In a country where one in every 10 Americans suffers from various liver diseases, attentive liver care is extremely important (1). Daily supplementation can be beneficial to avoid or manage these issues.
The American Liver Foundation warns that unnatural products containing certain chemicals can harm the liver due to their toxins. Since the liver and kidneys work hard to process harmful chemicals, these organs can always benefit from the help of natural ingredients (1).
A healthy lifestyle and proper supplementation are vital to taking care of an organ with so many roles. The liver processes all the blood leaving the stomach and intestines and ensures everything is nontoxic for the rest of the body (2). Johns Hopkins Medicine reports the liver has more than 500 vital functions.
Lifestyle. Of course with anything regarding well being, a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Some external factors to liver problems include: toxins from unnatural cleaning products and chemicals, additives in cigarettes, incorrect use of medications and the most commonly known — overconsumption of alcohol (1).
Liver disease due to alcohol abuse is far too common in the U.S. When too much alcohol is consumed, acetaldehyde builds up in the body, which causes cell damage and fat buildup — leading to a fatty liver and ultimately cirrhosis of the liver. Additional contributors to fatty liver can be obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, so diet and exercise are extremely important.
Many people participate in detox diets, however there are mixed opinions whether these are healthy. One method to clearing toxins out of the body is by fasting. However, doing so can also be damaging to the body. This is why a healthy lifestyle and proper supplementation are so important (1).
When considering a detox or cleanse it is important to remember that it isn’t just about avoiding consuming certain things — more importantly it’s about what you choose to put in your body. One not only wants to remove unhealthy food and toxins like alcohol, but also replenish the body with nutrients. With any detox or cleanse it is important to drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated and consume raw fruits and vegetables (leafy greens especially that are loaded with fiber). Also recommended are quality daily probiotics and colostrum (3).
Juice Cleanse. When it comes to the popular juice cleanse, there are pros and cons of doing this type of cleanse so a doctor should be consulted before participating in one. During a juice cleanse, the body can get a lot of nutrients from the juice and because insoluble fiber is removed during the juicing process (a juicer separates the “meat” of the vegetable from the juice) the juice is easier for the body to digest. This can be an effective way to eliminate toxins from the body, but a juice-only cleanse can be difficult on the body, particularly for a prolonged period of time. Because of the lack of protein, muscle mass can be lost, and metabolic rate can decrease (4). A customer might temper the intensity of a juice cleanse by cutting out all processed food, juicing and consuming organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Colon. While liver health is crucial, our body absorbs nutrients and toxins from food in the colon. It is therefore an important organ to think about when contemplating a cleanse, because of its role in elimination of toxins like the liver. Colon cleanse products are typically a combination of natural herbs and fibers. Senna leaf, for example, helps naturally move waste through the digestive tract to help eliminate toxins. Many brands offer colon cleansing supplements containing senna leaf as an ingredient (5).
Cascara sagrada is also used to help move waste through the body. The bark acts as a laxative and is commonly used for colon problems or constipation. However, it should be used with caution as it can cause dehydration with prolonged use. Activated charcoal is another natural substance that helps trap and absorb toxins and can be great for a detox (4).
Psyllium husk is an important ingredient to look for in cleansing products because it is a soluble fiber, aiding in the elimination of waste and toxins from the digestive tract. It is available in powder and supplement forms that can be ingested orally (6). As a soluble fiber, it interacts with water, making it gelatinous. This softens stool, making it easier to pass as well as slowing down the digestive process. This makes soluble fiber ideal for both constipation and diarrhea. Insoluble fibers on the other hand, add bulk to stool, allowing it to pass more quickly through stomach and intestines (7). For that reason, insoluble fiber is only ideal for constipation while soluble fiber is a good all-around solution.
To get a thorough cleanse of the body the first step would be a colon cleanse, followed by an herbal detox for the liver. This will ensure that any potential toxins will be cleared from the body.
Milk thistle is one of the most popular and widely used herbs to aid in liver care (8). The seeds of the plant contain the active ingredient silymarin, which has been shown to aid regeneration of damaged liver cells (9). The seed extract can be found in either capsule or powder forms.
Among its liver benefits, milk thistle can also lower cholesterol levels and help reduce insulin resistance.
Turmeric. This popular herb is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins and is widely used in cooking. Most of the beneficial properties can be found in its root, and curcumin (the most powerful part) is the component responsible for the many benefits (10).
Curcumin, known as an anti-inflammatory, is also known to aid in serious diseases/health issues. It is often recommended as a natural ingredient to assist with heart disease, digestive disorders, blood sugar levels, etc.
Fatty liver disease affects one in three Americans, and turmeric supplementation, as a complement to diet and exercise, can help to greatly reduce fatty liver and liver damage. The herb does this by stimulating bile and assists in regulating enzymes, thereby helping cholesterol metabolism (5).
Artichoke. This is another popular supplement that aids in liver function and helps control blood sugar levels. Cynarin is a compound found in the vegetable that assists in the production and discharge of bile in the liver. Studies have found this property to help with those suffering from chronic liver disease (11).
Dandelion. The roots of this weed are used traditionally to remedy liver and gallbladder problems. They can be consumed fresh or dried, are often used in teas or cooking or can be extracted and encapsulated for supplementation purposes (12).
Burdock. Similar to milk thistle, burdock is a common weed known as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial. It can be used as a blood purifier and also a diuretic to rid excess water from the body (1).
Many companies offer supplements or powders that promote liver care and healthy detoxification by maintaining healthy enzyme counts and cell regeneration. Powders can be used in a number of ways including mixing in hot or cold drinks, smoothies, protein powder, etc.
• Avocado produces glutathione which filters out toxins.
• Flavonoid-rich beets support healthy function.
• Garlic flushes out toxins.
• Grapefruit flushes out toxins and carcinogens.
• Green tea contains catechins.
• Leafy greens neutralize toxins.
• Licorice blocks toxins.
• Vitamin E promotes function (13)
With any supplement there always is the chance of negative effects. Customers should consult a medical professional before taking any supplements. Misuse can trigger side effects, potential negative interactions with medications and possible allergies. WF
- Colleen Morrison, “Delivering Liver Care,” https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/supplements/features-supplements/delivering-liver-care/
- Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Liver: Anatomy and Functions,” http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/liver_biliary_and_pancreatic_disorders/liver_anatomy_and_functions_85,P00676
- Jaqui Karr, “Detox or Damage Control: 3-Minute Cheat Sheet and Supplement Guide,” https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/gluten-specialty-diets/detox-damage-control-supplement-guide/
- WholeFoods Magazine Staff, “Finding a Cleanse That’s Right for You,” https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/consumer-bulletin/finding-cleanse-thats-right/
- Web MD, “Senna,” https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-652-senna.aspx?activeingredientid=652&
- Web MD, “Psyllium Husk Fibre Oral Powder,” https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-56088/psyllium-husk-fibre-oral/details
- Medline Plus, “Soluble vs. insoluble fiber,” https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Milk Thistle,” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/milkthistle/ataglance.htm
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Silymarin in the prevention and treatment of liver diseases and primary liver cancer,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21466434
- Liver Support, “Turmeric,” http://www.liversupport.com/turmeric/
- Nicole Cutler, “Artichokes Help an Ailing Liver,” http://www.liversupport.com/artichokes-help-an-ailing-liver/
- University of Maryland Medical Center, “Dandelion,” http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dandelion
- WholeFoods Magazine Staff, “Are You Taking Care of Your Liver?” https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/consumer-bulletin/are-you-taking-care-your-liver/
Published in WholeFoods Magazine November 2017