The liver is the second-largest organ in the body (your skin is the largest) and is the largest gland. All together, the liver performs over five hundred separate jobs. Here are just some of its crucial functions:
- It is critically involved in the conversion of fats, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals into more usable forms.
- It makes important cellular structural components including cell membrane compounds (phospholipids) and cholesterol. It is also the liver’s job to manufacture the carrier proteins (lipoproteins) that transport these components throughout the body.
- It produces many important blood proteins including immune factors, proteins involved in blood clotting and the crucial component of hemoglobin for our red blood cells.
- It breaks down excess amino acids to form a waste product called urea, which is then carried in the bloodstream to the kidneys and excreted in the urine.
- It stores many vitamins and minerals including iron and B12.
- It breaks down old red blood cells and recycles their components.
That’s quite a list of tasks – and we haven’t even discussed its critical role in detoxification of harmful substances yet! It is the liver’s job to take care of the poisonous compounds produced in normal biochemical reactions as well as those we ingest, absorb, or breathe in a complex series of steps. The liver is responsible for filtering the blood to remove toxins and excess hormones. The liver then changes the chemical structure of those toxins to make them water soluble so that they can be excreted in the urine. (Many of the most dangerous toxins are fat soluble, which means that unless they are detoxified they are more likely to lodge in your cells and remain there causing trouble.) The liver also secretes bile, which collects the waste products and carries them away from the liver.
How important is detoxification to your well-being?
The answer is: Extremely. Detoxification uses up over eighty percent of the amount of energy your body devotes to making new molecules. In other words, most of the molecules we synthesize every day are made for the sake of getting rid of waste molecules. You can see the connection between liver function and energy levels: If your liver is overloaded – as is the case for most Americans – you may be suffering from low energy levels, since even more of your body’s energy is being devoted to detoxification. That leaves very little energy for other body processes. Supporting your liver will help your energy levels soar to new heights.
What is the best way to support the liver?
Avoid putting undue stress on the liver. Don’t smoke; drink little or no alcohol; avoid caffeine; and do your best to avoid harmful chemicals especially cleaning solvents and pesticides. The most important dietary guidelines for supporting good liver function are also those that support good general health: avoid saturated fats, refined sugar, and alcohol; drink at least 48 ounces of water each day; and consume plenty of vegetables and legumes for their high fiber and nutrient content.
Certain foods are particularly helpful because they contain the nutrients your body needs to produce and activate the dozens of enzymes involved in the various phases of detoxification. Such foods include:
- Garlic, legumes, onions, eggs, and other foods with a high sulfur content
- Good sources of water-soluble fibers, such as pears, oat bran, apples, and legumes
- Cabbage-family vegetables, especially broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage
- Artichokes, beets, carrots, dandelion greens, and many herbs and spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and licorice
- Green foods like wheat grass juice, dehydrated barley grass juice, chlorella, and spirulina
Are there any supplements that I should take to promote liver health?
Absolutely!! A high-potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement is a must. I recommend MultiStart™ from Natural Factors. Select the right MultiStart™ based you’re your age (they are age and gender specific). These formulas contain optimal levels of vitamins and minerals along with important phytochemicals that support detoxification reactions.
I also think it is a very good idea to take Natural Factors Enriching Greens® product because of its high content of cleansing greens, antioxidants, and soluble fiber. And, if your liver needs powerful support then I strongly recommend Liver Health from Natural Factors. I designed this formula to promote liver health and to support liver function in individuals with more serious liver problems like viral hepatitis.
What are the ingredients of Liver Health?
The formula contains several unique compounds that work synergistically to support the liver, even when liver function is severely impaired. Here is a brief description of each component:
- Glucuronate is a nutritional substance used by the liver to bind to toxins to help eliminate them from the system. This process is used to detoxify many hormones; food additives; toxic components of cigarette smoke, and many other harmful substances. In fact, of all the many chemical reactions taking place in the liver cell, the attachment of glucuronate to toxic substances is considered the most important. When glucuronate is ingested as a dietary supplement it reduces the stress on the liver and enhances the liver’s ability to detoxify through glucuronidation. Clinical studies have shown glucuronate supplementation can improve liver function considerably even in cases of poor liver function due to alcohol abuse, acute and chronic hepatitis, exposure to toxic substances, and diabetes. 1,2
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid is a sulfur-containing vitamin-like substance that plays an important role as the necessary co-factor in two vital energy-producing reactions involved in the production of cellular energy (ATP). Lipoic acid is an effective antioxidant.3 It is unique in that it is effective against both water and fat soluble free radicals. It protects the liver from free radical damage and also helps promote detoxification reactions. Preliminary clinical evidence has shown benefits to people with hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.4
- Silybin Phytosome is a special extract of milk thistle bound to phosphatidylcholine. A growing body of scientific research indicates that Silybin Phytosome is better absorbed and produces better results than regular milk thistle extract.5,6 Silybin Phytosome is one of the most potent liver-protecting substances known.7 It protects the liver by: Acting as a direct antioxidant and free radical scavenger, Increasing the intracellular content of antioxidant compounds and Stimulating the formation of new liver cells to replaced those that are damaged.
- Licorice extract contains glycyrrhetinic acid, the active component that has been shown to protect the liver from damage, enhance the immune system, potentiate the effect of the immune-enhancing agent interferon, and to aid the liver in detoxification reactions. Clinical studies with a glycyrrhetinic acid product in Japan have shown excellent results in supporting individuals with both acute and chronic hepatitis. 8,9
- Curcumin is the yellow pigment of turmeric (Curcuma longa) – the chief ingredient in curry. Curcumin has demonstrated significant activity in many experimental and clinical studies.10 Many of its beneficial effects are attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been shown to improve liver function and promote improved clearance of toxic compounds by the liver.
- Panax Ginseng Phytosome. Long revered for its tonic effects, Panax Ginseng exerts significant effects on enhancing liver function including helping to regulate the manufacture of proteins and filtration of the blood.
- Schizandra Berry Extract. The fully ripe, sun-dried fruit of schizandra has been a classic component in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. Some of the effects noted in scientific studies include antioxidant effects; an anti-stress action, much like ginseng, in helping to combat fatigue and stress; an ability to protect the liver from chemical damage.11
Can Liver Health be used in people with hepatitis or cirrhosis?
Yes. My goal when I formulated the product was to offer support to individuals with chronic hepatitis because it is such a growing epidemic. Several of the components of Liver Health have been shown to improve liver function in both acute and chronic hepatitis as well as cirrhosis.
How common is hepatitis?
Statistics from the World Health Organization estimate that 350 million individuals have chronic hepatitis. The most serious form of chronic hepatitis is chronic hepatitis C (CHC). It is suspected that there are, at present, more than five
million people in the United States that are infected with CHC, and perhaps as many as 200 million around the world (that is roughly 5% of the world’s population). The death rate from hepatitis C exceeds that from AIDS.
The drug of choice in conventional medicine for chronic hepatitis is alpha-interferon, a very expensive treatment that produces benefits in only about 1/3 of cases. Fortunately, the natural compounds included in Liver Health have exerted some benefits of their own and may also improve the effect of alpha-interferon. In particular, glucucorate, silybin phytosome, and glycyrrhetinic acid have all shown promise.
What is the proper dosage for Liver Health?
The dosage range is one to two capsules three times daily. The greater the need for liver support, the higher the dosage. Side effects are rare, but can include mild stomach upset and looser stools. Taking the formula with meals can help reduce these side effects. Do not exceed the recommended dosage. As the effect of Liver Health during pregnancy has not been evaluated, it is not recommended for use during pregnancy at this time.
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2. Miglio F, et al. Efficacy of glucuronates versus placebo in chronic hepatitis: A randomized, double-blind study. Advances Therapy 1995;12:299-312.
3. Packer L, et al. Molecular aspects of lipoic acid in the prevention of diabetes complications. Nutrition 2001;17:888-95.
4. Berkson BM. A conservative triple antioxidant approach to the treatment of hepatitis C. Combination of alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid), silymarin, and selenium: three case histories. Med Klin 1999;94(Suppl 3):84-9.
5. Schandalik R, et al. Pharmacokinetics of silybin in bile following administration of silipide and silymarin in cholecystectomy patients. Arzneim Forsch 1992; 42: 964–968
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8. Arase Y, et al. The long term efficacy of glycyrrhizin in chronic hepatitis C patients. Cancer 1997; 79: 1494–1500
9. van Rossum TG, et al. Glycyrrhizin as a potential treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 12(3):199-205, 1998.
10. Murray MT, Pizzorno JE: Curcuma longa. In: A Textbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill-Livingstone, London, UK 1999, pp689-94
11. Upton R, Schisandra berry (Schizandra chinensis): Analytical, quality