Fact Checked By Michael Kuefner, PhD (BMS)
August 25, 2021
The liver is your body’s primary filtration system.
It metabolizes substances to garnish nutrients and detoxifies the body by removing harmful toxins from the bloodstream.
To achieve this function, the liver receives this blood that contains nutrients from digestive organs in a vein called the hepatic portal vein.
The blood is then filtered by liver cells known as hepatocytes.
They accept and filter the blood, and ultimately decide which nutrients should be processed or stored, and what should be eliminated through stools or go back to the blood.
The liver also plays a major role in producing immune system constituents to aid the body against infection, break down damaged red blood cells, and store extra blood sugar as glycogen.
It is paramount for the liver to function at a high level or harmful toxins and constituents can build up as a result – alcohol, tobacco, or waste products to name a few.
A build-up of these can result in serious complications as well:
Liver health is important to steer clear of these complications so that the organ can function optimally daily on its multitude of tasks – including detoxification.
So how can you improve your detoxification capabilities of the liver?
1. The First And Probably Simplest Way Is To Drink More Water (filtered, tap water to be specific). More water helps the liver transport these toxins and metabolites through the cellular network.
About 4 liters of water per day is generally recommended for the average individual.
2. Get Adequate Sleep! Sleep is detoxifying for the brain and also a major component of your body’s ability to regulate metabolism.
While you sleep, your body is hard processing and metabolizing nutrients and neurotoxins.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Many anti-inflammatory foods are naturally beneficial for the liver’s metabolic capacity, as they lessen the risk for fatty liver disease and reduce the load on the liver.
These include plant-based, natural foods like great vegetables.
Research also suggests that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or walnuts, may stimulate liver function and protect it from liver damage as well (2).
4. Remove The ‘Toxins’ From Your Diet. Too much alcohol, processed foods, or drug intake increases the metabolic and detoxifying burden of the liver.
Reducing or eliminating some of these from your diet can improve liver function substantially (3).
5. Give The Liver Some Help – Natural Liver Supplement
Milk thistle is common to many liver support products on the market today.
As one of the most studied herbs concerning liver support, this prickly plant contains two notable flavonolignans called silymarin and silybin that have been pre-clinically and clinically tested and show promise in approving detoxification by the liver.
Milk thistle has been used for 100’s of years to treat a range of diseases by herbalists and naturopaths, and research began in the early 1990s on its efficacy in supporting the liver through a variety of ways:
Combined, these effects effectively act as a ‘toxin blockade’ for the body, as improving the inflammatory and antioxidant profile in the liver may increase its ability to detoxify the body (4).
Beetroot Extract or Juices
You may have seen beetroot juice and liver detoxification circulating the internet or media recently, and this is largely due to some recent research showing its hepatoprotective effects.
This is due to some pretty promising preclinical and clinical research.
First, rats treated with beetroot juice significantly improved the profile of their liver enzymes (5).
Moreover, treatment of rats with betaine, a native compound widely present in beetroot, resulted in marked improvements in a detoxification enzyme known as cytochrome PV450 in the liver.
Betaine also reduced oxidative stress and levels of fibrotic markers, resulting in improvements in overall liver function.
Overall, the recent beetroot investigations show that through its antioxidant properties it can enhance liver detoxification, reduce cell death, and alleviate the progression of serious liver complications as well (6).
Beetroot extract and betaine are two components of a liver supplement to look for in a liver support supplement.
The last component we think is necessary for an optimal liver support supplement is artichoke leaf, a plant that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries as a remedy to both the liver and gallbladder (7).
In some ways, artichoke leaf is similar to milk thistle – the active ingredient of the leaf is a compound known as cynarin.
The compound has very similar benefits to the active milk thistle compound silymarin.
Recently it was shown that cynarin can improve bile acid production and secretion by the liver (8).
Why is the increase in bile acid secretion by the liver significant?
Because these acids serve as the main pathway by which our body’s breakdown and eliminate cholesterol.
They also allow for the normal flow of metabolites and vitamins so we aren’t malnourished.
Failure to produce bile acids can result in serious complications due to malnutrition (9).
This property makes artichoke leaf very beneficial as a liver support supplement.
It can improve bile acid secretion from the liver, thereby improving its metabolizing and detoxifying functions as well.
The Crux of Liver Detox
Altogether, keeping your liver healthy by reducing alcohol consumption, making some healthy diet choices, or taking a liver support supplement, goes a long way to ensure your little organ maintains its ability to detoxify harmful substances and metabolize compounds in the body.
Today, we’ve outlined a few of the liver-healthy practices along with some research-based, natural compounds with promise to improve liver detoxification.
If you’re looking for a liver support supplement, milk thistle, beetroot extracts, and/or artichoke leaf may be the best bang for your buck.
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