How to look after your Liver

The liver is the second biggest organ in the body (the skin is the first!).

It is responsible for a variety of functions, like storing vitamins and synthesizing glucose, but its major function is detoxifying the blood. The liver filters out the harmful substances found in alcohol and drugs but too much of these substances eventually damages it. As time passes, the liver learns to work overtime but when the damage worsens with prolonged abuse, the liver can turn cirrhotic – which is an irreversible condition of liver scarring.

So how do you reverse (or at least slow) this kind of damage?

Stop Drinking:

The front runner in healthy liver habits is to limit your alcohol intake or even stop drinking completely. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended daily alcohol intake for women should not exceed 1 drink per day and should not exceed two drinks per day for men. Going over this recommended limit increases your risk for liver damage and even breast cancer. [1] If you already have a liver condition of any kind, giving up alcohol is advisable.

Milk Thistle:

Milk thistle is a medicinal plant that has been used to treat a variety of liver and metabolic diseases over thousands of years in the Mediterranean. According to numerous studies, the inclusion of milk thistle in the management of liver health is effective in making the liver healthier. [2] While some studies beg to differ, it cannot be denied that milk thistle has been proven to have hepatoprotective effects. [3]

Papaya:

The use of papaya has been associated with skin whitening benefits, but it is also a good addition to your diet to protect your liver. A study in 2007 used fermented papaya preparations as possible supportive treatment for people with hepatitis C. The results were very positive! Papaya was able to improve hemodynamic balance in the body, as well as improving the ability of the body to detoxify itself. [4]

Eclipta Alba:

This herb is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Today, studies have indicated its effectiveness in improving liver health and protecting it from disease. Not only that, the plant is also shows good antioxidant properties on a liver damaged by alcohol abuse. [5] [6]

Picrorhiza kurroa:

A very ancient herbal medicine and another plant popularly used in Ayurvedic traditional medicine, Picrorhiza kurroa is known for managing jaundice – a condition where the skin becomes yellow because of excess bilirubin in the blood – and liver infections. [7] Picrorhiza is available in supplement form and has been shown to have hepatoprotective effects – as well as being able to decrease hepatic lipids and fatty infiltration of the liver – overall reducing liver damage and improving liver health. [8]

Schisandra:

Moving to Eastern Traditional Medicine, the Schisandra plant and its fruit are used for a variety of ailments, primarily infections. In a 2012 study, the Schisandra plant was able to prevent a rise in AST/ALT levels (markers of liver damage) in acute hepatotoxicity. This could be due to its ability to get rid of free radicals in the blood which damage liver tissue. [9]

Green tea:

When talking about healthy food and drink, green tea is often on the list because of its antioxidant effects. Green tea’s anti-hyperlipidemic effects are able to reduce fat build-up in the liver tissue and oxidative stress, causing a decrease in inflammation and AST/ALT levels. [10] The antioxidant effects also help clear our free radicals from the blood as well.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is has immune system-boosting powers which in turn affects our over health, preventing disease. However, did you know that it is able to boost liver regeneration? The liver is a part of the body that will continue to function even as parts of it are damaged. Vitamin C is able to promote liver cell turnover and regeneration, making fruits high in Vitamin C an important part of your daily diet. [11]

Acupuncture:

Acupuncture rose to prominence as its use in traditional Eastern medicine promoted total body health, depending on where the acupuncture is performed. Piercing the skin is thought to promote overall health and balance in the body improving blood circulation. The hepatoprotective effects of acupuncture were proven in a 2006 study in Korea. The use of acupuncture was able to reduce liver toxicity, protecting tissue and function of the liver. [12]

Dandelion:

Dandelion can be included in your diet through the leaves and roots made into tea. In a study that involved people with high fat diets who were at high risk for lipid accumulation in the liver. The groups who included dandelion extracts in their diets had less fat build-up in the liver, which suggests that dandelions can be used to manage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. [13]

Note: This article is not medical advice. Consult your physician before using herbs / supplements especially if you have a medical condition or are taking any form of medication.

References:

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Alcohol and Public Health.http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
[2] Lawrence, V., et. al. (2000). Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK33277/?report=reader
[3] Matveev, A., et. al. (2011). Hepatoprotective properties of silymarin.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21560654
[4] Marotta, F., et. al. (2007). Oxidative-inflammatory damage in cirrhosis: effect of vitamin E and a fermented papaya preparation.
[5] Baranisrinivasan, P., et. al. (2009). Hepatoprotective Effect of Enicostemma littorale blume and Eclipta alba During Ethanol Induced Oxidative Stress in Albino Rats.http://www.researchgate.net/publication/45948096_Hepatoprotective_Effect_of_Enicostemma_littorale_blume_and_Eclipta_alba_During_Ethanol_Induced_Oxidative_Stress_in_Albino_Rats
[6] Thirumalai, T., et. al. (2011). Restorative effect of Eclipta alba in CCl4 induced hepatotoxicity in male albino rats. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2222180811600728
[7] WebMD (2009). Picrorhiza. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1082-picrorhiza.aspx?activeingredientid=1082&activeingredientname=picrorhiza
[8] Shetty, S., et. al. (2010). A study of standardized extracts of Picrorhiza kurroa Royle ex Benth in experimental nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3087357/
[9] Cheng, Ni., et. al. (2013). Antioxidant and hepatoprotective effects of Schisandra chinensis pollen extract on CCI-induced acute liver damage in mice.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512008290
[10] Sakata, R., et. al. (2013). Green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients: a double-blind placebo-controlled study.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24065295
[11] Yim, Y., et. al. (2006). Hepatoprotective effect of manual acupuncture at acupoint GB34 against CCl4-induced chronic liver damage in rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4087655/
[13] Davaatseren, M., et. al. (2013). Taraxacum official (dandelion) leaf extract alleviates high-fat diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23603008


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