November 1, 2010
"Since I started drinking liver detox tea, cut out caffeine and started taking flaxseed oil with protein, I have felt more energetic, calmer and been sleeping much better – I fall asleep much easier and wake feeling great. And I don’t feel like crap if I do have to get up early. My stomach is now flat and I feel slimmer and only pass gas occasionally. My OCD is still the same but I have slightly less rumination - I still ruminate on OCD thoughts, but not for quite as long as I did previously, and not as intensely."
The paragraph above is from an email I sent my Naturopath in the first month I began working on my OCD recovery (November 2010). Yup, I’ve kept all the emails I exchanged with my Naturopath back then.
Welcome to the third article in The OCD series. A quick intro – I’m Francesca Eldridge, a Nutritionist who has lived with OCD since I was 10. In my teen years and late 20s, I hit rock bottom with my OCD – it was so distressing and debilitating it almost killed me. Now, after a lot of work and time spent creating a mental health tool box, I'm thriving. And I’m supporting people suffering from OCD who want to get their lives back.
The previous two articles in The OCD series looked at how protein and nourishing fats help support the health of the nervous system and mental health. This article will discuss the importance of ensuring your body can break down and use those fats.
The liver is part of the digestive system and is located on the right-hand side of your upper abdomen just behind and below the ribs. The liver carries out many life-sustaining roles in our body, the details of which cannot be covered in a single article. I will focus on the liver’s role in helping digest fat – because fat is integral to brain structure, nervous structure, cell structure and good mental health.
The liver makes bile, a form of ‘digestive juice’ that is then stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps break down structurally long fats found in meats, fish, eggs and plant oils into small droplets. Pancreatic lipase then acts on the surface of these smaller droplets to break them down further, making them small enough to be absorbed by the cells of the small intestine. Without sufficient bile, these fats aren't going to be well absorbed and used by the body. In this way, the liver plays an important role in mental health – the nervous system requires fats for structure and function, and the liver helps get fats into a deliverable form the body can use.
So a key focus of my recovery from OCD was what I like to call Liver Love. Among the things I did to support my liver were taking a herbal formula to support my liver function, eating more bitter vegetables to stimulate bile flow and drinking more water. Plus, the increased protein in my diet (read more about that here) supported my liver’s detox pathways (because amino acids are required for phase I and phase II detoxification - illustrating that those popular 'juice cleanses' aren't able to fully support this natural detoxification organ). And the removal of caffeine from my daily life (I’ll share more about this in a future article) reduced the load on my liver’s detox pathways. This meant my liver was able to function as optimally as it could in all its roles, including fat digestion. Quite simply: eating more nourishing fats that feed the nervous system + supporting the liver in digesting these fats = better mental health.
There are further steps that can be taken to support the function of the liver (and pancreas) to support fat digestion and mental health. Which steps are most relevant to the individual will depend on a variety of factors, such as your diet, lifestyle (e.g., smoker? drinker?), and history (e.g., medication use). This is the kind of information we talk about in depth when you book a consultation with me, ensuring we prioritize treatment steps that will benefit you most.
With patient commitment to nutritional and lifestyle changes over 15 months, I experienced 90% reduction in my OCD. And some lovely side benefits of supporting my liver that came much sooner were greatly reduced PMS, no more acne and no more migraines. It got to the point where I started tracking my period dates, otherwise I’d have no idea when it was coming. No more painful cramps, increased anxiety or painful breasts. And I sure don’t miss the being-stabbed-through-the-back-of-my-eyes vomity migraines I used to get a few times a year.
As a Nutritionist specializing in helping people with OCD, I guide you through OCD recovery, tailoring nutritional advice and tools to Your personal health history and symptoms. This takes out the guess work for you, getting you results and recovery faster. And working with me means you have a support person who will listen, answer your questions, and celebrate your progress – a support person who knows just how hellish OCD can be, who can help you understand and address the many factors that contribute to OCD, and who can help you start to live the life you hope for.
Get in touch to book your consultation.