Your Liver Is Part Of Your Immune System

Dr Sandra Cabot and naturopath Margaret Jasinska outline the general functions of the liver and go into specific detail about how the liver plays a very important role in your immune function. They discuss Kupffer cells in the liver that remove foreign matter and harmful organisms from circulation and how the liver manufactures immune proteins. Learn how you can support your liver.

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DR CABOT: Hello, everyone. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot and I’m joined today by naturopath and author Margaret Jasinska.

MARGARET: Hi, Dr Cabot. It’s so good to chat with you today.

DR CABOT: Yes, it is. It’s always wonderful to talk about these new breakthroughs in medical research that can change people’s lives. And today we’re talking about your liver and the role it plays in your immune system. And typically, when we think about the liver, we think, “Well, it just sits there high up on the right side of the abdomen and it helps with digestion and…”

MARGARET: And it breaks down alcohol. That’s what most people associate it with.

DR CABOT: Yes, yes, yes, that’s right! Metabolizes sugar, makes vitamins, stores things. But really, it’s such a sophisticated organ. And one thing I realized a long time ago, and now it’s being vindicated by conventional research, is that the liver is actually an integral part of your immune system and is also the protector of your immune system. And so, in the context now where we have a pandemic with so many people being nervous about catching this awful virus, it’s more important than ever before to have a healthy immune system and therefore a healthy liver.

So, when we think about the liver, we think, “Yeah! Well, we know it burns fat and it cleanses and filters the bloodstream.” But we don’t understand just how important it is to keep your immune system strong. And indeed, the liver cells, which are known as hepatocytes, manufacture the majority of the immune proteins in your body. And they’re the proteins that protect you against infection.

MARGARET: Yes. And I see it in my patients’ blood test results. If they’re trying to fight a chronic infection, those immune proteins are often low. They’re below normal.

DR CABOT: Yes. Or in people who their immune systems are really hyped up, the immune proteins can be too high. It can be a sign of chronic infection. But when your liver’s healthy and your gut’s healthy, the immune protein should be in the normal range. And so, a healthy liver very important for making those immune proteins.

The other fascinating thing about the liver is these little cells that live inside the spaces in the liver. And the spaces in the liver are full of blood. And when the blood flows through these spaces, the blood is cleansed of all the nasty things, like unhealthy cells, cancer cells, microorganisms, toxic chemicals. But how is it cleansed? Well, the most important way is by these specialized cells that live in the spaces and they are called Kupffer cells. So that’s K-U-P-F-F-E-R.

MARGARET: Such a strange spelling, isn’t it? Two Fs next to each other.

DR CABOT: I would say it’s of German origin – Kupffer cells. And they’re probably named after Dr Kupffer, if anyone wants to investigate. But they’re quite cute, really. They look like an octopus. And they’ve got these projections. And the projections engulf the offending invader – it could be bacteria, it could be particulate matter, it could be an unhealthy cell or a chemical. And so, these tentacles from the Kupffer cells engulf that threat and then they take it inside themselves and chew it up. So, they’re like a Pac-Man. So, obviously you want a lot of Kupffer cells, don’t you?

MARGARET: Yes. Because most of the blood from the small intestine goes straight to the liver. So, the liver can be overwhelmed. If someone has a toxic gut, if they’ve got Candida, if they’ve got the wrong gut bugs, if they’ve got food allergies, poor digestion. All those waste products, where are they going to go? They go to the liver first. So, the liver has a lot of work to do in people who don’t have good gut health.

DR CABOT: Yeah, that’s right. The liver’s working much harder if you have a leaky gut or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And so, the liver is the gateway to your bloodstream, really. So, it’s the barrier between your gut and your bloodstream. So, when that blood that’s full of nutrients and potentially toxins hits the liver, the Kupffer cells come into play. They’re the little warriors that are going to remove the rubbish. And that is why the liver is the protector of the immune system. It stops those things getting deeper into your body, where they can really damage you. So, we want healthy Kupffer cells. So, we need to avoid things that damage the Kupffer cells, like too much alcohol or too much sugar or the wrong type of bacteria in the gut. And we need plenty of antioxidants because they help to protect these immune cells, these Kupffer cells.

MARGARET: Yes, exactly. Because your liver cells can get injured in the process of breaking down and neutralizing toxic substances in your bloodstream.

DR CABOT: That’s right. So, what are the things that help to protect your liver, and particularly the liver cells, hepatocytes and the Kupffer cells? Well, we’ve talked about selenium, which is a mineral very, very important for the liver, because it helps your liver to make glutathione, which is the most powerful antioxidant that protects your body. And so, your liver needs to make a lot of glutathione. It’s continually making it. It needs it desperately. So, if you don’t have enough selenium, the glutathione won’t work properly to protect you. So, I’m a firm believer in taking a liver formula that has selenium or taking extra selenium, if you need to.

And the other thing that can help protect your liver is N-acetyl cysteine, which is a type of protein that is the raw material for your liver to make glutathione. And you might say, “Well, I get enough in my diet.” But a lot of people don’t. And there are studies to show that NAC or N-acetyl cysteine, can increase the amount of glutathione in your body and that can help people with chronic inflammation and with liver problems. For example, it’s so powerful that we give it intravenously in emergency hospital departments to people who’ve overdosed on acetaminophen or paracetamol. Or people who have had severe adverse reactions to radio contrast diet, which would cause organ failure. Well, the NAC can actually protect them from that.

So, it’s well researched. There’s a lot of studies. So, for people who do have a weak liver, let’s say an inflamed liver, fatty liver, they’re not detoxifying their body adequately with the liver detox pathways, their Kupffer cells may be inadequate. Then we can look at these liver-protective things, like the selenium, the NAC and the milk thistle, which is a wonderful herb that a lot of people do take. And there’s a lot of studies on.

MARGARET: Yes, exactly. And selenium, NAC, they also help to reduce the risk of liver cancer. And we’ve written articles on that topic on our website. So, you could put those terms into the search function on the Liver Doctor website if you wanted to read more about selenium or more about liver cancer, cirrhosis, hepatitis, all those topics. There’s so much free information on our website that you can go and read.

DR CABOT: Yes. And you mentioned the study on selenium. There’s an excellent study that was done in China that showed that people with chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus reduced their risk of liver cancer by nearly 40%. That’s a huge reduction. And that if they stayed on the selenium supplement, that protection persisted. So, your body always needs these things. Your liver is continually protecting you. It’ll always need the selenium and it will always need the antioxidants, like the NAC, the milk thistle. And of course, a healthy diet, because we know that too much sugar can cause a fatty liver. And of course, a fatty liver doesn’t detox you properly. It doesn’t protect you when it comes to infections.

And there’s a really good study that’s just come out that shows that people who have a fatty liver have a much greater risk of a severe COVID-19 disease from the SARS virus. So, this pandemic that’s going around will attack people who have a fatty liver. So, there’s two and a half times greater risk of getting sick with that virus. So, now’s a great time to really look at how you can improve your liver function. The good news is the liver responds very quickly to your efforts to improve your diet and lifestyle. So, stop eating so much sugar. Don’t eat too much carbohydrate. Bump up your protein and your vegetables and your fruits. And take a good liver formula. Get your liver really, really fit and healthy so that you have less chance of getting sick with this pandemic.

MARGARET: Yes. And diet changes will help you feel better, but you can start feeling better much sooner if you take a liver tonic. Otherwise, just changing your diet, improvements are gradual. Whereas, if you did take a liver tonic with all the ingredients in a specifically formulated to improve your liver cell health, your energy level should improve more rapidly. It’s easier to lose weight and results are addictive. When you start feeling better and you can see you’re getting results, you’re more motivated to stick with it.

DR CABOT: That’s right. So, we’ll mention the Livatone Plus because it’s a great formula and it’s inexpensive, really, considering what’s in it. It’s got your clinically-proven dose of milk thistle and your selenium. So just taking 4 a day will really help support better liver function. And if you’ve got a very fatty liver with raised liver enzymes, you can take a little bit of extra NAC, as well. But remember with the NAC, you take it 15 minutes before food with a whole glass of water. Whereas, with Livatone Plus you take it with food.

So, love your liver and live longer and you’ll see the difference because the liver responds very, very quickly to your improved efforts.

So, thanks for listening today. We hope you enjoyed the podcast.

MARGARET: Thank you so much everybody.