Liver Function and Its Connection to Hormone Regulation

Jake Newby

| 4 min read

As the largest internal organ in the body, the liver is tasked with literally hundreds of jobs to help keep the body functioning properly. It regulates most chemical levels in the blood. It’s also the body’s primary filtration system, converting toxins into waste and therefore detoxifying the blood. It also produces bile – a fluid that helps with digestion – and removes old red blood cells from the body.
One of the liver’s lesser-known tasks is the role it plays in hormone health. The liver’s role as a processor and regulator affects hormone health in many ways.

The relationship between your liver and hormones

The liver manufactures, regulates and directs various hormones to carry out their functions within the body, all at the same time. When the body experiences hormone excess – either naturally or through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – the liver may struggle to process hormones quickly and efficiently, leading to an imbalance. This process can disrupt liver function and lead to other health issues if toxins or excess hormones are not successfully eliminated. In addition to removing increased hormones the liver also creates carrier proteins that are important in reproduction and development.

How the liver affects female hormones

Since the liver oversees the elimination of excess hormones, its wide-reaching effect has an impact on the menstrual cycle. Estrogen – the group of steroid hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body – is sent to the liver to be broken down and passed through the colon once it is done serving the body. If the liver is unhealthy or sluggish, it cannot effectively regulate and remove hormones like estrogen, which can lead to a hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalances can lead to symptoms like:
  • Bloating and digestion issues
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Feelings of fatigue and exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
The liver can also become vulnerable during menopause, which occurs in the later stages of a woman’s life when she produces less estrogen than in the past. These changes can affect liver health and function, according to studies, which show that a decrease in estrogen can lead to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in some cases. This disease is the most common cause of liver damage.

5 tips to support good liver health

Lifestyle can impact whether your liver detoxifies and removes excess hormones efficiently. Here are some potential tweaks to make:
Maintain a healthy weight: A person who is obese or overweight is also at risk for NAFLD. Exercise, meanwhile, can reduce liver fat. The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity to go along with two days of muscle strengthening activity.
Eat a well-balanced diet that includes:
  • Fiber-rich foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, rice and cereal
  • Lean meats such as chicken and fish
  • Some dairy products, including low-fat milk and small amounts of cheese
  • Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils, nuts, seeds
  • Plenty of water
Wash your produce and avoid other toxins: The American Liver Foundation recommends limiting direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives. When you do use aerosols, make sure the room is ventilated, and wear a mask. Be sure to read warning labels on the chemicals you use and always wash produce purchased at the grocery store before use. Herbicides and other toxins can injure liver cells.
Avoid heavy alcohol consumption: Alcohol can also damage or destroy liver cells. Men should limit themselves to no more than two alcoholic beverages per day while women should have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day.
Prevent against hepatitis A, B and C: In some cases, hepatitis may cause liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Never share personal hygiene items like razorblades and toothbrushes. Also be sure to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B if you’re not already.
If you are experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance, talk with your primary care provider (PCP) about the issue. They may suggest certain lifestyle adjustments that can help support good liver health and in turn, good hormone health.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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