, fresh fruit, and fresh bitter greens.
Go easy on the coffee, alcohol and processed sugar.
Also avoid the white food groups like white bread, pasta and sugar that clog up your system.
Avoid artificial flavours, sweeteners and fragrances that increase estrogen and give your liver a hard time.
Sipping hot water though your day will keep your lymph flowing well and support liver function.
If you would like personalised support, reach out for a consultation, or free clarity call to discover how I can support you and your liver.
Taking a wholistic approach for your liver health and perimenopause experience will alleviate your symptoms now and create better health for your future.