Tired and foggy? The liver may be to blame, according to Ann Louis Gittleman, Ph.D., CNS. “As many as 80% of women have fat buildup in the all-important organ,” Dr. Gittleman says, “which causes a pileup of toxins that leave us feeling fatigued.” Bloating after eating, low energy, sugar cravings, excess weight…these bothersome concerns all can be linked to the organ, Dr. Gittleman says. The good news: There are ways to support liver health naturally. For optimized liver function, certain nutrients have been shown to offer a helping hand. A few that experts recommend (as always, one should supplement only after discussing with a personal healthcare provider):
Liver helper: Milk thistle (silymarin)
This herb has an array of benefits for liver health. According to Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN, in Detox Your Liver: A 6-Step Liver Cleanse, “Milk thistle is considered the ‘king’ of detoxifying herbs” and is helpful for cleansing the liver. It can aid in eliminating metals, medications, environmental pollutants, and alcohol build up in the liver. “Further, it assists in enhancing cell walls and supports regeneration.”
Milk thistle rebuilds liver cells and naturally reverses toxicity in the body, explains Rachael Link, MS, RD, in Milk Thistle: Good for the Liver or Too Many Side Effects? on Dr.Axe.com. “As a liver support and liver aid, milk thistle acts as a powerful liver cleanser by reducing liver damage and removing toxins from the body that are processed through the liver,” Link reports.
To get the benefits of milk thistle, Dr. Axe notes that it can be taken as a supplement or as a liver cleansing detox tea. “You can also purchase a liver support supplement that combines many of these key botanicals, such as milk thistle seed, dandelion root, beet root, and bupleurum root to help detoxify the liver, assist in healthy liver function, and also work as an anti-inflammatory.”
Liver helper: Choline
Researchers at University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill report, “Humans eating diets low in choline develop fatty liver and liver damage.”
That’s a real problem, according to Dr. Gittleman. Her reason: “Choline plays a crucial role in facing the current challenge of COVID. More than ever before, it’s important to cleanse fat from our livers. A new study shows that people with healthy livers are up to 85% less likely to suffer severe COVID infections than those with fatty liver disease. Part of the reason for this is that a fatty liver can’t effectively balance blood sugar. And high blood sugar can lead to diabetes, which, along with inflammation, heart disease and high blood pressure, are all co-morbidities connected to negative COVID outcomes.”
In Choline Clears the Fat Log Jam, Dr. Gittleman reports that just a few weeks on a choline-deficient diet has been shown to cause abnormal liver function. She explains that choline is vital to controlling fat and cholesterol buildup in the body—regulating the kidneys, liver, and gallbladder, and banishing fatigue. “As an added bonus,” Dr. Gittleman says, “choline helps form phosphatidylcholine, which is needed for proper mental functioning. Providing your body with adequate choline while you are young can help diminish memory deficits as you age. Choline can nourish your brain and your liver while it helps you lose weight. That’s quite a deal.”
Liver helper: French oak wood extract
According to Fred Pescatore, M.D., this extract is an antioxidant that research has shown works to boost the liver’s natural detox function. Dr. Pescatore explains that it has “potent liver-protective effects that help the liver recover after alcohol consumption.” It also, he says, helps normalize liver enzymes and reduce oxidative stress. A recent study shows that supplementing with the extract improves symptoms of temporary hepatic damage, including fatigue, nausea, and mild liver enlargement.
Liver helper: Dandelion root
“The root dandelion in dandelion root extract is a reliable source of both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, Link shares in Dandelion Root Benefits for Cancer, Cholesterol and the Liver on Dr.Axe.com. “The antioxidants have potential benefits for liver detox and fights against free radicals responsible for cellular aging. Therefore, a healthier immune system creates a better response to inflammation.” Dandelion root, which can be enjoyed in tea form, has a natural diuretic effect, allowing quicker elimination from toxins to support liver health,
Liver helper: Turmeric
Known for its support in protecting against joint pain, as well as for offering mood support and aiding digestion, turmeric additionally “supports healthy liver tissue and liver metabolism,” according to Dr. Axe.
Liver helper: Chlorophyll
This natural gem is recommended to oxygenize and energize the system as it is rich in purifying magnesium to further enhance elimination, says Dr. Gittleman. And as Jillian Levy, CHHC, reports in Chlorophyll Benefits: The Top Detoxifying Plant Pigment on Draxe.com, it is touted for its protection of healthy cells and bodily tissue by increasing phase II biotransformation enzymes. Levy explains that, “these promote optimal liver health and therefore the body’s natural elimination of potentially harmful toxins.” Further, animal studies suggest that chlorophyllin may reduce the risk for aflatoxin-induced liver damage or liver cancer. In addition, a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial revealed chlorophyll supported liver health “in a useful and safe way,” Levy writes.
Mark Hyman, M.D., also suggests “chlorophyll found in dark-green leafy vegetables and in wheat grass,” which he counts among his “ultimate detoxification foods.”
Liver helper: Taurine
This nutrient is recommended to boost the liver’s production of bile to assist natural liver detox and aid in fat digestion and absorption. According to research published in the Journal of Functional Foods, taurine is “known to protect the liver from various liver injuries and improve lipid profiles. Taurine supplements promote energy and help ward off inflammation, according to research.
Liver helper: Burdock root
Another supplement that can be taken in a variety of formats, burdock root cleanses the blood, Dr. Axe explains, “therefore helping to support liver function. Like milk thistle, both dandelion root and burdock root can be taken in both supplement form or as a detox tea.” And as part of a general detox program, Dr. Hyman suggests, “Prepared herbal detoxification teas containing a mixture of burdock root, dandelion root, ginger root, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, cardamom seed, cinnamon bark and other herbs.”
Liver helper: Glutathione
Known as the “master antioxidant,” glutathione has been shown to help eliminate toxins from cells and to protect against the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. It also has the ability to enhance the performance of other antioxidants, making it a good idea to sell glutathione with other antioxidants. As pointed out in the WholeFoods Magazine article Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant, glutathione can be depleted by poor diet, pollution, toxins, radiation, and stress, among other things, making it an important supplement for customers to discuss with their healthcare practitioner.
Liver helper: Activated Charcoal
This traditional remedy works by collecting toxins along the digestive tract and binding to them, in turn, eliminating them through waste, explains Jill Carnahan, M.D., in 4 Detox Methods That Actually Work. A caution: Charcoal doesn’t discriminate, and can remove more than just, including medication. Consumers should be reminded, as with all supplements and dietary changes, to consult with a healthcare practitioner before making changes to one’s diet or supplement routine. WF