Your liver is one of the largest and most important organs in your body. 1 in 10 Americans (a total of 30 million) has some type of liver disease, and 5.5 million of these have chronic liver disease or cirrhosis.
The liver performs many essential functions. In addition to storing and releasing energy from food, the liver also acts as the body’s natural detoxification and filtration system, removing toxins and waste from the system.
Concerned about how important your liver is to your health, supplement makers are jumping on the liver detox bandwagon with several versions containing milk thistle, artichoke leaf, cysteine, burdock, dandelion root, and tauroursodeoxycholic acid or Supplements with ingredients like TUDCA are more common.
Live supplements claim to ‘detoxify’, ‘rejuvenate’ and ‘rescue’ the liver, but do liver supplements really work? Does the evidence support the marketing claims? Do the organs responsible for detoxifying the body really need to detoxify themselves?
Almost all patients with liver disease, especially those with advanced liver disease, have some signs of malnutrition, including mineral/vitamin deficiencies.
The liver has many important biological functions. It converts the nutrients in the food you eat into what your body needs. It also absorbs toxic substances and converts them into harmless components and releases them from the body.
After your stomach and intestines process the food you eat, it travels from your liver through your blood and is filtered. With the help of vitamin K, the liver produces proteins that are critical for blood clotting.
Your liver plays a vital role in processing food for nutrition and metabolism. It controls blood sugar, removes and breaks down glucose, generates energy from amino acids when absorbing and digesting protein, and breaks down fat for energy during lipolysis (R).
Malnutrition and isolated nutritional deficiencies are often associated with liver disease. Before using supplements as a therapeutic intervention for liver health, implementing a healthy and balanced nutritional plan and diet can correct many underlying problems related to liver health, especially those associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
One of the most common supplements used for liver health is milk thistle.Milk thistle or silymarin is the active ingredient extracted from milk thistle A member of the daisy family whose leaves have prominent white “creamy” veins.
Several studies have investigated the effects of milk thistle and its hepatoprotective effects against various forms of toxic hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis, ischemic injury and viral liver disease due to its antioxidant and anti-fibrotic effects , with varying results.
A double-blind placebo-controlled trial was published in Journal of Hepatology The effects of silymarin were studied in patients with cirrhosis. 170 patients took 140 mg of milk thistle daily for an average duration of 41 months. The results showed that milk thistle was effective in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (R).
In contrast, in a study of 200 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, silymarin 150 mg 3 times daily found no beneficial effect (R).
Both studies had significant methodological flaws, including high rates of patient dropouts and compliance issues.
A systematic review in the Cochrane database analyzed 18 different randomized controlled trials evaluating 1088 patients with alcoholic and/or hepatitis B or C viral liver disease. The review found most to be of poor quality, with only 28.6% of trials reporting high-quality methodological characteristics, and no significant differences between treatment and placebo groups were found (R).
The active ingredient in licorice root is glycyrrhizin, a combination of glycyrrhetinic and glucuronic acids that help repair damaged liver cells. Licorice root has been used in Middle Eastern medicine for centuries for its antiallergic, detoxifying and antiviral properties.
Licorice root has several mechanisms by which it may benefit liver health. Hepatoprotective effects of glycyrrhizin include its antilipid peroxidative, antioxidant, immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties (R).
Clinical trials using glycyrrhizin(IV) as a potential treatment are primarily concerned with the treatment of hepatitis C, especially in patients who are refractory or intolerant to interferon therapy. Interferon is a natural substance that helps the body’s immune system fight infections and other diseases, such as cancer.Glycyrrhizin was found in in vitro Research produces endogenous interferon.
Most studies using licorice root have had plausible results due to small sample sizes, lack of definitive results, and weak methods and treatment protocols.
A study in Japan used a standard formulation of glycyrrhizin with glycine and cysteine in 133 patients with histologically confirmed chronic active hepatitis. After one month of treatment, transaminases dropped by nearly 40 percent in the treatment group, compared with a 2 percent drop in the placebo group. However, this study has significant flaws and limitations due to its short duration (R).
Chlorella is a microalgae used in many green and red powder, and as a single stand-alone dietary supplement. It provides high amounts of amino acids, minerals, fiber and bioactive compounds.
A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial conducted by the University of Tabriz in Iran investigated the effects of supplementation with Chlorella vulgaris on levels of liver enzymes, blood glucose, and blood lipids in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Of the 70 NAFLD patients recruited, 55 completed the study. Patients with liver diseases such as Wilson’s disease, autoimmune liver disease, hemochromatosis, viral infection, alcoholic fatty liver, and patients with hepatotoxicity, lipid-lowering, metformin, antihypertensive drugs, contraceptives, and estrogen were excluded.
Patients were randomized using a computer-generated random sequence into two groups: an “intervention group” and a “placebo group.” Both groups received 400 mg of vitamin E, a commonly prescribed vitamin for patients with NAFLD. The groups were given either 1,200 mg of chlorella or a placebo for eight weeks.
After 8 weeks, chlorella supplementation reduced body weight, blood glucose levels and improved blood lipids and liver function better than placebo in patients with NAFLD (R).
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Studies have shown that tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA) may stimulate liver cell proliferation. Hepatocytes are an important cell type in liver parenchyma and participate in various liver functions such as detoxification, carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, albumin secretion, coagulation factors and complement.R).
Studies have shown that TUDCA can reduce several markers of liver cirrhosis, such as ALT, AST and ALP levels (R).
ALT is an enzyme found in the liver that helps convert protein into energy for liver cells. When the liver is damaged, ALT is released into the blood and levels rise. Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) is an enzyme that helps metabolize amino acids.
A normal AST:ALT ratio should be less than one. Among patients with alcoholic liver disease, AST:ALT ratios were >1 in 92% of patients and >2 in 70%. Thus, an AST:ALT score >2 is strongly suggestive of alcoholic liver disease, and a score <1 is more suggestive of NAFLD/NASH (R).
High AST levels may indicate liver disease or liver damage. TUDCA has been shown to reduce AST and ALT levels.
Burdock is found in various liver supplements, but no studies have shown it to have any hepatoprotective effects or benefits. Studies in rats have shown a correlation between induced liver injury and supplementation with burdock, possibly due to its antioxidant activity reducing oxidative stress in hepatocytes (R).
Although animal studies have shown some evidence that burdock may reduce markers of liver damage, there are no known human clinical trials to show or support this conclusion.
According to existing research, due to flawed methodology and study planning. Further investigation with better methods is needed to arrive at evidence-based results and results to indicate whether herbal supplements can be used as a treatment to benefit liver health.
Malnutrition and isolated nutrient deficiencies are directly related to liver health. Optimizing your nutrition, including healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, should be your top priority to provide the nutrients you need for normal liver function.
If you don’t know how to improve your nutrition, or need a custom nutrition plan, schedule a free consultation with a certified nutrition coach at Swole kitchen.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused directly by obesity and being overweight, which can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which your cells do not take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin, and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) indicates diabetes Pre- or type 2 diabetes and high levels of fats in the blood, especially triglycerides.
Inherited acute or chronic liver diseases, including hemochromatosis, Wilson disease, antiprotease (antitrypsin) deficiency, and cystic fibrosis, have not been studied. Because these disease states are indicated and characterized by specific mineral abnormalities that affect the liver and its function, the supplements and herbs are not indicated to treat or cure any inherited liver disease state.
A systematic review suggests that some supplements and herbal remedies may improve disease endpoints and outcomes associated with NAFLD and/or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Noticed improvement in liver function tests. Improvements or reductions in lobular inflammation, hepatic steatosis, and fibrosis were also noted. However, well-designed studies demonstrating improved clinical outcomes are lacking (R).
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