Our liver is an amazing organ, every single minute a healthy liver filters 1.7 litres of blood, neutralising toxins to prevent us from getting sick.
The main roles of the liver include removing toxins from the body, processing food nutrients and helping to regulate body metabolism. There are many reasons as to why the liver can become over burdened, things like alcohol consumption, high fat and sugary diets, medications, viral infections and environmental chemicals can all make the liver slow down and not function as well as it could.
The good news is that even if you have over indulged a little bit recently there are some simple things you can do to help enhance your liver function and start to feel healthier and more energised. So let’s take a look at some common supplements you can take to give your liver a little helping hand.
St Marys Thistle
St Marys Thistle has been used medicinally for over 2000 years. Even back in those early days’ people knew how valuable this herb was for treating liver disorders, with it commonly being used to treat hepatitis, jaundice and gallstones. (1)
In this modern era St Marys Thistle is well known to protect the liver from damage and help to restore disordered liver function and it a great antioxidant too. Herbalists commonly prescribe this herb for liver damage, fatty liver, liver cirrhosis and for exposure to chemical pollutants such as drugs, solvents, paints and anaesthesia (1). This fabulous herb can help to restore damaged liver cells so is a must in any liver detox program.
Schisandra (Schisandra Chinensis) is a herb that has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine for chronic cough, frequent urination, diarrhoea, night sweats, palpitations and insomnia. In western herbal medicine, schisandra is used as an adaptogen (helping the body adapt to stress) and most importantly as a liver tonic.
The beauty of Schisandra is that it helps to break down excessive hormones such as estrogen in the body. It also helps the breakdown of alcohol in the body. (1) Schisandra also helps to reduce side effects of medications as it helps the body to breakdown the medications more efficiently. So Schisandra is very much about helping the body to detoxify substances and also increase ones response to stress, so it is a fabulous herb to have in your detox program.
Schisandra can be a little hard to find but there are some great products which contain Schisandra such as Microgenics Liver Detox and Nutra-Life’s Milk Thistle 17,000. This wonderful herb is also available in liquid form from your naturopath.
Turmeric is a mustard-coloured spice that is being heavily studied for its role in helping your liver with the detoxification process. Turmeric stimulates the gallbladder to produce more bile, the liver uses bile to eliminate toxins; (1) bile also rejuvenates liver cells that breakdown harmful compounds.
Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it helpful in treating conditions such as arthritis, cholesterol, psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions. Turmeric can be a simple addition to any detox program.
Taurine is a major amino acid required for the removal of toxic chemicals and metabolites from the body and is an essential component of cell membranes, where it plays a role in stabilising transport of nutrients across cell membranes. Taurine plays a major role in the liver via the formation of bile acids and detoxification of toxins. (2) Taurine is found in most liver formulas and it can also be taken on its own at a dose of 2,000-6,000 in divided doses daily.
Methionine is an essential amino acid needed for several detox processes in the liver. Methionine also forms part of a compound called glutathione, which is an antioxidant protecting the liver cells from damage.
Methionine can be taken on its own in doses up to 2 grams in between meals, however, I must warn you this amino acid is not very pleasant tasting. (2)
Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli
The brassica family which includes cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts, contain glucosinolates.
Glusoninolates are sulphur containing compounds that protect the liver from damage and improve its ability to eliminate toxins and excess hormones. (2) Many green super food formulas contain ingredients from the brassica family. Some products you can consider taking are Vital Greens and Lifestream Essential Greens.
There are an abundance of healthy foods which help your body to detox. Here are but a few:
• Lemons - lemon juice supports the liver in its cleansing processes. To increase detoxification, start each morning with a warm glass of lemon water.
• Garlic - this pungent little bulb is one of the best detoxing foods out there. It helps stimulate the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that help filter toxic residues from the digestive system. Eating raw garlic is the most beneficial but even adding cooked garlic to a suitable dish will be beneficial to any detox diet.
• Green Foods - fill your refrigerator with barley, wheatgrass, kale, spinach, spirulina, alfalfa, chard, arugula, or other organic leafy greens. These plants will help give a chlorophyll boost to your digestive tract. Chlorophyll rids the body of harmful environmental toxins from toxic metals, herbicides, cleaning products and pesticides. They also aid the liver in detoxification.(3)
• Green Tea - packed full of antioxidants, green tea washes toxins from the system via its liquid content, but also contains a special type of antioxidant called catechins, which are known to increase liver function. (3)
• Raw Vegetables - best juiced or eaten raw: Onions, carrots, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, beet, turmeric, and oregano. The combination of these foods will help your liver purge toxins during the cleansing process. These are high in naturally occurring sulphur and glutathione. Sulphur helps the liver detoxify harmful chemicals.(3)
You don’t need to follow expensive programs to detoxify your body; your body is actually pretty good at detoxifying its self. Sometimes we over do it with bad food choices, excessive alcohol consumption or medications and we start to feel a little sluggish.
Often all it takes is eating well and taking some supplements to get you back on track. So what are you waiting for? Grab some supplements and start feeling better today!
Written by Lea McIntyre - Naturopath - ND BHSc
Lea has had many years of professional experience as a naturopath working with her patients and clients both in her clinic and as a senior retail naturopathic adviser. When Lea is not helping people stay well and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, she is busy caring for and nurturing her two young children.
1. Bone K, Mills S. Principles and practice of phytotherapy 2000. Churchill livingstone.
2. Holford, P. The optimum nutrition bible.Little brown book group, London.2004.
3. Pizzorno J, Murray M Encyclopaedia of natural medicine 2nd edition. Little brown book group London 1998
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