Signs You Might Be Suffering From A Sluggish Liver

February 24, 2017
Signs You Might Be Suffering From A Sluggish Liver

Fatigue, dark circles under the eyes, depression, hormonal imbalances, muscle, and joint pains, skin problems, and headaches can all come from the same source: they can all be signs your liver is struggling from poor function. Although the outward signs may not seem terribly severe, compromised liver function, such as a sluggish liver or clogged liver, is far more serious than you might think. In fact, a recent analysis reports that from 2009-2012 there were twice as many cases of severe liver disease than a decade earlier. Furthermore, the number of adolescents and young adults with chronic liver health disease has more than doubled in the last three decades. If you think you may have symptoms of liver congestion, don’t stress and wait. Call Dr. Sarah Williams today!

Book your free consultation with Dr. Williams to learn more about sluggish liver symptoms.

Your Liver: Working Overtime To Maintain Your Health

When it comes to keeping you healthy, your liver works overtime. Your liver is involved in over 500 essential health functions. Not only does your liver act as a giant filter for all of your blood – removing toxins (found in the environment and in the medications you take), allergens, harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites – it’s also involved in the production of enzymes, hormones, and special proteins necessary for blood clotting. Substances like bile (which aids in the digestion of fats and helps transport toxins and waste products broken down by the liver into the intestines for elimination), cholesterol, albumin, and an immune substance called gamma globulin are also manufactured by the liver. But production is only one aspect of liver function. The metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fat is performed by the liver with the purpose of providing sources of energy. The liver also helps to regulate blood sugar levels by converting excess amounts of blood sugar to glycogen, which is then stored in the liver or in the muscles of the body for use during a period of fasting.

Many substances, including toxic chemicals, medications, and hormones, are metabolized by the liver utilizing special metabolic pathways known as Phase I and Phase II pathways. The diagram below explains this vital function in detail.

Detoxification At A Glance

sluggish liver

Symptoms of Sluggish Liver

When we think of liver problems, we often think of infections like hepatitis or diseases like alcoholic cirrhosis, which can cause a lot of stress and worry. But the most prevalent liver disorder today – Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – isn’t caused by infection or alcohol consumption. Rather, it results in part (genetics, gender, and ethnicity also play a role) from lifestyle choices (poor dietary habits, lack of exercise) that lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the accumulation of fat in the liver leads to inflammation in the liver. Over time, this inflammation causes damage which can lead to chronic liver health disease and liver cancer.

While body pain is one of the most common signs of damage to tissues or certain organs, fatigue often points to problems in the liver. With fatigue comes sudden dark circles under the eyes and other physical liver imbalance symptoms. When your liver function is compromised, symptoms that relate to poor detoxification, metabolism, and blood sugar regulation begin to appear. Signs your liver or body may be damaged or functioning less than normal are:

  • Acne and skin rashes
  • Allergies
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of overwhelming stress
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Poor functioning digestion levels
  • Sluggish daily functioning and ability for normal life functions

Similarly, poor liver function can affect your hormone metabolism, causing you to experience health symptoms related to estrogen dominance – like PMS – and putting your body at risk for breast cancer and prostate cancer (see our blog on methylation for more information).

sluggish liver
Photo from

Ways You Can Support Your Liver Function

Improving your liver function and healing liver damage is well within your grasp and centers around three main areas: liver detoxification, proper diet, and elimination/reduction of exposure to toxins.

  • Liver Detoxification: You can revitalize and cleanse the liver using a supervised program like Metagenics ClearChange, which supports Phase I and Phase II detoxification. See our blog on detoxification for more detailed information.
  • Proper Diet: Testing for food allergies/sensitivities is an important part of restoring health to your liver organ and your whole body. A special elimination diet is a key component of a healthy detoxification program. Here are additional steps you can take to promote the health of your liver and body:
  • Avoid processed/refined foods; sugar and all sugary foods; sugar substitutes like Nutrasweet and Splenda; excessive amounts of alcohol; canned vegetables and fruit; fruits and vegetables known to contain high amounts of pesticide residue; overeating or eating quickly. Try to avoid as much stress as possible, as well.
  • Eliminate from your body: Foods to which you are allergic or sensitive; all margarine, shortening, hydrogenated oils, and cooking sprays. these can be toxic to your digestive system.
  • Eat foods that are high in soluble and insoluble fiber so your body can bind and eliminate toxins more easily; Plenty of vegetables that aid in detoxification, like broccoli, beans, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lentils, radish, turnip; Foods rich in natural enzymes to facilitate digestion and lighten the burden your liver and body experiences when trying to breakdown poorly digested nutrients; Fresh herbs that support liver function like caraway, dill, milk thistle (milk thistle has many health benefits), rosemary, and turmeric; Lots of bitter, leafy greens like arugula, endive, and mustard greens which support detoxification; and as often as is possible, eat ORGANIC foods.
  • Drink: Plenty of clean, chlorine-free water; A glass of warm water with a bit of lemon juice first thing every morning can help patients cleanse the liver organ and stimulate the flow of bile and bowel movement.
  • Consult your healthcare practitioner to find out if you need the extra support of nutritional supplements, special phytonutrient blends, probiotics, and digestive system enzymes.

Eliminate/Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins Found In:

Lifestyle Toxins:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Cosmetics
  • Artificial food additives, colorings, or preservatives
  • Nicotine
  • Medications & Over-the-counter drugs
  • Meats containing hormones or antibiotics
  • Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (high in pesticides, herbicides, insecticides)

Environmental Toxins:

  • Air, ground, & water pollution (auto exhaust, inhalants, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides)
  • Cleaning products
  • Radiation
  • Heavy Metals

Internal Toxins:

  • Bacterial, yeast, fungal overgrowth
  • Undigested food
  • Stress: at home and at work

Today’s world is full of various forms of toxins, making liver detoxification an important part of any health maintenance program. Click here to get more information on how you can restore health to your liver and vitality to your life.

Do you think you may have liver congestion symptoms or fatty liver detox symptoms? Interested in learning how functional medicine can help you detoxify? Contact us to set up your free Discovery Call.


Doycheva, I, et al. Abstract: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adolescents and Young Adults: The Next Frontier in the Epidemic. Hepatology. 2017 Jan 19.

Doycheva, I et al. Increasing Burden of Chronic Liver Disease Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the USA: A Silent Epidemic. Dig Dis Sci. 2017 Feb 13.

Fitzgerald, P. The Detox Solution. Santa Monica CA: Illumination Press. 2001.

Kabanny, MN, et al. Prevalence of Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis-Associated Cirrhosis in the United States: An Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. Am J Gastroenterol. 2017 Feb 14.

Kirpich, IA, Marsano, LA, McCain, CJ. Gut-liver axis, nutrition, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Clin. Biochem. 2015 Sep; 48(13-14):923-30.

Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. Pillars of GI Health Patient Handbook.

Rui, L. Energy Metabolism in the Liver. Compr Physiol. 2014 Jan. 4(1): 177-197.

Targer, G., Byrne, CD. Nat Rev Nephrol. 2017 Feb 20.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

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