Written by Naturmend’s very own Osteopathic Manual Therapist, Natalie Pateman guides us through symptoms of liver imbalance from an osteopathic perspective, the liver’s functions and the anatomy in the body. She briefly explains the basis of osteopathy which conceptualizes why free movement of ones organs is essential to feeling well. Because osteopathic manual therapy takes into consideration the mind, body and spirit connection, the emotional connection the liver has to oneself is also explained!
Osteopathic Disorders and Symptoms of the Liver
If the motion of the liver is compromised due to restrictions, fixations or adhesions, it will cause wide-ranging effects due the multitude of functions it possesses. Here are some symptoms, which may give an osteopathic manual therapist clues as to whether or not the liver is functioning optimally:
- Eyesight problem
- Oily hair / Dandruff
- White coated tongue
- Bad breath
- Hypersensitive sense of smell
- Sensitive gums
- Irritation/inflammation of the mucous membrane
- Dark colored urine
- Dull/muddy complexion
- Physical fatigue
- Restless sleep
- Difficult Digestion
- Intellectual fatigue
- Decrease of the fighting spirit
- Muscular problems (strains, tendonitis)
- Joint pain (right shoulder)
What does the liver do?
The liver has a variety of functions including:
- the breakdown or modification of toxic substances, such as antibiotics, environmental toxins and chemicals.
- the production of bile required for emulsifying fats
- the involvement in amino acid synthesis, carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism
- the storage of a variety of nutrients essential to the body including glucose, vitamin A/D/B12, iron, and copper
- an immunological effect. Foreign substances that may induce an immune response in the body (antigens) are carried to the liver via the big blood vessels
The liver is the largest digestive and exocrine gland of the body. It is triangular in shape and located in the right upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity below the diaphragm. It can weigh up to 2kg based on to the huge amount of blood it holds, which may also cause it to have a higher temperature compared to the surrounding organs.
The liver lies to the right of the stomach and overlaps the gallbladder. Two major blood vessels transport blood to the liver. The hepatic artery, which carries blood from the aorta to the liver and the hepatic portal vein, which carries blood from the entire GI tract, spleen and pancreas back to the liver.
Due to the pressure difference between the thoracic and abdominal cavities, the pressure in the abdomen being considerably higher, there is a constant “suction” effect, drawing the abdominal contents up towards the diaphragm. Therefore, the effective weight of the liver is approximately 400g; hence, the diaphragm proves to be an important factor in the health of the liver.
Lastly, the liver is surrounded by a layer of connective tissue called the peritoneum, which supports and protects it. Thickening and folding of the peritoneum around the liver create strong fibrous ligaments, which connect the liver to surrounding structures like the diaphragm and the abdominal walls, for added support to the liver (see picture: Ligaments of the liver).
Why is free movement of each organ so important in the body?
All organs must be able to move freely in order to function optimally. No matter how small, any restrictions, fixations or adhesions to other structures will lead to functional impairment of the organ.
Each organ has an active and passive movement. The passive movement or mobility of an organ is the movement the organ expresses as a result of voluntary movement.
Take the musculoskeletal system for example. Every time a person takes a deep breath in and out, the diaphragm rises and falls within the thorax; pushing and pulling the abdominal organs up and down.
The active movement of an organ or motility is the intrinsic motion of an organ, the “kinetic expression of tissues in motion”, which is slow and of low amplitude. It is thought that all body cells have a memory, thus each organ remembers its migration through the body during embryological development. The theory is that the motility expressed by the organ follows the directions and axes of motion which occur during embryological development. It will cause the organ to move along different axes of motion bringing about significant changes in the organ itself and the surrounding structures. These changes will make the individual more prone to develop back pain and other pain patterns.
Osteopathic manual therapy embraces the concept that the body is a collective unit of mind, body and soul, and so it is important to also consider the emotional health of the individual. As the liver is the biggest organ to metabolize hormones, behavioral and emotional changes may occur if the liver function is compromised. Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) in women is a good example of how hormonal changes and emotions are connected. It is a well-known fact, that as hormones spike during the monthly cycle, some women can feel anxious, depressed or angry. Men are also subject to hormonal changes and may also experience these behavioral and emotional changes, however it may be a more subtle change in comparison to women. By releasing any restrictions or adhesions around the liver, the functional ability to metabolize hormones will improve and therefore may elevate and balance the emotional state of the individual.
Natalie Pateman, BSc. is a U.K. trained, and qualified osteopathic manual therapist and cranio-sacral therapist. She has completed a 4-year full-time course in osteopathy at the British College of Osteopathic Medicine in London (U.K.) followed by additional courses in cranial osteopathy, pediatric osteopathy and animal osteopathy. To learn more about Natalie, click here.