Liver Puzzle

Is it time to detox your liver?

Glynis BarberHealth, Supplements 2 Comments

The last few months have seen us spending a LOT more time at home. And it looks like this winter we’ll all be spending even more time at home. I wonder if anyone will ever actually leave their house again??

And with not much to look forward to, it’s no surprise people are drinking much more than they used to. In my case, it’s not so much the amount at one sitting, it’s more the frequency of having that glass or two.

Having a drink easily turns into a nightly ritual

And make no mistake, you liver needs a night off on a regular basis. Here, Shabir Daya (pharmacist at Victoria Health) gives us the low down on how the liver functions and what it needs to function optimally. He also talks about one of my favourite supplements that’s great at supporting the liver. I always have this in my kitchen cupboard and take one every time I have a drink.

Milk Thistle

The liver is one of the most essential organs in the body

It’s critical to the optimal function of all aspects and processes carried out within our body and is involved in the digestive process and in the assimilation of nutrients. Equally important, the liver also helps to remove metabolic waste-products such as ammonia as well as toxins and pollutants from the environment such as heavy metals like lead and mercury. Pesticides and chemicals sprayed onto fruits and vegetables to keep them from perishing also have to be dealt with by the liver.

Other liver functions

The liver also works tirelessly to maintain healthy glucose and cholesterol levels; it helps break down fats in our digestive system and converts food using the enzymes it produces into forms that allow for easy assimilation of nutrients. These are just some of the processes carried out by the liver and we can begin to understand why the liver is one of the most crucial organs in the body. Helping to detox your liver and prevent early stages of a fatty liver, which could lead to liver disease, is a major concern in the UK.

Liver problems

Unfortunately, the liver is also one of the most abused organs and increasingly, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, liver failure and other liver disorders are on the increase, arising as a result of liver damage. It is currently estimated that more than 50% of the people over the age of 50 suffer from some form of liver disease and in many cases they may not even be aware of it. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common liver concerns today and it is a term used for a wide range of conditions.

A healthy liver should have very little fat

This is because it processes fats and cholesterol. In the case of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the first stage is called simple fatty liver disease and most people do not exhibit any obvious symptoms. Currently it is estimated that between 25% and 30% of the people in the UK suffer from fatty liver disease and although this stage is not life threatening, it should not be disregarded.

In some people, this fatty liver disease can result in accumulation of fat in the liver which leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver.

Fatty liver disease is linked to obesity

This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes. Between 2% and 5% of the people go on to develop the second stage of fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

NASH results in inflammation of the liver which is the body’s natural response to liver cell damage and liver cell death. For some, NASH leads to fibrosis of the liver where constant inflammation leads to the scarring of liver tissue and the blood vessels within the liver. Some parts of the liver still remain functional so the liver can carry on with its functions albeit under a burden.

The final stage is cirrhosis of the liver where the scar tissue progresses to most parts of the liver and the liver becomes lumpy and starts to shrink. This is a severe disease because the damage is irreversible and over a period of time can lead to liver failure.

Risk factors for fatty liver disease include:

  • obesity or if you are overweight
  • suffer from type 2 diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have high cholesterol
  • are over the age of 50
  • smoke

In my opinion, it is therefore important to have a strategy in place to reverse a fatty liver and detoxify the liver either periodically or on an on-going basis depending upon your lifestyle and diet. Utilising a good liver cleanse supplement should be one of the things you focus on; to help prevent a fatty liver, liver disease, an overworked and damaged liver, as well as exercise and a balanced diet.

Milk thistle benefits the liver

Milk thistle is a weed-like plant that grows wild in Europe, North America and Australia. In the 17th Century Nicholas Culpepper recorded that milk thistle opened “obstructions” of the liver and spleen. By the 19th Century, German physicians were using milk thistle tinctures for many liver disorders. The German Commission on safety and efficacy of herbs fully endorses milk thistle seeds or milk thistle seed extracts as supportive treatment for liver disorders.

For thousands of years milk thistle has been used to treat liver problems

Milk thistle tinctures, milk thistle seeds and milk thistle seed extracts have been used to treat both liver  and gall bladder problems.

Milk thistle contains a bioflavonoid called silymarin which itself contains several compounds. Silymarin is a potent antioxidant and possesses powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Research has confirmed that a compound called silybin is the most active component within silymarin, but unfortunately, silybin has been poorly absorbed by the body until now.

Scientists have found that adding phosphatidyl choline to silybin overcomes this lack of availability to the body. Each cell membrane is composed of phospholipids and since phosphatidyl choline is a phospholipid, the silybin is easily transported into the liver cells where it can perform its role of protection and helping to reduce inflammation within the liver. Remember that liver disease is a result of inflammation of the liver which leads to scaring or a weakened liver.

There are many milk thistle tablets, capsules & tinctures on the market which can be daunting to choose. The milk thistle supplement which is bio-available to the body is Advanced Milk Thistle Softgels by Life Extension. Each bottle provides a two month’s course which you can either use on an on-going basis or repeat every few months to protect the liver with a milk thistle liver detox. This product is not suitable for vegetarians or for pregnant and lactating women.

Advanced Milk Thistle Softgels

How to liver cleanse naturally

A healthy liver keeps you well. There are so many liver cleanse diets recipes and suggestions that one can easily get confused. There are however some basic principles to keep your liver healthy and to prevent fatty liver disease and is a diet for fatty liver treatment, ideal daily use. I am briefly going to outline some basic principles on how to liver cleanse:

Enhance your fibre intake

High fibre eases digestion and helps reduce fats that the liver would otherwise have to handle. This puts less burden on the liver, enabling it to function more efficiently and recover more quickly.

Avoid alcohol if possible, or at the very least ensure that your intake is ideally below the limits as set out by the relevant authorities. No matter what you have heard about red wine and its protective properties, alcohol is a toxin which does affect the liver.

Drink lots of water

Whilst some may advocate not drinking tap water because of its chlorine content, I believe that any water whether bottled or otherwise will be of benefit. You can add a few drops of lemon juice to aid the cleansing process. Aim for drinking six to eight glasses every day, although you can mix this with caffeine-free herbal tea.

Ensure you have a sensible diet incorporating the best possible sources of fresh leafy greens which are rich in chlorophyll, a powerful alkalising and energising compound. Eat fresh fruits rich in vitamin C and A also help to protect the liver. Sulphur in vegetables is a great detoxifying nutrient for the liver. Try avoiding processed foods since they are usually high in sugar, undesirable fats and often have lower nutritional value.

Incorporate healthy fats into your diet

The liver produces bile to break down fats so eating healthy fats from oily fish, almonds, pumpkin seeds, olives, avocados and using Coconut butter in cooking is not going to put your liver under stress. Whilst some people advocate abstaining completely from animal fat, I believe that lean meats are a valuable source of various nutrients including vitamin B12 and creatine which are all important to the body.

Note from Glynis:

Shabir recommends a very good quality Milk Thistle that is easily absorbed (link to it is in the article). However, there is a huge choice to choose from and some much cheaper options. I have put a link to a great value option below. You can also browse the Victoria Health site to look at their other options (or check out your local store).

Milk Thistle

Victoria Health

Share the knowledge!

Comments 2

  1. Please remember to check with your pharmacist or doctor that any medication you are currently taking does not interact with Milk Thistle.

    1. Post

      It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you’re on any kind of medication. Shabir mentions that pregnant and lactating women should avoid it although I don’t know of any other contra-indications. Worth checking though.

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