Your liver is one of the most important and largest organs in your body. In addition to storing and releasing energy from food, this organ serves as your body's natural filter. Your liver cleanses your blood and removes toxins and waste from your system.
Given that this organ is extremely important for your health, it is not surprising that supplement manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to offering detox supplements for this organ.
But do these types of supplements work? And does the organ detoxifying your body really need its own detoxification? In this article, we answer those questions by giving you insight into the effectiveness of supplements for the liver .'
Liver Supplements Claims
In reality, many of the supplement packaging claims for this organ are not supported by scientific research.
While some studies have shown that some supplement ingredients — such as milk thistle and artichoke leaf — may provide benefits, the positive effects mainly occurred in people with liver disease.
Whether these supplements can improve the function of this organ in people who do not have liver disease has yet to be proven.
Various supplement packaging labels claim that the ingredients will detoxify and support this organ.
For example, it is claimed that the harmful effects of alcohol, fat, sugar and all other toxins will be reversed in an instant.
For example, websites that sell supplements for this organ claim the following:
- Promote liver function and health
- Protect liver cells from damage
- Stimulate the growth of new cells
- Improve blood flow to and from this organ
Manufacturers of these liver detox supplements promise that their products will restore your liver in no time. They also claim that their nutritional supplements give you more energy, boost your immune system, help you lose weight and even improve your mood. But is that really so? Read on quick.
Functioning of the liver
Weighing about one and a half kilograms, the liver performs many important tasks in the human body. Everything you eat will eventually be processed by this organ. After your stomach and intestines have digested the food consumed, it travels through the bloodstream to your liver to be filtered.
The liver then breaks down fat to release energy. It produces a yellow-green substance called “ bile ” to help your body break down and absorb fat. This organ is also involved in the process of sugar metabolism. It takes glucose from your blood and stores it in the form of “glycogen”. Whenever your blood sugar drops, the liver releases glycogen to keep your blood sugar stable.
When alcohol, drugs, and other toxins are transported to your liver, they are filtered out of your blood. This organ then cleans the relevant toxins and removes them from your body through your urine or stool.
Popular Ingredients Liver Supplements
Many of the supplements for this organ available on the Dutch market contain a combination of the following three herbal ingredients:
- milk thistle
- artichoke leaf
- dandelion root
Below we zoom in on each of these ingredients.
For over 2000 years, milk thistle has been used to treat disorders of this organ. It is one of the most widely used herbal ingredients to promote liver health. The active ingredient in milk thistle is called “silymarin”. Silymarin is a composition of various vegetable, natural chemicals.
Laboratory studies suggest that silymarin helps repair liver tissue, reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage by acting as a healthy antioxidant .
Another study looked at children treated with chemotherapy for leukemia. Children given milk thistle supplements had slightly fewer signs of liver damage after 28 days .
An analysis of studies from 2017 found that silymarin slightly reduced certain enzymes — which can indicate liver damage — in people with liver disease. However, more research is needed to determine the exact effect of milk thistle.
Milk thistle seems to be generally safe. Still, some people have reported GI symptoms (related to food intolerance) or allergic reactions after taking a milk thistle supplement. Because this type of supplement can lower blood sugar, people with diabetes should consult their doctor before taking a liver supplement.
Artichoke leaf has antioxidant properties. A number of studies suggest that artichoke leaf may protect this organ. Animal studies show that it can help repair the building blocks of this organ.
Gradually, two studies – conducted in 2016 and 2018 – into people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease , reduced artichoke leaf – compared to a placebo – the characteristics of liver damage. However, the clinical benefits of supplementing substances from artichoke leaves remain to be seen.
Although dandelion root is used today to treat liver disease, evidence of its benefits is scarce. Much more research is needed to determine if it is safe and effective for this purpose.
Other good ingredients for the liver
In addition to dandelion root, milk thistle and artichoke leaf, supplement manufacturers differentiate themselves by adding other ingredients to their dietary supplements for this organ. Think about:
- Wild yam root
- Yellow dock root extract
- Hawthorn berry extract
- Chanca piedra
However, well-designed human studies showing that these herbs work are still lacking.
Keeping your liver healthy
Supplement manufacturers make a lot of big claims. So far, research does not support most of these claims regarding improving the health of this organ. There is not enough evidence to confirm that taking certain supplements detoxifies or protects this organ. If you're considering taking a supplement, check with your doctor first to make sure it's safe for you.
Fortunately, a few lifestyle choices have been shown to improve the health of this organ. Here are a few tips to keep this organ in optimal condition:
Limit your fat intake
A diet high in fried foods, sweets and fast foods leads to weight gain. Obesity and overweight increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Improving the health of this organ can also be achieved through a healthy, varied diet.
The chemicals in some insecticides, cleaning products and aerosols can damage this organ. If you must use these products, make sure that the room (where you find yourself) is well ventilated.
Do not smoke. Smoking is harmful to this organ.
Be careful when drinking alcohol
Large amounts of beer, wine or spirits damage the building blocks of this organ and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Drink alcohol in moderation and responsibly, i.e. no more than one to two glasses a day.
Avoid drug use
Any drug you take has to be broken down by your body and eliminated through your liver. The use of drugs, such as steroids and inhalants, can permanently damage this organ. Also, the use of harmful or illegal drugs (such as heroin) can damage this organ. So avoid these things.
Do not combine alcohol and medicines
Combining alcohol and certain medications can worsen damage to this organ. Read the package insert carefully before using any prescription medication. Avoid alcohol if the package insert states that this combination is unsafe.