The liver is the heaviest organ in the body and has a wide range of critical homeostatic functions in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. Liver cells, or hepatocytes, are specialized cells that are responsible for performing the function of the liver.
Some of these functions include the breakdown of red blood cells, synthesis of proteins and hormones, producing bile, glycogen (energy) storage, and detoxification of metabolites.
The liver is subjected to many insults from the diet and the surrounding environment and although the liver has a strong regenerative capacity, it is sensitive to damage and prone to diseases.
The most common form of liver disease is hepatic steatosis, which is characterized by the excessive accumulation of fat in the cells of the liver. If alcohol abuse is absent, then hepatic steatosis is clinically termed as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD is present in most obese people and this can develop into more serious forms of the disease, including inflammatory steatohepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.
NAFLD and diabetes usually occur simultaneously and together are risks factors for progressive liver diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and increased mortality.
Oxidative Stress and the Liver
Free radicals are atoms of oxygen and nitrogen that are unstable and highly reactive. They are a normal part of biology and are naturally generated during most reactions associated with energy metabolism. To counteract this, the body has an anti-oxidative network designed to protect the cells of the body from these free radicals.
Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance between the production of these radical species and their elimination by the body’s anti-oxidative network. This is important because the oxidative state of the liver is intimately associated with the health of the liver and the initiation of liver diseases.
Oxidative stress is pathologically associated with many chronic liver diseases such as alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. During oxidative stress, reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage cell membranes and DNA and activate the innate immune system and inflammation.
Liver detox supplements can help provide essential nutrients that can be used to help prevent or treat liver diseases such as NAFLD.
Liver Detox Supplements Health Benefits
Liver detoxification is often incorporated to counteract the damage caused by overindulgence at the weekend or over the holidays. The increase in alcohol, fatty and rich foods, can stress the liver meaning it doesn’t function as optimally as possible.
Liver detoxification often includes antioxidants that prevent damage caused by free radicals. Alternatively, liver detox supplements help the liver to cleanse itself of toxins and organic pollutants that build up and cause damage to the liver cells.
Many natural plants have been shown to be beneficial to the health of the liver. These bioactive compounds are described as hepatoprotective and are often shown to contain either water-soluble antioxidants, such as polyphenols and flavonoid compounds, or liver cleansers such as those found in milk thistle.Milk Thistle may
- help prevent liver injury
- optimize liver health
- may reverse alcoholic liver damage
Liver Detox #1 – Milk thistle
Milk thistle is a flowering herb that is related to the daisy. It is a common herbal supplement for many liver diseases and has been used since the Greco-Roman times for treating liver problems such as jaundice, hepatitis and gallbladder stones.
Milk thistle extract contains silymarin, which is a complex of compounds known as flavonolignans. Of these, silybin is the major component and represents between 50-70% of the silymarin complex. Silybin is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to inhibit ROS formation as well as actively scavenge other reactive species.
Silybin has also been shown to have an impact on inflammation by interfering with genetic factors that are involved in inflammation. Specifically, silybin inhibits inflammatory processes that play an important role in regulating the immune response to infections.
Further, scientists have also shown that silybin interferes with the action of the hormone, insulin. Silybin inhibits the uptake of glucose to fat cells in the liver and thereby reduces the production of reactive oxygen species as well as preventing a fatty liver.The following lists the multiple benefits of a milk thistle supplement:
- Effective liver detoxifying supplement
- Reduces inflammation associated with NAFLD
- Protects the liver from liver toxic medications
- Helps the liver cleanse and detoxify the blood
- Increases the regenerative capacity of the liver
- Safe and well-tolerated supplement
- Improves liver function
- Possible antiviral effective against hepatitis (HCV)
Liver Detox #2 – Schisandra
Schisandra chinensis is a medicinal plant used in modern Chinese medicine as a functional food that has a broad range of health-benefitting properties. The schisandra plant produces berries that have been described to offer a remedy against dysentery, insomnia, amnesia, and dyspnea (difficulty in breathing).
Schisandra is enriched in antioxidants, which is beneficial against diseases associated with oxidative stress. Research has shown that schisandra is hepatoprotective and can help prevent acute liver damage caused by oxidative stress.
There is also a lot of evidence showing that schisandra can suppress the release of pro-inflammatory molecules that are associated with many inflammatory diseases. This includes suppression of inflammatory agents released by the immune system in response to various disease-associated inflammatory processes.The following list highlights the benefits of schisandra supplements:
- Strong anti-oxidant properties
- Restores liver function
- Improves drug metabolism
- Protects the liver against heavy metal toxins
- Improves endurance ability
- Promotes mental performance
Liver Detox #3 – B-vitamins
The B-vitamins are a group of eight vitamins that are essential for optimal health and wellbeing. Each individual B vitamin is involved in a range of metabolic processes where they act as co-factors or co-enzymes.
Each B vitamin is unique but has closely related functions associated with energy production. Vitamin B complex supplements help optimize these important cellular reactions and ensure that organs such as the brain, heart, and liver, function properly.
In the liver, metabolic reactions are catalyzed by specific enzymes and assisted by B-vitamins, which act as co-factors or co-enzymes and help to drive the reaction forward. Without these B-vitamins there are seriously negative health consequences for the liver.
Supplemental B-vitamins can help the liver perform at its maximum as well as protect the liver from damage caused by overindulgence in alcohol and fatty foods. Vitamin B3 (niacin) in particular has been suggested to prevent liver damage associated with NAFLD.B vitamins
- help to cleanse and detoxify the liver
- maintain optimal liver function and health
Liver Detox #4 – N-acetyl-Cysteine
N-acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is the acetylated form of the amino acid cysteine. The amino acid cysteine contains a sulfur group. In the case of NAC, this sulfur groups stimulates the synthesis of glutathione, a naturally potent and bioactive antioxidant found in the body.
NAC has been used as a therapeutic in a number of diseases, including respiratory illnesses, heart diseases and cancer. It has also been shown to have clinical benefits in the treatment of acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity, or liver injury caused by a paracetamol overdose.
In addition, NAC has been shown to be an effective chelation agent (or binding agent) of heavy metal ions. In cases of heavy metal poisoning, NAC helps to protect the liver and kidneys from damage by increasing the excretion of these metals in the urine.
Therefore, supplemental NAC has two main mechanisms of action when it comes to protecting the liver. Firstly, it promotes the synthesis of one of the body’s key antioxidants, glutathione, and secondly, it promotes detoxification.N-acetyl-Cysteine
- Improves liver function
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Promotes liver detoxification
- Assists in recovery from a paracetamol overdose
- Protects the liver from damage
Liver Detox #5 – Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid, or alpha-lipoic acid, is a naturally occurring fatty acid that is perceived to have health benefits against chronic lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type II diabetes. Lipoic acid is predominately found in the mitochondria of all cells and is an important co-factor for many enzymes involved in the energy metabolism of the cell.
Lipoic acid is a popular choice of supplement due to its benefits against inflammation and oxidation, both of which are implicated in liver disease and diabetes.
Lipoic acid is water and fat-soluble and can easily cross the cell membrane where it has been shown to restore glutathione concentrations within the cell. Lipoic acid plays a critical role in stimulating glutathione synthesis, which itself has powerful antioxidant properties.
Lipoic acid has been demonstrated to have unique anti-oxidative properties through many different mechanisms. These include, firstly, the chelation of metals such as zinc, lead and copper, which can accumulate and result in oxidative damage.
Secondly, lipoic acid has also been shown to have a low redox potential and can therefore quench free radicals by readily donating electrons to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species throughout the body.Lipoic acid supplementation come with the following health benefits:
- Potent antioxidant
- Ameliorates oxidative stress in the liver
- Anti-inflammatory action
Liver Detox #6 – Artichoke
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) has historically been used as a remedy for digestive and bowel issues. It is native to European countries around the Mediterranean and its leaves are often used to prepare herbal teas or herbal medicinal products.
More recently, artichoke extracts have been shown to have potent hepatoprotective properties through its antioxidant activity, cholesterol lowering ability and its ability to improve bile-flow in the liver.
The therapeutic effect on liver health has been shown to significantly reduce fat and cholesterol levels in the liver as well as protect the liver from oxidative stress.Together, supplemental artichoke extracts improve liver function and prevent liver injury through the following benefits:
- Promotes bile-flow and therefore reduces the risk of liver damage
- Potent antioxidant
- Reduces fat and cholesterol levels in the liver
- Helps prevent chronic liver disease
Who Should Use Liver Detox Supplements?
Liver detox supplements offer a natural alternative to effectively protect the liver from damage as well as promoting regeneration and improving liver function.
- Those suffering from chronic lifestyle diseases should consider liver detox supplements
- Patients who have been prescribed medications that are toxic to the liver
- Individuals who have excessively high liver enzymes
- Those who have possibly consumed heavy metals such as arsenic and lead
- Individuals who have overindulged or are about to overindulge
- People who live or work in toxic environments
Liver Detox Supplement Side Effects and Risks
Most liver detox supplements are considered safe and non-toxic. However, the following side effects and risks should be considered prior to taking any liver detox supplements:
- N-acetyl cysteine interacts with nitroglycerin and increases its vasodilatory effects
- Lipoic acid may interfere with thyroid disease medications
- Schisandra may increase the breakdown of warfarin in the body thus preventing it from carrying out its function
- Schisandra may interact with tacrolimus (Prograf) and increase the side effects of this medication
- Promote a healthy and efficient liver
- Protect the liver from biological toxins and pollutants in the diet and the environment
- Neutralize heavy metals and allow them to be excreted
- Promote the anti-oxidative capacity of the liver
- Prevent the onset of chronic liver diseases
Liver Detox Supplement Interactions
Liver Detox Supplement Combinations
Lipoic acid, schisandra, milk thistle, artichoke, and B vitamins are often combined together to provide a complete liver detox supplement
Why Take Liver Detox Supplements?
Liver detox supplements are scientifically proven to offer an effective and natural alternative to promote the heath and wellbeing of the liver.Liver detox supplements provide the following benefits:
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